30 October 2007

Books, Books, Books!

I woke up this morning with books on the brain, so I thought I would go through the Official Book Pile, including things I have neglected to place in the sidebar.

Reviews



The Case for the Real Jesus:
A Journalist Investigates Current Attacks
on the Identity of Christ

by Lee Strobel


I am about a third of the way through, and this work is great so far. I'm not sure I will be using my usual review format because I'm not sure it's a good fit for a book in this genre. This isn't your usual nonfiction that attempts to be a bit emotion, a bit fact, prove the author could write real literature if he chose, etc. Strobel is a journalist going after the "facts." He's a good writer, but I still don't think the format works.

If you have struggled with any of the "new evidence" that hits the mainstream {new documents proving x in the Bible is not true, etc.}, this is the book for you. You will also gain an understanding of how historians do their jobs, what textual criticism is, and such.



Secret Believers:
What Happens When Muslims Believe in Christ


The publisher is checking on why this book hasn't arrived on my doorstep yet. However, I am assuming that I have been slow enough at my reviews that it will arrive when I need it, and no sooner.



The Divine Conspiracy:
Rediscovering Our Hidden Life In God


I have always wanted to read this book, but I have never broken down and bought it. This is because I keep buying books for the children or about the children. I guess it could be said that I buy emergency books. I also tend to buy used unless it is a special occasion, and I've never seen this book used.

With that said, the publisher's 30th anniversary is coming up, and they are sending free copies of their oldies but goodies to the critics. I put in my request for this one, and I'm hoping they send it my way. They can consider it an early Christmas gift.

Current Reading
Not every book I read was free from the publisher. There are a number of others floating around our house. When I see them, I pick them up and read a couple of pages, or more if the children are sleeping. Here they are, in no particular order:



Poetic Knowledge:
The Recovery of Education


This is something Cindy mentioned about a year ago, and I finally got my hands on a copy. This book is at the top of my reading level, and I am relishing the challenge, even if I do end up reading some pages twice.

This guy uses phrases like "Cartesian legacy" like he means it.



Charlotte Mason's Original Homeschooling Series


What would the Official Book Pile be without a little something from Charlotte Mason? Right now, I'm reading Volume 6: A Philosophy of Education. I'm not reading these in order, so when I'm finished I intend to read Volume 2. I am so thankful that such a treasure is available today. This collection contains thousands of pages written by a Christian woman who devoted her life to the education of children and those who teach them.



The Last Disciple


This is one I borrowed from Kimbrah. I told her it would be a while before I could start it. But it called to me. So I'm almost done with it. Besides, Si and I decided we would read it together in the evenings. I can't tell you how nice it has been since we finally turned the TV off for good. We've been reading a chapter or two each evening, enjoying the story and learning a bit about the Roman persecution of the Christians at the same time.

Warning: some of the romance is a bit...cheesy.

New in the Afterthoughts Bookstore
It was time for another change to the store's front window. This time, I am featuring the work of Holling C. Holling. This is what I said in the store:
If I could describe Holling C. Holling's work in a short sentence, I would say it is geography in literary style. Coupled with a large blank map, a child can amble through a foreign countryside, learning what it is like through Holling's unique storytelling. Have them sketch what they see in their mind's eye on the map for added delight in what they are learning.

Holling's work is a joy to children, but I'm not sure they would really get a lot of actual geography out of it until they are a minimum of five or six years of age.

The bookstore, for those of you who are new, is linked to the most beautiful copies of a book I can find. I don't think that folks need to spend that much on every book in their entire library, but I think there is something very special about handing a beautifully bound book to a child for Christmas or their birthday. This is a tradition on our house: one beautiful book per child per occasion starting at the age of one.

You do not have to shop the bookstore to be my friend. However, I won't pretend that I don't benefit if you do. If you buy something using the Amazon searchbox in the sidebar, that benefits me too. Many of you don't know this, but you really have bought some of the children's curriculum this year, and now is a good time to thank you for that.

A Storm and Rock and Roll

Last night the Lord treated us to quite a display. Si called on his way home to tell us that there was lightning leaping from cloud to cloud {we were inside and it was too far away to hear the thunder}. We ran outside and enjoyed the show until the downpour soaked the driveway and the toddler took a tumble that made it all become Less Than Fun.

The children opted to watch from the front window while I finished preparing dinner.

Later, we went grocery shopping, and all was calm. We thought the storm was over.

But then, right at bedtime, the skies were full of flashes once again. So we grabbed Number One and Number Two {leaving Number Three to go to bed as she should} and sat outside under the safety of our covered patio and watched. The lightning was amazing and the thunder was perfect--not too quiet, not too loud.

It was the perfect night for a little dose of Metallica's Nothing Else Matters. I was fourteen years old when I first fell in love with this song. A lot of folks thought the band sold out when they published a real ballad. I thought they came of age, but that was probably because true heavy metal gives me a headache, especially in large doses.

But, really, the intro alone is beautiful, especially on a cloudy night.

So, there you have it. I have an affection for rock and roll. Another confession.

I felt guilty the other day when I read this:
Not only does the child imitate what is presented to his imagination, but the fundamentals of music, rhythm, and melody imitate the virtues of just anger, gentleness, courage, and temperance that, under the physical power of music acting directly on the senses, takes these admittedly difficult and complex concepts and reverberates them throughout the body and mind as a kid of real experience of the concept. There existed in the time of Plato and Aristotle a kind of "rock and roll" music associated with the wild celebrations of the cult of Dionysus with its emphasis on percussion instruments that attracted large numbers of youth. So, when Aristotle speaks in the tradition of Socrates of the qualities of music contrary to the virtues, to grasp his meaning we have only to recall the obvious effects, worldwide in our day, of rock music and musicians on manners and style of life on millions of children. Braving a generalization in the spirit of Socrates, I would say such music perfectly promotes the contraries of the virtues: violence, brazen vulgarity, and intemperance. {James Taylor in Poetic Knowledge}

Of course, Nothing Else Matters doesn't place a lot of "emphasis on percussion instruments" so I can excuse that one. However, I think I see good reason to continue with our classical and hymns emphasis in our schooling. Just in case it's true.

29 October 2007

With a Critical Eye

Does anyone read the Wall Street Journal? We read it when my dad brings it over. Yesterday, he brought us the opinion page because it contained a small article, Vaccines and Autism, by Dr. Ari Brown. Dr. Brown is attempting to combat some of the ideas and assertions put forth by actress Jenny McCarthy in her book Louder Than Words. McCarthy's son has been diagnosed with autism.

I find it pertinent to mention that I have not read McCarthy's book, nor do I plan to.

However, I still enjoyed reading Dr. Brown's article, and I thought I'd share with you my thoughts so far. If you want to click over and read it, feel free to add your thoughts in the comments.

  • Dr. Brown begins with an emotional appeal. Emotional appeals aren't right or wrong in my opinion, though they are often substituted for fact. In short, Brown begins his article by telling the story of a patient he had that died from complications related to chicken pox. It was a gruesome tale, to be sure, and Dr. Brown uses it to prop up his opinion that this event {death by chickenpox} was preventable by vaccine.

    Now, I don't want to argue that it is or isn't preventable. {Though I will say that ever chickenpox outbreak we have been around in recent years has involved vaccinated children, anecdotal though that evidence may be.} Preventability really isn't the point. The point, I think, is that Dr. Brown seems to think that his emotional story is more valid than McCarthy's. McCarthy obviously thinks that the MMR vaccine caused her son's autism, and that he might not be autistic today if he hadn't had the vaccine.

    Again, I don't want to argue if this is true or not.

    What I want to ask is why it is okay for Brown to decide to vaccinate all his patients because of his horror in watching one little girl die, but it isn't okay for McCarthy to refuse to vaccinate because of her horror in watching her son live an autistic life.


  • Dr. Brown makes an unverifiable assertion. While singing the praises of vaccines, Brown writes, "Vaccines are one of mankind's greatest scientific achievements. This year alone, they prevented 14 million infections, $40 billion in medical costs, and most important, 33,000 deaths." My friends, Brown is not a fortune teller, he is a medical doctor. There is no way that he can know this.

