Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Wow. Updated and pretty incredible

Notice the places in Utah and Colorado that don't have high unemployment:  THERE ARE NO PEOPLE THERE!  The unemployment in Utah's West Desert isn't too bad, is it? 

Kids say funny things

Nathanael has figured out language--he thinks. For example, all sweet quickbreads (muffins, pancakes, banana bread) are "pancakes."  All fried breads (scones, etc) are "donuts."  Makes sense to me!  I think it's funny that he categorizes them by something other than their appearance.

Caleb told me, on our way to church on Sunday, "Don't pull me along faster than I can caper!"


Saturday, September 25, 2010

What I'm not enjoying about school

We put our kids in the Homeschool Options program this year. It's a fabulous program that allows homeschooled kids to go to a "big school" one day a week with other homeschooled kids. They offer very cool classes--stuff we can't do easily at home, like robotics and art.

Turns out I don't love it like I thought I would.

The problem is that some of the issues I have with public education are things you can't fix in a school setting, even in smallish classes (the kindergarten class has only 16 kids, and I still think that's twice too many for that age group), because they are inherent in managing many children. Some of them are issues with the current trends in education, which the Options school has bought into by only hiring certified teachers.

So, things I have not been happy about:

--the Kindergarten in stubbornly 6 hours long. Full day. I've sat in there for 4 weeks now, and that's too long for ANY of those kids, not just my kid. They're all falling apart after lunch and still have academic classes to do.

--there are no toys in the kindergarten room, and no time given for free play.  With a 6-hour K day, you'd think they'd fit in time for kids to go choose a toy and play with their friends. But no, there is a 15 minute recess ONCE a day, lunch is in the classroom, as are the 2 snacktimes, and those are all often paired with an activity, like reading, and are just barely long enough for the kids to eat, and they have PE for 45  minutes, which is structured and always either right before or right after recess. Plus there is no playground--the kids play on the lawn of the church for the 15 minutes they're released, with a teacher organizing the play of necessity--no free time at all to be kids and learn how to interact with other kids.

--There is way too much academic focus for K. They do art once a month (instead of once a day). They do music every day, but it's very structured time where they get singled out and embarrassed publicly for not singing along with the other kids, regardless of their interest in the song or in singing.  And I already mentioned  they are lacking the facilities and tools to allow play time.

(and all of this with a teacher who I quite like, who does cool things like have the kids make applesauce and do taste tests of different varieties of apples in class).

--Six hour days are actually too long for all of my kids. I'm actually a pretty firm believer in half-day schools up to 8th grade. So watching my kids have to suffer through 6 hours is really hard. They come home tired and  unhappy (except Anda, but Anda loves everything).

--The day starts too early. No kid should have to be somewhere, alert, at 8:00 am. It interferes with the normal circadian rhythms of childhood, which dictate both eating and sleeping, forcing kids to function off their circadian rhythm (even for normal, not circadian disordered kids, 8:00 is too early to be GOING). School is set up for kids who have circadian disorders in the form of earlybird disorders (vs our nightowl disorders). Even the teachers are only functioning because they all carry coffee everywhere in class (which I'm also opposed to, but since  most of Colorado drinks coffee I can't really complain on this one).

--The kids are forced to eat when they aren't hungry, and aren't allowed to eat when they are, which creates havoc and chaos for my two that are hyper-sensitive.  My kids want to eat breakfast at 10:00 am. Consistently. They are not interested in eating at 7:30 am, so they go to school with no breakfast. Then at 10:00, starving, they sneak a snack. So then when lunch rolls around at 11:00 am, they aren't hungry anymore. Especially for lunch foods. Then 1:00 rolls around, when they're used to eating lunch, and they aren't allowed to eat, and so far two of them have, at that point, been reduced to tears every single day they've gone.

--There is no downtime, especially for introverts. The schools feel like recess is down time, but for kids, whose job is to play and interact with their peers, that's the most intense part of the day. For extroverts, that is an intense and satisfying part of the day. For introverts, like Caleb, that is an intense part of the day that must be "come down" from. There is no quiet, alone, unstructured time for introverts to recover so they can handle the rest of the day.  Caleb needs an hour in the middle of the day to sit alone in a corner and read, or he just gets completely overwhelmed, and the school system doesn't allow for that. It's not made for introverts. (Dan needs a break, too, but not because he's an introvert. He's actually an extrovert. It's because he's exhausted from constantly facing his phobias for hours straight, and he just needs a rest).

