Monday, March 30, 2009

A Mother's Journey

Give Me your hopes,
give Me your dreams,
The journey is long
and now what is seems.
Affirm your children,
be faithful to me;
This is the Mother
I want you to be

The last to weeks have been full of various family and computer issues. I plan on going tonight to get my new Mac, and resume regular blogging.

(Short excerpt from Linda Dillows book, A Mother's Journey)

Monday, March 16, 2009

Paging Obama

Two Democrats are stuck in an escalator and desperately need your help.

HT: Jenig

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Obama, South Korea, and HSLDA

Obama's education speech praised the success of the South Korean schools and their longer school days and year. Over at the Huffington Post, Gerald Bracey noted that Obama failed to mention a few things that are less praiseworthy about South Korea.
"He raved about South Korean schools but neglected to say that thousands of South Korean families sell their children--yes, sell--to American families so their kids can a) learn English and b) avoid the horrible rigidity of Korean schools. And while the US trails Korea on average test scores, it has a higher proportion of students scoring at the highest level on the Program of International Student Achievement (PISA). Moreover, it has the highest number of high scorers (67,000) of any country. No one else even comes close....I voted for Obama. I canvassed for him. I registered voters for him. But on education, he has yet to hit the basket."
I googled for more info on the selling of Korean children and found that parents relinquish their rights not only for the education but to avoid compulsory military service. Hmmm. So where will these parents turn when the US educational system morphs into South Korea?

Homeschooling, perhaps?

According to HSLDA
"Currently, homeschooling is not technically permitted by law in South Korea - but neither is it prohibited!

Homeschoolers have been able to peacefully remove their children from public school without any government intervention. The South Korean government's new 2008 administration has announced plans to legalize homeschooling by 2010. Despite this good news, it is not yet clear what restrictions and requirements might be attached to this legalization. Chris Klicka of HSLDA plans to provide model legislation and assist in the process."
While I'm sure that Chris Klicka has noble intentions, I'm not sure if the idea of HSLDA "assisting in the process" is a smart precedent to set. Since Obama appears so enamored with the South Korean education system, he may adopt Klicka's "model legislation" and impose similar federal regulation upon homeschoolers here in the US. Or even worse for Klicka, Obama may ask him to assist in the process! How could Klicka or anyone at HSLDA possibly object given that they helped craft the same legislation in South Korea?

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Friday, March 13, 2009

When a home breaks up

One of the most tragic situations for any family is divorce. But when parents split up in a homeschooling family, the education of their children often becomes a point of contention in the divorce settlement.

That's what is happening to homeschooling mother Vanessa Mills from North Carolina. Despite successfully homeschooling her three children for four years, the judge presiding over the divorce ordered her children back into the public schools because her curriculum has a religious slant.
"He was upfront and said that, 'It's not about religion.' But yet when it came down to his ruling and reasons why, 'He said this would be a good opportunity for the children to be tested in the beliefs that I have taught them,'" Venessa Mills said." (Full article here.)
The father, Thomas Mills, is also concerned about the religious beliefs and would like the children to be exposed to mainstream science curriculum. Fine, so why can't the father teach mainstream science to them during his time with them and the mother teach her beliefs during her time with them?

Divorce is disruptive enough and the children's beliefs are already being tested by this tragic divorce, why compound the issue with a disruption in their education and daily routine? But sadly, the fact that all sides agree that the children thrive with homeschooling and test far above grade level doesn't seem to be enough for the judge or the father.

Depsite the fact the father admitted that Vanessa Mills is a nurturing mother and his infidelity appears to have precipitated the divorce, the judge also ordered a mental health exam for the mother at her expense! Homeschool Injustice provides more details here.

(HT: Tammy)

UPDATE: The case made Drudge. That should help in the publicity and put some pressure on North Carolina policy makers.

Speaking of pressure, Heather (Sprittibee) emailed me with a response she received from a North Carolina legislator. He appeared to be sympathetic. If you'd like to contact him here's his contact info:

Neal Hunt
Deputy Republican Senate Leader
District 15 (Wake County)
Legislative Office: 919-733-5850
Business Office: 919-781-3464

UPDATE II: The judge has given both sides until Sunday to propose changes to his plan. This is a positive development. While this may not be specifically a "homeschooling case" the best interest of the children should not be solely determined by a judge who appears to have difficulty remaining impartial on the mother's religious views. Vanessa Mills is hoping public pressure will force Judge Magnum to change his mind or be removed from the case. Details here.

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Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Obama's Education Agenda

Obama gave his first major speech laying out his education agenda today. It appears he has big plans for the nation's children, including better data systems to track students learning, clear and tougher standards (read national standards) and,
Obama also wants kids to spend more time in school, with longer school days, school weeks and school years — a position he admitted will make him less popular with his school-age daughters.

