Sunday, December 27, 2009

The "Harms" of Homeschooling?

The article, “The Harms of Homeschooling” by Robin L. West is full of discrepancies. The author can’t seem to make up her mind about which generalization she prefers in any one of her many characterizations of homeschoolers. Are we uneducated automatons for the religious right, or over-educated (is there really such a thing?!) suburban housewives? Are our children completely isolated in our homes or an unvaccinated health risk to the community? Are we passionately involved and loving parents, relentlessly authoritarian, abusive, or negligently letting our children skateboard or game their life away? The only thing she seems to be sure of is that we are all mothers, however inaccurate that may be.

Ms. West’s second to last sentence, “Deregulation, however, serves no one’s interests and harms many” seems completely unfounded, given the rest her article. She has no clear evidence of any of the claims she makes, many of them gross exaggerations and characterizations.

It could be that she has taken too much stock in all the HSLDA propaganda, especially their claims at the numbers of homeschoolers they serve.

Her “Harms of Unregulated Homeschooling” are as follows, with my opinion after each:

“First, children who are homeschooled with no state regulation are at greater risk for unreported and unnoticed physical abuse, when they are completely isolated in homes. As the trial judge in In re Rachel noted, “95% of referrals for child abuse come from public school teachers or officials.”

Homeschooling is done, for the most part, by parents who enjoy being with their children. If you don’t enjoy being with your children, the easiest thing to do to get them out of your hair for 7 plus hours each day is to send them off to school. I don’t doubt that 95% of referrals for child abuse come from public school teachers or officials. But it doesn’t logically follow that the other 5% are homeschooled children, as I think the author seems to be trying to infer. Or that there is a large number of families homeschooling to cover up abuse – it’s just not logical.

“Second, there’s a public health risk… deregulated homeschooling means that homeschooled children are basically exempted from immunization requirements.”

This disregards the fact that parents of schooled children can opt out of required immunizations for medical or religious reasons. This also assumes that just because homeschooled children aren’t required to be immunized, their parents don’t think there are good reasons to do so. It’s probable that a larger percentage of homeschooled children are unvaccinated, but it is not accurate to state that all schooled children are vaccinated and all homeschooled children are not. From anecdotal evidence within my circle of acquaintances, more homeschooled children are also home-birthed, breastfed for an extended time, and in general have parents who make informed, albeit alternative, choices. I’m sure there is also a larger percentage of homeschooled children who never, or rarely get sick, due to increased nutrition, adequate sleep, and a stress-free lifestyle.

“Third, public and private schools provide for many children, I suspect, although I have yet to see studies of this, a safe haven in which they are both regarded and respected independently and individually.”

I’m sure this is an accurate statement, and would concede that for many children, whose home lives are less than happy, school is, indeed, a safe haven. In fact, I’ve known some homeschooling families whose children would be better off going to school than being subjected to an unhappy parent barking orders at them all day. However, that applies to less than 1% of all homeschoolers I’ve known.

For the vast majority of school children, school is a stress-filled environment that is not ideal for learning. Many schools are full of bullies (both aggressive and subtle), unhappy and stressed out teachers, noise, and crowds. The author describes for us (several times) the ideal teacher. Unfortunately, not enough children receive the benefit of the ideal teacher. I’ve met some of these wondrous creatures, and, if every school child in the country were under the care of an ideal teacher their entire school career, I’m sure we would see the homeschooling numbers drop significantly. But the sad reality is that ideal teachers are few and far between.

“Fourth, there are political harms. Fundamentalist Protestant adults who were homeschooled over the last thirty years are not politically disengaged, far from it. They vote in far higher percentages than the rest of the population… Their capacity for political action is palpable and admirable, although doubly constrained: it is triggered by a call for action by church leaders, and in substance, it is limited to political action the aim of which is to undermine, limit, or destroy state functions that interfere with family and parental rights.”

It seems oddly sad to me that a law professor would be complaining about citizens exercising their right to vote. It is sadder yet that she would consider this a “harm of homeschooling”. If the purpose of education is to produce citizens, (see Good Citizenship: The Purpose of Education from the Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project), then how can voting numbers be a harm of homeschooling. I can understand Ms. West’s concern about the number of “religious right” voters who are directed by church leaders rather than their own informed decision, as I share that concern. But I don’t for a minute believe that this is a harm of homeschooling. I believe this is a failure of the left to mobilize an apathetic electorate. Not that I can back this up with anything other than my own knowledge of hundreds of homeschooling families, but left and right, homeschoolers vote. Far and away, homeschoolers are the most politically active people I’ve ever known. It may be true that some of the HSLDA members are mobilized as Ms. West states, by their church leaders, but the homeschoolers I know consider the issues carefully, talk about them with their children and have their children participate, to the extent allowed, in the election process.