--Schools are designed to quash creativity. In the name of keeping all the kids busy for the allotted time, I watch the teachers say things like, "Can you color it so there's no white space left?" They're trying to keep the kids busy until the slower kids are done with the activity, and keep everyone together. The kid, though, hears, "I don't color right," and the other kids hear "There's a right and a wrong way to color. I'd better learn the way the teacher thinks is right." NOT a good way to encourage talents and self esteem.  It's all subtle stuff, but as an artist who grew up thinking she was no good at art, I'm sensitive to that kind of thing.

--In order to keep kids together, doing the same thing, unintentional public criticism of kids is the norm. This seems like a little deal from the adult perspective, but I have distinct memories from my childhood of times when I was "corrected" in class over something dumb--not standing exactly right in the line, for example. The kids feel it different than the teachers intend it. It's a necessity for classroom management, and I can't think of another way to do it (As a teacher, I'm actually more harsh than the kindergarten teachers are--I just tell kids, "Stop that. It's not okay." That's why I do better with Junior High, where they're a little tougher already and  where they often need it told flat-out, immediately, and in clear terms so they know where the lines are in society as well as in a classroom. But I also believe in catching potential problems before the need for correction arises--like by not allowing kids to sit wherever they want).

--For all of the student-teacher interaction that goes on, there is very little connecting with the individual kids. No adult is sitting down and saying,  "I like that pair of shoes. Why did you choose to wear them today?" or "Do a lot of people mix you and your sister up?" or any other real true interacting with the souls of the children. Instead, the kids get told to wait, raise their hand, and only make comments that are obviously connected to the activity or discussion at hand. Again, logistically impossible (so I understand why it's that way), but the result is there is a gap that's created between child and adult. Adults are not human to children, nor children to adults, and kids learn in school NOT to reach out and interact with adults. That has a negative impact on our culture, breaking off each generation from the previous and condemning us to constantly ignore the wisdom of those who might help us (because we're not supposed to interact with them for real). Of course, if a family is a daycare family, this would be even worse because there would be even fewer hours during the day when an adult was able to listen and talk to the kid as a person, and I know a lot of parents don't believe in treating kids like people anyway. (We have a culture of "who cares what they think?" that goes both ways and is unhealthy).  This also teaches kids that they shouldn't follow the flights of fancy, but stick to the task at hand, which discourages intelligence and creativity and encourages conformity and what Tim calls "middle management mentality." We're putting the shackles on the kids minds.

--In any group learning situation, there are kids who excel, kids who are adequate, and kids who struggle. PE is no different, except that in PE, instead of teaching to the adequate, they teach to the talented, leaving 2/3 of the kids to learn that they hate physical activity and will never be good at it.  This week, BOTH my big kids came home saying they hate running and will never run again. This from two kids who joyfully proclaimed not three weeks ago that running is fantastic fun, and that they had discovered that if you modify your technique, you can increase your speed and they were going to experiment with that and work until they could run REALLY FAST.  In other words, the school managed to find a spark and snuff it out. This was especially discouraging for me because I had worked really hard to get the physical activity spark going in my kids, who are inclined to read or program computers all day and are, admittedly, somewhat lacking in physical fitness.  How did the school do this? They set up a course on the blacktop, didn't warn the kids ahead to dress appropriately for running specifically, and had them run in the heat of the day on the black road. For a mile. With no previous running at all and with the only training they received being "jog instead of dash."  Great. Naturally, about a third of the class did fine. The talented third. But what of the other 2/3? They had a bad experience and have been discouraged from both running and physical fitness. This is counter-productive. If a kid needs to be able to run a mile, I could get them to that point relatively easily. It would NOT involve running in the heat, in the wrong clothes, or starting with the end goal. So now I have to find a way to help my kids a) succeed, and b) not hate physical activity. I didn't need that extra challenge loaded onto my by the school system.

Personally, I think group PE for homeschooled kids should consist of an introduction to all the group sports, one a month, that they can't play at home. If they can do it at home, they shouldn't be doing it at Options PE because there isn't enough time in the year to cover everything. Plus I couldn't care less about the Presidential Fitness program (which is what they're doing right now in PE), especially if it makes my kids hate physical activity because they can't succeed instantly without working toward the goals. That is the ultimate in counter-productive. Homeschooling is about joy in life and excitement to try and learn and do. Not about learning to hate something because you're not the best at it or can't succeed on the first try. Why are we setting our kids up for failure?

It was, in fact, so miserable an experience for Caleb (my child who declared he loved running not two weeks ago!) that he wanted to drop out of school all together, despite the love he has for his robotics class. And Caleb is the one we  most wanted to learn to be comfortable and efficient in his movement because he wants to do sports and participate, but it doesn't come naturally for him. Perhaps our time would be better spent enrolling him in a daddy-son Karate class, where they intentionally teach efficiency of movement and control.

