Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Guilty until Proven Innocent Act

I’d like to propose a new bill for the New Jersey state legislature. Titled the “Guilty until Proven Innocent Act,” my bill would require all public employees (people who receive all or part of their income from tax-payers in the form of a state, county, or municipal salary) to submit an annual audit of their finances to the local media, as well as publish the results of the audit online. Any politician who maintains a campaign fund separate from their private finances must annually submit an audit for their campaign, too. These public employees will also be required to submit an annual letter of intent to continue receiving tax-payer funded salary and benefits, as well as a portfolio of financial records and materials including, but not limited to, an itemized list of financial expenditures, and samples of purchases, investments, stocks and bonds, or other financial transactions.

Maybe Loretta Weinberg will sponsor it.

State Senator Weinberg is the legislator who sponsored S-3105, the bill that would require New Jersey homeschoolers to submit to the local school district an annual letter of intent to homeschool, an extensive portfolio, and proof of an annual physical by a medical doctor for each homeschooled child. The local school district is the eyes of the state, able to peer into the family in ways the US Constitution prohibits police and prosecutors. S-3105 is Senator Weinberg’s second attempt at passing such legislation. The first was eight years ago. Both came in response to horrible situations where parents claiming that they were homeschooling their children were, in fact, physically abusing them. In both cases, children died. The logical conclusion to such situations is that all homeschoolers are potential abusers, and so must prove to the state that they are not if they wish to continue homeschooling. The Guilty until Proven Innocent Act applies that same logic to public employees.

If you Google the terms “New Jersey,” “politics,” “Governor,” and “corruption,” you will find enough reading to fill your time until the second coming. From former Governor Bob Corzine (refused to release his income tax returns during his 2000 election campaign for the US Senate; head of now bankrupt MF Global holdings; gave $441,600 in personal money to convicted Democratic machine Boss Joseph Ferriero) to Assemblymen Daniel Van Pelt (convicted, along with 19 others, in an FBI sting for money laundering and racketeering), and many in between, New Jersey gives both Chicago and Washington, D.C., a genuine challenge for the title of Dirtiest in Politics. It is not my intent to trivialize the tragic deaths of children, but if a couple of abuse cases amongst the thousands of New Jersey homeschooling families justifies the intrusion of the state into all homeschooling families, then the criminal actions of some state employees and politicians, which affects far more lives and occurs far more frequently, justifies the same level of scrutiny. In politics, money is everything.

Guilty until proven innocent.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Scotch, Pain Meds, and the Happy Husky

Now that the leftovers have been put away and the guests have departed; the house is clean and the remainder of the weekend is open for rest and relaxation; it is a good time to sit and reflect on all for which I should be thankful. 

I am thankful that George, aka The Big Fuzzy Rock, once again chose Thanksgiving week to have a near death experience.   Last year on the day before Thanksgiving, The Boss awoke to find that our living room looked like a scene from a Quentin Tarantino movie.  She found George sitting next to the kitchen door, wagging his tail. His head had exploded.  A week ago Friday, the Husky decided that the arthritis in his hips was too much to live with, so he stopped eating and drinking.  Of course, every vet in the two state area was double booked and couldn’t squeeze him into their schedule.

I am thankful that Major Havoc’s den leader chose the weekend before Thanksgiving to host a campout.  It’s not like we needed that weekend to clean the house or shop for groceries or anything. He also failed to heed my advice to bring a chainsaw, preferring two bow saws to carve up our fire wood.   As the temperature dropped he discovered that his saws were very good at scoring wood.  I had to fight hard to convince both him and my oldest son (their Life Scout Den Chief) that if his scouts wished to remain warm, we would need a pile of wood the size of a water buffalo.  They were content with a pile of wood the size of a chipmunk.

I am grateful for the two old ladies with the chainsaw who agreed to cut wood for us in exchange for our loading their pick-up with their cut wood.  Nothing teaches manliness to young boys on the cusp of manhood more than asking a couple of women to cut fire wood for them.   The only thing missing to prepare them for marriage was a can of Schlitz for each boy and a NASCAR race on TV.  They would have learned how to yell, “Can you turn down the chainsaw?  I can’t hear the race. And bring me a sandwich!”

