Friday, December 23, 2011

Amy Speaks about Christmas, Christianity, and Santa

I am a grown woman, a mother to four little angels. Even at my ripe old age of 30-something, I’d bet one of those little angels that if I were to ask my mom if she was the one who filled my childhood stocking, she would feign great shock and offense at such an accusation. “Me?” she would say, “Santa Claus? Not a chance!” In the same breath as her bold denial, she would probably whisper, “Here are some things for the children’s stockings.” And she would hand me a bag chock full of trinkets for her beloved grandchildren.

My mom always kept the magic of Christmas alive. Is she a liar because of claims that a jolly fat man dressed in a red and white suit was the one who filled our stockings every Christmas Eve? Did the fun we shared as a family diminish the REAL Reason for the season? Of course not! I treasure the memories of anticipation and then excitement in discovering what lay deep in my wooly red and white stocking on Christmas morning.

There are many people who feel that allowing such secular things as Santa Claus to be a part of their Christmas is in some way offensive to Jesus Christ whose birthday we celebrate on December 25. I know there are people with this view because I know some of those people. Some of these people have, in fact, looked with disapproval upon my own family’s tradition of hanging stockings by the chimney with care.

No one likes to be judged, and I especially do not like to be judged with a “Good/Bad Christian” measuring stick. It’s unfair to assume that our adding a delightful – albeit secular – dimension to our family tradition means that we have pushed aside Christ and the miracle of that birth in Bethlehem so long ago. Quite the contrary, it is, after all, God who created us in His image. We who love to be delighted, who love to be part of relationships. Family traditions are all a part of relationships. God is the God of relationships. And I picture Him in Heaven looking down on His  children celebrating His birthday. I picture Him with a smile and a twinkle in His eyes as He watches the absolute delight on children’s faces as they uncover the treasures in their stockings. I can hear Him saying, “Wow! What a fun way to celebrate a birthday!”

I want nothing more than to honor God on Christmas, and I strive to do so as I build traditions with my family. Santa Claus happens to be one of those traditions. Please don’t judge me for it.

Amy is a homeschooling mother of four children. You can read more of her writing at Treasured Chapters...of Life and Family.  (Images courtesy of Turn Back to God at

Thursday, December 15, 2011

God Hates Homeschooling

“God hates homeschooling.” That was the seventh of ten reasons “why homeschooling parents are doing the wrong thing” as explained by blogger and teacher Jesse Scaccia in a May 2009 blog post titled “The Case Against Homeschooling” that appeared on the blog Teacher, Revised. The emphasis on “hate” was his. The blog post was recently forwarded to me by an alert reader who thought it might be good fodder for Amy. Mr. Scaccia offered as proof of God’s hatred of homeschooling Matthew 28:19, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” He added an abbreviated Acts 1:8, “Ye shall be witnesses unto me,” in support of his claim. It appears that the self-identified “agnostic” Mr. Scaccia believes that homeschoolers have an obligation to attend public schools in order to evangelize. Never mind the fact that atheists and the ACLU are working hard to stamp out prayer in public schools across the nation. Apparently, Mr. Scaccia operates under the mistaken belief that all homeschoolers are Christian. That’ll rankle more than a few secular homeschoolers, not to mention our Jewish and Muslim home educators.

I experience equal measures of amusement and disappointment while reading arguments such as Mr. Scaccia’s when the author boasts of such an impressive list of academic achievements. He is a published journalist who “holds dual degrees in English and education from the University of Connecticut, a master’s in education from Connecticut, and a master’s in journalism from New York University.” That makes my BA from the University of Illinois at Chicago seem paltry by comparison. Still, I find his discourse against homeschooling vacuous. He wrote that “a students’ classroom shouldn’t also be where they eat Fruit Loops and meat loaf,” “homeschooling parent/teachers are arrogant to the point of lunacy,” and “As a teacher, homeschooling kind of pisses me off.” How can anyone refute those arguments? As soon as I finish writing, I’m running off to enroll my kids in the Apathy School District.

It is hard to tell whether Mr. Scaccia was attempting humor or offering serious thoughts on a controversial subject. His post garnered 1,065 comments and spurred four follow-up posts. It took a lot of writing to walk-back his original comments. Everything that needs to be said about his writing was probably written 2 ½ years ago. Be forewarned: read at your own risk. When you've finished, hug your kids. Then give them a pop quiz. Mr. Scaccia may think that “homeschooling [is] great for self-aggrandizing, society-phobic mother[s] but not quite so good for the kid,” but this homeschooling dad thinks we’re doing just fine.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Trumping the Socialization Card

Saturday night, The Boss told me an entertaining story about a homeschooling conversation she had Saturday afternoon. The conversation took place in the Fellowship Hall at our church, where twenty American Heritage Girls between the ages of six and sixteen were working together to bake pies and cookies for shut-ins and people who will attend our church’s Christmas holiday meal. There was a lot of laughing and joking taking place. The girls were loud and clearly having fun. Some of the younger kids completed their work and started a game of tag while the others continued baking. Almost half of the girls in the troop are homeschoolers.