--Anda came home saying, "I'm bad at drawing." I was blown away. Anda is my child who draws many pictures every day. And she draws fantastic drawings, with details that I would never think to include that make the pictures come alive. Her scientific sketches catch details that you wouldn't notice looking at the actual object, but that she sees, and her illustrations of imaginary animals (all colored, mind you), are incredible. She has an absolute gift for composition, too. And she LOVES drawing, choosing art to express herself every day and thinking of cool projects that she actually makes, all on her own. I keep a drawer of "junk" just for her to use for art (the other kids use it, too, but usually prompted by seeing the coolness of what Anda is creating spontaneously). She even creates art kits for the rest of the family for fun and sits us all down for art lessons that she's created about once every 3 months. She is, in short, a talented artist, even though she's still 7 years old and there's still a learning curve. (There is the rare 7 year old artist who can do with painting what Mozart could do with music, but those are the exception and MOST professional artists learned the usual way, growing up with their skills). So when she came home saying, "I'm bad at drawing and can't draw anything except trees well," I almost called the school to withdraw her right there on the spot. We enrolled her in art to give her a chance to play, and to be exposed to new media and techniques. NOT for her to learn that she's no good.

So I'm not real pleased and spent a long time talking to Tim last night about the ins and outs of it all. Does Caleb need to learn to deal with disappointment? Absolutely. But learning social skills and emotional skills is very much like learning algebra--if you wait until the brain has developed properly for that skill, the learning comes easily. Do I want to push it? And how would I know when he's ready, anyway?  Do I want the kids to  have to "discover" their talents and fight against the tides (which tell us that only the most exceptional have talents and the rest of us don't), or do I want them to just DO their talents and not worry about it, which is the way children are inclined until they hit school. Are they going to run into having to prove themselves anyway, so we might as well get at it and teach them those skills?  And what about the PE problem? For all the sacrifices we make for them to go to school, would it be easier to just take them hiking once a week and gradually increase the difficulty of the activities so they get physically fit? I have no doubt that I can do most of what they're learning academically in school better than the system can (including art, but not including robotics), but is the non-academic learning worth it? Are they making friends and learning to negotiate systems (which, despite my dislike of them, you really have to learn to do in this world)? Or is this all putting a roadblock in the way of things they would be learning eventually anyway, but at a more appropriate emotional age......


Homeschooling is so much easier.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Benji's version:

Benji's acting out the story of the 3 Little Pigs instead of going to bed.

He is the Big Bad Wolf.

He says, "And I'll puff, and I'll choke, and I'll break your door in!"

(Also the pigs say: "Not by your chunny chun chin!")

Monday, September 20, 2010

How to have good kids

Nurse them. Hold them a LOT. Let them play.

Sounds like what my mom did for us!


Funny Kids

Normally, I'm pretty good at figuring out what the kids are saying.  Tonight, though, Daniel completely baffled me when he walked in and said, "It's been a long time since now."


Sunday, September 19, 2010

So I've been fixing these up: Online, free complete curricula for homeschooling

I probably should get a degree in curriculum design. I love plotting out what I want someone to learn and how to teach it.

I thought I'd finished these before, but then both google docs and the Head of the Class (the online curriculum I pull from and modify) updated their systems, so now I have been updating my stuff.

And here you have it:  Complete year of lessons for "Playschool" (1-3 year old) and a complete year of Kindergarten, all online. All free.  Preschool (3-4 year olds) will be ready in a couple of days.  Then I'll be working on 2nd grade and 4th grade, and then the others.

Playschool can be accessed here:  http://docs.google.com/View?id=ddssdqrh_162hnz9c3fr  .

Kindergarten can be accessed here:

Preschool can be accessed here: http://docs.google.com/View?id=ddssdqrh_163cqgf5pdq

Do one "cluster" of links a day for a whole school year.

This is extremely web-based, and fairly light on the mother (since I'm teaching 5 kids per day) without sacrificing the education of the kid. Everything I make is for my own gifted children, so you might find you have to copy the curricula and adapt them to your children (for example, if you 2nd grader really isn't interested in the biology-intensive curriculum, including AP Biology, that I'm making for Anda, who wants to be a biologist when she grows up).

Have fun freeschooling!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Did I just read that?

From Foxnews.com Home page today:

Gee, that picture looks an awful lot like a complex of buildings, not the former employees of the New Mexico  energy laboratory.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Did I just read that?