    I have been studying disease and nutrition for quite a while now. I am in no way an expert. However, my understanding is that disease rates do not remain constant for long. Plagues tend to start out small, and then follow a bell curve, which means they reach a peak and then begin to decline. To assume that vaccines prevents x number of deaths every year {I know he says "this year" and not every year, but the fact is that this assumption has to be based on the data of past years}, seems to assume a constant rate of disease.

    There is no reason to assume that, for instance, Rubella, would have continued at the same rate it did in the 1960s. And there is no reason to believe that chickenpox will cause as many problems in 2020 as it did in the 1980s, regardless of vaccine inventions. Disease rates simply don't remain constant, at least not at high, plague-like levels.

    This means that vaccines eventually begin to cost more than they are "saving" in medical expenses.

    Incidently, I think that McCarthy is guilty of the same assumption. I gather that she believes that avoiding vaccines would have avoided autism for thousands of children. This assumption is very similar to Brown's.
  • Dr. Brown doesn't tell the whole truth about mercury {thimerosal}. I'm not saying he's lying. We all know these articles have limits on the number of words they can contain. However, I think it important to note that though the amount of mercury in vaccines was reduced or eliminated, there is still mercury in the flu vaccine. The AAP and CDC agreed to reduce the amounts in standard vaccines as a precautionary measure, and then began suggesting mercury-containing flu vaccines for the very young. Interesting.
  • Dr. Brown states that parents lie. He says, "A small but growing number of parents are even lying about their religious beliefs to avoid having their children vaccinated..." I have been hearing modified versions of this statement from doctors lately. Perhaps this came from recent research? However, the growing group of people that I know personally actually do have religious beliefs concerning vaccines. Real ones. It is simply that the CDC and AMA never told us that the majority of vaccines are made using material obtained from aborted fetal tissue. So though our religious convictions remained constant, we had vaccinated in ignorance.

    Now that the acceptance of vaccines has been used to, for instance, request Bush to loosen restrictions on stem cell research because they set a precedent for research that utilizes aborted fetuses, a lot of us are refusing to vaccinate. This is not a lie about religion, but simply a realization that religion applied to an area that we once thought was morally neutral. I'm not saying that some parents don't lie. I'm saying that the "growing number" is not entirely lying parents.

    I also believe that the parents should not have to claim "religion" to have jurisdiction over their children's lives. The doctor should be an advisor to the parent, not a dictator.
Since the reason we do not vaccinate is a moral/ethical one, the effectiveness or ineffectiveness of vaccines is really an incidental issue. It is one I enjoy studying, but it really is a side issue to those of us with real, moral/ethical concerns. With that said, my final note might be to note that all opinions, rather from a Hollywood socialite or a doctor with a bunch of letters after his name, should be scrutinized.

In the instance of Dr. Brown, I think his best argument is a very specific one:
Ms. McCarthy told Oprah that her son was a normal toddler until he received his Measles, Mumps and Rubella vaccine {at 15 months of age}. Soon after -- boom -- the soul is gone from his eyes. Yet she contradicts herself in her book: "My friends' babies all cracked a smile way before Evan did . . . he was almost five months old." Which is it? Was he normal until his MMR vaccine or were some of the signs missed before he got that shot?
In this argument, he doesn't make sweeping assumptions, he doesn't quote "facts" that cannot possibly be known with certainty, he simply points out a contradiction in the evidence included in McCarthy's sad tale.

26 October 2007

Why We Don't Charter School {Ending Note}

So I think there is really only one thing left to say. I will continue to write because I am sure my relatives, at least, are still reading.

Here in town we have what I would consider to be a good charter school. I think I mentioned that somewhere along the line, and I know I said that I truly believed that someone could meet the faith criteria and still use the school. If you have read the whole series, you know my conscientious objection is primarily political and economic, though, naturally, my faith informs it all.

With that said, I now need to mention that the charter school is meeting a need for some families, or it wouldn't be as successful as it is.

Some people feel they really need the financial benefit. Some need the social aspect. {These sorts of people are called "extroverts" and I have been told they actually feel energized by leaving their homes and seeing other people. Baffling, isn't it?} Some find the structure and accountability helpful because they can be really flighty on their own. Some are leaving traditional school for the first time, and they feel like this is helping them ease into homeschooling. Some think it is fun.

I think the next generation of our family will have it easier. They won't have to try and visualize what a typical day at school at home will look like, they will remember from their childhood. They will be able to modify the things we had to create from scratch.

I think that private Christian schools will find they have a market if they can think of a way to offer some of what a charter school offers for a price families can afford. This would allow a family to enjoy the services without the socialistic consequences.

I think that churches can offer a lot simply be being supportive. Our church created a homeschool library, and some subjects have been basically free because it was from books the church gave to me. Which were really books other homeschooling families gave to me. Our church is also trying to begin a group that helps homeschool families find a community of others on the same journey. Another church in our town has an umbrella high school.

I think that having friends, older homeschooling families, to trouble-shoot with will help. And having other friends at about the same stage will also help. And if you don't have that, reading good blogs {like this and this} can help.

My sister and I take turns emailing each other in a panic. This is helpful, too.

I think praying can help. Reading the Bible can help. Conferences with the principal can help.

For us, the challenge is to first discern what is right, and then decide how to live in light of it. I don't think it is enough to stop at the lines we will not cross. We have to pass that stage, and then look for the way we want to go and follow that path.

We don't want to charter school, so we're done with that subject.

However, what do we want to do? What do we want education as a family to look like? These are the next set of questions, the questions I like to ask, because it seems that a whole world opens up and there really are a lot of options. I think we are beginning to get a vision for our family education. I hope you are getting one for yours, too.

On the hardest of days, the vision is everything to keep you going. On the best of days, it shows you that the dream is coming true.

Introduction
Part I
Part II
Part III
Part IV
Part V
You're reading Ending Note

25 October 2007

Why We Don't Charter School {Part V}

I wrote yesterday that there were two primary reasons that we homeschool, and the first and foremost was a matter of faith. The second is a matter of politics. Or perhaps I should call it economics. If I feel brave at the end, I will call it morality.

You see, we don't believe in public schools in the sense that we don't agree that this is a valid use of tax dollars, or that the government {especially the federal government} has the right or responsibility to be involved in the education of the family's children.

Okay. Now everyone stop and take a deep breath and I will try to explain. Not convince. Just explain.

The Constutional Part of the Picture
The 10th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America says this:
The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.

There is no portion of the Constitution that grants the federal government any say in how the nation's children are to be educated. This means that the No Child Left Behind law is patently unconstitutional.

Our government is breaking its own laws while quoting one of the framers in their defense.

Now, let's review the 10th amendment again. If a power is not specifically delegated to the federal government, it therefore belongs to the states or to the people. Obviously, I would prefer it belong to the people since governments never run things well, but I would have to admit that the law leaves open for the states to run the show.

I suppose one would have to read each individual state's constitution to give a thorough analysis of the situation, which is something I'm not willing to do. All I want to do is point out that all of the burdens placed upon public schools {including public charter schools} by the federal government are illegal.

A Definition of Socialism
The most basic definition of socialism would have to be that socialism is a political and ecnomic theory that advocates state ownership and control of just about everything, usually starting with a little here and a little there while working its way to the everything part of the equation.

Of course, Karl Marx thought it was the midway point between capitalism and communism. But I digress.

If we were to view education as an industry, I think we are hard pressed to call public schooling anything other than completely socialized. Starting at the age of five {though Obama would like to see it start even younger!} the government takes our children and creates in them its own image. The government decides what the child should and should not be taught, how he should spend the bulk of his time throughout the day, and who his teachers are. We are to be consoled because it is "free."

What a good deal! we are told. If you live in California, this is usually followed by a sob story of how our education is so great that illegal aliens risk their lives to come here and get such a wonderful free education, which is akin to the old story about the people starving in China so you better eat your vegetables.