The Boss was working on troop paperwork at a table where Jillian sat with her mother. Jillian is in-charge of camping for the troop. She had said something to her mother along the lines of “They homeschool their children,” or “The Boss is the one I told you about. She homeschools her kids.” Her mother (a friendly, plump, white-haired senior citizen) responded with hesitant approval. “I guess it is okay, as long as they get out and spend time with other children.”

Yes, she played the socialization card.

The Boss stopped what she was doing and turned to Jillian’s mother. “Do you see the girls mixing pie crust at that table over there?” She pointed to a table where six girls were in various stages of mixing and rolling pie crusts. “Three of those girls are homeschooled. Can you tell me which ones?”

Then she directed Jillian’s mom to the group of younger girls who were playing at the far end of the hall. “Do you see those girls over there? Half of that group is homeschoolers. Can you tell me which ones?”

In neither instance could Jillian’s mother separate the homeschoolers from the non-homeschoolers.

“I’m really tired of the socialization argument,” the Boss concluded. “Cleary, homeschoolers get out and interact with their community.”

Enough said!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Remember Banita Jacks?

Ms. Jacks was the Washington, D.C., mother of four who lived with the decomposing bodies of her four children. She had killed them, claiming that they were demon possessed. Ms. Jacks had removed her children from D.C. public schools, claiming to be homeschooling them. Not surprisingly, this grisly murder immediately elicited calls to rewrite homeschooling laws, tightening restrictions on how and where homeschooling took place. As more details from the investigation emerged, we learned that Ms. Jacks was well known to D.C. police and the D.C. Child and Family Services Agency. CFS had failed to make their regularly scheduled inspections of Ms. Jacks' home. Calmer legislative heads prevailed, and onerous restrictions were not placed on homeschoolers as a result of Ms. Jacks’ actions. She is currently serving a 120 year prison sentence.

This case came to mind when I read a Yahoo! Answers question posted by “Johnny Poopster.” Yes, that is his online name. Mr. Poopster explained that he was “writing a research argument against homeschooIing. The type of argument is ethicaI/evaluation--and my stance is that homeschooling goes against the human principles of equality for all, freedom of choice, and goes in support of tyranny of the majority, etc.” But Mr. Poopster had a problem. “I can think of dozens of hypothetical situations that are bound to happen at some time, but I am having trouble researching it on the web. I don't know what particular keywords to put in that would bring up articles on that. Are there any specific cases you can find of homeschooled children who were abused and it was not taken care of appropriately? It needs to be documented in the media, somehow.”

I can think of half a dozen cases where “homeschooled” children have died in horrendous circumstances, but I’m not going to share them with Mr. Poopster. I write in defense of homeschooling when knees begin jerking in response to cases such as Ms. Jacks, Nubia Barahona, or Matthew Degner. My reason for not assisting the young man isn’t that I am afraid of a rational discussion of homeschooling. My problem with Mr. Poopster is the manner in which he is researching his topic.

In research, a conclusion should be based on the results of the research rather than conducting research to look for evidence in support of a predetermined conclusion. What happens to the validity of the writer’s argument if the researcher cannot find evidence to support the conclusion at which he or she hopes to arrive? Does the writer stubbornly cling to his belief, or does he change his ideas based on the results of his research? How would Mr. Poopster handle the Banita Jacks case? Does her crime justify the claim that homeschooling “goes against the human principles of equality for all, freedom of choice, and goes in support of tyranny of the majority?” Does he acknowledge that CFS failed to protect four children? Does he realize that even if the children were enrolled in a public school that Ms. Jacks could have killed them? There are many questions to be answered in a difficult case such as the Banita Jacks case, but Mr. Poopster won’t honestly and fairly discuss them. He has reached his conclusion. Someone failed miserably in teaching this young man critical thinking skills, and how to conduct research.

Mr. Poopster is full of crap.

Follow-up: On Thursday night the original question was deleted from Yahoo! Answers for violating their "Community Guidelines."

Thank You for Your Editorial Feedback, Please Return to Your Regularly Scheduled Math Assignment

I glanced at Captain Chaos' math paper yesterday afternoon. I am slowly transitioning my first grader from closely supervised instruction to slightly more independent work. Let’s face it, after working with her on simple addition and subtraction equations for four months, she should be able to complete one digit problems on her own. When I checked her paper, I was looking to see whether or not she had properly numbered the clock face on problem number 3. She had, with the addition of her well stated feelings concerning the problem.