On AOL news today: ""It's criminal to allow diacetyl and other untested flavoring agents to be used in these devices," said Dr. David Egilman, clinical associate professor at Brown University's Department of Family Medicine. "At the very least, it's not smart to intentionally inhale substances which have been proven to cause irreversible lung disease that has and can kill you." "


I agree. Certainly isn't smart to inhale something that has killed you once before and could kill you again....

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Did I just read that?

From ksl.com today: " She managed to get out of the way just before the truck hit her."  http://www.ksl.com/?nid=148&sid=12398966

So which is it? Did she get out of the way, or did it hit her? You can't really have both.....

Friday, September 10, 2010


So I had discovered that taking 2 fish oil tablets helped my fibro pain immensely.

Then I got pregnant and it's been a "bad fibro" pregnancy (sometimes being pregnant makes it better; sometimes it makes it worse). And I started messing with my vitamin regime because the prenatals were making it so I couldn't sleep--I just lay there not quite asleep, thinking, all night. Plus the doctor said to take my calcium at different times of the day, instead of 1200 mg all at once at bedtime, because it absorbs better. And she told me to stop taking the magnesium because prenatals have enough of that (most actually don't have ANY, which is surprising considering the extra calcium they give you!).

Anyway, I got everything rearranged so I was taking 1 calcium, 2 fish oil, and a prenatal sometime in the middle of the day, and another calcium at bedtime.

I had more energy about an hour after taking my vitamins. I also was in significantly more pain all day and sleeping, but not deeply, at night.

I tried taking the one calcium in the morning and the rest at night. Still hurting.

So this week I went back to my regular vitamin habits: 2 calciums, 2 fish oils, and 1 multivitamin at bedtime.

Voila! Pain is lessened (not gone, but I can pour milk without severe pain now!). I can function, more or less, again (still can't clean the house, but at least I can sit in my soft rocking chair again!).

I don't know why it is that I need 1200 mg of calcium all at once, but it seems to help. Maybe I should put the magnesium back in, too!

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Did I just read that?

From the inside of my new carton of Great Day brand eggs: "Our hens are fed an all natural, vegetarian diet rich in nutritious grains, vitamins, and minerals. Great Day hens are never fed animal by-products, antibiotics or hormones--making our hens happier and our eggs better!It's simply the way eggs should be."

Anyone who has ever dealt with chickens will wonder if these hens are happier or not.  Hens are omnivores. Not only do they LIKE to eat bugs, they also eat their own eggs sometimes! Giving them a vegetarian diet might make the PETA people happier, but I doubt it will make the hens happier.

I like this take on the issue....


Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Did I just read that?

More poorly-written fire news: " Two additional planes conducted reconnaissance in the air."

That's good, since planes don't do very good reconnaissance from the ground!


Did I just read that?

This article was full of errors! http://www.foxnews.com/us/2010/09/08/colorado-wildfire-evacuees-wait-wonder-homes-toll-destroyed-buildings/

There are math issues:
"Authorities say at least 136 homes have been destroyed by a wildfire burning in canyons and foothills west of Boulder. A list released Wednesday the Boulder County sheriff's includes four other structures and at least 12 homes damaged by the 6,168-acre fire."


"Seven of the country's 19 heavy air tankers have been sent to Colorado to fight the blaze, considered the nation's top firefighting priority. Two more have been dispatched to the fire, said Ken Frederick, spokesman for the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho." (Why don't we just say "nine" and call it good? Or is a blaze and a fire different?)

Objects doing uncharacteristic things:

"About 3,500 people have been evacuated from about 1,000 homes that broke out in a parched area north of Boulder on Monday. " (So, homes are like acne for water-starved land?)

Interesting "what?"s:

" Firefighters encountered a tangle of rattlesnakes, downed power lines and combustible propane tanks Wednesday as they struggled to get an upper hand on a wildfire that has destroyed dozens of homes." (Snakes, power lines, propane tanks all tangled up together in one massive heap....but no fire! I suppose the downed power lines were wreaking havoc on the snakes, and possibly igniting the propane?)

and again: "Laura McConnell, a spokeswoman for the fire management team, said as many as 300 firefighters are at the fire and more are on the way. She said they're dealing with downed power lines, debris, poison ivy and rattlesnakes. They also have to be watchful for propane tanks in the area." (but no fire?)

I guess when the land is on fire, the editors lose their minds.

Home Again

We made it. Back to CO.

Long drive, especially after several days of not enough sleep. Plus driving that far always makes my whole body hurt.

But we're home, with the same familiar souvenir we always bring home from tours: colds. Hooray?

And we made it just in time to do Daniel's birthday today and 5 kids' doctors appointments over the next 3 days.

