Saturday, June 30, 2007

More Detailed Opinions of Mine About Spanking

One reader asked me more questions about spanking and the Biblical reference to the rod.

I put a long comment under my original post to explain it. If you want to read it, go here and look down to my long comment. You might have to click to view the comments.

I have shared personal information and I spoke from my heart.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Third Newspaper Article About Homeschoolers and DCF Claims in Connecticut

Today a third article in the series was published about Connecticut's DCF researching false claims of educational neglect by homeschoolers (some reported by the schools that the child was being withdrawn from).

Article Title: The Price of Going it Alone
Parents who pull their children out of school to homeschool are automatically referred to DCF for investigation

By: Jennifer Abel
Published in: The Hartford Advociate
Publication date: Thursday, June 28, 2007

Please read it.

I would like to publically thank Jennifer Abel for researching this topic and also The Hartford Advocate for being brave enough to publish articles on these topics, which had been ignored by the media for so long.

I Was An Activist Today

Today I spent the day in Hartford, Connecticut with a group of parents (mostly if not all, homeschoolers) being an activist.

The morning began with listening to statements and questions about the appointment of Susan Hamilton. When the floor was opened for public comment some parents who have been investigated (falsely) by DCF spoke as well as some homeschooling and formerly homeschooling parents who spoke on behalf of those not present and about the issues in general.

The Hartford Courant was in the lobby of the Legislative Office Building, interviewing people for an article.

Out of fear of retaliation and to try to avoid a false claim and investigation of my own family, I did not speak to the Legislators nor did I speak to reporters. Believe me after hearing these horror stories I wanted no threat of going through what they went through.

We then walked, as a group, to the Capitol building to Govenor Rell's office and handed her a letter about this situation.

We then walked to the Department of Education building and did a rally in front, walking on the sidewalk to picket, chant, and to listen to statements spoken through a bullhorn. We hoped that staff at the DOE would hear what we were saying. It was 93 degrees, sunny, and humid and we were melting in the heat, but we felt it was important to do this.

Here is a press release announcing this event.

I spent seven hours doing this plus the hour plus long commute each way. I would have liked to have had more people at these events today. I feared low attendance so I shuffled my schedule around and found a friend to take my children for the day so I could go do this. It is important to show legislators our faces and to let them know these problems are happening.

I also got to meet some of the families who have been featured in the newspaper media and I heard even more details first hand. I enjoyed sitting next to Judy Aron and chatting with she and Attorney Deborah Stevenson today. I also got to see some homeschooling advocates and activists that I know from around the state which was good. I saw some old faces from my former La Leche League days. Odder still, was that people were approaching me about my blog and thanking me, and saying they enjoy my writing, it was a bit surreal. Sometimes I feel like I'm blogging and no one is really reading. And one nice person even said that I am a good writer and am skilled at expressing complicated and difficult topics in an eloquent manner, that was nice to hear.

Judy Aron has already blogged a quick reflection of today's events, please read them here. If you want the latest news and events please read Judy's blog.

I am too drained and am feeling too overwhelmed to write a long blog entry now about today's events. My bottom line is that I felt we were heard and it seems that something is going to be done to tighten up DCFs policies and procedures to make them in alignment with the law. Next up the DOE must work with each school system to re-educate them on the law and to notify them that making false reports to DCF is actually an illegal activity and hopefully the DOE will tell the schools to abide by the present law of not making false reports to DCF.

Parents Rally To Be Held In Hartford Connecticut Today

Here is a link to a press release about a rally scheduled for June 28, 2007, in Hartford, Connecticut.

Although the rally is for all parents the people present are expected to be those harrassed by DCF with not-substantiated claims, current homeschooling parents, or parents who homeschooled in the past. Read the press release for full details.

If this press release is not visible online, read this copy at Judy Aron's blog, Consent of the Governed.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Carnival of Homeschooling Week 78 Has Been Published

The Carnival of Homeschooling Week 78, titled “Surgery Edition” was published yesterday by Homeschool Hacks.

I have an entry in this blog carnival.

There are over 30 entries in this blog carnival, that’s a lot of good reading (and free, too).

If you have a blog or a website and write about homeschooling I encourage you to consider submitting an entry to this weekly blog Carnival. For information on how to make a submission, see here.


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Amazon's Customer Reviews Have A New Format

Today I was on Amazon shopping to spend the commission payment I earned from my blog readers who linked through my blog before making their purchases at Amazon. THANK YOU!

I noticed today that the customer reviews changed. There is a cool graph at the top of the reviews showing the number of reviews in each star rating category. The reviews are then divided into two columns. The left column seems to be a highlighted review that has received many favorable ratings. The right column shows the most recent reviews submitted.

I like these changes!

I still think the entire page for each product is very cluttered, visually. Oh well.

If you want to take a peek at the new reviews, click on one of these links.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

My Post Nominated For “Hot Stuff of the Week” Parenting Article Award

Today I was nominated for a “Hot Stuff of the Week” award on the GNMParents site, for parenting articles on the Internet for yesterday’s blog post I wrote about spanking, discipline and punishment.

Here is how they describe this weekly event:

For those just tuning in, GNMParents hosts a weekly reader’s poll, for links to web pages or blog posts or you tube videos, etc. that are worthy of being anointed Hot Stuff Of The Week. This week being no exception, we’ve collected your fabulous suggestions and posted them for your viewing and voting pleasure.

If you would like to see who the other nominees are and what they wrote, and to vote, visit the GNMParents site.

I’m glad someone appreciated my blog post enough to nominate me. Thank you, whoever you are!

My Thoughts on “The Book Thief” and Ethnic Cleansing

This will be my final blog entry with my summary of my impressions and my opinions of the book “The Book Thief”. I blogged a little about my reading of” The Book Thief in these two former blog entries:

Currently Reading “The Book Thief” by Marcus Zusak

I Did Finish “The Book Thief”

Title: The Book Thief
Author: Marcus Zusak
ISBN-10: 0375842209 (paperback)
ISBN-13: 978-0375842207 (paperback)

I read this book to myself, it was not read to my children (aged 7 and 9.5) and my reading it had nothing to do with the fact that I homeschool my children.

It was either sixth or seventh grade, in my public school, when we were assigned to read “The Diary of Anne Frank” in “Language Arts” class. We had no former exposure to the fact that the Holocaust occurred. I had no clue that such a thing as genocide (ethnic cleansing) existed. I knew nothing about World War II. Reading the book at that point really changed me and opened my eyes to realize this world was not what I thought it was. I remember thinking at that point that the book opened my eyes in a way that made me realize my former notions of the world were wrong and na├»ve. Now I would say that I wish the book was not read until a little later as it really did shift my perspective and I’m not sure that was necessary at that age. Now that I know the world is so complex I wish all children could hold onto their innocent just a bit longer.

Reading the book opened my eyes to a serious evil that did happen in our world and I was shocked and disgusted. I emotionally connected with Anne’s story and I remember crying while reading it. I was left with a sense of wanting justice and hoping for world peace and wished the world could be robbed of all evil.

Also I want to add that looking back I find it odd that there was no link with reading that book in “Language Arts” class to learning about history. The book was important to read and I do with that every person in the world would read the book.

I remember seeing a documentary about Anne Frank when I was in my early 20s, on television. I got curious about Anne Frank again and re-read the diary and again made a strong emotional connection. I wondered what kind of society could let that happen and also wondered if all the Germans were truly in agreement with what Hitler was doing.