I am grateful for the roofing nail that lodged itself in the right rear tire of my van last Sunday.  I needed a flat tire that afternoon. 

I am also grateful that my garbage disposal chose last Sunday to quit working.  Right after the warranty expired.

I am grateful that the employees at Walmart were able to fix my flat.  For free.   This came after a near smack-down between three employees as they argued over a tread gauge in an attempt to determine whether or not there was enough remaining tread on the tire to legally repair the flat.   As I waited their decision, Captain Chaos turned pirouettes next to me and repeatedly asked, “Can we go see the video games now?”   Once the thumbs-up was given to the repair and a team of computer technicians recovered my maintenance records, we were good to go. 

I am grateful that our vet treated George last Monday.  She gave us pain meds for his arthritis.  By Thursday he was wobbling, eating (after I poured turkey gravy on his food), and drinking, although I’m not certain Scotch is the best thing to wash down pain killers.  If he can live on narcotics for his remaining time on earth he’ll do alright.  

I am grateful that God has brought me to a place in life were these events were something to take in stride with humor rather than get upset or experience stress.  And we were able to maintain our homeschooling schedule through it all.

Blessings to you all.

Have a good weekend.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Proclamation of Thanksgiving

Washington, D.C.
October 3, 1863
This is the proclamation which set the precedent for America's national day of Thanksgiving. During his administration, President Lincoln issued many orders similar to this. For example, on November 28, 1861, he ordered government departments closed for a local day of thanksgiving.

Sarah Josepha Hale, a 74-year-old magazine editor, wrote a letter to Lincoln on September 28, 1863, urging him to have the "day of our annual Thanksgiving made a National and fixed Union Festival." She explained, "You may have observed that, for some years past, there has been an increasing interest felt in our land to have the Thanksgiving held on the same day, in all the States; it now needs National recognition and authoritive fixation, only, to become permanently, an American custom and institution."

Prior to this, each state scheduled its own Thanksgiving holiday at different times, mainly in New England and other Northern states. President Lincoln responded to Mrs. Hale's request immediately, unlike several of his predecessors, who ignored her petitions altogether. In her letter to Lincoln she mentioned that she had been advocating a national thanksgiving date for 15 years as the editor of Godey's Lady's Book.

The document below sets apart the last Thursday of November "as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise." According to an April 1, 1864, letter from John Nicolay, one of President Lincoln's secretaries, this document was written by Secretary of State William Seward, and the original was in his handwriting. On October 3, 1863, fellow Cabinet member Gideon Welles recorded in his diary how he complimented Seward on his work. A year later the manuscript was sold to benefit Union troops.

By the President of the United States of America.

A Proclamation.

The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. 

In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle or the ship; the axe has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consiousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom. 

No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People. 

I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.

In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Seal of the United States to be affixed.

Done at the City of Washington, this Third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the Unites States the Eighty-eighth.

By the President: Abraham Lincoln

Monday, November 21, 2011

How Much Do Grades Cost In Your Homeschool?

I don’t know about you, fellow homeschoolers, but when my children fail a math test, I review the concepts they do not understand, make them complete additional exercises covering those concepts, and make them retake the test. That is, of course, if the test doesn’t reveal that the incorrect answers were the result of simple math errors that could have been corrected by double-checking their work before handing in the test. One thing I do NOT do is ask my children to empty their piggy banks in order to purchase a higher score. It’s too bad The Charlotte County School District cannot say the same thing.

Charlotte High School math teacher Jeff Spires allowed students to purchase higher grades on tests and quizzes by stapling cash to the back of the paper in question and returning it to him. This must be another example of new math. For amounts ranging from $10 to $70, this math teacher raised student grades. One student offered him $200 to raise her grade for the quarter, but Mr. Spires turned her down. Far from experiencing Sudden Onset Conscience Syndrome, the reason for denying the young lady the opportunity to buy her math grade was that the grades for the quarter had already been submitted to the administration. It is safe to assume that if the student had made the offer earlier, Mr. Spires would have accepted. You can read news reports for this story here, here, or here.