Sunday, September 05, 2010

The Adventure Continues Part 3

So Saturday morning rolled around and we all rolled out of bed and got ready for the day. The plan was to babysit Gates, the adorable 2-year-old of one of the ladies Tim is singing with, and then half-way through the day they were all going to come back and we'd all go to the Nebraska State Fair together.

So the singers all left and I settled into handing out snacks and trying to find things to do.

I had some trail mix from our drive, and I had a little and so had to share. I was even careful when I handed some to Dan to remove any nuts he'd never tasted--he got chocolate chips and almonds, things he'd had many times before.

But it wasn't like before.  He ate ONE almond and immediately said, "My throat feels wrong."

This time I didn't wait. I dropped everything and RAN into the bathroom and gave him a dose of bendadryl, and then watched as he kept trying to clear his throat and got more uncomfortable.

I was on the edge of panicking. Here was me, sitting with six kids, heavily pregnant, in a strange city. Not enough car seats for all the kids. Nobody to watch the other 5 kids. No idea where the hospital was. No idea how to get ahold of a member of the church. No phone books. And no adults with cell phones that I could reach. I knew Dan needed a blessing and possibly a rush to the emergency room, and I couldn't get those things.

Then I remembered Tim gave me a blessing a week ago that said that God would not deny us any blessing we needed just because Tim wasn't available. So Dan and I went into the other room from the other kids and we prayed, fervently and with more faith than I've ever had before. I was trusting that the blessing I got before was going to save my baby's life now. We prayed and then I dug out the epi-pen, but didn't use it.

Immediately, Dan's breathing in his chest and throat cleared out, so he could take deep, deep breaths. He was suddenly breathing quietly and clearly, and the asthma cough disappeared completely, and he stopped sticking his tongue out. Instead, his nose swelled up (instantly) like he'd been punched in the face, and the insides of his outer ears swelled. Nose and ears swollen doesn't seem particularly dangerous.

I relaxed. Dan was still worried, so we prayed again, and I felt like I should give him the other half of the benadryl dose (I had forgotten that 5 year olds can have 1-2 tsp. I only gave him one). Then we called the front desk and they agreed to watch the other five kids for a bit and told me how to find an urgent care place. Dan was more worried than I--I could hear him breathing and see him walking as fast as I was, and he was okay, but scared because he'd never had a swollen nose and ears before, and his whole body itched.

Still, wanting to be on the safe side, I took the kids to the front desk and left them, and took Dan and Nathanael to the urgent care facility that the front desk directed us to. They refused to see us because we had no money and no insurance and they don't deal in out-of-state medicaid. (And no, the new health care laws won't fix this problem--there is still no access to medical care for poor people.). I said, "My kid is having an allergic reaction to nuts, and you won't even tell the doctor?" No. Wouldn't even talk to me until her superviser came in and made her tell me how to find the ER, which took 10 minutes. "Prompt" care, it said on the building. Had Dan been in anaphylactic shock, I would have had a dead kid thanks to the promptness of their care.

As we walked out, Dan said, "Mom, I'm fine now." And he was. So we came back.

Took the kids to the fair for the afternoon. That, in and of itself, was exhausting, hot, dusty, and exhausting some more. We bought a box of ice cream on the way home and made milkshakes. Then gave Dan more benadryl before bed to counter any rebound reaction (they happen with severe allergies when the benadryl wears off).

And then we pretty much collapsed into bed and slept HARD. What a day!

The Adventure Continues Part 2

So, after we survived the first day of school (and the kids LOVED LOVED LOVED it, even though Dan was terrified), we hopped in the car, ran home for some diaper rash medicine, ran to the store for some snacks, and hit the road. Nebraska was my goal, 500 miles due East.

It turned out to be a very pleasant drive. I had one of the kids sit in front with me the whole time to help hand food back to the others, and we had treats and snacks, and they involved me in "The DoppelGamer"--the kids favorite make-believe game that is a mixture of the Animorphs books, the Harry Potter books, Pikmin, and this imaginary battle they've been fighting against their own doppelgangers. We had to play 20 questions as if we were in their imaginary world, so when I asked, "Is it ficitonal?" they said, "No" even though it was a space ship weapon they were thinking of......

We made a single stop, right on the border, and mostly the kids were good and we just drove and drove and drove.

Nebraska is the only place I've ever been where there are whitish clouds rising from among the cattle on the cow farms, and the clouds are thick enough that they actually obscure the road somewhat and act like fog. Oh, and they STINK like a cow farm blowing all over your car. Nasty.

There were other places, too, that didn't have cows but still had that mysterious white mist hovering over them--not as thick as where the cows were, for some reason, and not stinky. That was puzzling to me.