I actually find it encouraging, if it is true, that these politically engaged people are acting to protect family and parental rights. I’d be even happier if they were also acting to protect the rights of gays, minorities, children, and everyone else, but I can’t have it all…

The fifth harm is ethical. Ms. West’s argument here is that “Child-raising that is relentlessly authoritarian risks instilling what developmental psychologists call “ethical servility”: a failure to mature morally beyond the recognition of duties of obedience.”

This is assuming that the vast majority of homeschooling parents are patriarchal, heavy-handed, authoritarians, however, this is so far from the truth as to be laughable. Yes, there are a lot of Christian homeschoolers, but the picture Ms. West paints of the typical homeschooler is one I have yet to meet, and I’ve been homeschooling for 11 years in three states and attended numerous local, state, national and international homeschooling events. In that time I’ve met well over 500 homeschooling families and not one of them conforms to the author’s stereotypes. This is not to say that the “relentlessly authoritarian” homeschooler does not exist, but it is far from an over-arching harm of homeschooling.

The healthiest parent/child relationships I know of are homeschoolers. That’s not to say that families whose children are in school don’t have healthy, close relationships, some do. But it is in the homeschooling families where there is a true partnership between parent and child, where the children aren’t treated as children in the typical sense, but as people who sometimes need extra help but also people who know themselves best and what is best for them.

The sixth harm she lists is educational. She gives us the public school as the measure of success, yet the overall success of public school students is nothing any homeschooler I know would wish to mimic. Schools are doing a notoriously poor job of educating our populace, because they were designed to do so. (See the “Weapons of Mass Instruction” by John Taylor Gatto). As many people do, she is confusing the memorization of facts with an education. The majority of homeschoolers want their children to be able to learn on their own and think for themselves. Our test preparation for the standardized tests goes something like, “don’t think about the fact that several of the answers can be correct, or that the actual answer isn’t one of the four choices, just select the one you think a narrow-minded person would think is correct.” The fact that so many people tout the standardized tests as something of value for homeschoolers is laughable. In no way do those test show us the gaps in our children’s educations, we place no stock in the results. We are with our children, exploring the world with them (yes, most of us do leave the house, in fact, most of us are rarely home!), and helping them learn to learn and keep the love of learning they are born with.

I find it funny that she also comments about parents who let their child skateboard or play video games all day. I would love for her to have a real conversation with any one of the fabulous unschooled youth who have been allowed to do whatever they want, whenever they want. I think it would blow her mind just how articulate and engaged these kids are!

Her final harm is economic. Here’s where I certainly am at a loss to follow her logic. She starts off by stating that “the average homeschooling family may have a higher income than the average non-homeschooler, as was recently reported by USA Today.” Then goes on to talk about the “radically fundamentalist” families and concludes with, “These families are not living in romantic, rural, self-sufficient
farmhouses; they are in trailer parks, 1,000- square-foot homes, houses owned by relatives, and some, on tarps in fields or parking lots. Their lack of job skills, passed from one generation to the next, depresses the community’s overall economic health and their state’s tax base.

From what I know of averages, for the average homeschooling family to have a higher income than the average non-homeschooler, it would have to mean that there are very, very few trailer park homeschoolers as a percentage of the whole. When you consider that almost all homeschooling families are single income families, logic would dictate that the trailer park homeschoolers are so small in number as to not be a threat at all. Certainly a higher percentage of non-homeschoolers are double income families, so the economic threat that Ms. West alludes to doesn’t seem to actually be there.

Other bloggers have addressed the inaccuracies in her claims regarding the legality of homeschooling, and done so far better than I ever could here and here.

Throughout the entire article there is a complete lack of citations, footnotes, or other research references. This seems odd to me for a periodical published by a large university. In the article the author is presenting as scholarly fact her unfounded and unresearched opinions of homeschoolers and is trying to get the reader to come to an emotional decision about homeschooling and its need for regulation without actually showing that regulation works (there are plenty of states that regulate homeschoolers, so the data supporting it shouldn’t be that hard to come by if it does work). She seems to have a desire to stereotype homeschoolers as a scary, conservative, politically active, uneducated, unskilled threat to the American way of life. This is so far from any homeschooler I know.

The homeschoolers I know are diverse politically (just from our bumper stickers alone: Ron Paul, Obama, Bush, Pro-Choice, Pro-Life, Gay Rights are equal rights, One man + one woman = marriage, etc. – and that’s just in Corvallis!), religiously (Baptist, Jewish, Catholic, Presbyterian, Unitarian, Atheist, agnostic, pagan, etc.), in our homeschooling style (school at home, eclectic, unschooling, etc.), in our parenting beliefs (attachment parenting, chore charts, consensual, benevolent dictator, democratic, etc.), ethnically, racially, family structure, sexual orientation, and gender identity.