There’s never a dull moment with this girl.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

"Amy" Speaks Out in Defense of Homeschooling

I remember when the command career counselor paid me a visit in the McMurdo bakery. I was 22, a second class petty officer in the US Navy serving in Antarctica, and I was less than a year from being discharged from a five-year tour of duty. When the Radioman Chief asked me about my future plans, I politely told him that I was leaving the navy to attend college. His reply was to tell me how he left the navy after his first tour of duty, attended college, dropped out, and returned to active duty. He honestly thought that he had a convincing argument to make me reenlist. I may have been less than politic when I replied, “So, what you are telling me is that since you failed, I will too?” The conversation quickly soured, and Chief never spoke to me again. I went on to fail miserably, graduating with honors and teaching professionally for seven years.

I recently encountered the same quality of thinking in the comments of two articles concerning homeschooling written by Jeff Mangum and published online in the Pomerado News. Mr. Mangum is a “Poway [California] resident, attorney and former PUSD board member.” In his original article, “To homeschool or not to homeschool,” Mr. Mangum attempted to offer a balanced analysis of the pros and cons of homeschooling. I believed his analysis was seriously flawed, and wrote my lengthy response in the comments section. Because of length restrictions in the software of the comments section, I was forced to leave my response in four separate comments. It was obvious from one of the replies, as well as Mr. Mangum’s second article, that three fourths of my response was completely ignored. I quickly realized that ignorance was a preferred tactic in the Pomerado News homeschooling discussion.

The anti-homeschooling arguments were the usual clich├ęs that can be summed up in one word: socialization. We’ve read and heard them all before, and answered them repeatedly here at THA. In discussing whether or not homeschooling was advantageous, Mr. Mangum wrote that, “the homeschool community has strenuously opposed mandatory standardized testing. As a consequence, there is simply no reliable data available to compare the academic performance of homeschooled students to public school students.” That’s just wrong. But when I cited Dr. Lawrence Rudner ‘s 1998 study Homeschooling Works and Dr. Brian Ray’s Progress Report 2009: Homeschool Academic Achievement and Demographics, both sources were simply dismissed in the follow-up article “Readers speak out – loudly – on homeschooling” as ”statistically flawed and unreliable.” That made them, in Mr. Mangum’s opinion, not worth mentioning. It’s amazing how some people who truly believe that they are rational, reasonable thinkers simply dismiss out-of-hand that which is inconvenient. That’s ignorant.

The basis for most of the anti-homeschooling comments appeared to be anecdotal. This shouldn’t be surprising. What is left after you dismiss the studies? I particularly enjoyed the commenter who wrote, “When I homeschooled my daughter, I learned that distractions at home make it difficult to accomplish much, even with a motivated student. (My daughter credits that year of being home-schooled for having destroyed her good study habits.)” Basically, what that commenter wrote is that since he failed at homeschooling his daughter, the rest of us will fail, too. With apologies to Michelle over at Eagle Eye Academy, that person is a prime candidate for a career in the Navy.

I’m not going to rehash standard replies to the anti-homeschooling arguments. If you desire, you can read the two articles, and my replies, here and here. Please let us know if you leave a reply. You will find that in his second article, Mr. Mangum changed my name from “Arby” to “Amy.” Anonymity, you know. Because I tried so hard to hide my name when I left my original comment. Four times.


Friday, December 2, 2011

This Homeschooler Has Style!

You would think that since I am home teaching my kids every day of the week, I’d have a clue as to the latest styles and trends and where my kids learn of them. You’d think. You’d be wrong.
Captain Chaos awoke last Monday morning and begged me to put her in a dress for her trip to the therapist. Then she promptly accessorized with my old Midwest Airlines hearing protection ear muffs and an old hunting bow. The kids painted them for me. And yes, I wore them on the ramp at MCI for five years.

A week earlier she decided to dress herself, including black shoes, pink Capri’s,  a green shirt that reads “90% Angel,” a superhero cape, a baseball helmet, and a stick horse. 
I fear she’s inherited my sense of style. 

But the best of the week has to be the Turkey Crown.


Any princess of any value absolutely must wear a turkey crown.   After resolutely petitioning me for 24 hours to make a turkey crown, I sat down with her yesterday morning to craft the fowl diadem.  She wore it all day, along with her princess gown.  If only I had video of her shouting “Kia!” as she practiced karate in this royal attire. 

Have a good weekend, every one!