I was surprised when we got to Grand Island, NE, how NOT muggy it is. It's still pretty dry out here, although not as dry as Utah. More like the Colorado plains, which isn't surprising, actually, since it's all the same landscape. (We live right on the edge of the plains, in view of the mountains but not touching them, so it was familiar).

It was SO nice to see Tim after a long and stressful week. I actually wasn't even out of the car before he was standing right there, ready to kiss me. And boy was I ready to kiss him! The kids were excited to see him, too. The whole trip over, my sugar-loving Daniel broke every piece of candy in half that I gave him and saved one piece for Daddy. Plus a juice box.

And here we are. In a hotel. Again. This time we ended up with two adjoining rooms, and that's been heaven. There are enough bed spaces for everyone, with 2 king-sized beds and a full hideabed. Hooray!

The Adventures Continue

So Tim left for Nebraska August 27 in the morning. We drove him to the airport and said good-bye.

The official plan was for us to survive one week, get through the first day of school, and then, if some money showed up to pay for gas, we'd join him in Nebraska.

So we survived the week. That wasn't easy, since we got news that my Dad's cancer surgery wasn't so successful...and then found out a few days later that the (incompetent) PA had just read the charts wrong and the surgery was a success and the cancer was gone. (I was more than a little mad at the PA for all the stress he put us under because he can't read a chart!).

And the money showed up. We had agreed to babysit the daughter of another cast member while we were in Nebraska, if we could just get there. So she forwarded us the babysitting money. As we climbed into the car, I looked down and there was a hundred dollars sitting there! Tim had lost a hundred dollars he'd set aside for food and tithing, and he'd searched the car thoroughly, so we chalked it up to lost. And there it was, in plain sight.

So, with the money in hand, we prepared to go. We took Dan to the dentist TWICE in the same day--first time we got lost and they rescheduled. Second time we were 10 minutes late and they cancelled on me because his toothache wasn't as important as people who just walked in with toothaches. Huh? So much for medicaid!

We did my doctor's appointment with 3 small children in tow. That was difficult enough that I just didn't bother with the glucose screening and the office just had to be fine with that. No options. So of course they were.

Then we did the first day of school for any of us ever. The Aurora Public Schools has this awesome, state-wide program for homeschoolers called "Options". Any homeschooler can register for a year of school that meets ONLY with other homeschoolers and ONLY one day a week. For free. The kids go to school every friday and we got to choose their classes, so Caleb is taking robotics, piano, PE, drama, and other classes, and Anda is taking robotics, science, art, Spanish, drama, PE, etc--stuff I can't really teach at home as well as they can teach in a class. Plus they have a one day a week kindergarten for Daniel. AND they provide the rest of the at-home curriculum for you at no cost (except workbooks if you want to order them), and you still get to choose your books and curricula, and there is no teacher supervising that you have to check in with. It's a very cool program that is appropriately tailored to the peculiarities of homeschooling families and kids, and appropriately respectful to homeschooling culture (for example, the dress code is more modest, the behavior and discipline system more discussion-based and natural consequences based, and they aren't checking in with parents on what they're doing at home like most cyber "home" schooling systems do).

Still, even with the coolness of the program, and even with us having spent the last part of August fixing our sleep schedule so we could be alert and go, I was nervous. I've always done everything myself, and I was going to be trying to go to classes the first day with 3 kids all at the same time. Plus juggle Nathanael (thankfully, a homeschooling friend took Benji for the day). Not only were we starting school (and I had no idea how the kids would like it), we were leaving from the school to drive to Nebraska--a 6 hour drive with just me and the kids, and I don't drive long distances well (first my body starts to hurt, and then I get too sleepy to drive--a gut reaction to try to get rid of the fibro pain that comes from driving).

So we went to school.

And I loved it. I walked into the room and found 170 kids with their parents--and among them we were not weird. It was the strangest thing to walk into a room full of people and discover that we're part of a large and established culture. It's a culture of larger families, so nobody looked at us and said, "How do you do it?!" like they do everywhere else I go. (Homeschooling families have a stay-at-home mom and, usually, an intact traditional family, or it's not possible. That's conducive to having more children than 2. They also tend to like kids, or they wouldn't have any desire to be with them all day every day). It's also a culture of smarter moms (you have to know how to learn in order to homeschool, and you've covered K-whatever age your kids are usually more than once, so you could win "Are you smarter than a 5th grader?" when most people can't; plus you don't homeschool if you don't have some confidence in your ability to do better than the public schools with education--that means you're comfortable with learning and education stuff). It's also a culture where parents are accustomed to sacrificing for their kids, where appearance doesn't matter as much, and where "the way it's done" is not nearly as important as what's right. It was a room full of free-thinking women who decided what they wanted was kids--and do everything they could possibly do to make their kids lives work. It was also a room full of kids who, for whatever reason, don't fit in the system well. Most of them were smarter than your average kid. A handful were skittish and in constant motion (not surprising). Bunches were from mixed-race families. At least one family had a deaf member and was pretty clearly into the deaf culture.