Mostly, we homeschool so that we can provide the best education for our children. We are, for the most part, well educated ourselves and eager to learn alongside our children. We see life as a learning experience and don’t try to separate it out into set aside hours as schools do. It would be impossible to regulate such an education without diluting it and causing a loss of richness. Homeschooled kids are not burnt out. I know very, very few homeschoolers who don’t like to read. They learn to read when they are ready, be that four, six, ten or 12. By the time they are 15, you can’t tell who learned at four and who learned at 12. But with schooled kids, you can tell at 15 who was ready to read at six and who should have been allowed to wait until they were 12, because the ones who should have been allowed to wait hate to read and don’t unless they are required to.

Deregulation of homeschooling benefits us all by providing the world with people who are still curious and eager to learn. Homeschooling is regulated in many states in this country, and there is no difference between the outcomes of homeschooled kids in regulated states vs. unregulated states. We can spend our tax money on things that actually make a difference – there is no need to spend it on regulating homeschoolers!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

I'm Grateful for Busyness

Wow! What a week!

Monday the 16th I worked on cleaning and sewing as well as getting my teeth cleaned and having a lunch meeting with the Boys & Girls Club clubhouse director. I'm thankful to have found the most fun dental hygienist ever! And I'm thankful that the Boys & Girls Club hires such great staff - so easy to work with.

Tuesday I finished Bekka's solo dress modifications and Steve came home. Thankful for the ability to sew well - thanks, Mom!

Wednesday Bekka had class here in Corvallis. We were going to leave for Portland at 3:00 so she could go to open studio, but just as we were walking out the door, found out that she was needed to teach (I thought she had checked the day before!) - so that day I was very thankful for the ability to be flexible. We moved the floor covering they had been using for hard shoe practice to the Corvallis Dance Center where the Adv. Beg. and Novice class is held, then back again to where the Prizewinner/Champ class is held, then over to our house where it will be stored over the break. THEN we left for Portland.

Thursday we flew to Denver for the Western Regional Oireachtas!!! Steve and I got to tour the Mint at the last minute, which as interesting. Very thankful that our flight was not affected by the computer glitch that delayed most of the day's flights. I'm also thankful for the friendly TSA staff at PDX - they are so great! And I'm thankful that Annamanda found the Crown Plaza - just two blocks from the convention center and two blocks from great, easy, food - the Corner Bakery Cafe and the Cooks' Choice Market, where I ate most of my meals.

Friday was the under's competition. We pretty much just got to hang out. Then Friday night was teams practice. The pressure was really on for our coach. I'm grateful for our amazing team kids who just let it all roll off their backs. I crazily volunteered to PAINT one of the men's competition vest! Yikes! I'm grateful for a steady hand and not messing it up. He loved it, thank goodness.

Saturday was teams. Bekka wasn't up for a while so we got to sleep in. They looked so great! Her ceile' recalled and placed tenth and her figure choreography took second (out of only two, but they were very good - wish there had been other teams). Our school's dance drama is the talk of the message boards - "Risque!" "Scandalis!" Our teacher is very pleased! It was a great show, even though there were several wardrobe malfunctions. I'm grateful for this crazy pseudo-family that we've come into through Irish Dance. These are just amazing people. Our school really is just so great.

Sunday was Bekka's solo competition. Her's was first thing - 8:00am. She had to be there and ready by 7:00. Her dress looked great and she danced well. The judges weren't as impressed and we were, and placed her third from last, but for a prizewinner, I thought she did great! We all went to the awards ceremony where we cheered for Allie, Tim, John, and Alex, our World Qualifiers, and for Nikki, who once again was one place away from WQ. After the ceremony we all went to the Spaghetti Factory - what a fun night! So thankful for the GREAT attitude of ALL our dancers - they are just SO AWESOME!

Monday we got up and went to the airport. A day of traveling and getting home. Steffi, her cousin Andria, and Steve's folks were already home when we got here. I'm thankful that I set up the in-law's room (which is really my room, but I'm the first to give up a room for guests) before we left.

Today I mostly finished cleaning the house. I have two bathrooms left. So grateful for my Plan HC friends, who I met with this afternoon and having a clean dining room. Yea!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

I'm Grateful For: Clean Rooms

Since I had the house all to myself most of the day, I finally got around to cleaning Steffi's room. She is on her annual trek to south Texas to visit with Steve's folks and when she returns our house will be full of family for Thanksgiving, so before she left I asked if I could clean her room.

It's just so nice to get one room totally clean every once in a while!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

I'm Grateful for: Trader Joe's and Honest People

After participating in and giving part of the Service Unit Cookie Manager Training in Eugene, I headed over to Trader Joe's. I LOVE TJ's and I especially love going by myself when I can really look at what's in stock.