I also had the fortunate experience to tour the home where Anne Frank and her family were sequestered when I visited Amsterdam in 1992. It was moving and quite an emotional experience.

As I blogged about previously, I had never heard of “The Book Thief” and just stumbled upon a brand new hardback edition at a library fundraiser sale and bought it for $1. When I read what the story was I quickly checked online and saw the book had rave reviews. One customer review on Amazon warned that some of the other reviews revealed the story too much so I stopped reading the reviews and immediately set about reading the book.

At first I was reading it at night and not staying up late. At some points in the beginning I felt the story was a bit slow. However I soon realized what was happening was we readers were being lured into making a strong emotional connection with the characters.

This book would be great to read after reading “The Diary of Anne Frank”. Although this is fiction it tells the other side of the story. Without ruining the story I can tell you it involves a German family who does not agree with Hitler and disapproves of the ethnic cleansing. It tells the story of a family who risks their lives to help a couple of people who would have been killed for being a Jew and a child whose father was a Communist.

By mid-book I was staying up too late to read the book, which is always a sign that a book is good reading. By the end I was clearing the schedule to make time to finish it. By the end I just had to find out what happened and so I read for a couple of hours at one stretch. I needed to not be interrupted and to just be with the book and the story and so I organized my children to do quiet time and independent reading so I could finish the book in peace and in solitude. I cried nearly through the last fifty pages and had to stop a couple of times to outright sob.

The book was published in Australia first, as the author is Australian, and it was published as an adult novel. After its initial success there it was published in America but the publisher determined they would market it as a “young adult” novel. Indeed this story is fine for teenagers.

Again I would recommend that first the reader already have read “The Diary of Anne Frank” then read this after. Ideally reading these books would be also timed with learning about the history of that time period so that the most understanding and appreciation for what was really going on in the world could take place.

As a parent you need to use your judgment about what aged child should read these stories. I will only say that if you yourself have read Anne Frank’s story and realize the emotional and tough to handle content you should use that to help you determine when your child should read first, Anne Frank’s story. Then after that is read and discussed I would advise to move on to “The Book Thief”. I don’t quite think it would be right or best to read “The Book Thief” first, perhaps because once a person has read a real, non-fiction account of what it is like to be the victim then to read a fictional representation of what it is like to try to protect a victim would be the right order of events.

I see no reason to push this content down to young children. A lot can be learned from both books and learning about the whole horrible history of The Holocaust. I see nothing good of exposing children too-early then having them not be able to grasp the big picture. I feel it is best to wait until they are mature enough to really, really “get it” then to expose them to this and get a bigger impact and impression of the whole thing.

If you are an adult who has read Anne Frank’s story and if you want a good read that will make you think I think you would enjoy this as a read but more than that, it is yet another book that will leave a long-lasting impression on you. I am finding less and less works of fiction that really move me and seem worthwhile to spend my time reading. “The Book Thief” is definitely a must-read.

This book would also be good for adult book clubs to read as there are some good discussions that can come from reading this story. I predict it will be a future “Oprah Book Club” selection as I strongly suspect that this story would really move Oprah and the topic is one that I think she would like more people to be sensitive about.

One last thing, somehow in public school I was under the impression that The Holocaust with the first and only occasion of ethnic cleansing. I was led to believe, perhaps due to pure omission, due to gaps in the public education history “scope and sequence” that ethnic cleansing has not happened since the end of the Nazi regime and since World War II ended. Despite reading and being on the Internet and reading some newspapers and magazines I somehow had not known that ethnic cleansing was still going on until the 1990s arrived and I heard tidbits in the news about the Serbs.

I find it appalling that ethnic cleanings is still going on but even worse, that somehow in the public education system even today, children are not being taught a more complete course of history including not just an education of The Holocaust and how horrible that was but to carry it forward to explain that although The Holocaust is long over the terrible act of ethnic cleansing is still going on today. I feel we need to learn history to help us see what went wrong in the past and how we don’t want to do certain things in the present or the future.

However to shock school children with The Holocaust then to not tell them that the general act of ethnic cleansing is still going on seems criminal to me and that leads the children to believe the world today is actually a better and “reformed” place, or that it is a “more civilized” place than it actually is. The fact of the matter is that if everyone in the world is in agreement that ethnic cleansing is bad, it would not be happening. I think children should know that these issues are still happening in our world and perhaps some will then work toward affecting some change, you never know! In the very least we may have more young American citizens who have more empathy and a more realistic outlook on the state of affairs in the world and that can’t be a bad thing.

For more information on ethnic cleaning: Wikipedia entry Ethnic Cleansing

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Monday, June 25, 2007

My Thoughts on Spanking

I can’t believe what just I read in this article, that a father felt called by God (four times) to make wooden spanking paddles and give them away. He gives them away for free but charges $5.75 for shipping. They are two feet long and pretty wide!!

If you read the article you will learn of anti-spanking advocate, homeschool mother Susan Lawrence and the volunteer work through her campaign "Stop the Rod" she has been doing to get various spanking implements off the market. Hooray! I would like to thank Susan Lawrence for her work.

For the record I am against spanking and always have been.

I believe that the word discipline means “to teach”. My goal is to teach my children right from wrong. I believe in teaching children how to think for themselves and to do the right thing under their own guidance. I don’t believe in keeping a child dependent on the parent and having the parent just direct them and yell at them to do this or not do that. I want my children to know the reason why not to do something or why something should be done that certain way and so on.

I was raised with spanking as a punishment and with yelling as a normal way of being “talked” to (or should I say “talked at”). I was raised with the idea where the parent keeps the kid scared of the consequence for doing wrong and having fear as the motivator. I disagree with the philosophies that I was raised on and I don’t think they work. I therefore chose a very different path for my own parenting journey.

I am not a perfect parent by any means but I am trying my best to do what is right and best. I am trying to find the right balance between being an authority figure, a parent (not a friend), having rules and limits, and being kind, being a good listener, allowing my children to voice their opinion (respectfully) and to let them feel their emotions and to express them. Doing all that is not an easy task. Parenting is the hardest job I’ve ever done. Believe me on some days I ask myself why don’t I go back to work and get paid and do work that is less emotionally tiring?

My favorite parenting “expert” is William Sears M.D. and his wife Martha Sears R.N. A close second goes to Barbara Coloroso and Nancy Samalin. I tend to favor the Sears’ for babies on through older children. For specific parenting challenges and practical advice I have found the wisdom of Coloroso and Samalain very helpful.

I spent seven years as a La Leche League Leader volunteering my time to help mothers and babies breastfeed and also with parenting encouragement and support of older children as well. I am very much in support of “loving guidance” which is the parenting/discipline philosophy term that La Leche League uses.

The accusations that I have read on the blogosphere about me (in the past) that align me as a parent in the spanking sector are completely false. The accusers who said that don’t know me or my children. They also cannot point to any thing that I have ever written on my blog about my parenting beliefs or methods that would give my readers any idea that I am in the spanking camp.

If you feel you need more information on what we do, here is a list:

Time-out’s: okay when for cool-down, starting at age three or four

Natural Consequence: in favor, do these.

Loss of privilege: one warning given, then taken away on next offense (on same day), example: loss of TV viewing for the day

Parent yelling at child: hate it, try not to do it. It happens sometimes. Not done as a normal course of action or intentionally.

Other communication information: explain why something is not good, tell the reason behind it, show the logic and the reason, and make them realize in our family we don’t do things “just because” I’m the parent. I don’t make up stupid rules just to have some power over my children (by the way). Identify the underlying emotion, discuss it, then give the consequence---they don’t get out of consequences just by stating their case and making a “plea”.