Now, the National Education Association firmly believes that “home schooling programs based on parental choice cannot provide the student with a comprehensive education experience.” For once, I must agree with them. My children will NEVER learn how to buy grades for cash in my homeschool. I believe in a comprehensive education, but I have my limits. So, I cannot provide my children with the comprehensive education on how to cheat in school that is being taught to the math students at Charlotte High School.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Occupy Math Work Sheet - The Homeschooling Protest

My children are an active, energetic, and imaginative lot. Frequently, our days are filled with the adventures of super heroes, kings, and queens, questing against the villain du jour. In order to prevent these adventures from consuming our entire day, I find that I must be a bit of a task master. Keeping this lot focused on their school work is a challenge. If I allowed them to have their way, we would have too much home and not enough school. Let’s face it (and this is not a criticism of my homeschooling brethren), we aren’t unschoolers.

So, after we completed our third page of math this morning, Captain Chaos decided that she needed a break. She didn’t ask for a break. She gave herself a break. She jumped out of her chair and ran to her bedroom.  The girl reappeared a few moments later wearing her super hero cape and mask and carrying two Twister Hoopla rings.

“I’m off to slay the dragon!” she exclaimed, running through the kitchen to the basement steps. As shedescended the steps she cried, “Not a real dragon. The plastic dragon!”

This came right after her OMWS math protest.

The Occupy Math Work Sheet movement is a daily affair that begins with the Captain deciding which problems she will and will not agree to complete, as well as deciding whether or not she will write her answers in the spaces provided by the evil, greedy, corporate math teachers from Saxon. When she doesn’t want to complete her math work, the Captain will write the largest, sloppiest numbers she can possibly create, frequently obliterating the equations below and to the sides of the problem she is answering. Since I have stock in erasers (there’s a lot of money to be made in BIG ERASER), there’s always a large square block eraser on hand to obliterate her protest numbers. At some point during each worksheet, she will look at an upcoming question, draw a squiggly line through the problem, and write “Bah!” (her version of “Blah!”), in vain hope that I will allow her to skip that exercise.

Today was no different. The Captain began her math day writing humungous numbers. After the obligatory erasing she settled into a more cooperative mood, completing three pages of math exercises. She abandoned all efforts at cooperating when she saw a row of addition problems at the bottom of the third page. While I was refilling my coffee cup, she drew her squiggly line through the equations and wrote “blah.” Returning to the table, I once again deployed BIG ERASER. After much complaining, she started the problems. As she wrote her final answers I heard her mutter, “I’m writing the biggest numbers that I can write.” And she did. Across the bottom of the page. Because this girl is going to make her feelings known no matter what.

I’m just happy she doesn’t have any drums.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

They Make It Far Too Easy

Some days I read the news and think, “They just make it far too easy.” Take the case of the first grade teacher in Lexington County School District Three in Lexington, South Carolina, who was accused of making her students rub her bare feet in class. The school district claims they took appropriate action when they disciplined the teacher, but the parents are furious that the teacher hasn’t been fired. I’m curious about how bad her corns were.  The answer to that question might be the difference between poor judgment on her part or cruel and unusual punishment.
Then I discovered that a teacher in a suburban Chicago Christian school has been charged with masturbating behind a podium while teaching his math class. I tried to write a couple of math jokes about poles for this story but the obscenity is simply too great for humor. Police believe that he may have been doing this on and off for the past ten years. Ten years!

While I was reading through these stories I discovered a story about a teacher who was arrested for having sex with one her 14 year old students. I lost the link when I went shut down the computer to make dinner. Later, when I searched for the story, I typed the words “teacher” and “sex” and “14-year-old” into a Google search engine. I received 32,800,000 results in 0.24 seconds. I decided at that point that I didn’t want to read anymore. 32,800,000 hits about teachers having sex with 14-year-olds is 32,800,000 hits too many.

Homeschooling critics may believe that we are harming our children by keeping them out of the halls of public academia, but I am 100% certain that as long as my children are homeschooled their teacher will never ask them to rub his feet. He will never practice self-gratification during math class, or conduct himself in a manner that will garner 32.8 million hits on Google. While I still believe that the perpetrators of these incidents are in the vast minority of professional teachers, that’s little consolation for the students involved. Quite frankly, I’m not willing to gamble my children’s health and safety on the hope that their public or private school teacher is one of the good ones. They are far too valuable to me.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Is THIS is the "Real World" Homeschooled Kids Are Missing?