But after a full day of training, my brain felt completely full of noodles! I spent some time picking out some new beer varieties, then I left it in the bottom of the cart and drove off. Once I got on the Delta Hwy I realized that not only had I left the beer, but that I had also forgotten that I was going to stop by Costco and get gas. Yikes - I used to be fairly sharp, hardly forgetting anything, but I'm starting to worry about my memory lately.

Since I had to go back by TJ's anyway, I stopped to see if some kind person had turned it in and sure enough - I didn't even have to finish my question before they were saying "yes, they had it". Yea!

Friday, November 13, 2009

I'm Grateful For: Naps!

Bekka and I went to Homeschool Central at the Boys & Girls Club this morning for our occasional swap. By the time we dropped off the extra stuff to Vina Moses, got home and got lunch I had a terrible headache.

I love that I have the freedom to take a long, healing nap in the middle of the afternoon!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

I'm Grateful For: Update Posts

It is already Thursday - well six minutes until Friday and I haven't posted since Monday.

So here's a list of things I'm thankful for this week:
My ability to figure things out
My rolled hem presser foot
Incredible musicians - have you seen Once?
Fabric Depot in Portland (wish it were much closer, but still...)
The Corvallis advanced dancers who routinely go up to Portland: Colleen, Tim, Sierra, and Maddie - you guys make the drive so entertaining! "It's 43 degrees and we're headed North." "Ya' big dummy." "Northwest!" "North!" All together now...

Monday, November 09, 2009

I'm Grateful For: Cats Who Love Too Much

We are down to two indoor cats (and one outdoor cat - no cats cross the threshold!), and they are so far from aloof it is often annoying, but I love it as well.

Lyra is just so entirely in love with me that she can't bear to be away from me. And if she has been, and we are reunited, she kneads, and purrs and rubs her face on mine. When I come home, she is at the door to greet me - begging to be lifted to my shoulder (so she can rub on my face). She loves the rest of the family, too, but I seem to be the recipient of most of her affections.

She wasn't always like this, but the last several months, she has been getting steadily more dependent on me emotionally. I'm starting to wonder where it will end! As I write this, she is laying on me - staking her claim to her spot for the night.

Tamwyn, our other indoor cat, is crying at me from the floor because she beat him to the coveted spot. Now, if he is up and she comes along she'll jump on up and reestablish her claim. He's not entirely keen on her, so he'll jump off quite quickly and concede the spot. But if she beat him to it, he'll give up and go away, waiting for another (rare and getting rarer) time when she isn't on me.

Most cats really aren't lap cats - and I feel so fortunate to have two who practically fight over the honor!

Sunday, November 08, 2009

I'm Grateful For: Dedicated Dance Teachers

With less than two weeks until Oireachtas (the Regional Championships), I think Jim and Lauren are now spending more time with our kids than with their own! They give the dancers everything they've got! They are generous, fun loving, kind, hard, and oh-so-dedicated to the entire An Daire family.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

I'm Grateful For: Fabulous Friends & Birthdays

Today is my fabulous friend, Dominique's birthday. I feel so fortunate to be able to help her celebrate. She is one of the most beautiful people I know, shining brightly and peacefully from the inside.

I made a cake for her last night, got a bouquet of flowers, a bottle of wine and some other treats on the way over and we enjoyed fresh homemade hummus, pita bread, 3P soup (my personal favorite), rosemary bread, a wonderful salad, and conversation late into the night.

Friday, November 06, 2009

I'm Grateful For: Fun Shoes

Mostly because as soon as I got these shoes I wanted to post a photo of them. They make me smile to look at them. The girls don't like 'em, but my friends and I do - must be a generational thing.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

I'm Grateful For: Slow Start Mornings and Interesting People

This morning I had "laptop in bed" and didn't get up until well after 10:30. I just love it when I have a little extra time to poke around and explore what's out there.

While checking my email I found a great blog that I am thankful for by a couple in Dallas, OR who are trying to reduce the amount of landfill-bound garbage they produce in one year to less than a shoebox with a few, well thought out exceptions.

This afternoon I drive Bekka and a few other dancers up to Portland to prepare for Oireachtas (the Irish Dance Regional Championships). The forecast says rain, so I'll also be grateful that Steve and Steffi are off in TX with the Prius, causing me to have to take the Sequoia up.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

November - a Month of Gratitude

Today on my monthly GUTS call, Reggie asked us what we are going to focus on this month with regard to gratitude.

I said that I will notice. I will notice the small and the large things around me, for simply to notice (without judgment) is to be grateful.

I am already grateful for a couple of reminders from several fellow GUTS girls: viewing everything, even those things we don't like, with an attitude of gratitude; focusing on letting go of expectations; and daily journaling.