Spanking Alternatives
There are many alternatives to spanking. As I said I was spanked as a child and I don’t feel it worked. I have horrible memories of spanking and see no good that came out of it. If you feel you don’t know alternatives to spanking please read a parenting book such as “The Discipline Book” by William Sears (covers ages birth through age 10). Dr. Sears also has a book for Christian parents, if you feel you need Bible quotes mixed with the parenting advice and if you wan an explanation of how he interprets “sparing the rod’. If you need more ideas, especially for kids aged seven through teens, read Barbara Coloroso’s books.

Final Thoughts
Anyway this idea of the two-foot long wooden spanking implement just makes me sick and I was so moved by reading the article that I chose to sit and blog this. So there you have it, those are my thoughts on “punishment”.

Also, this book "Love and Anger" is great because it drives home a major issue about parents handling their own anger and how it is our responsibility as parents to control and manage our own emotions and to do the right thing with our children. Acting out of our own anger is not right and much damage can be done when we do things out of anger (yelling or saying certain not good things included).

Here is the Dr. Sears book about Christian parenting which holds to "spanking is not advised" philosophy.

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Friday, June 22, 2007

Different Homeschooling Experiences Occur Due To What State One Lives In

Today I read this article written by a mother who homeschooled first in New York and then later in Texas. I hope you read it. It is short and has enough details to show readers that the homeschooling experience a child (and parent has) is definitely affected by the state laws that govern homeschooling.

Legal issues with homeschooling, specifically about my state of Connecticut have been on my mind lately so this article was timely for me to read.

If I had to live with a lot of oversight by school staff I would not have as good of an attitude as I do right now. I’d not be as happy. I know I would resent oversight by staff who govern the public schools riddled with problems. I know I would focus more energy on being aware of the ‘problems with public schools’. I would resent my children being scrutinized more closely than the school staff does with their own enrolled students. I would probably have a negative attitude and might also be an angry and resentful person.

Here is my experience with homeschooling in Connecticut. Before my oldest was ‘school aged’ I began researching the legality of homeschooling followed by the methods and styles and options. I networked with current homeschooling parents to further understand the issues with Connecticut’s law 10-184 and the C-14 Guideline (suggested procedure). I attended conferences and spoke to those in the know about Connecticut law.

My children did not attend preschool as I felt a child was best raised at home by ones own parents especially if the mother is already at home with the children (not employed outside the home). I researched what ‘typical’ American preschools actually “do in there”. I found out they were not doing anything more or better than I was already doing at home with my children. (We already were doing playdates with friends for “socialization” so by no means were my children isolated within the walls of our house with just me and my husband as the only other human contacts!)

I also researched alternative education theories of Rudolph Steiner (Waldorf schools) and the Montessori Method. I researched developmental stages of children of that age and read psychological theories about the importance of play, imagination and creativity. I came up with a plan and goals for our children for their “preschool at home”.

I did not have to tell anyone in any government position that we were doing “preschool at home”. I was very impressed with what my children each learned and with how they were doing and how full of joy they were. Both were ahead of the curve of what their peers were doing academically and both had learned it with ease, most through normal daily living not by using textbooks or “teacher’s manuals” of any kind!

When my oldest was approaching Kindergarten I chose not to follow Connecticut’s “suggested procedure” and I did not notify anyone in government (school administration) that we would be homeschooling. I researched and pondered and made a plan to homeschool Kindergarten. I read books, websites, and attended conferences to learn different ways to teach children and how children learn. I was a member of homeschool support groups and networked face to face and by email with other local homeschooling parents. I also was active on email discussion lists with others from around the country, discussing homeschooling and educational theories and topics such as how to teach various subjects. We did our Kindergarten year the way we wanted it and did not have to report anything to anyone. It was wonderful! I was able to just concentrate on homeschooling my children, parenting them, and doing my volunteer work.

This cycle has repeated itself for both of my children. At present the oldest is approaching his 10th birthday and the younger son is now seven years old. In the fall the older son will be in fifth grade and the younger son will be in second grade.

In case you have not read other blog posts that I’ve written I’ll quickly share that the method we use to homeschool is a “design your own” classical method, and my main influence is “The Well Trained Mind” by Jessie Wise and Susan Wise Bauer, which outlines how to teach in the classical style from preschool through the end of high school. I use many of Charlotte Mason’s methods infused into what we do. The bulk of our learning is with real books, “living books” and regular children’s books, fiction and non-fiction, rather than using dry textbooks intended for classroom use.

Content and the lessons are tailored to meet each child’s unique learning style and their aptitude. For example my first grader tested to do fourth grade spelling so that is what he did. I don’t just teach a labeled grade to a child as it is their “labeled grade”, in other words, I teach them “where they are at” not according to their age or grade level. We have time for many outside classes and events. One child has taken three online “distance learning” courses. We have time to pursue personal interested for “learner driven learning” as well.

While Connecticut does say that a child must learn certain subjects they are subjects that we are definitely already teaching. I am not teaching them due to the law; I am teaching them due to the fact that they are very basic and rudimentary and should be a part of every child’s education. (And we teach science which is not required in Connecticut!)

Lucky for us the Connecticut guidelines don’t say what subject must be taught in which grade nor does it state details of exactly what has to be taught so we have more freedom to do what we want to. (Contrast this to Maryland where my husband had applied for a job and I found out the homeschooling student must learn exactly what the public school students are learning in that same exact grade, down to detailed information.)

If my statement worried you, that I am doing things a bit differently than the American public schools, here is one example to explain. I am not forced to teach “social studies” of occupations in Kindergarten. Instead I began the chronological study of world history and we began with early man and dinosaurs and progressed forward into a detailed study of Ancient Egypt, in Kindergarten. We also were studying fine art history as well as doing lots of art and craft projects. That is above and beyond what is going on in Connecticut Kindergarten classrooms for “social studies” and “art”.

I am very happy that I can determine which educational method and style suits each of my children best. I feel so free knowing that I can teach my children how and when I want with NO oversight by school administration or government officials.

If you are like some distant relatives and acquaintances that like to continually ask me, “If the school doesn’t tell you what to do or give you the textbooks then how do you know what to teach?” or if you are at all concerned with exactly how I, a non-teacher, could teach my children please read this blog post which I published in November 2006, in which I explain all the things I do with my time to educate myself, to prepare and to plan our family’s homeschooling.

Some Books I Used for Homeschooling Research

"How Children Fail" is about how schools fails children.

John Holt's book about how to homeschool is "Teach Your Own"

One of my favorite books about the Charlotte Mason method is Karen Andreola's book:

"More Charlotte Mason Education" was the book that made it the clearest to me, how to homeschool with the Charlotte Mason method in a very practical, down to earth way. Until I got the information from Catherine Levison I felt I didn't really 'get' how to do the Charlotte Mason method in our homeschool.

These books also really helped me in the very early stages of learning about homeschooling and unschooling.

Linda Dobson's books are all very clear and easy to read, and inspirational of course. They are secular books. These talk about homeschooling in general.

If you are curious about unschooling I feel this is the best book to read as a first book.

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Thursday, June 21, 2007

Nurses Blogging Detailed Stories, And Some Ethical Questions

If you have not worked in the medical field and want some inside information you may want to spend some time reading the blogs of nurses.

I feel that in general many laypeople don't know what the health care system is really like until they are either the patient or the family of a patient. I think that all Americans should have a better understanding of our health care system especially if they are going to criticize the system itself or the health insurance system. I also wished that more laypeople had a true interest in their own health and well-being not just only hearing of medical things on some medical television drama and having their exposure tied in only to personal entertainment. Trust me, everyone would be better off if they were more informed about the working of the human body, nutrition, maintaining wellness, and then about the in's and out's of seeking health care through typical western medicine or alternative medicine routes.

It is eye-opening to read these real-life stories that nurses are sharing on the Internet. This is a great example of one area in which the blogosphere is changing who can communicate to the masses, for free, and what content readers can access quickly and easily. Think about it, before this, we may only have been able to read medical stories like these if we read a biography of a doctor or a nurse (unless we have friends and relatives who work in the field).

Since I've worked in the medical field and have relatives and friends that still do, I already hear some of these stories first hand. I have seen some things first-hand. Some stories you can't even believe unless you've seen them, you'd think they were fiction otherwise.

One of my blog readers pointed me to ER Nursey - Stories From An Emergency Room Nurse who tells detailed stories of some of her patients or the ER or hospital issues in general. (The blog entry that I was pointed to and which was the impetus for me writing about this topic was this blog entry which involves a judgement of a minor aged patient's mother which led the nurse to report them to DCF. Perhaps knowing what caused me to think about this issue for over a week before blogging my thoughts might help you realize what inspired me to blog on this topic). If you check her sidebar there are lots of other nurses' blogs there to read.

Reading the blogs of these nurses may help a layperson learn more about what types of situations come through an ER and the hospital.

One criticism I have is that sometimes snap judgments are made based on a small amount of information as is presented by the patients in the ER or based on their physical appearance, what they are wearing or if they have a cell phone, etc. Speaking for myself my life is quite complicated and thinking about what an ER nurse might have thought of me or my grandmother from the little time we spent with the nurse and other staff in last month's trip to the ER is a bit unsettling and could easily lead to false judgments. The most important issue is that often in the ER and the hospital also the staff are busy and some don't even let you finish a full sentence when answering the question THEY asked. I guess the judgment and these perceptions work both ways, as a patient may feel they are not being given enough medical attention while in the hospital and the nurse may make some other negative judgments about the patient and their family. In general, this is good to remember about why passing judgment is not a good thing. I constantly tell myself to not judge others based on what I see as I don't ever know the full story or situation.

A few other thoughts on this are:

Is it ethical to share recent stories that were part of what is supposed to be confidential medical care?

I would say that telling old stories or talking about things in a more general manner with vague examples is more ethical. (An example from my own blogging is that if I had something negative to say about my nephew about something that happened today at a family holiday celebration I'd not tell all the details or even tell it today, but at some later time I may discuss that something I am not in favor of is eight year old's using profanity, ever, and especially using it to call names to one's own parents to their face is wrong, and I'd never say that it actually happened with my nephew.)

What would current educators of nurses have to say about the ethical issues of blogging about nursing IF the blog posts contain current, recent stories of patient care? Would they say that blogging personal stories of patients is ethical?

Do employers not care that their employees are telling stories like these? When I read the book "The Weblog Handbook" by Rebecca Blood, she strongly advised to not blog about issues at work saying that some have not only lost their jobs but have been sued by their former employers. She also said that potential future employers may some day read the old blog of a job candidate and may make their decisions to not hire a person based on the blog's content.

This is some more stuff to think about.

Note: I expanded this entry on 6/26/07 to explain more about why I blogged about this topic since now this blog entry is being linked to by at least one nurse-blogger.

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Thoughts on the Semantics Within the Homeschooling Community

I am sensitive to semantics and use of proper language, believe me, I am.

Here are some thoughts on various issues of semantics in the homeschooling community, brought on mostly from within our own community. These thoughts were in reaction to reading an article about using the phrase “home educating”, which I will get into later in this piece.

Homeschooling and Homeschool (versus Home Schooling and Home School)
I adhere to the use of the spelling “homeschooling” and “homeschool” as one word not two. I use it as a verb as I think it is a verb. I very rarely use the word “homeschool” as a noun although sometimes it makes the most sense.

At one time in the 1980s apparently this was a big debate, whether to spell it “home school” or “homeschool” and whether it was a noun or a verb. One big essay on this topic was written by Donn Reed in “The Home School Source Book” which is a book that is a combination of essays with resources for homeschooling listed that also served as a catalog for the family’s home-based bookstore.

Virtual Charter Schools
I am sensitive to the confusion of the issue of whether a child who is enrolled in a charter school run through a public education system in which the student is technically, legally, a charter school/public school student---that is not “being homeschooled” in the normal definition of the word. Although the child does not learn inside of a school building, they do learn at home, that is not enough to qualify for being a “homeschooler”. Those students have their materials paid for by the charter school/the public school/the taxpayers. The content of what they learn is not under the control of the parents. The child is nowhere as free to learn what they want or how they want in a virtual charter school program versus “typical homeschooling”.

We homeschoolers are not enrolled in public schools. We are not overseen by public schools. We buy our own materials. We parents figure out what our child will do with their time, or even with unschoolers, the parent is the gatekeeper and facilitator of sorts. Even a family using the self-education model of the Robinson Curriculum has the parents in charge, rather than some school official or some virtual charter school making the decisions and overseeing the child.

I don’t mix up those two words of homeschooling or being a charter school student. To me homeschooling is a lot more than just not going inside of a school building to learn. it is very different for a child to be enrolled and under the guidance of a school and have that education’s content decided upon by the virtual charter school rather than the parent. If the child is forced by the virtual charter school to do assignments and take tests, and if those are turned in to paid professionals to evaluate, that to me is not homeschooling.

So I try to always be clear about whether a child is homeschooled or is a charter school student. When I read article about “homeschoolers’ what the reporters are sometimes technically talking about is a child enrolled in a virtual charter school whose education is being funded by the taxpayers.

Homeschooling With Full Curriculums
Also if you are wondering I feel that if a child is being homeschooled and the parent chooses to buy an online curriculum or some sort of ‘school in a box’ curriculum that to me is still homeschooling which to me is the same thing as ‘home educating’. The major difference is if the family voluntarily chooses to participate in the curriculum company’s assignments and tests. The parent oversees the administration of the curriculum at home also. Also if the family doesn’t like the program they can quit it and leave the program. They can supplement the curriculum as well. Lastly those homeschooling families using services like that are not being compelled by law or by some enrollment rule to comply with doing the assignments, they bought that curriculum of their own free will and if they choose to stop using it that is their free choice.

Homeschooling vs. Unschooling
I have read nearly every word that John Holt has ever published. Yes, Holt did coin the phrase unschooling. However it seems to me when he used the word, it meant teaching a child at home, or what most of us now call homeschooling. Holt’s company, Holt Associates, had a mail order supply company which sold things to homeschooling parents. Did you know they actually sold some curriculum and textbooks?

Holt did not define unschooling to be just ‘interest led learning’ or ‘learner driven learning’. He never said that unschooling would not involve structure or routines. He never said that a person should not take a class or receive instruction in something if it had been decided that the thing should be learned or that if the student decided they wanted to learn something. Points were made that if a child wants to learn something they will learn it faster and easier than if they were forced to, that is true. The major difference that Holt was making was between forced schooling on children and children being coerced or forced to take classes and how that did not always result in the information actually being learned by the student. To read more about the problems of schooling, his book “How Children Fail” outlines many examples. And Holt thought to learn at home under the supervision of the parent was a very different thing than to enroll in a public or private school ‘to be educated’. Holt was also amazed at how children learn things on their own rather than 100% of everything having to be taught to a person by some expert. I share his wonder and delight of that process, especially of how young, curious children learn with such ease.

It seems to me that in the recent years some people have reduced the definition of unschooling to be something that I have never read John Holt define it as. I have also heard people say and have read some things where self-labeled “unschooling parents” say John Holt said this or that which he never said in any source that I have been able to find. It is a bit of revisionist history for people to take a phrase coined by a man who is now deceased and to change the definition to something more narrow, and then to quote the originator of the phrase as saying to do anything other than what their (new) definition it is wrong and bad, or to apply the new definition to older material. This is a bit like using the new definition of the word gay to apply to older writings where the use of that word was the verb meaning ‘to be happy’.

If you can provide me with a quote from John Holt that says that only a child should decide what they learn, that the child should never have any routine in their lives, or that they should not have any structure at all, please share it with me.

I actually had a face to face discussion about this with Pat Farenga, Holt’s friend and co-worker, and Farenga was in agreement with me that what Holt meant by the term ‘unschooling’ was what most of us now call ‘homeschooling’. The major difference was being schooled at school vs. learning at home not whether the homeschooling was 100% learner-driven or to what degree the family had structure and routines. That discussion was at a workshop given as part of a book promotion tour for the revised version of “Teach Your Own”. In that workshop Farenga made some excellent points about how not one single person lives without routines or structures in their lives.

Lastly it seems to me that some people who used to call themselves unschoolers are now using the term ‘home educating’. This is all getting very confusing to me.

Public School vs. Government School
Another common phrase that people use is “public school”. Some homeschoolers prefer to call them “government schools”. While I agree and like the phrase “government schools” as it is more accurate, since the government owns and runs the school, not the citizens/parents/students, it is not something that neither the mainstream uses nor even the majority of homeschooling family’s use.

That phrase is just not in my brain nor does it roll off my tongue easily. I attended public school from grades Kindergarten through 12 and to me the phrase is “public school”. It is hard, especially in verbal communications, for me to switch to calling it “government school”. Sorry. I am not offended if you use that term but I usually use the term “public school”. One more thing, I am speaking in the language that most American people’s ears are used to hearing, because I want people to be able to relate to what I am saying even if I am representing just 1-2% of American homeschoolers. I’m already in the minority here and so anything I can do to make others able to relate to me easily, I will do.

Homeschooling vs. Home Educating
I do draw the line and I do not subscribe to this big discussion of the use of the words “homeschooling” versus “home educating”. In this case I have always gone with the phrase that is most commonly known and that is “homeschooling”. After using this term for nearly ten years now and being in the homeschooling community so long I can’t stop saying “homeschooling” and change to “home educating”.

Today I read this article “Schooling or Education? A Clarification of Terms” in The Institute for Reality newsletter which urges people to use the right terms. Using these definitions, for the most part, I would say that my family “home educates”.

(The article does not have a unique URL. After navigating to the site's home page, click on articles then look for this title.)

I do disagree with this part, “Children learn fractions while they bake, colors while they sort laundry, geometry while they plant the garden, and subtraction as they tear out and pitch the unnecessary worksheets in their books.” The problem with statements such as these is they tend to be so black and white. Life is not like that. For example my younger son learned to count and to read numbers with two digits by watching the car’s thermometer and by our discussing how hot or cold it was outside. However later when he was four and I opened to page one of his Math-U-See math curriculums which “covered” (taught) topics like how to count and how to count up to and into the double-digit numbers, he already knew them. So we breezed through it, working at my son’s own pace. I love Math-U-See. They recommend one page of work per day. I find this is too little though, so we do more than that on one day. So I tweak the curriculum. Since I buy a math curriculum instead of only using “real life examples”, does that mean we “homeschool” or “home educate”? If I tweak a curriculum I buy am I “home schooling” or “home educating”? And another question: do you care what I do?

I just don’t feel passionate at all about the importance of using a special term of ‘homeschooling’ versus ‘home educating’.

For one thing, I don’t feel qualified to label what another family does as either homeschooling or home educating if you use the definitions in this article. I don’t know enough about what other families do in order to judge them. Even in the case, for example, I’ll speak of friend of mine uses a curriculum from Seton Home Study School (a Catholic curriculum). The family uses that curriculum but they don’t have a strict schedule of timing of the studies. They also do a bunch of extra classes for homeschoolers where the children learn other things that are not outlined, recommended or under the advisement of Seton. Their mother uses some other homeschooling curriculum that is outside of what Seton provides, such as Handwriting Without Tears (penmanship) and Math-U-See’s math curriculum. They use their public library a lot and they read lots of real books to learn about things their children are interested in (‘learner driven learning’ or ‘unschooling’ is a term for that). They compete in teams events like the Junior First LEGO League. They do community sports in their town and private sports lessons arranged by the parents in other towns. They do Scouts also. They are active in their church and do religious education classes and church choir. So I would ask you do they ‘homeschool’ or do they ‘home educate’? A better question, though is “Does it matter what we call what they do?”

What is the purpose?
What is the purpose of making that distinction of whether a family homeschools or home educates? Why should we judge what another family does? Why does one family have to label another family like that? And does it make a difference? Does it matter what we call it?

I think what we do and how we live matters far more about what we call it or how a person on the outside of our family wants to judge it.

With all due respect to the author of the article published in the Institute For Reality website and newsletter I don’t think they make their point clearly enough as to why we need to be so careful about whether we call ourselves homeschoolers or home educators.

My Concluding Thoughts
In the end I think the people pushing for the importance of semantics in these two terms of home educating vs. homeschooling are the ‘home educators’ who do not want to be lumped into the category of doing what other people might think of as using a “school in a box” approach. For some reason they want no part of being associated with ‘those people’. I would venture to guess that this has to do with attempting to differentiate themselves from the others as they feel that what they do is superior to what the other category of people is doing. Is that really important, to come up with a hierarchy of what style or method of homeschooling is better than the next? If homeschoolers do that are we not then classifying ourselves and putting each other into levels, the very thing that some in the homeschooling community abhor about the public school system with their grading, labeling and tracking of the students?

The fact that some people label themselves as one thing then try to judge what others do and label them as something else seems divisive to me. In our small community compromised of 1-2% of our nation’s school-aged children I think we need more coming together and supporting each other not more division and pigeon-holing from within. The other 98-99% of parents using schools and the mainstream media and the rest of non-homeschoolers are doing enough to try to define us and label us and to keep us labeled as a small fringe segment of society, we don’t need to do that to ourselves, do we?

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Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Thoughts About The Idea To Solve Childhood Obesity With Longer School Hours

Some who work in the education field are upset about childhood obesity. Some school administrators wanted the child’s weight and height to be measured at school in order to calculate a BMI score in order to place that score on the child’s report card. I wrote about that at length in a blog post in March 2007 and in another blogpost April 2007.

Why would a school tell a parent of the child’s BMI score? It would be to alert them and to tell them this information. The problem is that by law public schools require that children pass physical examinations performed by (non-school staff) private doctors. Those children are already being monitored by professional medical doctors and therefore their parents already know their children are overweight. If the parents eyes are not enough to tell them then what their child’s doctor tells them is more direct. So why does a school need to put the BMI on the child’s report card, which the last I knew was a communication of academic performance (rather than a communication of the child’s health)?

Today at Consent of the Goverened I read about about a proposal to make the school day longer in order to try to reduce childhood obesity and to help keep children from getting fat. Basically they want a longer school day in order to have time to fit in more physical activity.

In my town the elementary grade public school students get an hour in which one part is eating their lunch indoors and the other part is recess outside on the playground. On rainy days the children are put into their classroom with no organized activities, they are left tot their own devices. A teacher’s aid rotates between the classes to check on them, there is no continual monitoring of every classroom. (I have heard stories that this is the time when verbal bullying and physical bullying happens as well as verbal sexual harassment of children. I have heard stories of second graders calling names of profanity, writing notes to others calling them profane names, asking other second graders for sexual acts to be performed on them and another story of chairs being thrown at other students.)

So already in my town, the morning is focused academics and the afternoon is focused academics. The exception is the few days a week when it is time for ‘gym class’. The children on my street are gone from their houses 7 hours and 45 minutes per day from grades Kindergarten through Five. So for all that time they are getting only about 30 minutes of recess and gym class three times a week. The school already has them all that time and if you ask me they don’t have enough breaks, not enough time for studying everything they need to study. Teachers have told the parents, for example, that science and social studies had to be cut out of third grade in order to make time for preparing to take the standardized test (Connecticut Mastery Tests: CMT’s they are called in my state).

My friend told me that in third grade they are doing “language arts”: reading, writing, spelling, and grammar for 2.5 hours and math for 1.5 hours each day. I was told these times were increased to this level in order to teach them what they need to know to score well on the CMT’s. Wow, that seems like a long time to me. That leaves little time left over to teach everything else.

If I were in charge I’d give the children a recess in the morning and antohe rin the afternoon. I’d make lunch totally separate. I am not sure if a short lunch without outdoor play would suffice or if a short time of 15 minutes or so of outdoor recess would be necessary. The increase in physical activity will help raise their metabolism and will exercise their heart, lungs and muscles. The fresh air will help them think more clearly. Having a burst of freedom to run and play will give them clear heads for learning when they are back in the classroom. Giving them more freedom and a break from being controlled and talked at will relieve stress and calm them down.

(Wait, I predict that if the idea of breathing higher quality air with higher oxygen levels than most large buildings has can impreove learning gets into the heads of school administrators, they will begin to look into air purification systems or even piping in air with higher than normal oxygen levels into the classroom. Then a whole industry will be created around designing these machines and customizing them for already-built school buildings. Lots of money would then be made by both the manufacturer, the designers and the installers of these machines.)

I think that too much of the children’s time is spent inside the classroom sitting in desks and although I’m no expert I do suspect this has something to do with the fact that so many children are being labeled ADD or ADHD. I think the kids are being forced to do academics too early (starting in preschool and Kindergarten) and that they are being forced to learn with methods not necessarily geared toward their individual learning style. Add boredom into the mix and suddenly a child tries to alleviate that boredom and gets a label. Add the fact that children don’t get enough individual teaching time and are taught en masse and you have children who have trouble learning and get a label of a leanring disability.

Another reason why keeping them in school longer won’t help childhood obesity is because the kids will have to eat more while at school and what they eat there is either unhealthy or doesn’t taste good. For many reasons it is not possible to serve children the freshest food available or plenty of fresh fruits or fresh vegetables, one being the storeage and shelf-life issue, that is the reason also why buying only from local farmers and eating what is only in season locally won’t work. Due to cost reasons it is not feasible to buy organic either. Due to picky eater children (mine are in this category) trying to serve large numbers of children all the same foods doesn’t work resulting in children refusing to eat what is presented (that is what I did when I was in school).

So anyhow, please read what Judy says over at Consent of the Governed to read what she and some other people think.

You may wonder why I care what goes on in public schools or in the public education world. I like to keep tabs on these things as I do care about other children and I do wish that all children got a great education. I also am a taxpaying citizen and I am concerned with my money being spent on things that may not be good. I also like to know what is going on in the public schools to continue to help me decide if they are a place that I want my children to be or not.

I also continue to ask the question, “What is the purpose of public education/government schooling?”.

How do you answer that question?

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Carnival of Homeschooling Week 77 Has Been Published

The Carnival of Homeschooling Week 77 was published yesterday by Consent of the Governed.

I have an entry in this blog carnival.

There are over 30 entries in this blog carnival, that’s a lot of good reading (and free, too).

If you have a blog or a website and write about homeschooling I encourage you to consider submitting an entry to this weekly blog Carnival. For information on how to make a submission, see here.


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Monday, June 18, 2007

The Culmination of a Rabbit Trail Happens This Week

I blogged about our family’s rabbit trail with Phantom of the Opera in December 2005.

In March 2006 I blogged an update telling how it was still going on.

Today’s update is that the excitement is building! In two days my children and I will be seeing Andrew Lloyd Weber’s Phantom of the Opera live on Broadway.

My very thoughtful friend knew of our family’s love for Phantom. Back when the movie was released on DVD we spoke about her impressions of the movie; she had never seen the live performance.

Since my last update on Phantom we’ve watched the movie a few more times, thanks to our most favorite gizmo, TiVo (and thanks to HBO). On and off since March 2006 our family has listened to the complete soundtrack of the original London cast performance while in the car. (Imagine the music blasting and all singing along.)

So my friend kept this in mind when our 2007 birthdays rolled around. The thoughtful person that she is, she and another neighbor agreed to buy a ticket for each of my children for their 2007 birthdays’ and a ticket for me for my big 40th birthday. So we three moms and our five children will be seeing the show together.

To top it off they’ve rented a stretch limo to take us into The City. We’ve decided to walk around Chinatown for a while then we’ve settled on going to a tourtist themed restaurant that has kid-appeal and kid-friendly food for our picky eaters who would not appreciate dim sum. We’ll then watch the evening show and then another stretch limo will whisk us back home. It will be much more pleasant than traveling on Metro-North.

So my boys and I will be spoiled rotten this Wednesday courtesy of my two nice, friendly neighbors.


To prepare and refresh our memories the soundtrack is playing in the car again and we’re watching the movie once more, tonight.

I can’t wait to see the looks on my children’s faces as they watch their first ever Broadway show. I just might shed a tear when I see their excitement. If not I’ll be crying during the show anyway as I always do.

One more thing, a while ago I was telling a friend about all that we did for pure fun with Phantom of the Opera. She said that what we did and the volume of work we did was basically a large comparative literature study on par with a college level of studies. And to think I’d never considered that a “real” part of our homeschooling per se, this whole rabbit trail was just something we did by following our children’s interests and curiosities. I guess I’m doing alright as a homeschooling “teacher”, eh?

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My Realization About Our Extended Family, Our Community, and Our Time

I married into a huge, close extended family. Because my husband and I have different cultural heritages, I had some adjusting to do to get used to all that it entails when marrying into a large Italian family. My own family is much smaller but we are also close.

As life progressed and we had children I of course entered into that other-world of parenting and all that it entails. I guess I could say there is a culture of parenthood. What I mainly mean is how having a child means we then have all these new things we are expected to participate in. Some quick examples are extracurricular activities such as sports and Scouts. The issue is not JUST attending that Little League game but also finding time for that year-end picnic for the Little League team. It is not JUST going to practices and games but being asked to bring a snack and having to read emails about upcoming events. All that stuff takes time. Multiply all those tasks across each activity and then add it up for each child. All that stuff is sucking up a lot of parent’s time and energy!

I have all that stuff to contend with plus I have woven into our lives a community of homeschoolers so we are not living in isolation. Parents of children in school are faced with a gigantic school community. Their children do not JUST go to school but they take part in all kinds of extra things like PTA fundraisers, invited to birthday parties for every child in the class, class picnics, school art shows, school talent shows and all kinds of other events that take place outside of what we’d consider the normal school day.

Competing with our time and energy is extended family. Since we live geographically close to both my extended family and my husband’s extended family we have a lot to do. Since we are both close to our family it means we do things together. The activities vary from family to family. My own family likes to celebrate every person’s birthday with a meal and a birthday cake shared with all of us. My husband’s large family only celebrates the children’s birthdays, but it seems there are more formal large events to attend (bridal showers, weddings, wakes and funerals, etc.) and there is also the annual family reunion.

The fact that we live close to both families also creates a conflict for how to spend the major holidays and even smaller ones like Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. Which family will we spend our time with? Do we need to rotate visits to numerous families’ homes on the same holiday to celebrate a little with everyone?

As my children have gotten older there are more and more events in the community to choose from to participate with. For example as I said before it is not JUST Scouts but a year-end event, the annual banquet and other special “once per year” events. Well add up the “year end” events for multiple organizations and multiple children and the schedule is suddenly over-booked.

Our community also has other special events like wonderful programs at the public library. Our church offers special events ranging from children-only to entire families to women-only and men-only events.

Then there are the children’s birthday parties that our children are invited to that take place usually on weekends.

The conflict we parents have over how to spend our time and which thing to do can become frustrating. The ones who seem to have it easiest are my parent-friends who do not live geographically close to others in their family. I then realized something that I’d never realized before and something that no one had ever told me!

The first is that as humans I think we have a desire to have community. We want to do things with others. In the past this was mainly fulfilled through family. By living close with our family and even by living with multiple generations under one roof we had an instant community of our own family. I think this is why in the past there were less community events competing for our time. People were busy enough in their lives to think up, plan, run and attend all these extra events.

Next it seems to me that the ‘extra events’ in the community, including the many different fundraiser events and activities geared toward adults or geared toward families are thought of and run by those WITHOUT family geographically close. I feel these families are creating a feeling of community by doing things with strangers in our towns possibly out of an instinctual desire for community, fellowship and friendship with a large community than their own spouse and children. Those people who don’t live near their relatives have the extra time that someone like me does not have as I am already busy with my extended relatives. I really think these events and extra things that are done today which did not happen back when I was a child are being done based on the fact that now more than ever so many Americans are living apart from their extended family (for a number of reasons, the most common being that the family moved for a better job and another one being that some retirees choose to retire in resort locations and they move there from the place that they lived their entire life!).

I have felt torn in the past to find a balance in our schedule. I’ve both over-scheduled our family and I’ve under-scheduled our family. One problem with my generation is that we feel we must do it all and do things right. For me this is not about keeping up with the Jones’s but it is about doing what is expected and right and best for our children. Therefore I feel obligated to do as many things as is expected of me as a parent. For example after doing Scouting all year I don’t feel right not going to the big year end event. One year we had a direct conflict with attending the year end Scout picnic and the year end Little League picnic. (Back when I was a Girl Scout we did not have a year end picnic and when my brother was in Little League they did not have a year end picnic either.)

Due to having so many extended family members around us my husband and I feel perpetually torn about how to spend our time. We’d like to relax in our own home and do things with just the four of us. However it seems there is always either extended family or community events vying for our time. After that there seem to be an endless number of charity fundraisers happening that we are invited to attend. We can’t do it all and we don’t want to do it all. However with each thing we don’t participate in I feel guilty as if we are missing out on something or others make me feel badly for declining their invitation or for not contributing to their charity. I have also felt inadequate and wondered how other families could do it all yet I could not. Worse still is when our children become aware that we’ve declined an invitation and they are upset that they are missing out on something that was special to them.

Once I had the realization that it is our extended family that takes up our time (rather than me having some inadequacy inside of me that made me unable to do everything), I felt a relief. I shifted my perspective and tried to view everything through a new vantage point. Rather than feeling burdened by invitations with family, I feel blessed to have multiple generations alive and living so close to us who want to spend time with us.

This spring I finally came to the conclusion that I don’t have to and don’t want to compete with my friends who don’t live near extended family or whose parents and grandparents are deceased. If they go to every community activity they are invited to that is their prerogative; their lack of access to extended family allows them more free time.

I feel fortunate that my parents are alive and still married. I am fortunate to have two grandmothers still alive. We are fortunate to have my in-laws alive and happily married. We have a gigantic family on my husband’s side. We have an abundance of family and I they are important to us. In good times we are very busy. When our parents and grandparents are sick and need our assistance we are even busier with necessary and very important activities. Would anyone dare say that attending a wine tasting fundraiser is more worthwhile than caring for an elderly family member with Cancer? If we are low on energy from helping relatives and decline a weekend party event just so we can rest and regain our energy would anyone fault us for missing that event?

Once I realized that the life I lead is different because of living so close to both extended families I felt less compelled to do so many activities in the community. Saying no became easier. When we are busy enough I don’t even look in the local newspaper to see what local special events are happening or to see what wonderful free programs our town library is hosting.

Perhaps if I had more time in the schedule and less love from extended family I’d also be looking for that love and attention from more strangers in the community. But I only have so much of my self to give to others and it goes to family first. My love cup is overflowing and I give so much of myself that I sometimes feel my well is dry. In the midst of being a wife and mother I must also find time to take care of myself and I certainly can’t do that when I’m over-scheduled and stressed out.

Realizing that a big difference between me and some of my neighbors and friends is due to the difference in our extended family situation has liberated me and I no longer feel inadequate or guilty for not saying yes to every single thing we are invited to.

At the very core, what matters to my husband and I is the quality of what we do not the quantity, and we are trying to enjoy the way we spend out time instead of measuring the bulk of activities we participate in.

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Sunday, June 17, 2007

And One More Test Of Our Parenting Is...

After I wrote this blog entry I had one more very quick and easy test of our parenting duties.

Ask yourself if you like your children and enjoy their company.

I did not say if you love your children as every parent loves their children. I am talking about if you like them, if you enjoy being around them, if you think they are fun and any other positive adjective that might come to your mind.

If negative things come to mind when you think of spending time with your own children then that is a sure sign of a problem. If you can quickly list their flaws and if those flaws outweigh their positive attributes that is a sure sign of a problem. You then know you have some parenting to get busy doing!

I have told people in the past one hard thing about homeschooling is that I am with my kids all the time. This forces me to work on issues with my children in order to get them to be good, decent people. You see, if I am going to be around them all day long, or nearly all day long, they have to be likeable people.

Unlike some people I know who have told me they can't stand to be around their children, but they choose to not address the issues at hand, they instead have told me things like, "I can't wait to send them on the school bus tomorrow" or "school vacation is nearly over thank goodness" or "I lined up summer camps all summer so that I don't have to be with my kids all the time".

I think that if a parent knows their children have behavioral or character issues but they allow them to continue they are being a lazy parent. They are doing the easy thing by not doing anything.

I could not let myself be a lazy parent and not address various negative (typical, common) issues that most children have. I do the hard thing and I work on those things to improve them, reduce the negative things, or get rid of them entirely so that my children will be people that I enjoy being around. And if I enjoy being around them hopefully others will feel the same way therefore indicating they are nice, decent kids.

My kids are not perfect and I am not perfect. We are all works in progress and what is important to me is that we are always moving in the right direction toward a positive goal rather than becoming stagnant or completely stalled.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

The Test of Our Parenting Methods Is....

About two or three years ago on a local homeschool chat list with about 150 members a heated debate broke out.

It started off with someone posting a link to an essay by a newspaper columnist who writes about parenting topics. That columnist is not a doctor/pediatrician and he is a father who did not do the main parenting of his children. He has strong opinions on how other people should parent their children. Most people either love the guy's opinions or hate them.

So a link was posted and it was a not controversial topic that was in that piece. Phew.

But soon a parent wrote that although she loved that piece she hated everything else he ever said. Someone said who was he to give parenting advice anyway as he was not the at-home parent and had no idea what it was like to raise children as the primary caregiver. How could he dole out so much advice?

All of a sudden people jumped out of the woodwork to join in on the discussion of the parenting opinions of the columnist. It got to a point where it was implied that if you used all his tactics that it would ruin the children and even harm the children. Of course that was not taken well by those who had already said they use all his advice and they think their kids were turning out wonderful. People's feelings were getting hurt which I don't like to see.

At first I said a couple of things about the advice the columnist gave, but I kept to my policy which is that I don't judge others for what they do. I talked about the columnist and me, and not about the local parents in my area. Frankly except for hoping their children are not being abused or neglected I frankly don't care how other people parent their own children. Well I don't want their children in harm's way ever. But I am not going to dictate how people are to raise their children. What I am saying is that I didn't want to be in on the part of the argument to attack the parenting of other parents (it had really gone above and beyond a polite discussion by that point). I didn't want to say what others were saying such as anyone who follows that guy's advice is just wrong and a bad person. So partially into the whole thing I shut my mouth and just watched the emails fly back and forth. I was too curious to just delete them without reading them so I was lurking in on the discussion.

At one point a person said that they hated the advice he gave and their kids were great. Another said she did all the advice and her kids were turning out great. People were taking sides on the parenting topics but the thing was that the two sides each thought they were doing the right and best thing but they thought the other was very much in the wrong.

Finally someone said that the true test would be time. We would all have to see how the kids turned out in the end. What ended the entire heated exchange was when a person said something about over time we will see whose kids are well-liked by others and whose kids are avoided by others. It was said by a parent of teenagers, I think, that at some point people would start avoiding being around the children who were not so great people (that was said to the parent of a child whose oldest was about five years old). It was said by the more experienced parents that a good judge of the job we did as parents is seeing if our kids are basically nice people who others enjoy being around. And someone said that if we notice that people are avoiding doing anything with our family or our kids that maybe we should try to figure out why and that maybe our kids were not so wonderful as we thought they were.

I think those were wise words.

Since that time when I go through parenting challenges regarding specific issues, I ask myself sometimes what the big picture is and I look to the big picture instead of micro-focusing on the small stuff. Instead of over-focusing on if my children always put their dirty dish in the sink and think that the occasional oversight means they are are turning out to be irresponsible, I look to the bigger picture such as they do it correctly 95% of the time and after all, the boy is just 6.5 years old and some families don't even have a child of that age helping out at all.

Regarding my children's hearts and personalities, as a self-check I try to figure out how my kids are turning out as people in general and one test is if others enjoy their company or not, if people are avoiding being around our children or not. I look to see if other children love to see my children to play and talk with or do other children avoid them? Are the other parents asking us for playdates? Do playdates end on a happy note or a bad note? Do relatives and their teachers and community leaders (coaches, Scout Leaders, etc.) have good things to say about our children or bad things to say? What feedback to others give me?

I think it is a good test of our parenting skills, the test of time and seeing how others view our children, whether people are happy to see my kids coming or whether they groan.

Friday, June 15, 2007

A Strong Article About Connecticut DCF And Charges of "Educational Neglect"

Wow! Yesterday yet another article was published about Connecticut's DCF.

Article Title: School Arrest: Compulsory education is a draconian, state-sanctioned punishment
By: Phil Maymin
Published in: The Fairfield Weekly
Published on: June 14, 2007

The journalist not only discusses issues with DCF and how their investigations seem to be un-American but it goes on to discuss schools in general.

This is the most radical article I’ve ever read in the mainstream media. Actually it is also hard to get such strong statements from homeschooling publications!

Here is my favorite paragraph:

"Mandatory education is even worse than a sentence of forced community service. It’s more like school arrest. All children between the ages of 5 and 18 must spend six hours every weekday, nine months out of the year, in a brick building with other inmates, where they must sit when told to sit, eat when allowed, and walk in slow circles catching only brief glimpses of the sun and the earth during periods called recess. They are allowed home for dinner and bed but they must do additional work even at home or face disciplinary action. The few who escape are caught by truancy officers and forced back in. Repeat offenders go to juvenile detention. The forced attendance has the same effects in schools as in jails: boredom, recidivism, sex, and drugs. Probably the only places in America that have more illegal drugs than prisons are schools."

In this article the journalist questions the charge of “educational neglect” and asks how parents of homeschooled children can be charged with “educational neglect” if the public schools are known already to not be fully educating children.

Suppose a child hasn’t been adequately taught how to read and write. Is that educational neglect? Sixteen percent of all adults in Connecticut—more than half a million people—are functional illiterates, according to a 2001 municipal report for the town of Hartford.

Also the article questions if the parent chooses to send a child to public or private school but the child does not learn enough, should that parent as well be charged with “educational neglect”?

Please go read the article!

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Second Article Published About Connecticut DCF and Homeschoolers by Jennifer Abel

On June 14th, The Hartford Advocate newspaper has published a second article written by Jennifer Abel on the topic of Connecticut’s Department of Children and Families (DCF) investigating homeschooling families.

It is highly suspected that the families were reported to DCF by public schools for educational neglect when the parents notified the schools that they were pulling their child out in order to begin homeschooling them due to the timing and nature of the investigation.

Article Title: Constitutional Protections Don't Apply To Department Of Children And Families Investigations.
By Jennifer Abel
Published on: June 14, 2007
Published in: The Hartford Advocate

To get a gist of the content here are quotes of the entire first four very important paragraphs:

When accused of a crime you’re guaranteed certain constitutional rights, like the right to face and confront your accusers, have a jury trial, know the charges are against you and see what evidence the state has to support them. But none of these apply if you’re investigated by the Connecticut Department of Children and Families.

“The [DCF] is not a law enforcement agency and does not charge citizens with crimes,” department spokesman Gary Kleeblatt said in an e-mail. “Therefore, the agency has no involvement in the enforcement of constitutional rights that relate solely to criminal activity (jury trial, confront accuser).”

“It’s a gimmick,” charges Michael Agranoff, an Ellington-based attorney who specializes in defending parents in DCF cases. “Making [these cases] civil instead of criminal is a gimmick to get around the fourth, fifth and sixth amendments to the Constitution.”

While DCF does not have the authority to impose prison sentences, Agranoff says: “The ultimate penalty you can face [with DCF] is TPR, Termination of Parental Rights. … Most people I know would rather spend a year in jail than lose custody of their kids.”

Please read the entire article. After reading it I felt as if these could not possibly be going on in our free United States of America.

One more tidbit:

(DCF Spokesperson) "Kleeblatt insists the department has no bias against homeschoolers. “Homeschooling is not a form of neglect.” But DCF still must investigate if a school reports a family."

I am so disgusted about this entire issue that I don’t even know what to say.

Judy Aron also blogged on this topic on June 14th, and if you are interested in this topic, please read what she has to say.

I blogged about first article authored by Jennifer Abel and published in The Hartford Advocate on May 31, 2007 and you may read my blog entry here (link to the first article is inside that blog post).

I am going to start a new blog label “Connecticut DCF Investigating Homeschoolers Issues”, so you can find my blog posts on this topic more easily.

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