Tell me again why I should be concerned that my children are not learning how to function in the "real world?"

Family: Teasing pushed 10-year-old to suicide

"The family of a 10-year-old Illinois girl found hanging in her closet believes teasing and bullying by classmates drove the little girl to kill herself.

Vermilion County Coroner Peggy Johnson said Tuesday that the final results of the autopsy on Ashlynn Conner won't be ready for some time but it appears she took her own life Friday night.

Ashlynn's family said she had been teased by children at Ridge Farm Elementary School and in her neighborhood in the small town for several years. Ridge Farm is about 45 miles southeast of Champaign.

"When she started cheering for youth football, we'd gotten her hair cut in a bob," Ashlynn's grandmother, Lory Hackney said. "The kids started making fun of her then. They started calling her a boy.''  Since then, she'd often been called fat or ugly, her family said.

Ashlynn was a fifth-grader at Ridge Farm and did well in school, her family said, making the honor roll in the most recent quarter. She talked about becoming a veterinarian when she grew up.

But she complained Thursday after school about other girls picking on her that day and asked if she could be home-schooled, her mother said at a candlelight service for her daughter at a local church. Conner said she told Ashlynn they'd talk to the school principal this week about the problem.

Conner said she heard her daughter on the phone with a friend Friday night talking about being teased. A half-hour later, Ashlynn's 14-year-old sister found her hanging in her bedroom closet, Conner said.

"I don't know what was so bad she couldn't wait," Hackney said. She's a retired nurse and tried to give her granddaughter CPR, she said."


14-Year-Old Special Needs Student Speaks Out On TODAY About Being Bullied By Teachers (VIDEO)

"We were shocked ... we didn't know," 14-year-old Cheyenne's father tearfully said in an interview on the TODAY show Tuesday.

After their complaints to the school board reportedly went uninvestigated, the parents of the special needs student decided to hide a tape recorder in their daughter's clothes. What they captured left them upset -- and angry.

"Don't you want to do something about that belly?" teaching aide Kelly Chaffins said to Cheyenne, according to the recording.

"Yes," the girl responded.

"Well, evidently you don't because you don't do anything at home," Chaffins said. "You sit at home and watch TV."

In his emotional interview, Cheyenne's father told NBC's Ann Curry that his daughter started to react to the stress.

"She got to where she didn't want to go to school," he said. "She was ... starting to harm herself to keep from going to school and we knew we had to do something at that point."

After bringing the recordings to the school board, officials demanded that Chaffins resign. Chaffins subsequently announced her resignation while Christy Wilt, the classroom teacher, has been put on unpaid leave and ordered to undergo eight hours of training on how to stop child abuse. But these consequences aren't enough for the family's attorneys.

"There's no good solution, but we don't think that this teacher and this aide should be working with students, especially special needs students," one of the attorneys told Curry. "We would like her to be terminated."

Cheyenne's parents sued the school district and received $300,000 in damages."

Monday, November 14, 2011

In the "Real World"

you need to be socaila and confident about talking in front of peopl and being around everyone and when your homeschooled it doesnt prepare you for that.  — Chelsea

My sincerest thanks to Susannah L. Griffee, Katherine Schulten, and the entire staff at the New York Times for publishing their Saturday article “Would You Want to Be Home-Schooled?”    In a follow-up piece to Margaret Heidenry’s “My Parents Were Home-Schooling Anarchists,” the Times encouraged students 13 and older to comment on the following question:

Tell us about your experiences and thoughts about home-schooling. Do you think this type of education can prepare children for the “real world”? How might it be better than traditional schooling? What might children miss from not attending a regular school? Do you agree with the writer’s mother that working at one’s own pace and following one’s genuine interests is the best way to learn?