This reminded me of a daily blogging exercise, which I haven't done in such a long time. In fact, as I logged in, I noticed that I hadn't blogged at all since August! BTW, the Julie & Julia movie and post-movie discussion at Big River was so GREAT! So, for the rest of the month of November, I will try to post a gratitude or two each and every day.

I will start by backdating what I've been grateful for the first three days of the month...

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

I'm Grateful for: Clients who turn into friends

Today I ran into my best client and her daughter at Borders. They were on their way to a quick dinner and a Tech Smartz meeting and allowed me to invite myself along. I really enjoyed talking with them both at dinner and freezing and recapping the meeting in the parking lot after.

I am also grateful for my very understanding friends on the Plan HC committee. When I called just as the meeting was to start to tell them that I had forgotten (after completely forgetting a GS leader meeting the night before - Yikes!), they were just so great about it.

And I'm grateful for the technology available to chat with an absent member of the committee while the rest of us met live.

Monday, November 02, 2009

I'm Grateful for: Time to Breathe

I am SO GRATEFUL for time to clean and cook and just BE today. I've been up way too late the previous week getting things done that it is just so nice to have a little breathing room.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

I'm Grateful For: Time Change and a Successful Feis

Today, we set our clocks back one hour. I am always SO grateful for this each year. I love how much easier it is to get up in the morning right after this annual change. This morning especially since it is the second morning of Feile Samhain, the Feis (Irish Dance competition) that our school, An Daire hosts. Getting up at 6:30 just wasn't quite as hard today as it would have been yesterday because of the extra hour of sleep.

The Feis went SO smoothly this year, and I am ever so grateful to all the hard working An Daire volunteers who helped make it so. Thank you everyone!

Friday, August 07, 2009

I'm Intrigued

Just before the midnight showing of the latest Harry Potter movie, a preview came on for a movie I just knew I would have to see, "Julie & Julia". It just looked like good entertainment to me.

This morning in my inbox was "Julie, Julia and 4 Funny Books We Love" from the Oprah Bookclub, which I don't normally read, but I just HAD to click to find out more. Inside was an interview with Julie Powell, the Julie of "Julie & Julia". Come to find out, it is a fascinating (at least for a blogger) true story, based on Julie's blog.

When I started reading the interview I had the idea of a mom's night out to go see the movie, then a one-book book group to read the book, in that order 'cause I've never done that before. I immediately thought of my friend, Liddy, because she is a writer and I thought she would think it great fun.

With that percolating all day, and talking with Liddy, who did indeed think it would be great fun, I just had to see if the blog is still up. What do you know? I found it with ease and just started reading it. Do you want to read it with me? Let's start with the first page.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Dance for Life Feis Success

One year ago we took Bekka to the Dance for Life Feis in Seattle. She placed first in all of her dances and moved them from Adv. Beg. to Novice. She decided that Dance for Life was her favorite Feis.

This year Dance for Life ended up being on the same weekend as da Vinci Days (the premiere festival here in Corvallis). But, Dance for Life being Bekka's lucky Feis, it became the favored activity. Steffi decided to compete this year as well, and we also brought our friend, Norah for good measure.

Well, Norah has been battling her Hornpipe - it was the only dance she still had in Beginner 1 and she placed, moving it up to Adv. Beginner. Steffi hates the Beginner 1 slip jig and placed, moving it up, which means she never has to do that one again.

Bekka had three dances remaining in Novice with all the rest in Prizewinner, and yes, she took first in all three of those dances!

She still loves Dance for Life - it is still her Lucky Feis. Congrats, girls!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Music by Steffi

Steffi just finished the Coming of Age program at the UU and loved it! During her wilderness retreat she wrote the following song. Hope you enjoy it...

Friday, May 08, 2009


From the March-April issue of Utne, in the article "The Lonely American" by Jacqueline Olds and Richard Schwartz:
A good friend described the impact of busyness on our neighborhoods brilliantly: "Being neighborly used to mean visiting people. Now being nice to your neighbors means not bothering them." People's lives are shaped by how busy they are. Lives also are shaped by the respect and deference that is given to busyness - especially when it is valued above connection and community. If people are considerate, they assume that their neighbors are very busy and so try not to intrude on them. Dropping by is no longer neighborly. It is simply rude.

We treat socializing as if it's a frivolous diversion from the tasks at hand rather than an activity that is essential to our well-being as individuals and as a community. Soon our not bothering to call people (or even e-mail them) gets read by others as a sign that we are too caught up in the sweep of our own lives to have time for them. Our friends are not surprised. Our relatives may be indignant, but even they know how hard it is. An unspoken understanding develops. It's too bad that we've lost touch, but that's the way it is.