The thing that struck me most was that there were over 170 kids in the room (170 plus toddler and baby siblings) and I didn't see a single sullen, rude, selfish, defiant, aggressive, druggie, immodest, or bullying kid in the bunch. I saw a whole lot of kids who would be mistreated in public schools, both by the other students and by the adults who are trying to maintain order (and "can't you just put your bottom in your seat?!"). And I saw kids on all ability levels. But I didn't see any "bad" kids or any "trouble" kids. I saw a bunch of fun-loving, respectful kids, even when their parents were elsewhere. That struck me--you know I just wrote that post on socializing homeschoolers. What I saw was a bunch of kids who were not only properly socialized with their peers (and I watched them in their peer groups while the other mothers were in a meeting and I was with a terrified Daniel), but they were properly socialized to adults, to kids older and younger than themselves, and to everyone they came in contact with. They weren't submissive or abused. They were polite and courteous, and extremely responsive to others, both adults and children, strangers and friends. And I saw a bunch of adults who loved to be around their children but were completely comfortable letting their kids go--letting them be who they are, letting them learn what they need and want to.

What struck me was that I saw a hundred families that were functioning. And it was a pretty powerful thing.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Socialization and Homeschool

The BIGGEST thing opponents of homeschooling bring up is a vague issue they've heard about elsewhere and quote randomly without really knowing what it means: "How will your children be properly socialized?"

In other words, "homeschooled kids don't act like public school kids, and that makes me uncomfortable. Also, won't they grow up to be weird adults, too?"

Usually I say, "Most homeschool families get their kids out of the house into interest-, age-, and talent-based social groups all the time, and research shows that homeschooled children grow up to be better socialized adults--more involved in their communities, more likely to work and enjoy it, more likely to vote and volunteer--than other children do."

But my answer the shortened version of what I actually think, and that has three main parts to it.

1. Just taking the sheer numbers, there are more public-schooled kids and adults who are weird than homeschooled children and adults. It's just that for some reason the "weird" homeschoolers seem to stand out more. I think it's because, given a group of ten children, if ONE is weird, you notice. Given a group of a hundred children, if only 10 are weird, you really are so busy with the other 90 that you don't see the ten. The  homeschooling population is smaller, so that even if the percentages of weird vs nonweird are the same, it doesn't "show" the same way. "Weirdness" is tied up so much in personality, genetics, and culture that you can't really attribute it to homeschooling. Besides, who's to say which came first--some kids are homeschooled BECAUSE they were "weird" (have ADD, autism, or Tourette's Syndrome, or a physical, emotional, or intellectual disability, have OCD, are overweight, are religious--lots of Christians and lots of Muslims homeschool--are different from other kids for a number of reasons, or are just plain gifted intellectually or artistically) and were being mistreated for it, not the other way around.

Also, what makes someone "weird"?  Lots of homeschooled children come across as weird because they are polite, considerate of children who are of other ages, and are (gasp!) comfortable talking to adults. They also tend to be excited about learning or about their hobbies and willing to express that, and they're a little more emotionally honest, which sometimes is surprising to people who are used to working with kids who have been emotionally beaten into hiding their real thoughts and feelings by the end of first grade. Some tend to be more open about their religions or otherwise seem to have a strong moral, intellectual, or ideological center (whether religious or not). I would submit that "weird" usually just means "not what I expected," and that some things we don't expect are not bad.

2.  What is the point of socialization? What does it mean to be properly socialized? (See, nobody asks the naysayers this, and many don't know the answer.)  To me, properly socialized means that a person can interact with society in a way that is mutually beneficial, meaningful and appropriate, and that allows the person to eventually become an active, contributing member of our society (socially, politically, etc.), with friends, family, and a job that allows them to support their family. It DOESN'T mean, "Blends in nicely and knows how to act just like other kids." Serious, scholarly research supports the conclusion that homeschool is actually BETTER for socializing children (making them functioning members of society) than public schools.

3. (This is the answer I hear from other homeschooling moms when we're just talking to each other). If you want your child to learn algebra, do you give them a math book (but no answer key) and sit them in a room of other children, who then teach each other their own version of what algebra is? No. That's a ludicrous idea.   But that is what we're doing to our kids socially in public schools.