In publishing the comments, Ms. Griffee and Ms. Schulten clearly demonstrated why homeschooling must remain a freedom for all Americans.  The results are both stunning and sad.  I am sharing some of them here, unedited, as they appear on the NYT website.   They speak for themselves.

AJ did not think “that home schooling is a good thing because it will not prepare a certain child for the world.”  He did not tell us who the certain child is, so we are left to trust that there is one child who should remain in a public school.  Leslie thought  “homeschooling is dumb.”  She continued, “I think homeschooling doesn’t prepare kids for the real world. they don’t learn how to socialize with other people. Some parents may sugar code the kids. So they might not know everything there suppose to know. no i do not agree.”   
“Sugar code” their kids?

The “real world” theme of criticism ran through mulitple comments.  Kristen expressed her concerns that “homeschooling is ok but public schools are better because its almost like life you are going to have to deal with people that you dont like in life and school shows this at times.i dont think this could preper us for the real world because your not comunicatingi with people as much as you would at school.for most people it is a good learning activity”   Kristen, learn how to write well.   It is an important skill that you need for college and the work force.  Your comment has so many errors, I’m thinking of making my homeschooled children correct it as a grammar exercise.  If you believe that you do write well, your teachers are sugar coding your grades.
Brandon was “not in favor of home schooling. I think that it is important for a student to attend a regular school. This is because it will allow them to become more prepared for the real world.  When you think about it, home schooling only encorages children to stay at home, instead of preparing them to leave.  It gets them used to the comfortable living arangements at home more than usual.”  He expressed his fears for the future of all homeschoolers when he wrote that “…if they do go outside, they have no personal confrontations with other children, so they will not easily develope speaking to other people, which means no friends, no girl/boyfriend, no husbands or wives, their lives would be pretty much empty.”
What a tragedy!  All homeschooled children are condemned to a life of hermitude, living in their parent’s basements, passing the years playing Xbox and Wii, knowing that their lives would have had purpose and meaning if their parents had only sent them to a real school.  Oh, the humanity!
I’m not certain where these kids think homeschoolers live, if not in the “real world.”  Is there a secret “unreal world” in which all homeschoolers reside?  If there is, I did not get the memo.  Is there a secret handshake or password that I need to get inside?   In fact, homeschoolers do live in the real world, and in doing so, we have to deal with the results of the average public school education as demonstrated in the comments section of the NYT article.   Alas, I must take great comfort in the knowledge that my homeschooled children will grow up to run the company where these kids will sweep the floors. 

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Comparing Homeschoolers with Public Schoolers

Our good friend Cindy from Get Along Home, posted an article at High Country Mom Squad this week. It raises a concern that many of us homeschoolers struggle with from time to time. Comparing. How do our kids measure up?

Should we compare our kids with their public school counterparts? Cindy (in classic Cindy fashion) digs into that question in this GREAT post. Here's an excerpt. But definitely don't stop here...go read the rest!!
A few weeks ago I was talking—more accurately, moaning–to my husband about our second-grader’s lackluster progress in math. I’m not really sure what to try next, or if we just need to stick with what we’re doing, so I was just kind of thinking out loud about my options. My husband, because he likes to know these kinds of things (geeks like data, you know) asked how David’s progress would compare to that of school children his own age. So I did what any rational, confident homeschooling mom would do when faced with such an innocuous question: I freaked out.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

An Impromptu Homeschooling Field Trip

I took the kids to Kansas City this morning.

Tater dropped off donations for homeless veterans from her American Heritage Girls Troop. We had the honor of dropping off the donations because her mother runs the troop.

On the way home we found the Union Hill Cemetery.  After the cholera epidemic of 1849 filled the cemeteries of the towns of Westport, Missouri, and Kansas, Missouri, a new cemetery was needed.  In 1857, 49 acres of land was donated for a new cemetery.  That was the start of Union Hill.  There are lots of old and interesting graves in this cemetery.  I liked the gravestones shaped like tree stumps.  