Children in South Korea spend a month longer in school every year than do kids in the U.S., where the antiquated school calendar comes from the days when many people farmed and kids were needed in the fields.

"I know longer school days and school years are not wildly popular ideas, not with Malia and Sasha," Obama said as the crowd laughed. "But the challenges of a new century demand more time in the classroom." "If they can do that in South Korea, we can do it right here in the United States of America," Obama said.

Essentially, what Obama has just told every parent in America is that what he thinks is best for his children, and what South Korea thinks is best for their children, is also best for your children.

I'd like to believe that parents would think long and hard before permitting their children to spend more time in school and less time at home but I doubt it. After all, Obama knows best.

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Sunday, March 08, 2009

Bridging the gap between home and school

A public funded school in New Mexico designed to "to bridge the gap between home-school families and public schools" is being told that they must drop the Abeka Christian homeschool materials from their curriculum, despite the fact that it has been taught in the school for 11 years without opposition.

Homeschool parents tempted to accept public funds for their child's education should take note.

A public school is a public school no matter where they educate and the state always has the final say in the matter. Programs designed to "bridge the gap" are subtle attempts to make parents think they are still homeschooling and in control when they are not.

If the parent holds the authority then they are homeschooling. If another entity holds the authority then they are not. You'll know who holds the authority by who writes the teachers' paychecks. When I hire a piano teacher, I write the check. The teacher works for me. When the state writes the check, the teacher works for the state and the parents desires are secondary.

In so-called public/parent partnerships, the school determines curriculum, grading, etc. The parent is at best a facilitator who follows the state guidelines, curriculum, and tests. This is an attractive option for financial reasons but only if the parent understand the control they are giving up.

With the state there will never be a bridge to connect homeschoolers and the public schools, it has always been and always will be a one-way street.

(HT: Kay)

Thursday, March 05, 2009

March Madness

If April showers bring May flowers, what does March bring? Basketball!

Detroit plays host to the Final Four in a few weeks, but more important around my house is the Michigan Homeschool Basketball tournament this weekend in Mt. Pleasant, MI. Both of my boys play on the varsity team where husband is also the assistant coach. If we win, we'll go the state finals the following week in Lansing, MI. If we lose, we go home, eat pizza, and pick our teams for the NCAA Finals. All this to say, I'll be gone the rest of the weekend. Go Firebirds!

For those who love basketball (and even if you don't) here's an inspiring video about two rival high school basketball teams to usher in March Madness and demonstrate that there is more to life than winning a game.

If basketball just isn't your thing and you would rather read something homeschool and family related, you may enjoy my article The Pressure to Perform republished today on the Heart of the Matter website.

UPDATE: The first game went right down to the buzzer with the final score of 60-57. With zero seconds on the clock the opposing team threw up shot, the ref called a foul and he went to the line to shoot three. Thankfully, he missed the first free throw to end the game.

Saturday, we played a very difficult team and lost, by a lot. All in all, it was a fun weekend but I'm glad basketball season is over.

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What are you teaching your kids? Jay Mathews wants to know

Jay Mathews, Education Columnist for the Washington Post, published a letter from a mother with the headline "Parent Says Some Things Can't Be Taught At Home." Despite the misleading headline, the letter wasn't negative about homeschooling but talked more of the mother's ability to overcome the guilt of not educating her kindergarten son at home.

Homeschooling mom, Louisa Tran, wrote and called him on the headline in a letter published in today's Washington Post. In response, Jay Mathews wrote:
"You are right to note that the headline would have been truer to the spirit of the letter if we had added two words at the end: "By Her." She spoke only of her personal inadequacies and said she had nothing against what you are doing with your child. I like the idea of a list showing what you are teaching in your home, compared to what Smedile says would be beyond her. Please send right away."
I'm not Louisa, but I'll be sending him my list as well. Here's some of what I'm teaching in my children in my home -- in no particular order:

1. To love the Lord their God with all their heart, mind, soul, and strength.
2. To love their neighbor as much as they love themselves.
3. To listen to the instructions of their parents and others.
4. To get along with their siblings.
5. To become self-directed learners.
6. That with God and a supportive family they can learn and accomplish anything.
7. That life is not about impressing others with what you know, but humbling recognizing what you have yet to learn from others.
8. That the most important things to know in life will never be found on a standardized test.
9. That housework is homework.
10. That life is school and school is life, you never stop learning.

Along with teaching all of that for nearly 20 years, we've also managed to work in reading, writing, arithmetic (through precalculus), science (though physics), history (ancient to modern), home finance, business skills, computers, art, music, and drama. (In a large family there is always some sort of drama going on.)

I'm sure there are some subjects that I have let lapse and sadly, Latin has only been a recent addition to my kindergartner's schedule that the others missed out on. But as my daughter said before her high school graduation two years ago, those are subjects that she'll pick up and learn when she homeschools her own children someday. You can't argue with that logic.

If you'd like to post your list in the comments go ahead, I'll send him the link. Or you can send it directly to Jay Mathews at:

Extra Credit, The Washington Post, 526 King St., Suite 515, Alexandria, Va. 22314. Or e-mail

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Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Obama's double standard in education

So much for "hope and change" as Obama appears willing to bailout everyone on earth except the neediest children suffering in some of the worst schools in the nation, all to keep the teachers union on his side. The Wall Street Journal explains:
"Like the Obama girls, Sarah and James attend the Sidwell Friends School in our nation's capital. Unlike the Obama girls, they could not afford the school without the $7,500 voucher they receive from the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship program. Unfortunately, a spending bill the Senate takes up this week includes a poison pill that would kill this program -- and with it perhaps the Parker children's hopes for a Sidwell diploma....

And it points to perhaps the most odious of double standards in American life today: the way some of our loudest champions of public education vote to keep other people's children -- mostly inner-city blacks and Latinos -- trapped in schools where they'd never let their own kids set foot.
James and Sarah's mother, Deborah Parker, is not happy and neither is Virginia Walden-Ford, executive director of D.C. Parents for School Choice.
"I'd like to see a reporter stand up at one of those nationally televised press conferences and ask President Obama what he thinks about what his own party is doing to keep two innocent kids from attending the same school where he sends his?"
Walden-Ford received her wish when a reporter, identified as Mara, asked White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs about it yesterday. Here's how it went:
Q On education, there's a provision in the omnibus spending bill that would sunset the D.C. voucher plan, and I'm wondering -- there's been a lot of publicity about this brother and sister pair at Sidwell who uses their voucher money to pay for tuition at the same school the President chose to send his children. I'm wondering if you could restate the President's opposition to the D.C. voucher program, and why he's against it.

MR. GIBBS: I would -- let me go -- I've not read the article today, if there is one. I think the --

Q Well, it's just about two kids who use their voucher money to go to Sidwell. Pretty basic. (Laughter.)

MR. GIBBS: Right. I mean, I think -- right. (Laughter.)

Q I mean -- in other words, that --

MR. GIBBS: Why are you providing me the opportunity to be the middleman? (Laughter.) I mean, again, I think the --

Q Could you just restate the President's --

MR. GIBBS: I think the President has concerns about -- concerns about taking large amounts of funding out of the system to address this, that the President obviously believes -- and I think you'll hear him talk about and has talked about the need for reform in our educational system, but has not agreed with the program in the past. I'll see if there's anything updated on that.

Amazing, Robert Gibbs, has done what few thought possible and managed to make George Bush sound articulate and his policies more compassionate than Barack Obama. I don't think this guys going to have a job for much longer if he keeps this up.

Update: Sec. of Ed., Arne Duncan, attempts to clear up Gibb's nonsense and says he opposes vouchers except in DC.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

The Spunky Marriage Test

As a mother of six, five of them in their teens or beyond, I'm fast approaching the age when my children will be venturing out on their own. When we talk about how our lives will change when that happens, the topic of marriage inevitably pops up. None of them are anywhere close to tying the knot just yet and I'm certainly not going to rush things But when that time does come, we'll have one request of the men who seek to marry our four daughters: let us have a look at what's one your computer and your internet history.

I don't care about the financials. From personal experience I know that two people in love can survive on Campbells soup and blueberry pie filling. But in today's world, the computer reveals the most about the character of the man and hides nothing. People lie, computers don't.

So for the young gents thinking of marrying a Braun girl, consider yourself forewarned. No further notice will be given before we show up on your doorstep wanting to have a look. After all, if a young man can't trust us to look at his computer then why should we trust him with our daughter?

(And yes, we'll tell the families of our sons' future spouses that they should impose the same test on our sons.)

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Sunday, March 01, 2009

A New Deal to Go Global

International standards in education just took a leap forward when UK Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, called for a global new deal and a global society and a "special relationship" with the United States.
"I believe there is no challenge so great or so difficult that it cannot be overcome by America, Britain and the world working together. That is why President Obama and I will discuss this week a global new deal, whose impact can stretch from the villages of Africa to reforming the financial institutions of London and New York– and giving security to the hard-working families in every country....

...I want that hope to be fulfilled through us all coming together to shape the 21st century as the first century of a truly global society."
Children, we're in a global society now and so it's time we learned a new Pledge of Allegiance to fit the new world we are all a part of:

I pledge of allegiance to the leaders of the United Nations
and to the tyranny for which they stand.
One global society under Obama,
with liberty and justice denied to all.

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