Public schools don't allow children to interact with adults almost at all, and they don't allow children to interact with each other in a meaningful, natural way in a supervised setting. All the "socialization" that takes place in public schools happens in locker rooms, lunch breaks, and recess and is minimally supervised by people who have proper, well-developed social skills. So what you end up with is a bunch of kids making it up--they're teaching each other what they think is the right way to interact. The inexperienced "natural man" is teaching instead of a more refined, skilled, and conscious teacher.

How many moms have complained (or observed) that their kindergartner came home after the first day (or week) and was a different person? What I hear is the child has become, within a week, more brash, disobedient, louder, crass, selfish, judgmental, and bossy (or, alternately, quiet, shy, embarrassed, apologetic, and lacking in confidence and joy). They are also more inclined to pick on other children and distrust adults, more hesitant to try something new or get excited by anything other than the latest media-driven fads. Why would you want that?

From my observations (and I not only went to pubic schools, I taught school for many years), children in public schools learn social skills that their parents spend hours desperately trying to help them un-learn, and that actually hinder the child in work, school, and real-life social interactions.

This so-called "proper" socialization includes kids teaching each other to be catty, selfish, rude, crude, sneaky. It teaches that adults are not to be trusted or confided in (and in fact should be avoided), that kids older than you are scary and kids younger than you are dumb. It teaches that a person's value and potential for contribution to society are firmly revealed by their appearance, that people can never change, that bullying is okay, that sneaking, lying, and manipulating are good. It teaches that conformity is ideal and non-conformity is evil and to be dealt with swiftly and firmly.  It teaches that smart is bad, that excelling is embarrassing, and that laziness is the way to go. It teaches kids how to get away with doing as little as possible (in groups, on assignments, in life). It teaches kids not to finish things, that work is bad, that learning is boring or tedious, that public approval is God. It teaches boys that they can't have feelings and that violence is good, and teaches girls that their physical appearance determines their value, and that haughtiness and putting others down (including adults) is acceptable. It teaches children to be irreverent and disrespectful (and, in fact, teaches that respect means fear, which it doesn't). It teaches children intolerance and entitlement. It teaches that your value is extrinsic, instead of intrinsic. It teaches that bodies are for stimulating and showing off, and that sex and sexiness is good and commonplace, even among children. It teaches that politeness is embarrassing, and sensationalism is exciting, that religion is foolish and the media accurately portrays what life should be like. It teaches that having stuff is more important than doing stuff, and that badges are more important than kindness (and, in fact, that kindness is embarrassing). It teaches people to be "good enough" (by society's self-set standards) and not really try to reach your potential, discover and develop talents (other than artistic or musical talents), or stretch yourself to learn, grow, and accomplish. It teaches a false value system, that leaves some kids with unrealistically inflated egos and others with unrealistically deflated self-esteem, and all believing that "status" matters and defines who we are and our value and potential. Kids teach each other lies about themselves and others, about "discovering who you are," about how people should interact with each other.

Most of the behaviors taught as "proper socialization" are included in lists of emotionally abusive behaviors, including belittling, mocking, bullying, "mean girl" actions, manipulations, dishonesty, "gentle teasing," "constructive criticism."

Often I read that the long-term prognosis for childhood disorders like ADD and Tourettes is good except for life-long side effects of the way the children are treated in school, including anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, lack of motivation, etc. The so-called "proper" socialization is actively destroying kids who are "different" (through no fault of their own) for their entire lives.  Why would I want that for my kid, both if they are different or are taught to notice and care about difference--even if they aren't outright mocking it?

You think that all the things employers complain about young employees comes from proper socialization? You think the bullying problems that are finally being acknowledge (but that have been epidemic for decades) are a result of proper socialization? You think the failing social structure of the teens in our nation (with sex, drugs, gangs, violence, crime, etc) are the result of proper socialization? You think the disintegrating families, increasing racism and bigotry, and belittling of all things religious are the result of "proper socialization"? I think not.

To me, sending your child to a public school to be "properly socialized" is like sending a juvenile offender to an adult prison to teach them how to be an active, functioning part of society. From other, more experienced criminals. (Prison, I have been told by people who have lived there, is a place where criminals learn from each other how to not get caught next time.)

Why would I want that?

What my kids are learning this year

I've been refining the kids' curricula and have finished both Nathanael's (he begs to do school, so I had to have something for him to do) and Benji (who hovers and watches everyone else's school, so I wanted something level-appropriate for him to do).

I posted the links to the lists of activities they're doing--4 or 5 from the list each day.

You can see what my kids are doing for school here:


and  here: