Saturday, September 29, 2012

Sunday Funnies

First, a riddle!

What word is spelled incorrectly in the Dictionary?


Now, a Sunday funny......

~Mari B.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Why Home Schooling is an Appropriate Answer

The headlines come almost daily now.  Incidents of bullying, some of which result in death, are certainly on the rise.  Just this week there is the news story of the Junior High student in Oklahoma who committed suicide that is being linked to bullying.  There is even a story this week of a young Sikh woman at college being bullied, if you will, via a cell phone captured picture posted on the Universities' forum.  

 Google ‘bullying’ and you could read for days the various stories, mostly lesser reported incidents.  Are today’s children meaner than years gone by?  Some have floated the theory that today’s children are ‘softer’, less able to handle the ‘routine’ bullying that has occurred since the conception of brick and mortar schools.  I thank the heavens that when I was growing up there was no internet – no facebook, Youtube, and the ilk for which my bullies could further wreck their havoc on my life.  We didn’t have cell phones, capable of taking pictures, and so there was no such thing as ‘sexting’ either. 

The young college woman responded beautiful to her ‘bullies’ and her story is one of inspiration.  The 8th grader in Oklahoma is dead at his own hand.  What is the difference?  There is the fact that the young college woman has her faith, is in fact deeply devoted.  I would think the fact that she was being mocked (bullied) as a result of that faith was in part why she was able to stand up so elegantly to her mockers.  But there is another important difference between the two.  The college woman is an adult.  She has had time to develop her sense of self, her faith, and her place in the world.  The 13 year old boy from Oklahoma had not.

Children are meant to grow *into* adulthood.  They are *not* mini-adults.  I’m often shocked, appalled, and saddened by the attitude so many adults have concerning children – ones with children and ones without.  A seven year old, or even a fourteen year old, is not capable of ‘handling’ the stresses of adulthood.  To believe they can is not merely absurd, but criminal – in my mind.  Many, many children SURVIVE the horrors of school.  In order to feel okay with what they endured they serve up platitudes, ones they may even have convinced themselves are truth, about why it’s ‘ok’ that they went through what they went through.  “It made me grow up, it toughened me up, it taught me valuable life lessons.”  And so on.  However, if shown another way, a better way, not one of those adults (if honest) wouldn’t have said, ‘yes, I choose this other option.”  I know I would have. 

There is no reason a child of any age should *have* to endure what some – no, what many – endure in the public school setting.  And do you know why?  We don’t except adults to endure it in the real world!  You take a job at a company and you are harassed because you are a woman, you are a person of color, you are gay, or your co-workers think you are weird, and there are laws in place to protect you, to help you, to stop the harassment!  Why – because as a society we have determined it is WRONG for those actions to be perpetuated onto another member of society.  A co-worker writes ‘slut’ across your chair everyday at work and what happens?  There is an investigation and the guilty party is punished – fired from her/his job, sued by you, and so on.  A co-worker gets upset with you, for whatever reason, and punches you in the face or jumps you from behind the bathroom door at work.  What happens?  He’s arrested for assault and battery.  He loses his job.  You do not have to continue to go to work and live in terror that you are going to get punched in this face by a bully.

Why do we offer less to our children?

Dealing with ‘difficult’ people is something that everyone has to do in life.  But, here’s the paradox.  Everyone is difficult.  Yes, everyone!  The only thing that makes someone not difficult for you is that you find common ground with that person.  You have similar ways of thinking, or conducting yourself.  You ‘click’ with people.  Some are able to find common ground more easily, with more people, than others.  The majority of the people, the vast majority, that are in the workplace today were public schooled.  If public school were the Holy Grail of socialization, we would have a better society today, instead of what we do have.  If surviving those ‘tough life lessons’ during elementary, middle, and high school years is a Beta test for the abilities of adults to thrive in society as an adult, would we grade society as having passed or failed?  Saying that home schooling harms children is as ignorant as saying that public school ensures success for children.  Saying that children need to survive the brutality of bullies inside the walls of public school is criminal.  At the very least, if I’m at work and I’m harassed and no one will do anything about it, I can quit and walk away.  We don’t even allow children THAT right inside the prison of public school.

Most Americans believe in freedom; the freedom to choose one’s path in life.  Some want to take away the freedoms of those who are of a different religious position, political position, or even from those whose skin color or sexual orientation is ‘different’.  Those Americans who believe those freedoms should belong to all, should be in total support of anti-bullying laws, the freedom to home school, and even the movement to tear down and rebuild the public educational system so that our children – the future of our society – are FREE to be who they are, in a setting that not only encourages, but protects, their rights to explore, to think, to learn, to grow without fear.  With that pipe dream firmly in place, I say that home schooling is a completely appropriate answer to the question, “How does one avoid bullying at school?”