I read this just after writing my last blog post on the busy cycle I was finding myself in, and I found it so ironic. I value connection, and I try to align what I'm doing with what I value. But there are so many options out there and so many of them sound so good! This seems to be especially true in the month of May here in the Willamette Valley - I could probably go to at least three things each day that I would completely enjoy. It becomes hard to choose. And it becomes increasingly hard to focus on my priorities.

Yesterday my life coach told us of the Good Samaritan Experiment conducted in 1973. The researchers told half the group of seminary students that they would be speaking on the Good Samaritan, the other half were told that they would be preparing a talk on seminary jobs. When the time came to give the sermons, the researchers planted an actor in an alley that they each had to walk by to get to the lecture hall where they were to give their sermon. The actor was playing the part of the mugged man in need of help - groaning loudly enough for passers by to hear that he needed help. The researchers told some of the participants they needed to hurry and the others that they had plenty of time. The most important factor in whether they stopped to help was how much of a hurry they were in, even if they were on their way to give a talk on the Good Samaritan!

What I get from this is that I really need to be careful to not be in such a rush from being overly busy/over-scheduled, that I loose sight of my values. And really, it took me such a long time and so much hard work to figure out and to define what my values really are, that it is unfair to sabotage those efforts and let busyness get in between me and my values. Scheduling and letting go, evaluating and letting go even more. Breathing. Relaxing. Enjoying.

I want to, once more, be more aware of the joy in everything. It is my true compass. If I'm not finding joy, but duty or obligation, then the activity does not serve me. It is such a simple test, but oh so hard to remember to give consistently. Old habits sneak back in and I find myself, once again, needing to examine what I'm spending my time on and weeding out those items that creep in without joy.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Cycles of my year

Warning - I am definitely talking to myself in this post. Sometimes I just need to get these types of thoughts down, and this is now my chosen forum.

I am in a busy cycle again. Saying yes to things that I maybe don't need to say yes to, but also having things that I want to do stack up on top of each other (time wise). I'm at the point where I realize that I've said yes to too many things and start to back off.

It helps me to list out all the things I have going on, to take inventory, so I can realign my activities with my priorities. I do tend to over volunteer - this was how, for so many years as we were moving often, I would get to know people quick enough to have friends before moving yet again. Now that we are settled, I have a bit of a hard time saying no to things I would have otherwise said yes to. I always have this thought in the back of my mind (that sometimes creeps to the front) that tells me I should be doing whatever it is - that I should be giving my time. It is a twinge, and I have to silence it by reminding myself that I do give of my time and more so than so many others.

It seems like my friends are also in a busy phase, yet I want so much to stop and connect - share a meal, watch a movie, hang out and talk. I'm feeling disconnected yet again, but hesitant to ask for their time and also unwilling to figure out the one hour next week we could possibly all have free. I guess I'm feeling a little tired to. Eating as much sugar as I have been isn't helping!

This is the time of year where I realize that I do NEED to come together with other unschoolers to remember who I truly want to be without the outside (and internal) pressures to DO. It has been a very long time since L&L in September and I'm needing that boost that can only be gotten at an unschooling conference. I wish I were allowed to attend the LIFE is Good Unschooling conference at the end of May, it saddens me that my family is specifically excluded yet again. I wish I were able to attend the Good Vibrations conference, but just don't see how I can make that work. I keep thinking I would like to just organize my own unschooling conference, but I just don't see how I would with all the other things I do! I've got the ideas - just need people to carry them out - and the idea of site selection - Ack!

I know the next steps - and I know they will come soon enough. May is always crazy busy - the end of the school year always is (even though we live as if school doesn't exist, we are still very much affected by its schedule).

My list of current involvement - for purposes of taking inventory for myself:
  • TLC co-owner/moderator
  • OSUU owner/moderator/facilitator
  • Girl Scout Leader (helping girls start Brownie troop, plan Savannah trip, etc - currently meeting about 8 hours/week)
  • Homeschool Central organizer (and, yes, list owner/co-moderator - there's no such thing as running too many yahoo groups, is there?) (Currently looking into new web presence - wikispot maybe - which will involve lots of learning)
  • An Daire Academy webmaster (ah, and list co-moderator, hmm)
  • GUTSgirls.ning site developer
  • Creative Memories consultant (Currently working on Tessa's huge heritage project and just offered to help Sally learn the software - need to follow up on UU auction)
  • Team Product Finding Service
  • Coming of Age Parenting Workshops

Recently finished:
  • SU Cookie Manager for the year (well, almost finished)
  • Event Photographer for Fuzzy Buddy Tea Party - totally fun!
  • Council Delegate

Currently considering:
  • Council Product Sales Team

Recently said no to:
  • Women's Retreat Committee
  • Leading Just Try It classes at Homeschool Central

Wishing I were doing a better job at:
  • Welcoming new homeschoolers
  • OSUU Meetings
  • Involving the girls in trip planning
  • Decreasing inventory
  • Meal planning/execution
  • Home maintenance projects

Monday, March 30, 2009

Trust Children

"Trust Children. Nothing could be more simple, or more difficult. Difficult because to trust children we must first learn to trust ourselves, and most of us were taught as children that we could not be trusted." --John Holt

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Earth Hour

Okay - what am I missing here? I find it ironic that the folks over at want us to upload pictures/video or blog during earth hour (which is from 8:30 to 9:30 tonight). Don't the computer, modem, router, etc. use far more electricity than the lights?

