Saturday, November 25, 2006

Is It Selfish to Fight for Homeschooling Freedoms? (Part 2)

Sometimes we hear that there need to be more controls on homeschoolers because of the people who might abuse the homeschooling law. Beth wondered about the people she's seen who take advantage of homeschooling freedoms.

I tend to be skeptical of this argument for two reasons. First, I'm not so sure that those who appear to be doing "nothing" for their children's education actually are doing nothing. Second, if there actually are a few cases of educational neglect, the question is how to handle it.

I would be one of those homeschoolers that make some other homeschoolers squirm. Some think I'm the type of homeschooler who gives us all a bad reputation. I'm the kind of homeschooler who "unschools" math and grammar for years and years, and then teaches it formally to the kids when they get ooooooold. (Did you know that it takes only about 120 hours to teach a 12- or 14-yr-old all the K-8th arithmetic? That's about an hour a day for four months, instead of the school's hour a day for eight years. Or did you know that it takes only a couple of months to teach all the K-12th grammar, if you wait until the kids are old enough?) I'm the kind of homeschooler who lets children learn to spell naturally (except for the one who just couldn't!) even though they don't start spelling until they're around 11-14.

When your children are the type who'd be labeled in school as ADD or ADHD, you bother to find a different way to "do school." To many homeschoolers -- and certainly to people who believe in the conventional schools and the conventional textbooks -- these different methods may look like educational neglect.

When you have a child who's retarded or slow (or whatever we're supposed to call it in this PC age), you finagle a way to teach, no matter how "wrong" it is according to the experts, no matter how silly or lax or "neglectful" it may appear to those who don't know and love the child.

When families homeschool, the children learn umpteen gazillion things that aren't part of the conventional-school's curriculum. They may learn about marine biology and mountain-climbing when they're 7. They may learn how to cook or milk goats. They may learn to sew or knit or build cabinets. They usually learn (much better than their schooled peers) to get along with their siblings, as well as how to socialize with adults and wee munchkins. They may spend more time practicing their musical instruments or refining sports skills or other special interests. A kid who has a rich background in science experiments and/or oodles of history, a kid who knows his catechism backward and forward, a kid who gardens well, a kid who is friendly with adults and peers, a kid who is a creative problem-solver, will nevertheless be seen as a failure if he gets plunked into school in 5th grade and can't spell any better than a 2nd grader. People will talk about how homeschoolers need more regulation because sommmme people are really just "hiding behind the homeschool laws" and committing "educational neglect."

But it's seldom true.

What sometimes looks outwardly to be educational neglect may, in fact, be the most effective way to educate a right-brained person or a genius or a person with learning disabilities.

Is It Selfish to Fight for Homeschooling Freedoms? (Part 1)

The other day I blogged about a quote which said freedom works only for a virtuous people, whereas a corrupt nation has more need of harsh masters. In the comments, Beth asked about people abusing their homeschooling freedoms and whether we ought to be willing to give up some of our freedoms for the sake of protecting kids who may become victims of educational neglect.

Short answer? No. I don't think greater govt oversight of homeschoolers would solve the problem of educational neglect. Any good it might accomplish would be more than offset by the harm such regulation would cause.

To begin with, we need to consider the purpose of government. Is the govt established to instruct us on all the good and right things we should do, and then monitor our behavior, and punish us if we fail? Or is govt established to punish the evil-doers and do things we cannot do individually (protect us from terrorists, build roads, coin money, etc)?

Personally, I think the govt does the second, but ought not do the first. But if the majority of society thinks govt should micro-manage people's lives, the discussion then becomes "How far do they go?"

Our state governments have seen fit to mandate that children attend some sort of an educational program. The wisdom and effectiveness of that could be debated (not unlike the debates on Prohibition in the 1920s), but either way, mandatory attendance is a given, and it's not going to be changed in the foreseeable future.

However, there is an important distinction to be made between mandatory attendance and mandatory education. A lot of conservatives find this to be a disgusting distinction. But given our society, there is some safety here. WHO says what an "educated person" is any more? There's quite a battle in our society over what is right and what is wrong, what is appropriate for children and what is not, what is necessary and what is extraneous, what is harmful and what is beneficial. Are we willing to have the State dictate the curriculum our children must follow? If the State chooses the tests our children must take, or if the State has the authority to approve our curriculum, or if the State okays which people are appropriate homeschool teachers, then parents are no longer free to choose the curriculum that best serves our individual children.

What happens when the State dictates education that goes against our religious beliefs? Or what happens when the State has one way of seeing education, and some children don't fit that mold? Is it not beneficial to the individual child, and his family, and society too, to have options available?

I think it is important to consider the ramifications to all of society when government is willing to usurp parental authority. Because governmental authority flows from the Fourth Commandment's demand that children honor their parents, the only way that government can maintain order in society is by ensuring that the parental office is honored by all. Think about this for a moment. When the govt itself usurps parental authority, the govt is, in essence, "shooting itself in the foot." When govt tells society that parents are not to be trusted and must be monitored, the govt undermines the very authority by which it governs.

So, I want the freedom to choose and adjust the educational program I'm providing to my kids. I want the freedom to do so without having to conform to the State's educational goals (which conformity certainly becomes necessary, in varying degrees, whenever the State regulates private-schoolers and homeschoolers), goals which sometimes contradict our faith and/or our educational philosophy. But besides what I want and what is convenient for me and other homeschoolers, there are issues here about what the govt can and should be doing, as well as whether the govt honors the office of father and mother.

Is Capitalism Inherently Evil?

As I may have mentioned once or twice or eighteen times, we're in the middle of reading Whatever Happened to Justice? and just recently finished the preceeding book in the series, Whatever Happened to Penny Candy? Although there are parts of the book that don't fit with Christianity, a lot of it does. For an example of a problem with the book, the author, Mr Maybury, talks about the American colonists' being justified in revolution against England because the king was enacting "political law" instead of "natural law." Well, he's correct about what the king was doing, and it's true that natural law is a much better way to run a country. But the apostle Paul didn't seem to concur that we may disobey the government (see Romans 13) -- except when the govt specifically orders us to disobey God.

However, there are lots of good points in the books too. Last night we were at a section that quoted Adam Smith in The Wealth of Nations about the Invisible Hand. It addresses the fact that capitalism essentially works because of greed and selfishness. Now, I've heard capitalism and free markets denounced because of the greed and selfishness which is their engine. But think about it: can we avoid working in our own self-interest? Communism and socialism require a self-sacrifice that puts others ahead of ourselves. Those would be admirable traits ... if only we could summon up the strength to practice them. I mean, everybody practice them, all the time, voluntarily. But there's this little problem of sin in the world. Capitalism works because I work for my own self-interest, and in so doing, I end up serving my neighbor. (See, even that "vocation" thing works its way in here.)

Some liberals complain about the eeeevils of capitalism. And there is some truth to their complaints. However, there is also an abundance of evidence that communism doesn't work either (check out the Real Thanksgiving Story if the examples of this century aren't obvious enough). If there were no sin, of course communism would work. But hey, if there were no sin, the free market would work great too. Better to take that self-serving energy and harness it in a system that enables us to improve each other's lives, rather than simply trying to deny that people are self-centered.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Christmas Meme

All right, I've never done these "memes" before. Somebody needs to tell me the etymology of the word "meme" and how to pronounce it. And now, to join Jane and Polly and all the rest of y'all --

1. Egg Nog or Hot Chocolate?
Hot chocolate. With whipped cream.

2. Does Santa wrap presents or just set them under the tree?
When Santa still brought presents, they were wrapped. Now Santa just fills stockings.

3. Colored lights on tree/house or white?
The lights outside are colored. The tree indoors has both white and colored.

4. Do you hang mistletoe?
No. But we hang two mistleTOADS.

5. When do you put up your decorations?
A week or two before Christmas. The tree is usually 2-3 days before.

6. What is your favorite holiday dish (excluding dessert)?
Uhhh, we don't eat at home. We let the Buddhists who own Chinatown Buffet feed us our Christmas dinner. My favorite would be a stir-fry with lots of broccoli, water chestnuts, carrots, etc.

7. Favorite Holiday memory as a child:
I remember a big package under the tree. I was probably still a preschooler. My mom told me it was boots for Grandpa. When they presented me that big package on Christmas morning, it turned out to be a doll. My mother lied to me about that package! LOL!

8. When and how did you learn the truth about Santa?
Let's credit "the scientific method" for that. My brother and I used reason, and tried experiments, and worked it out slowly over the years.

9. Do you open a gift on Christmas Eve?
Not usually.

10. How do you decorate your Christmas Tree?
Lights. Then a bunch of ornaments with memories: souveneirs of places we've been to, or ornamanets the kids have made or were given as gifts, or the ones my grandma used to hang on her tree.

11. Snow! Love it or Dread it?
I want to say I dread it. But after several years of drought, I hesitate to complain about any precipitation, no matter what the form. And there is the benefit of snow-cover reflecting more LIGHT during the dreary months of darkness.

12. Can you ice skate?

13. Do you remember your favorite gift?
No. Unless we want to call Maggie a "gift."

14. What’s the most important thing about the Holidays for you?
Church services. Y'know the motto that we need to put CHRIST back into CHRISTmas? Well, I say we need to put MASS back into ChristMAS.

15. What is your favorite Holiday Dessert?
Favorite dessert? But if I pick just one, won't the other desserts have their little self-esteems injured? Oh, phooey on the desserts' self-esteems.
Frosted and decorated cut-out cookies!

16. What is your favorite holiday tradition?
Going to church a whole lot more than just once or twice a week.

17. What tops your tree?
A star, cut out of scrap cardboard, covered with aluminum foil.

18. Which do you prefer giving or receiving?

19. What is your favorite Christmas song?
One??? Why do you think the address of this blog is HYMN ADDICT?? Well, let's see. Probably "All My Heart Again Rejoices" -- but the whole thing, not that shortened version that's in LSB.

20. Candy Canes - yuck or yummy?

21. Christmas Trees - real or fake?
Real. And now that I've cut down all the ones I planted, I have to go find some place to cut one.

Tagging Paul, Katie, Philip, and Rachel.

Leftover Whipped Cream

You know how real cream gets runny and soggy a few hours after it's whipped? Well, we had a little leftover whipped cream from the pumpkin pies. I like Black Russians. Rachel likes White Russians; I tried those a couple of times and wasn't tremendously impressed. But now, with leftover whipped cream... well, a little vodka and some Kahlua... whoa -- not a bad way to rid the fridge of the leftover whipped cream!

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

The Stress of Waiting

I'm going berserk! My part-time job involves overseeing the carriers who deliver the Shopper adpapers. Normally, on Wednesdays, the papers arrive at my house between 8:00 and 8:30 in the morning. Sometimes they're as early as 7:20 and sometimes as late as 9:45. It is now 1:00 in the afternoon, and they're not here yet. The deal is that I am to drop everything as soon as the papers arrive and get them to the carriers.

So for the last five hours, I've been unable to be about my chores very well. Can't start a physics lesson because it's likely to be interrupted. Can't put the perma-press in the wash because I'll get called away and it will wrinkle. Can't make the bread because it will overrise when I have to leave to go to work. Can't get in the shower because I'll be interrupted. Can't curl up on the couch and read history to the kids because I'll have to stop in the middle of the chapter.

This is such piddly little stuff. And I'm rather disgusted with myself for how stressed out I am over this. There's just something, though, about having to be ready to go at a moment's notice when that moment is delayed and delayed and delayed. I keep thinking that there must be some insight here about the end of the church year and waiting for the Second Coming, but I sure ain't seein' it because, when Jesus returns, I won't care if the perma-press wrinkles or if the bread overrises!

If I didn't have to drive "any minute now," I'd take a nice shot of Southern Comfort -- on an empty stomach which would therefore be exceedingly mellowing because I haven't eaten yet, knowing that if I start eating I will, after all, be interrupted because I have to leave "any minute now." I guess I'll have to go drink some Rescue Remedy instead. I hate living life "on hold," even when it's just for a few hours.

Pumpkin Pie

We have come to prefer our pumpkin pie more vegetably than custardy. This recipe is for a good full 10" pie, too much to fit in a 9" pie pan. It takes quite a while to bake until the knife comes out clean: more than an hour, sometimes up to 1:45.

3 big eggs (or 4 medium)
2# can pumpkin
2/3 cup brown sugar
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp ginger
1/4 - 1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp cinnamon
1 cup milk

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Hospital Update

T minus 6 days and counting. And today we learn that Maggie's sister (and roommate) was good-n-exposed to mononucleosis a week ago. This happened with the last surgery: Rachel was exposed to chicken pox and due to break out the day after surgery was scheduled, but contagious prior to surgery. There will be much drinking of water, much popping of echinacea and zinc, much hand washing, and much garlic swallowing around here for a few days!

Cleaning White Boards

My board was getting so bad that I was ready to go to Office Max and spring for the squirty bottle of cleaner. But the smallest one was $4 and I'm feeling cheap right now. When I read the label, I saw that the contents of the bottle were acetate and isopropyl. So I came home, got a shot glass, mixed a wee bit o' fingernail polish remover with a wee bit o' rubbing alchohol, rubbed it on the stains on my board, and it polished up white and beautiful. Whoa! That was cheap and quick and effective!

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Freedom Issues

We recently finished reading Whatever Happened to Penny Candy? by Richard Maybury and are now part-way through Whatever Happened to Justice? These are impressive must-read books, and there's a lot I'd like to say about them. But for the moment, just one point (which will, I'm sure, drive Scott nuts).

Benjamin Franklin is quoted on page 49: "Only a virtuous people are capable of freedom. As nations become corrupt and vicious, they have more need of masters."

I am in favor of smaller government and more freedoms. And yet, what about this quote? Isn't it true? Well-behaved teenagers don't need as many rules as do the kids who are controled only by lots of rules and lots of punishments. Our society is becoming increasingly corrupt. What does this mean with regard to our willingness to accept more regulation, more controls, and loss of freedoms?

You're Miserable Too? Cool!

Why is is that we always feel better when we know that other people don't have it all together and are blundering their way through life, sometimes in pain, just like we are?

I always felt guilty for that. I always figured I shouldn't feel better to hear that somebody else is struggling. But I did feel better. Shame on me!

But now I'm not so sure. Maybe there's something theological about this. We want to have a life of ease. Oftentimes we even get caught up in thinking that a comfortable and happy life is a sign of God's pleasure with us. By gum, He owes us for being good little Christians! But that's just plain false! When we see our Christian brothers and sisters having a hard time, and when we know that they are beloved children of God, it's easier to recognize that this is simply the way it is to live life under the cross of affliction. When we're the ones suffering, we think, "Woe is me; God has abandoned me." But He hasn't. Just like He hasn't abandoned our sisters and brothers. So maybe it's not so bad when we're comforted to see other people enduring faithfully. Kinda has the same benefits as celebrating the saints' feast days, but instead with local people who are known to us right now. "See how the Lord sustains them through it all! Praise be to Him!"