I enjoyed the Chinese gravestone, which apparently is rare for a 19th century cemetery. 
According to the cemetery’s brochure, deceased Chinese immigrants were usually shipped back to China to be buried with their ancestors.  We stopped at a Chinese restaurant for lunch and I asked the hostess if she could translate for me, but despite all the conversation she held in Chinese with her husband, all she could say to me was, “I don’t know.”
The interesting surprise of this visit was discovering the grave of James Silas Calhoun, the first Territorial Governor of New Mexico.  How he went from a guy who served as a Colonel in the Mexican War to a territorial governor to dead on the Santa Fe Trail and buried in the town of Kansas, Missouri, is anyone’s guess. 
Eventually, the town of Kansas, Missouri, became the town of Kansas City, Missouri, and annexed the town of Westport, which is now a neighborhood.
We missed one tombstone that we’ll have to return to see (and we drove right past it!).  There’s a grave for Joseph Boggs, a man who was born in 1749, served in the Revolutionary War militia, and died in 1843.  Pretty cool.    
We also saw tent city, also known as Kansas City’s Occupy Wall Street.

It’s located in a park across from the Federal Reserve.    The group is smaller than it was a week ago.  They don’t do much, but the American flags are new. 

The kids got to see protest in action and learn about the freedom to assemble when you should be searching for a job. 
These things happen when you chuck your school work and head off on an impromptu homeschooling field trip.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Thank You for Your Kindness

I would like to take this opportunity to thank each and every one of you who took the time to nominate this blog for the annual homeschool blog awards hosted at The Homeschool Post.  Thank you, also, to everyone who took the time to cast a vote for The Homeschool Apologist.   I appreciate the compliment and the vote of support.   

Now, please stop.

Four years ago, I wrote about my inner curmudgeon on a post appropriately titled “Crank.”   In that post, I shared the fact that deep down inside, I’m really a very cranky person.  I’ve reposted the article here if you have the time (or desire) for a good laugh at my expense.  Four years later, a lot has changed, but not my inner crankiness.  I share this with you in order to tell you that I really, really, loathe, dislike, despise, abhor, don’t like the annual homeschool blog awards.  I dislike most blog awards programs.  I’m not going to go into the reasons why.   I haven’t written about it over the years simply because I’ve tried to accept the kindness extended to me by the people who took the time to nominate and vote for my blogs in their various incarnations.  What has ended up happening over the years is that the folks who run the HSBA announced the nominees, and I immediately wrote them to request that my blog be removed from their contest.  I will give them credit where credit is due: they’ve always honored my request.

This year it got out of hand.  The Homeschool Apologist wasn’t just nominated in one category, but three.  This madness must end!   Please, whoever you are, stop nominating this blog for awards.  Instead, leave a comment!  Comments are far better than the emptiness that commonly follows posts.  Heck, even being told that my writing reminds someone of their uncle’s smelly socks is better than silence.    I will say that I appreciate the person who nominated The Homeschool Apologist for Best Group/Family Blog.   Together, Linda and I are not large enough to be a group, but she’s definitely family.   And for the record, Linda agreed with me.  She beat me to the punch Monday morning, requesting our blog to be removed from the voting rolls before I could.

For those of you who are interested in the annual homeschool blog awards, pretend you’re in Chicago.  Vote early and vote often!   And good luck to the remaining nominees.

Crank - An Arby's Archives Repost from 11/7/07

cur•mudg•eon kərˈmʌdʒ ən - [ker-muhj-uh n]
A bad-tempered, difficult, cantankerous person
[Origin: 1570–80; unexplained; perh. cur- repr. CUR ]

—Related forms
cur•mudg•eon•ly, adjective

—Synonyms grouch, crank, bear, Arby, sourpuss, crosspatch.

I’ve often wondered what my children will say when they put their heads together as adults and complete the sentence, “Dad is a...” I wonder how long it will take them to figure out that underneath all of the layers of Dad, underneath all of the one-liners, the wrestling on the floor in the middle of Kmart, his obsessions over baking the perfect loaf of bread and making lump-free gravy, and a multitude of other quirks and idiosyncrasies, there lays a crank. At heart, I’m a really grumpy person. I was born a toothless, wrinkly curmudgeon. It’ll just take another 30 or 40 years for my features to catch-up.

Yesterday I had one of those days that are ideal for blogging about if I can get up a good head of steam, but I have no steam today. I’m steamless. I lost all of my steam yesterday. It was one of those days where I found myself spinning in circles. Captain Chaos took the opportunity of my being momentarily distracted by laundry to locate a large purple crayon and a freshly painted wall. Her artwork extended from the base of the basement stairs to the very top. I’m thinking that if I can teach her to sign her name at the bottom I won’t have to wash off her artistic endeavors. While I scrubbed away her mural she went into our classroom and began her daily task of dismantling the shelves. While I cleaned up her mess in the classroom she ran into our den in order to stand in front of the TV and wet her pants. In the middle of all of this came the perfectly normal cries of “Dad, I need some help with this problem!” I cleaned her up, helped the General, and then took the opportunity during the momentary lull in the action to cut and hang a few small pieces of drywall for my a-little-bit-at-a-time basement remodeling project. Captain chaos decided to help by using my drywall saws as drum sticks and then dumping a bucket of drywall screws on the classroom carpeting.

Major Havoc made his presence known. His one goal in life yesterday was to play Mousetrap with his brother and then ride bikes. He made his wishes known by asking every thirty seconds, “Is he done yet?” There was no amount of alternate activities that I could offer that would distract him long enough to give me five minutes without saying, “No, not yet.” and “I’ll tell you as soon as he is done.” And so the cycle of clean a room, move on to another room, have the previous room messed-up by the kids, teach a lesson (and yesterday was a day for remedial work) and get something productive accomplished like doing the laundry was dotted with six “accidents” by the Captain and I spent a good portion of the day fighting the urge to dive head-first into a quart bottle of Old English 800 which you can still get for a dollar forty at the local distillery complete with mandatory brown paper bag wrapping.


After dinner, we attended the activity that General Mayhem and the Boss had been waiting for, for an entire week. Last night was the General’s first-ever Boy Scout meeting. We finally found a Boy Scout troop in a five-hundred mile radius of our home that doesn’t meet on Monday nights. On Monday nights the General has his Karate class. It was love-at-first sight for the kid. He walked in, was assigned to a patrol, and instantly started learning about extreme cold weather survival tips for the camping trip that he is attending this weekend while I absorbed Boy Scout sticker shock and the knowledge that I, too, would be enjoying Jack Frost and the great outdoors from Friday night until Sunday evening. I fought the overwhelming urge to shout “You’ve gotta be #$%*%$# kidding me!” It was so cold last night my nipples had stiff nipples. The novelty of cold weather camping wore off twenty years ago when a group of Aussie survival specialists dropped me off with four other guys, two shovels and an ice saw, on the arid plains of Antarctica with the line, “We’ll come get you sometime tomorrow.” We had plenty of snow, plenty of ice, and plenty of sunshine to build an ice house for five and start thawing dinner.

The General looked at me expectantly and asked “Can I go?” and I flashed a reassuring smile that hid my initial deeply seated skepticism and otherwise sour outlook on a weekend sitting with nine complete strangers in sub zero temperatures for two days and confidently said, “We’ll talk to your mother,” knowing full well that she would say, “I’ll pack your bag.”

We returned home and talked to his mother and sent him to bed. I hit the wine bottle for a couple of glasses of White Zinfandel, safe in knowledge that drinking liquor from a bottle that has a cork is far superior and more socially acceptable than consuming a liquor that is stoppered by a screw-cap.

The funny thing is that the Boss knows the cranky side of my personality and she loves me in spite of it. I’m blessed that way. We talked about the coming weekend and she let me say everything that I wanted to say, knowing that I wasn’t really putting up a fight about going camping. I just had to get the crankiness out of my system. It had been a long day. She listened patiently and assured me that I will have a good time and then said, “I’ll pack your bag.” So I’m going camping this weekend.