Don't get me wrong, I really do believe we need to take action and do what we can to reverse the effects of global warming, I'm just not sure we can do that by using our computers.

My compromise? Blog first, turn EVERYTHING off during.

Who Am I?

Yesterday I started a new social networking site for my life coach so that the GUTS Girls can connect and support each other on a more consistent basis. I just love playing on my computer - I do think it is my favorite possession!

So, in setting up my profile, I needed to answer the question, "Tell us a little about yourself" because I want everyone else on the site to answer that question.

Wow - why is this simple question always so hard to answer? I have my profile blurb that you can see on the right, but is that WHO I AM? Then I have all my roles - so many roles it makes my head spin thinking about them all - unschooling mom, unschooling advocate, homeschooling organizer, master recycler, wife, foster parent for kittens, GS leader and county cookie manager, gay rights advocate, humanist & UU, environmentalist (to some degree anyway), natural birth/nursing advocate, attachment parenting advocate and on and on it goes. You know, I'm also a daughter and a sister and a cousin and a neighbor and a former classmate, and... They are labels and there seems to be this big anti-label thing going on, at least in the unschooling and life coaching communities (more labels, no?).

Am I my roles? My roles really are how others see me, or how I relate with others. But who am I really?

I strive to be authentic. I try to be real with people. I am also working on being more compassionate - I'm usually compassionate, but I do find holes where I could be far more compassionate. I'm working on losing a lot of the judgements that I've always formed - judging isn't me any more, except when it is.

How do I answer this question in a meaningful way? What do people want to know about when they read the answers to that question?

Do I share my values? My values really are who I am at my core, right? And they probably are the most telling. I could also share my preferences. Or I could just say, "I am Joni", but that just doesn't carry the same weight for me as it does for someone like Diana!

So: I am Joyful Wise One. I am an evolving humanist who values joy, connection, growth, respect, comfort, honesty, and authenticity. Service is my primary love language. Among many other things, I am an unschooling mom of two girls, a parenting coach, and a volunteer. I am usually concerned about doing the right thing and am trying hard to be more compassionate in my life.

What do you think? For those of you who know me, does that give an accurate picture of who I am?

Monday, March 23, 2009

An Important Book

I brought the following Goodreads review here because I want people to know about this book:

As Nature Made Him: The Boy Who Was Raised as a Girl As Nature Made Him: The Boy Who Was Raised as a Girl by John Colapinto

My review

rating: 4 of 5 stars
I didn't find this book to be riveting in the writing style - it can be rather dry and there are parts that drag on a bit. But it is a fascinating true story about identical twin boys who, because of a circumcision gone horribly wrong, are raised as brother and sister.

The ego of Dr. John Money is infuriating and it is frustrating just how he managed to get all these cases of sex reassignment. I find it baffling that all these parents would let their children have these yearly therapy sessions with this nut without oversight, especially when the children were all vocal about not wanting to go and would get more nervous about meeting with the man as they grew older. People - listen to your children!!! They are the experts of themselves!

There are just two other parts that I have to write about. The first is that there seems to be confusion on the part of the author in the difference between gender identity (the gender you perceive yourself to be) and sexual orientation (the gender you are sexually attracted to). The author doesn't seem to understand that these two things are not necessarily related.

The other thing I want to comment on is the underlying belief that all these children have to suffer the taunting of their school peers. Children do NOT have to suffer this kind of cruelty! Do whatever you have to do to keep your children home if society cannot accept them for who they are. Let them develop their sense of self without cruel children telling them they are a freak.

I came away from this book with a strong belief that intersexed children should remain as they were born until they decide that they want to do something about it. But they need the full support of their parents to be able to develop into who they are meant to be without the taunting and teasing of people who think everyone must be the same (well, they can be a boy or a girl, but beyond that the girls all must be the same and the boys must all be the same).

I also came away with a slight fear of "experts". There is something to be said for people who have humility and a more fluid viewpoint. Who can consider actual circumstances rather than always have the "right" answer before even being presented with the case.

While this isn't a parenting book, I chose to place in on my parenting shelf because I feel that it is an important book for parents.