But I digress again.

Socialism and Morality
This is the part where I lose some of my subscribers.

My problem with socialism is not solely rooted in the fact that it is unconstitutional. The constitution was based upon a certain understanding of morality. This is why government rights were limited.

In a recent issue of Imprimis {a free publication by Hillsdale College, so subscribe today!} was an article called The Legacy of the 1936 Election, which was adapted from a lecture given at Hillsdale by author/economist Amity Shlaes. In this article, she explains the concept of the Forgotten Man:
A and B want to help X...This is the charitable impulse. The problem arises when A and B band together and pass a law that coerces C into co-funding their project for X. Sumner identified C as the forgotten man. He is the man who works, the man who prays, the man who pays his own bills, the man who is “never thought of.”

Publicly funded education is an example of such a "co-funded project for X." We are so far away from 1936 that we forget there was a time when something like this had a simpler name than socialism.

We called it stealing.

Getting Back What We Put In
I have heard folks say that they "deserve" these freebies from the government in the form of public schools or libraries, etc., based on the fact that they pay taxes. They are getting back what they "put in." And since they can't choose not to pay taxes, they figure they should just take what they can get.

My problem is that most of us aren't actually paying that much in taxes.

If the school is getting between $4,000 and $5,000 per child per year, I can tell you we didn't pay that in taxes, especially not to the public schools {only a small fraction of various taxes--local, state, property, sales, etc.--is allocated to the schools}. In 2000, before a lot of new federal laws began to multiply educational expenditures even more, it was estimated that if you had two school-age children in California, you needed to {1} own a $1.5 million house, and {2} spend $68,500 per year on items that were taxable {sales tax}, and {3} have a taxable income of $91,300 or more. All three of these criteria had to be met in 2000 in order to be able to say that I was "getting back what I put in." I wonder what the figures are today?

I don't know what my readers pay. Maybe you do pay enough that the schools are benefited in the thousands. We certainly don't. If our children went to public school it would be "free" because the government takes money from our neighbors on each side who have no children of school age.

In my book, this is legalized stealing. You might not agree. But if stealing is taking something from someone that doesn't belong to you, something they really don't want to give, passing a law to make it "legal" doesn't ease my conscience. Stealing is, after all, forbidden by a law far more ancient than the Constitution.

In the Words of Davey Crockett
In the book The Life Of Colonel David Crockett, by Edward Sylvester Ellis there is a chapter entitled Not Yours to Give. In it, Congressman Davey Crockett explains an encounter he had with a man who refused to vote for him again because he had voted to allocate $20,000 in tax money to help rebuild Georgetown after a fire. The man said to Crockett:
But an understanding of the Constitution different from mine I cannot overlook, because the Constitution, to be worth anything, must be held sacred, and rigidly observed in all its provisions. The man who wields power and misinterprets it is the more dangerous the more honest he is.

[snip]

It is not the amount, Colonel, that I complain of; it is the principle. In the first place, the government ought to have in the Treasury no more than enough for its legitimate purposes. But that has nothing to do with the question. The power of collecting and disbursing money at pleasure is the most dangerous power that can be intrusted to man...

[snip]

If you had the right to give anything, the amount was simply a matter of discretion with you, and you had as much right to give $20,000,000 as $20,000. If you have the right to give to one, you have the right to give to all; and, as the Constitution neither defines charity nor stipulates the amount, you are at liberty to give to any and everything which you may believe, or profess to believe, is a charity, and to any amount you may think proper. You will very easily perceive what a wide door this would open for fraud and corruption and favoritism, on the one hand, and for robbing the people on the other. No, Colonel, Congress has no right to give charity.

I am glad to tell you that Col. Crockett repented of his grave misdeeds. In fact, when a future bill arose to pay some sort of benefit to the widow of a military officer {one who had lived long after his fighting}, Davey Crockett said this:
We have the right, as individuals, to give away as much of our own money as we please in charity; but as members of Congress we have no right so to appropriate a dollar of the public money.

[snip]

Mr. Speaker, I have said we have the right to give as much money of our own as we please. I am the poorest man on this floor. I cannot vote for this bill, but I will give one week's pay to the object, and if every member of Congress will do the same, it will amount to more than the bill asks.

Wrapping Up for Today
Economics. Politics. Morality? Taking what I deserve. Getting back what I paid in. Robbing my neighbor. A federal government ignoring the rule of law, and a public supporting it.

There are a lot of issues wrapped up in public schooling, and because charter schooling is public schooling, these issues must be grappled with. We have our doubts about the ethics and morality of the system, therefore we abstain from it entirely.



For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.
{Hebrews 14:23b}


Introduction
Part I
Part II
Part III
Part IV
You're reading Part V
Ending Note

24 October 2007

Why We Don't Charter School {Part IV}

There are two reasons we homeschool. First and foremost, there is the Shema and other important passages regarding education and the training of children found in the Holy Scriptures. Probably the single most important question one could ask themselves while charter schooling is whether or not the relationship being formed with the state {in the form of possible requirements, laws, testing, etc.} helps or hinders the family's ability to pass down their legacy of faith and faithfulness.

Obviously, I cannot answer this question for every charter school. Charter schools vary greatly not only between states, but between county to county, district to district. To make an absolute statement that charter schools always interfere with a family's passing of the faith torch, so to speak, would be unwise on my part. But I do have a couple thoughts.

The Vulnerability Inherent in Public Schooling of Any Kind
I recently wrote a post entitled Weep Today for California. In it, I quoted a press release that explained some of the new laws that our formerly glorious state will be subjected to come January 1, 2008 thanks to Governor Schwarzeneggar's autograph.

Two of the six laws that Schwarzeneggar signed will have a direct impact on the public schools. Since charter schools are public schools, we cannot ignore the fact that anything the state legislature requires of public schools logically applies to charter schools as well. The laws don't go into effect until the beginning of next year, so we have yet to see the actual impact. We can guess that if AB 394 requires that homosexuality and other perversions be promoted to public school students, charter school students in California are not immune from this requirement.

This past weekend, we were discussing the new laws with a friend of ours who is a traditional public school teacher. We questioned him about the effect of the new laws, and his belief is that the impact would be nominal in his district due to its being run primarily by Christians. I agree with him to a point. The more conservative districts will be the least likely to run away with the law. However, no matter how nice some of the people running his district may be, they cannot change the laws and they cannot protect from the consequences should they choose to violate those laws.

My theory is that the passing of these laws sets the stage for special-interest groups to begin a campaign of harrassing the more conservative school districts. They now have legal grounds for filing complaints and lawsuits should the schools refuse to comply with, for example, allowing boys who feel they might be girls to use the girls' restroom. They are the bullies that will make sure that there is no real local control over these issues.

The Threat of Oversight and Academic Requirements
If the ultimate goal of Christian family education, as I like to call it, is the passing of the legacy of faith and faithfulness through the generations, and if the goal of State education is, in the words of H.L. Menken back in the 1920s,
simply to reduce as many individuals as possible to the same safe level, to breed and train a standardized citizenry, to put down dissent and originality
then we have to admit that these goals are in conflict. Whether they clash to any great degree depends on what charter school we are talking about.

However, it seems appropriate to say that charter schools that are requiring parents to use state-approved humanist textbooks, for example, would be in conflict with the goals of family education.

A Response
In light of this, I would say that though it is not absolutely immoral to utilize a charter school, a parent with a homeschooling heart needs to be careful. Keep their eyes open. Make sure that the school doesn't interrupt the passing of that legacy of faith I keep mentioning. Watch the passage of new state laws. Consider what their school is requiring of their child's time. I would especially urge parents using one of the many online charter schools to make sure that they know all that their child is learning, and consider whether such a method of education helps or hinders the family's educational goals.

A Personal Note
If anyone was wondering, the religious conflict is pretty nominal at the charter school closest to our home. We have observed many Christians homeschooling through said school, and haven't noticed that they exert any more control over the parents than the parents have asked for. With that said, the faith issue, though our first and foremost reason for homeschooling in general, is not the reason we avoid our local charter school, though it would be in other parts of the country. Our reason is what I will be talking about in Part V.

Note: If you are unfamiliar with the Scriptural arguments for home education, might I suggest Teaching the Trivium by the Bluedorns? This is a largish book. However, the opening chapter {or two...I don't have time to run look it up} is by far the best, most logical and Scripture-filled argument for Christian homeschooling I have read thus far. If you can't {or don't want to} read the whole book, it is still worth reading those first couple of chapters.

Introduction
Part I
Part II
Part III
You're reading Part IV
Part V
Ending Note

23 October 2007

Why We Don't Charter School {Part III}

Because I can't bear not being clear, I am going to clarify. Again. And then tomorrow, this series will move forward because I am feeling determined.

It has now come to my attention that there are some charter schools out there that are still brick-and-mortar schools. They have just been freed from some of the normal state regulations. This usually means they can focus on something like job training, arts, sciences, etc.

This is not the type of charter school being discussed here.

Charter school at home is what I am discussing. The parent may or may not do the teaching, depending on the school. Some of these schools are online and the child is basically independent, though they are supervised by an online teacher and they have a personal coach, which may or may not be a parent.

My understanding is that programs necessitating such an extreme level of child independence rarely accept children younger than ten or eleven.

Other charter schools, as I mentioned before, have a combination of campus life and school at home. Or they are entirely school-at-home, with a bit of oversight and a nice check for the parents choosing to participate.

Any charter school that could be called "homeschooling" is what is being discussed. Does this make sense?

Ah...the life of one who haggles over definitions...

Introduction
Part I
Part II
You're reading Part III
Part IV
Part V
Ending Note

22 October 2007

Weekend Reviews

This weekend was a nice one for our little family. It was worth reviewing. Not every weekend is worth mentioning. But here it is.


The Weekend Movie

Miss Potter

Beatrix Potter's Complete Tales is part of our standard preschool experience in the Afterthoughts household, so naturally I had to check out the movie. It was lovely. I had heard there was a bit of animation mixed in, and I was unsure how that would affect the movie, but I think they pulled it off wonderfully.

4.5 out of 5 stars
Read a review of it here.


Si Reviews
Si didn't finish any books this week, so I thought I would review Si's work over the weekend. You see, he fixed my dear blender. The blender I use all the time. The blender I dropped. That didn't break it, but the coupling became off balance and crumbled the next time I used it. I was devastated. I thought I would have to buy a new blender, and I knew the new one wouldn't be anything nice like the old one was.

But my knight in shining armor ordered the extra part and replaced it. It never would have dawned on me to do that! Anyhow, for about $10, my blender is better than ever, and I feel very satisfied that we didn't have to throw anything away.

What Was Cooking
This weekend we dehydrated our own fruit. This was our first time making raisins, and they were much better than the store-bought variety.

The Weekend Review
The highlight of the weekend for all of us was probably our trip to Barnes and Noble. We don't go out much, but on the third Saturday of every month, Barnes and Noble teams up with our local symphony to provide a bit of music introduction to small children. The crowd was pretty much our family and some friends from our homeschool group, so the children were able to get up close and personal with the violin.

My highlight was when I wandered into the bargain classics section. I am a huge Amazon fan, as all of you know, but I felt like I had caught a glimpse of heaven. Such beautiful and yet accessible copies of Dante and Cooper and Moore and on and on. And then I saw it. I would link to it if I could, but I can't seem to find it online. It was a big, thick, gorgeously bound copy of Dickens' Christmas Tales.

I imagined myself reading them to the children by a winter fire. And then the sleeping baby began to stir, so I had to move on.

I love books.

21 October 2007

Why We Don't Charter School {Part II}

I spent part of the morning talking with a good friend of mine about this series. She charter schools, and we don't. But we are still friends. Do you see where I am going with this?

Anyhow, one of the things I appreciate about this friend is her honesty. In this world where major factions are often offended and demanding apologies from whoever it was who offended them, it is rare to find a person to think things through with. If you have a friend like mine, send her a thank you card.

We thought things through a bit in our conversation, and now I would like to clarify a few things from the Introduction before moving on.

In no particular order, I will deal with a direct quote of myself and then explain or elaborate or offer a lame excuse or whatnot:


  • We here often choose the hard road because the easy road conflicts with our conscience. I am not, incidentally, saying that you must have a hardened, evil heart if you don't see things our way. I simply want to explain that, to us, the charter school would be the easy road. And we just can't take it.

    "To us" was emphasis I added this time around. I don't want to go too deep into why it would be an "easy road" for our family because that is something I plan to talk about in a future post. However, my friend explained that, for her, a charter school is the harder road. I actually have a few friends who feel this way. These are my flexible friends, and the charter school gives them accountability, helps them stay organized, and, in essence, pushes them to do a lot more school than they would if left to their own devices.

    All of that to say that there is more than one perspective on these things, and I want to recognize this. For me, a charter school would be easier because it would ease our finances. For others, it is a harder road because it pushes them to take education more seriously and work harder at it.



  • If you are "homeschooling" through a charter school, you are not homeschooling in the legal sense. Your child is a public school student. There are legal reasons why this is important. If I could ask charter school parents to do one thing, it would be to say that they "charter school" rather than that they "homeschool." The reason for this is that we never want to reach a situation where a loss of freedom at the charter school is perceived to apply to those of us wishing to remain independent from the public schools.

    This can get touchy. There are two words wrapped up in this issue. First, there is the verb, which is the act of homeschooling. When a charter school mom pulls out her books and sits down with her child to go over the day's lessons, I think she can rightly be said to be homeschooling.

    I was meaning to refer to homeschool in the legal sense (though technically that's not fair here in California where students can only legally be a private or public school student).

    There have been instances in which the term "homeschool" has become a blanket term. What we don't want to see is the term "homeschool" used flippantly in a court of law. We want the legal term "homeschool" to be as separate as possible from the legal term charter school.

    The best example I can give is this: let's say that your neighborhood charter school commanded all of their parents to teach something that you found to be in conflict with your religion. Now imagine how nice it is that, instead of going to jail for noncompliance with state law, you can simply leave the charter school and homeschool at home under a separate set of laws. If the laws governing public schools become jumbled up with the term homeschooler {which really means charter schooler} it can make it more difficult to keep homeschooling safe from a lot of red tape and immoral requirements.

    All of this to say that my concern about terminology is from a legal point of view, and not intended to pass judgment on charter schooling families that literally teach their children at home.


Okay. I am running out of steam here, so I will close for today. However, I think I will end with a quote from Spunky, who first challenged our family's thoughts on this issue at least a year ago:
It is important that the definition of homeschooling be determined by who the student is ultimately accountable.

[snip]

A distinction is necessary to ensure that the freedom to homeschool is not lost through increased regulation. If we combine the two groups then when the state seeks to increase regulation or make changes to the "schooling at home" crowd the "homeschooling" crowd could be affected by the changes and potentially lose some of the authority to direct the education of their children.


Introduction
Part I
You're reading Part II
Part III
Part IV
Part V
Ending Note

19 October 2007

Why We Don't Charter School {Part I}

The best place to begin this discussion is with a definition. I didn't even know what a charter school was until a couple of years ago, so I'm going to assume that all of my readers don't know, either. A charter school can take different forms, so I am going to attempt to boil it down to the basics. In my mind all charter schools have these characteristics:

  1. They are chartered by a public school district. I am sure there are varying levels of control exerted by these school districts, but in the end, the charter school is under the same authority that got that traditional public school you are trying to avoid into its current award-winning shape. Yes, that was a bit of sarcasm. I will try to control it from here on out.


  2. The students are legally public school students. This is an important one. If you are "homeschooling" through a charter school, you are not homeschooling in the legal sense. Your child is a public school student. There are legal reasons why this is important. If I could ask charter school parents to do one thing, it would be to say that they "charter school" rather than that they "homeschool." The reason for this is that we never want to reach a situation where a loss of freedom at the charter school is perceived to apply to those of us wishing to remain independent from the public schools.

    By the way, this does not mean that I think these parents work less than I do, or anything of this sort. I only want the terminology to be concise for the protection of my own family and others who choose to homeschool in the legal sense.


  3. The charter school is funded by tax dollars. There are private schools who offer an umbrella to homeschoolers, and yet I would never call the students under the umbrella "charter students." This is because the education for those students is paid for by their parents. Charter school students are public school students not just because the school is under the authority of a public school district, but because the taxpayer is footing the bill for the child's education.


  4. One word: freebies. This, again, varies from school to school, but I have never heard of a charter school that didn't give out freebies, otherwise known as incentives. Some schools give cash. Others give free laptops. Still others give zoo and museum passes, or free books {as long as those books are obedient to state guidelines}. I suppose that a charter school without freebies would still be a charter school, but, like I said, they all seem to have this in common.


Some charter schools have no real campus. Some are online. Some have a campus and have required or optional classes one or two days a week. Many have teachers that direct the parents in the student's education, but I didn't put that on the list because I'm not familiar enough to say that they all do this. As far as I know, they "require" student testing, but I know for a fact that a student can be opted out in California, so, again, this isn't something that all charter schools do.

So. There you have it. Charter School 101. To the best of my knowledge, at least. Stay tuned.

Introduction
You'r reading Part I
Part II
Part III
Part IV
Part V
Ending Note

17 October 2007

Why We Don't Charter School {Introduction}

I have been thinking about writing this series for a long time. And I've been working on this series for a while. However, I've debated over whether or not to post it. For one thing, the series isn't finished, so once I post I'm committed to carrying this on to the end. Moreover, I recently learned that more than one person in the Afterthoughts readership is a charter schooler. But, after talking with Si, I decided to post.

So for starters, I'm not looking for a fight. Really, I'm not. I'm noticing more and more homeschoolers in our area turning to charter schools. Frankly, these folks believe they are getting such a good deal, they have trouble understanding why Si and I don't jump on board and grab our free zoo passes while we can.

And I won't say it wasn't tempting, and I won't say it won't be tempting again in the future.

We here often choose the hard road because the easy road conflicts with our conscience. I am not, incidentally, saying that you must have a hardened, evil heart if you don't see things our way. I simply want to explain that, to us, the charter school would be the easy road. And we just can't take it.

This is the first in a series of posts to explain why that is. You do not have to agree with me. That is not a requirement for reading this post. Really, I am writing this to work out my own logic, so that when a smiling mom asks me why in the world we aren't attending the local charter school and getting all the "free" stuff that is being handed out, I actually have a good reason ready.

Readiness is very helpful in difficult conversations.

Also, I would like to invite you all to think this through with me. Obviously, I can't think it all through on my own, and the perspective of others is always helpful. And I think intelligent discussion is enjoyable. So please join me as I walk through what I think are some logical objections to charter schooling.

You're reading Introduction
Part I
Part II
Part III
Part IV
Part V
Ending Note

16 October 2007

The Brain Tumor

I really shouldn't use such a title. Usually when bloggers use a title like that, they are serious. This, on the other hand, is just a little story to entertain Grace on the day before her birthday.

I don't remember exactly when it started, but sometime this summer, my daughter, A., began to complain about her head. She actually cried out and grabbed the right back side of her head. I, however, had been in another room and assumed that she had bumped her head, not that the pain was spontaneous.

But then it happened the next day. And the next.

I began to read up in my various health books, trying to decide if this warranted a trip to the doctor. I came to the conclusion that it would either get worse or get better, but I also put a mental time limit on how long I would allow even a mild head pain to continue without a doctor's attention.

It seemed to get a bit better for a time.

And then it happened.

One afternoon, A. woke up screaming from her nap. This was early summer, so she was still in a crib, and she looked so pathetic, screaming and holding the back right side of her head. I was overwhelmed by that motherly instinct that yells at me that I must take the child to the doctor now.

I was convinced she had a brain tumor.

I called Si. It was late enough that our doctor wouldn't couldn't take her. So we went to a pediatric urgent care. Si met us there. My parents even ran over to keep the other children.

All of us were worried.

And yet I was glad. One the main reasons I had hesitated to go to the doctor was that this was unpredictable. How could we show the doctor where it hurt, and how severely, when half the time it didn't hurt at all? But driving her, screaming, in the car, straight to urgent care? This would get the situation the attention it deserved.

We were pretty much the first ones in the door. We didn't have to wait long for the doctor. He examined her pretty thoroughly. He looked in her ears, in her eyes, took her temperature, checked her reflexes.

There was no sign of neurological problem, so he suggested we watch her, even though we had been watching for about a month, maybe even longer.

So we went home. And, really, we did feel better knowing that there was nothing obviously wrong.

And I watched her and watched her and watched her. And then, one day, I saw the pain "come on," so to speak. She has this habit of sucking her left thumb while using her right hand to play with the hair on the back right side of her head. Apparently, as her hair had gotten longer, she would accidently get it twisted in a knot around her finger. When she pulled her finger out, she was essentially pulling her own hair.

If you have ever had your hair forcefully pulled, you know that the pain is excrutiating at the onset, but can also be residual in a lesser degree.

Mystery solved. The "brain tumor" was nothing more than a toddler pulling her own hair.

And I cannot tell you how relieved I was that we didn't go to our regular doctor so that I didn't have to explain it all to her.

14 October 2007

Weep Today for California

I remember after we fired our original governor that all the Republicans on talk shows all across L.A. were saying that all of the conservative "had" to get together and vote for Schwarzeneggar because he was the "only" one who could win. This, my friends, is what we get when we vote for a "winner" instead of a man of principle. How much longer are we willing to compromise and vote for evil? Voting for the lesser of two evils is voting for evil.

I am sick tonight. And I grieve for all of my friends sending their children to public schools here, and all of my friends that work there, trying to make a difference. Late on Friday evening, Schwarzeneggar, lurking in the darkness in which he obviously feels quite at home, signed a number of bills ordering the demise of this once great state:

CAMPAIGN FOR CHILDREN AND FAMILIES
For Immediate Release
October 12, 2007


Arnold Schwarzenegger Signs Bills Forcing Schools to Promote Transsexuality, Bisexuality, and Homosexuality to Five Year Olds

“Every school a homosexual-bisexual-transsexual indoctrination center”


Call Arnold Schwarzenegger at 916-445-2841 to tell him how appalled and disappointed you are. Send him an email here.

Sacramento, California -- Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has signed into law two bills requiring all public school instruction and activities to positively portray transsexuality, bisexuality, and homosexuality to children as young as kindergarten. He has also signed bills undermining marriage and infringing upon the moral conscience of business owners, churches, and nonprofit organizations. Detailed analysis is posted here on SB 777, AB 394, AB 102 and AB 14.

Late Friday, Schwarzenegger signed SB 777 {transsexual, bisexual, homosexual indoctrination of schoolchildren by requiring changes to all instruction and activities} and AB 394 {transsexual, bisexual, homosexual indoctrination of students, parents, and teachers via “anti-harassment” training}. Signing the bills was a switch for Schwarzenegger, who vetoed nearly the same bills last year, in the midst of his reelection campaign.

“Arnold Schwarzenegger has delivered young children into the hands of those who will introduce them to alternative sexual lifestyles,” said Randy Thomasson, president of Campaign for Children and Families {CCF}, which helped lead the statewide charge against these bills. “This means children as young as five years old will be mentally molested in school classrooms. Shame on Schwarzenegger and the Democrat politicians for ensuring that every California school becomes a homosexual-bisexual-transsexual indoctrination center.”

SB 777 prohibits any “instruction” or school-sponsored “activity” that “promotes a discriminatory bias” against “gender” {the bill’s definition includes cross-dressing and sex changes) and “sexual orientation” (the bill’s definition includes bisexuality}. Because no textbook or instruction in California public schools currently disparages transsexuality, bisexuality, or homosexuality, the practical effect of SB 777 will be to require positive portrayals of these sexual lifestyles at every government-operated school. Otherwise, “discriminatory” schools will be subject to intimidation and lawsuits by the State Department of Education.

Under SB 777, which will go into effect on January 1, 2008, the following could be eliminated from California public schools because they are deemed to have a “discriminatory bias”:

• Textbooks and other instruction that portray marriage as only between a man and a woman
• Textbooks and other instruction that say people are born male or female {and not in between}
• Textbooks and other instruction that leave out transsexual, bisexual, and homosexual historical figures
• Sex education and school assemblies that omit the option of hormone injections or sex changes
• Homecoming king and queen contests that allow only boys to run for king and only girls to run for queen
• Boys’ and girls’ bathrooms that separate biological boys from biological girls

Click here for additional examples of SB 777 in practice.

The second sexual indoctrination bill that Schwarzenegger signed, AB 394, will promote transsexuality, bisexuality, and homosexuality to students, parents, and teachers through school training programs against “harassment” and “discrimination.”

While SB 777 is about “instruction” and “activities” promoting various sexual lifestyles, AB 394 promotes these same lifestyles -- “gender” {transsexuality and sex changes} and “sexual orientation” {bisexuality and homosexuality} -- through publications, postings, curricula, and handouts to students, parents, and teachers. AB 394 would promote these lifestyles all under the guise of “safety.” Yet current safety and nondiscrimination laws are sufficient, making this bill unnecessary.

AB 394 infringes on free speech. For example, because AB 394 fails to define “harassment,” a parent who says marriage is only for a man and a woman in the presence of a lesbian teacher could be found guilty of “harassment.” Similarly, a student who says you’re born either male or female could be reported as a “harasser” by a male teacher who wears women’s clothes.

In addition to signing the two school sexual indoctrination bills, Gov. Schwarzenegger signed AB 102, which awards married names to unmarried couples. AB 102 allows homosexual couples to hold themselves out as married by permitting them to choose the same surname upon registration of their “domestic partnership.” The bill awards unmarried couples married last names, such as “Mr. and Mr. Smith” and “Mrs. and Mrs. Jones.”

“Schwarzenegger and the Democrat politicians have created the public image of homosexual ‘marriages’ in California,” said Thomasson, in response to the signing of AB 102. “It’s hypocritical for Arnold Schwarzenegger to veto homosexual ‘marriage’ licenses and at the very same time aggressively promote the public image of gay and lesbian ‘marriages’ in every community for every child to see.”

In addition, Schwarzenegger signed AB 14, which requires more California businesses, as well as some churches and nonprofit organizations, to support and promote transsexuality, bisexuality, and homosexuality.

AB 14 prohibits state funding for any program that does not support transsexuality, bisexuality, or homosexuality. This means state-funded social services operated by churches and other houses of faith, which provide essential services to children and adults, could dry up.

Negatively impacted will be religious-based day care, pre-school and after-school programs, food and housing programs, senior services, anti-gang efforts, job programs, and more. Throughout California, there are faith-based services that receive government funding that simply do not and will not accept transsexuality, bisexuality, and homosexuality.

Infringing on matters of personal and religious conscience, AB 14 also forces every hospital in California -- even private, religious hospitals -- to adopt policies in support of transsexuality, bisexuality, and homosexuality. Under AB 14, private country clubs, tennis clubs and racquet clubs will be forced to support these sexual lifestyles on their premises. AB 14 also opens up nonprofit organizations to lawsuits if they exclude members that engage in homosexual, bisexual, or transsexual conduct. This certainly threatens the Boy Scouts, which is a membership organization as well as a nonreligious nonprofit.

“It’s the height of intolerance to punish individuals, organizations, businesses, and churches that have moral standards on sexual conduct and sexual lifestyles,” said Thomasson, in response to the signing of AB 14. “This is another insensitive law that violates people’s moral boundaries.”

“Arnold Schwarzenegger demonstrates the negative consequences of electing a liberal Republican to office,” Thomasson concluded. “Schwarzenegger fooled many California conservatives into voting for him. Yet now he’s flip-flopped and stabbed them in the back.”

-- end --

CAMPAIGN FOR CHILDREN AND FAMILIES {CCF} is a leading nonprofit, nonpartisan organization representing children and families in California and America. CCF stands for marriage and family, parental rights, the sanctity of human life, religious freedom, financial freedom, and back-to-basics education.

12 October 2007

A Reflection on the Limitations of Science

Science defines a day as the time required for the earth to complete a full rotation. A year is defined by the time required for the earth to complete a full orbit of the sun. These are descriptive terms, to be sure. And yet they are somewhat dull and lifeless, at least if time is all that can be conceived of concerning the word day.

Science may tell us what a day is, but its capacity beyond that is quite limited. Science cannot wax eloquent about the day's merits, nor can it grumble about its failings.

Science cannot tell us that the day was good, and yet isn't it true that goodness can be a fact?

I love science. I find it fascinating. But it seems that there are facts which are beyond the reach of science.

11 October 2007

Education: Lacking in Life Itself

I used to silently condemn some of the people around me, especially teenagers. It wasn't for piercing their noses or yelling curse words. It was for the lack of depth that everything about them revealed. Were they really interested only in fashion, popularity, the latest scandal at school?

It is very rare to overhear any sort of intellectual discussion between two teenagers.

My condemnation was probably more akin to annoyance than anything else. This is because I really thought these kids had capacity for more. I thought they had the capacity for awe and wonder and curiosity about the world around them.

Charlotte Mason, however, considers these kids maimed:
We are filled with compassion when we detect the lifeless hand or leg, the artificial nose or jaw, that many a man has brought home as a consequence of the War. But many of our young men and women go about more seriously maimed than these. They are devoid of intellectual interests, history and poetry are without charm for them, the scientific work of the day is only slightly interesting, their 'job' and the social amenities they can secure are all that their life has for them.

The education for most American children prepares them to be cogs in the giant economic wheel, and nothing more. It doesn't enlarge their souls. It doesn't even really enlarge their minds {though it is debatable that the two can actually be separated like that}. It doesn't give them intangibles in which they may delight even in poverty.

After pondering this quote for some time, I found that my heart had turned from irritation to compassion.

I have a memory of an older teenager who was in our home one evening. We were reading aloud to the children. I could tell this person couldn't quite keep up with the story, and eventually this person left to go text-message a friend.

No wonder folks in this world must spend so much money. They are incapacitated in mind, unable to delight in simple things, unable to think through an issue using sound reasoning. They are not only victims of the education system as we know it, they are set up to be victims of a dictator or tyrant due to their own mental and spiritual handicaps.

By the way, I still believe these kids have capacity for more. I just think they will need to be led into discovering it. For any of my readers who work with teenagers {within the church and without}, I would encourage you not to dumb anything down, so to speak. I would encourage you to challenge.

But, more than anything, I would encourage you to read them a story. If they can learn to laugh at the story of Peter Pan, if they can get a warm feeling when Mr. Toad's friends restore him to decency in The Wind in the Willows if they can bear up under the hardship of poverty along with the sisters in Little Women, if they can struggle along with Christian in The Pilgrim's Progress, they will be the better for it.

As Mason reminds us, education is the "necessary handmaid of religion." With increased capacity for thinking and knowing and growing in general comes the capacity for maturing spiritually.

10 October 2007

The Darndest Things {10/07}

Second week of the month already, and I still haven't begun a Darndest Things list. Not that I did one for last month. But I did do a detailed report of our trip, and that has to count for something. However, using my psychic abilities {a.k.a. Sitemeter}, I can see the grandparents lurking around here, hoping I've added a new list.

So I'll do it. But I must say most of the really cute stuff so far this month has happened while we were out and about. And no matter how cute it was, my brain, like a sieve, lost it all before we got home. However, I will be faithful and update this throughout the month as usual.


30 October 2007: Technology Interprets Reality
So I admit that I was fading out a bit during narration time. I was so tired today, and when my son started narrating his chapter from Benjamin Franklin using his little sing-song voice, and I was so warm and comfortable, I felt myself begin to fade away. What drew me back was when I heard that little voice say, "And his dad said, 'Do you want to be a fax machine?' And Ben said, 'Yes, I want to be a fax machine.'"

He was already on his way to his next point when I stopped him: "Did you just say that Ben Franklin agreed to be a fax machine when he grew up?"

"Yes."

In the story, Ben's dad takes him from craftsman to craftsman to decide which trade he wants to learn. Ben settles on being a printer.

"But," I sputtered, "Ben is going to be a printer!"

"Well," he explained, "our fax machine is a printer."

It was then that I understood that I needed to explain what printing really was back in the day when machines didn't do all the work.


16 October 2007: Conviction
Long story short, little miss A. was jumping on a crib mattress (that I had just put a fresh sheet on) while I was out of the room. The reason this is important is that she had been previously been playing outside and she had wet her pants. And then she had sat in the dirt. So now she her pants were covered in what can only be called slightly dried urine mud. Yum.

So I don't really know this has happened, and we sit down for lunch. This is when I notice the stains on the fresh sheet {please don't ask why it was in the dining room which is also the play room because, like I said, it is a long story}. I said shrieked, "A.! Were you playing on that mattress?" When she answered in the affirmative, I was angry. Visibly angry. And the children all knew it. Since there was smoke coming from my ears, I told my son that he needed to pray before we ate. He is smart and knows that this is code for "Mommy's heart isn't right with God right now."

And so he prayed.

"Dear Lord. You are a great and mighty God. Please comfort Mommy's heart while she is angry...and mean. Please forgive her sin. Thank you for this food. Amen."


12 October 2007: Stuck
I heard A. whining and complaining in the hall. I chose to ignore it as she had been whiny all morning, and usually there was a petty reason for it, if there was a reason at all. But, she kept it up. Finally, I decided to investigate.

There she was, laying on her back in my laundry basket. She was kicking her little legs as hard as she could, whimpering all the while, but it was impossible for her to right herself!


12 October 2007: What's That Noise?
I heard my son stomping around the house with a deep booming sound. He kept it up: Boom! Boom! Boom! Finally, I had to ask. "What are you doing?" His reply? "I'm a double bass!"

So apparently he is learning something from our orchestra book.


9 October 2007: Death Wishes
My two-year-old is always trying to kill either herself, the whole family, or perfect strangers. I suppose it isn't intentional.

Yesterday, the children went out for their morning playtime. This is usually from about 11:00 a.m. to noon. They came in and our day proceeded As Usual. At 1:00, when I was putting Q. down for her afternoon nap, I noticed a strange smell. Since she sleeps in our room, there were many possibilities. E. helped me investigate. We sniffed the hampers, the bathroom, under the bed, behind the changing table, near the crib, etcetera.

We could not find the source of that smell.

My nose, in the beginning, believed the source to be a dirty diaper, hidden somewhere. So I did the sensible thing and opened an extra window to air out the room while we waited for the offending diaper to surface somewhere.

Later on, when I was patroling the halls, I even opened the door wide to get the air circulating throughout the house.

I put the other two children to bed As Usual. And, later, they woke up As Usual. And then we began our evening routine As Usual. It was approximately 4:00 p.m. when I began to think I was smelling a similar smell, this time coming from the kitchen window.

If you knew the layout of our house, you would know that this window was not remotely close to the master bedroom.

This was my first clue that the smell was coming in through a window.

My first plan of action was to run around like crazy closing all the windows. I also turned on the air conditioner, even though we didn't need it, because I knew it would filter the air.

Later, I checked on the children, who were {again} playing outside. This time the smell was definitely outside, and it was quite strong.

And there was this peculiar, soft, high-pitched squeaky sound.

And then I realized that the propane tank on the bar-be-que was on. On high. The smell was propane. This highly flamable gas was pouring all over our patio and into our house and I was cooking dinner!

And, of course, in about 5.7 seconds it was readily apparent that Miss A. was at fault for this. And, just like last time, she managed {by God's grace} to escape without a stratch.

To think that I had momentarily considered lighting a candle in the bedroom to clear out the smell.


5 October 2007: An Autumn Swim
It was a crisp morning. Not exactly chilly, but the air was stiff, if you know what I mean. What was striking when we left the house for our usual morning walk was that the sky was a very vibrant blue. Obviously, the pollution {courtesy of the Bay Area exporting it our way} must have drifted to some other unsuspecting town.

Anyhow, the blue of the sky simply enthralled the toddler. She kept pointing at the blue sky and the big, fluffy clouds, all the while saying, "See, Mommy? See?" Soon after, she started muttering about something. Since she was still pointing in the sky, I thought I'd ask her what she was thinking.

"Swim, Mommy?" still pointing at the sky. "Can we go swimming, Mommy?"

"In the sky?" I asked.

"Yes!"

09 October 2007

Evolution: Ideas Have Consequences {Follow-Up}

I received an interesting email in response to yesterday's post. This gave me many things to think about, and also a point of clarification that I believe is fitting. First and foremost, Mason's point is that ideas have consequences. Like sin, we often cannot choose our consequences. Following the paragraph that I quoted yesterday, Mason continues:

Darwin himself protests against the struggle for existence being the most potent agency where the higher part of man's nature is concerned, and he no more thought of giving a materialistic tendency to modern education than Locke thought of teaching principles which should bring about the French Revolution; but men's thoughts are more potent than they know, and these two Englishmen may be credited with influencing powerfully two world-wide movements. {emphasis mine}

Our thoughts are not isolated. They effect our own conduct and, eventually, the conduct of others. If we broadcast our thoughts, they may even effect the many.

My urging in the last post was intended to be, for the most part, that we examine our thoughts and test them for truth, that we make sure every thought is captive to Christ. This is a good protection from devastating consequences from wrong thinking run wild.

08 October 2007

Evolution: Ideas Have Consequences

Si is helping teach a creation class at our church. It started yesterday. {He did great, by the way!} Anyhow, I didn't think I'd have much to contribute to his new endeavor as most of what I am reading right now concerns educational philosophies or nutrition.

But then I found that Charlotte Mason actually has an insightful analysis of the connection between World War One and the belief in evolution.

But before I begin, let me explain a bit. I have heard some Christians say that evolution shouldn't be a dividing line within the church, that what a Christian believes about origins isn't part of our essentials, doesn't fall into a category of the solas {the solas being sola gratia meaning by grace alone, sola fide meaning by faith alone, sola scriptura meaning by Scripture alone, sola Christus meaning in Christ alone, and soli Deo gloria meaning for God's glory alone or glory to God alone}.

First, I would say that believing in evolution is actually a sola scriptura issue. It is not wrong to seek out truth, and because we believe that all truth is God's truth, as my husband is often reminding me, we need not be afraid of truth. However, deciding that the creation account is not true is the same as doubting the truth of Scripture.

This is antithesis: Scripture is either true or is isn't.

But there is more here. Many folks who believe that Christians can believe in evolution and be "just fine" don't really believe that the idea of evolution has any consequences.

Mason would say that the idea of evolution had great consequences. In fact, she pretty much blames Darwinism for the War, among other things:
Much thoughtful care has been spent in ascertaining the causes of the German breakdown in character and conduct; the war scourge was symptomatic and the symptoms have been duly traced to their cause in the thoughts the people have been taught to think during three or four generations....Professor Muirhead did us good service in carrying the investigation further back. Darwin's theories of natural selection, the survival of the fittest, the struggle for existence, struck root in Germany in fitting soil; and the ideas of the superman, the super state, the right of might--to repudiate treaties, to eliminate feebler powers, to recognize no law but expediency--all this appears to come as naturally out of Darwinism as a chicken comes out of an egg. No doubt the same dicta have struck us in the Commentaries of Frederick the Great; "they shall take who have the power, and they shall keep who can," is ages older than Darwin, but possibly this is what our English philosopher did for Germany:--There is a tendency in human nature to elect the obligations of natural law in preference to those of spiritual law; to takes its code of ethics from science, and, following this tendency, the Germans found in their reading of Darwin sanction for manifestations of brutality.

--Charlotte Mason, Volume 6: A Philosophy of Education, emphasis mine

06 October 2007

Never Buy a Saturn

Have I ever mentioned that Si drives a Saturn Ion? Probably not. It's a fairly innocuous little car. Or it seemed that way when we bought it. We bought it new because that was the only way we could get out of our Saturn lease. And we had the lease because that was the only way Si was able to quickly aquire a car after college.

He needed the car to get to work to earn the money to buy me an engagement ring so that we could get married and have a great marriage and really cute kids but really bad, ugly car problems.

Ahem.

In October of 2005, we made a journey to visit the MPL family. Our car, less than three years old at the time, lost its transmission on the mountain roads we were traveling to get home.

That was fun.

But...it was still under warranty. We were without an extra car for a while, but Si worked from home, and so we were fine.

It has been less than two years. Si has been on a business trip this week. The transmission went out. Again. And, this time, we hear it might not be covered by warranty {though perhaps the manufacturer will stand by a defective product?}. Apparently, the warranty was up when the original car warranty was up, even though the transmission itself is, this time around, less than two years old.

The car has also had other problems, like windows that won't roll down, and a collapsible back seat that wishes to stay collapsed, so it is somewhat dangerous to actually use the seat to transport passengers.

But the car is a simple commuter car. Our family is too big to actually go anywhere in it. So Si takes it to work and takes it home, and occasionally on a business trip.

Which brings me back to the two-year-old transmission that went out yesterday.

Cost (in time) away from family
when you really thought
you'd be home early: 7 hours

Cost of fixing the transmission
that was less than two-years old
and driven less than 5,000 miles:
$170 and counting

Driving a Saturn Ion: priceless


If I end up adding "donations accepted" button in the sidebar, you'll know why.

05 October 2007

Telling the Untold Stories

If there is one thing I can say about teaching my children, it is that it keeps me humble. The more we learn, the more I realize how much we don't know...how much I don't know. And I am also struck about all the things I wasn't taught. Lists of dates and names were substitutes for real history. "Original compositions" were substituted for reading and analyzing real literature. I learned...and yet I didn't.

My hope is that our children will not be able to say this about their own education.

I already mentioned that we are studying the person of George Washington. We are reading books about him. Two days ago, we finished our first work, The Bulletproof George Washington. When we began, I really didn't find it all that interesting. I was even willing to put it down and move on to one of our better books. But my son, after hearing the first chapter, talked about it all day.

So we pressed on. And I am so glad we did.

This is a tale I was surely never told, for I am certain I would have remembered it. Author David Barton tells the story of George Washington's miraculous survival during the British defeat in the battle for Fort Duquesne {French and Indian War, folks}. There were accounts of at least two separate Indian sharpshooters saying that they both shot at him 15 and 11 times, respectively. They never miss.

They missed.

The Indians quit shooting at him after that because they believed he must be under the protection of the Great Spirit.

Fifteen years later, an old chief, hearing that Washington was in his territory, traveled many miles to speak to him. Keep in mind this was long before America even knew she would one day have a President. This is what the old chief said through an interpreter:
I am a chief and ruler over my tribes. My influence extends to the waters of the great lakes and to the far blue mountains. I have traveled a long and weary path that I might see the young warrior of the great battle. It was on the day when the white man's blood mixed with the streams of our forest that I first beheld this chief [Washington]. I called to my young men and said, mark yon tall and daring warrior? He is not of the red-coat tribe--he hath an Indian's wisdom, and his warriors fight as we do--himself alone is exposed. Quick, let your aim be certain, and he dies. Our rifles were leveled, rifles which, but for you, knew not how to miss--'twas all in vain, a power mightier far than we, shielded you. Seeing you were under the special guardianship of the Great Spirit, we immediately ceased to fire at you. I am old and soon shall be gathered to the great council fire of my fathers in the land of shades, but ere I go, there is something bids me speak in the voice of prophecy. Listen! The Great Spirit protects that man [pointing at Washington], and guides his destinies--he will become the chief of nations, and a people yet unborn will hail him as the founder of a mighty empire. I am come to pay homage to the man who is the particular favorite of Heaven, and who can never die in battle.

Students graduate high school apathetic about this country not only because of the stories they are told, but also the stories they are never told.

04 October 2007

Let's Think Happy Thoughts

Since yesterday was so negative, let's make today a happy sort of day, the type of day where a smile is fitting and a frown is not.

We could talk about how the playground down the street from our house burned down all the time we are spending playing in our backyard. Which is a good opportunity to mention that I think Si might have a green thumb yet! Not only does it look good out there {he finally took down the flowers that I killed}, but there is at least one pumpkin growing in the patch.

I can smell the pumpkin bread already.

We could talk about how we have almost triumphed over the tic problem, which is a series I am working on for the future.

We could talk about how the baby started talking during our beach trip, which surprised us seeing as the other two were relatively late talkers. She says lots of long-I words like "hi" and "bye-bye" and "night-night" {which sounds like "ny-ny"}. She also waves and signs "all done" at the end of a meal. Her voice is so sweet and soft and Si and I are completely in love with her.

We could talk about how the toddler sparkles. Even when she's mad, she sparkles. She is all glitter and giggles, and I find myself watching her with the fascination with which I would watch a little fairy as it flitted from flower to flower.

We could talk about how Mr. E. was glowing with pride yesterday because not only did he get to help his great grandfather troubleshoot our broken ceiling fan, but he was also given his very own wrench for his toolbox.

There are lots of things to talk about. What are your happy thoughts today?

02 October 2007

Contentment is the Real Thing

I get uncomfortable when people ask us how many children we want. I know that, culturally, this is a normal question. But I never know how to answer. If I say something like, "However many God gives us," it tends to sound trite. There is some sort of holier-than-thou quality to an answer like that.

But then, giving a number never seems to be the right thing. For instance, if I say that I want x number of children, and then we end up not being blessed with another child ever again, it seems like I'd be upset about that. Or if we have a number of children greater than x, again, might I be upset?

Oh, there are stories behind why my mind performs great gymnastic feats while pondering my answer to this question. After all, I remember, when I only had one child, a woman I knew told me how terrible it had been that a friend had convinced her husband to have a fourth child because they "accidently" conceived twins and this was quite upsetting. Pity the one delivered second, I suppose.

Or there was another friend of mine who only had four children when her two best friends had six and seven children apiece. She often reminded me how an emergency hysterectomy after her fourth pregnancy had limited their family size. Did she feel that four wasn't enough?

Now, don't get me wrong. I understand that some people really do have a number in their heads. And these same people really do struggle if they don't reach that number. We have met people with many children whose arms are still aching for one more baby.

However, comma...

It has been my observation that there is a bit of a competitive spirit out there. It appears that, to some folks, having a large family proves something to the world. It makes a statement. It might even mean the parents are more spiritual.

But does it?

It seems to me that, within the community of folks who believe that God should plan the family, that there should be room for all variety of family sizes. Some might have seventeen children, while others might have one or two. If God deems this so, who am I to criticize and suggest that a family have more or less?

I think that contentment with God's plan for the family is the real issue here. Yes, there are crucial issues within the culture out there regarding birth rates and such. And, to some extent, those issues really are important. But, at the end of the day, resting in God's plan reigns supreme.

This blog got a hit the other day from a search engine. The key words were "unable to have a large family." This is why I wrote all of this. My heart ached for this person, though I doubt they are still reading this blog. I wanted to pat her hand and tell her that having the family God has for her is all that matters. Numerous or few, every child she has is God's precious gift to her, a stewardship from above.

So. How many children do we want? In all honesty, we always want one more. When we had one, we wanted two. When we had two, we wanted three. We have three, and we want four. And so on. But we know, what with three C-sections already, a day will come when the doctor says, "No more." And we are ready to accept that as God's limit for us. And I feel we can embrace it as part of His plan.

A family with less people in it is not less of a family.