My biggest fear in acknowledging that I am, at heart, cranky, is that we tend to have our true natures exposed and magnified in our elderly years. I do not wish to be an old difficult person dependent upon my wife and children for care only to have them dread being around me because I am cranky. So I work regularly on approaching life through prayer and humor, softening my otherwise surly disposition. It has to be working. I don’t think the Boss would have me if it wasn’t. And my little girl, who wormed her way into my heart the first time I held her, can soften the distempered beast with a quick smile and a soft “Daddy!” in her sing-song voice; although, I still reserve the right to stand in front of her TV set when I’m 96, wet my pants, and skip merrily through her house.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

If You Don't Like Homeschooling, Just Blame Asperger's Syndrome

Having made the gross tactical error of admitting to Linda that I didn’t have much about which to write, I received in reply a link to an anti-homeschooling blog post on the Parents Educating at Home (PEAH) website that must be read to be believed. The PEAH website is dedicated to providing resources for the homeschooling community. I still haven’t decided whether or not to take the letter seriously. It was so poorly written, I suspect it was a parody. If you have even a rudimentary grasp of the English language your head will hurt after digesting a Seattle public school teacher’s reasons why homeschooling is bad. I attempted to number the spelling and grammatical errors in the original post in a futile effort to identify all of them, but I ran out of numbers.

Karen is a mom of four “highly capable children” and a Seattle, Washington, public school teacher who explained that the hidden agenda of public education is “how to be a member of a large complex social group "society".” The main thrust of her reasoning was the commonly misunderstood and misapplied “socialization” argument. She expressed concern that homeschooled children will be unable to “understand proper chain of command (who to go to first and why), following directions of those placed in charge of you, or trying to be a part of the society in which you live.” She explained that, “we are judged every minute of every day by friends, peers, clients, even the cashier at the grocery store. “ Karen may have a point. We all know how devastating it can be when the elderly lady running the express checkout lane at Wal*Mart disapproves of your pants.

Karen’s evidence for her concerns was completely anecdotal. If we take her observations seriously, all homeschooled sixth grade boys wear “bedazzled pants,” are incapable of “dealing with peers in small and large groups,” are incapable of “dealing with adults” on their own, struggle with “puncuality,” do not smile when they do not want to smile (there’s a capital offense), believe that everyone loves them unconditionally, and do not finish their homework when they are too tired to think. The answer to those flaws is for the parents of homeschoolers to volunteer their free time at the local school. Homeschoolers should attend a public school, maintain “perfect attendance,” and take “pride for their social group like the school's football team or drumline.” She explained that this drum line fervor “will serve them well as CEO's physicians and leaders.” She'll get no argument from me. I do believe that the late Steve Jobs’ last words were, “God, I loved my high school’s drum line!”

As if Karen did not already supply ample evidence in favor of mandatory homeschooling for all Seattle area children (would you want your children taught by a woman who thinks and writes so well?), she saved her best comments for the end of her blog post when she explained that “many homeschooled students who attempt to go to public high school and a large majority are like a fish out of water. They missed their learning window and may never be able to be a part of the social world that is thriving around them.They do not speak and are filled with anxiety or they are so inappropriate they have had referrals for aspergers.” Did you catch that? Many and a large majority. Does anyone outside of her faculty lounge take this woman seriously? I’m not certain who should be more insulted, homeschoolers or Aspy kids. I can’t wait to read the responses when the autism crowd reads this one.

Karen’s own words speak for her. They speak volumes. They reflect arrogance and ignorance, as well as a lack of critical thinking skills, writing skills, discernment, and judgment. After you visit her post and leave your comments, please share them below.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Halloween Fun

Last night, the Boss and I escorted Harry Potter and his little sister, Powerpuff Girl “Blossom,” through the neighborhood to beg for candy door-to-door.

We noticed quite quickly that our children spent far more time at each door than the average child. The average kid ran up to the door, yelled “trick or treat!” and bolted for the next house before the candy hit the bottom of their bag. Several kids lapped us on a rather large cul-de-sac. The reason for the delay was twofold. When friendly neighbors told our daughter to pick whatever piece of candy she wanted, the girl went shopping. She dug through each bowl, carefully searching through the cornucopia of confectionaries until she discovered the perfect sweet. The second reason for their leisurely stroll through the neighborhood was their chattiness. Yes, our two social misfits - those strange, unsocialized homeschoolers - enjoyed talking to the homeowners dolling out the goods. They explained their costumes, who made them, etc. It was one gigantic social event. And they said, “Thank you.”

Score one for the homeschoolers!