View all my reviews.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

No Wonder

As I was uploading my images onto my computer the other day I found a whole slew of pictures that Bekka and her friends took on Feb. 2 - Groundhog's Day. The shadows are long and sharp.

No wonder our winter has been dragging on so severely!

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Two Lovely Inauguration Recaps

I keep stumbling across such fabulous works of art. I don't know why I haven't come across any of these artists before the inauguration, but I'm so glad to have found them now.

The first is a wonderful writer who shares her partner's photographs with a very compelling account of the day.

The second is a talented painter/writer who has a fun take on this historic event.

I hope you enjoy them...

Friday, January 30, 2009

Spreading the Love

I saw this over at Ginger's blog (and also at Jean's blog, and followed it back to Tabitha's blog, which is far as I traced it - so I don't know whose original idea this is, but it's a good one!). It sounds like a lot of fun and a great way to connect with others.

Here's the deal:

The first five people to respond to this post will get something made by me. I will try to make these be about or tailored to those five lucky people. This offer does have some restrictions and limitations:
- I make no guarantees that you will like what I make!
- What I create will be just for you.
- It’ll be done this year
- You have no clue what it’s going to be.

The catch? Oh, the catch is that you have to put this in your blog/journal as well. Please link to your blog so that I can visit and read in case we are new friends.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Philadelphia Bound!

We found out today and we are so excited!

The background:
Over the holidays a lot of the teams dancers decided, for various reasons, that they would not be continuing on a team, which means that the coach has had to scramble to figure out what teams he can put together for worlds. At the beginning of January we got a roster of the reorganized dance teams and Bekka was no longer on the Figure Choreography but now on a new Ceili. Then the new Ceili didn't go, but she's still been going to each and every practice, hoping that she would make it back onto a team so she could go to the world championships in Philadelphia.

At each practice she's filled in for someone who couldn't make it that day for whatever reason. And in the mean time we've been kind of bugging Jim (her instructor/coach) for a final decision so we could make travel arrangements if she is going.

Today after practice Jim called Bekka and me into the hall and told her, "I would like for you to go to the world championships in Philadelphia on both the Figure and the Sr. Ladies Ceili." WOW! We are very surprised. We had been hoping that she would make it back onto the Figure, but had no idea he was considering her for the Ceili. Our Sr. Ladies Ceili is VERY good. This is the team that placed 6th at worlds last year!!

I'm very proud of her - she has been working very hard for this.

Right Here Right Now

This is really funny in that ironic way. On our drive up to Portland a song came on that I've heard probably a hundred times (it's on one of the four CDs that we've had in the car for the last year), but I've never really listened to it before. I'm a lyrics person usually, and these lyrics, "Right here, right now there is no other place I want to be. Right here, right now watching the world wake up from history" caught my consciousness and made me think of the inauguration and all the positive changes that are happening right now.

So I decided that I wanted to share the song ("Right Here, Right Now" by Jesus Jones) with you and thought YouTube would be the most reliable way to do that and what I found was the song set to Obama's campaign. Unfortunately, the video has been removed due to copyright infringement. So, click on this link to listen to or read the lyrics to this song.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Proud to be an American, finally

I've never wanted to fly the flag - ever. There've been many times I've felt like I "should", but I've never wanted to, until yesterday during the inauguration. Of course, I didn't actually have a flag, or a place to hang one, but I finally feel proud to be an American.

I'm just so inspired. Aren't you?

I believe that President Obama has already done more for our country than the last four presidents combined - before he even got to the White House! Even if his agenda gets completely blocked in Washington (which, of course, I hope doesn't happen), he has inspired so many Americans to take action, get involved, and help each other. I really don't think there's anything stopping us now.

Have you seen This is a website set up as a clearing house for service projects anywhere in the US. It was set up for the MLK Day of Service, and it continues to answer President Obama's call to ongoing service to our communities. You can go to the website if you are hosting an event that needs volunteers or go to find something cool to do with your time to help your community. It is a great way to match up projects with the people needed to complete them. This is what I think patriotism is really all about - helping each other and improving our country (not that other patriotism of blowing people up).

It truly feels like a brand new era to me, and I'm so glad to be sharing this journey with my family and friends.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Great Idea - A Year of Living Charitably

Today I found this blog. I got the link from the family off of the TRAVULL Yahoo Group. From the group description, "This is a place for unschoolers to meet virtually and in real life, and share resources and experiences, and also find friends to travel with." The website also provides a data base for unschoolers willing to host other unschooling families.

Anyway, I click over to the blog and she is chronicling their charitable activities throughout the year, what they are doing, what difference it makes and whether it was worth it. This is definitely a blog I want to keep up with this year, especially since so many are feeling so hard hit with job losses, investment losses and the swirling economic uncertainty.