~Mari B.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Thursday's Inappropriate Thought of the Day

(Home School) 
Thought of the Day

If you have not yet been able to find a way to teach your child some modicum of self-control, please do not send him out in the world to participate in group activities where he is nothing but an annoyance and a disruption to others, who do have self-control.  We didn’t bring him into this world and we should not have to suffer through his constant misbehavior; besides only YOU have the legal right to enforce punishment for his misbehavior.  That is, unless you live in Delaware (see yesterday's post).

In case you are at a loss as to how to teach your children good behavior, here's something that might help:

~Mari B.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

I'm Really Inappropriate in Delaware!

So, Delaware has made it illegal for parents to spank their children – technically the law permits a parent to use force to punish a child for misconduct, but it prohibits any act that is likely to cause or does cause physical injury. By defining “physical injury” to include the infliction of pain on a child, spanking is now illegal in Delaware. 

 Now, I *know* this is a hot topic issue.  Folks from both sides of the Spank/Don’t Spank camp are vehement in their arguments.  I’m going to go ahead and put it out there.  I am in the ‘spank’ camp.  Now before you rush to the comment section to curse me out or try to explain to me that my position is either backwards, abusive, or ignorant let me be clear.  I *do not* condone beatings.  There is a difference.  A couple of swift licks on the bottom, to garner the child’s attention and remind them that you are the authority figure, is acceptable to me and mine.  I think of spanking as the ‘last resort attention getter.’  You are acting a fool?  Oh, you are out of control?  Well, here is a quick, swift reminder to pay attention to me and what I’m saying to you. 

The spanking isn’t the punishment; it’s the horn blow announcing the punishment, in my world.  And to further clarify, I don’t believe spanking is the only means to get a child’s attention, nor do I think ALL children respond well to spanking or that it is the answer for every family.  (But I’ve certainly known a number of children who could have benefited from a whack or two on their butts – just my opinion, of course).  Also, I do not believe that spanking is as useful a tool once the child reaches a certain age.  Punky, bless her heart, was spanked a handful or so of times when she was little.  (The ‘Fearsome Fours’ were hard on both her and me).  She became defiant.  Defiance is a BIG NO-NO in our house, at the age especially.  Spankings were used to remind her who was in charge so she could then pay attention to what we were *saying* to her.  By the time she was about 6 or so, she wasn’t spanked again.  Now, I’m not saying I would never spank her again, but I am saying that the appropriate use of spanking when she was little, and it was most effective, made the need to spank as she gets older all but obsolete.


My mother, the mother of all mothers (who was raised by the MOTHER of them all) gave me very few words of advice when Punky was born.  In fact there were only two sentiments she strongly expressed to me.  First, no one thinks your kid is as great or interesting as you do, so don’t run on and on to everyone about every little thing she does (very valid point).  Second, young children do not know the difference between fear and respect.  They are incapable of that higher thought processing, so if you want them to respect you as they get older, they better have a healthy fear of you when they are little.  *GASP*  I know.  Horrible, just horrible.  But oh, so true!  Again, let me be clear.  She wasn’t talking about a child cringing when she spills a glass of milk for fear of getting her ass beat.  She was talking about a healthy fear of mom when mom spoke the words “no”, “stop”, “come here”, etc.  She was talking about your child knowing that you WILL follow through with consequences.  Too many parents I see don’t do that.  Now, of course, spanking is not required to make that happen.  However, if a few swift smacks to the child’s bottom announce the beginning of consequences, that is a parent’s prerogative.

Lest you think I don’t understand that parents abuse their children, let me tell you that I worked for a number of years in the Juvenile Justice system.  In fact, my last job in Criminal Justice was as an Aftercare Counselor.  I helped youth, releasing from their juvenile detention centers (jail), transition back into their homes, schools, communities, life.  I *know* that children are abused and I’ve seen it first hand and helped those youth deal with the effects of being abused.  Okay?  Okay.  None of that negates a parent’s right to spank.  Furthermore, let’s remember something even more important.  Once the government steps in and takes a ‘right’ away from its people, we’ve entered the territory of ‘slippery slope’.  I detest the slippery slope. 

Today it’s illegal to spank (actually the law there says it is illegal to cause pain) your child and tomorrow it could be illegal to do something that *you* do in your pursuit of raising your family.  This is something that parents everywhere should be outraged over and in the state of Delaware they should be fighting to have the law overturned.  Emotional pain doesn’t leave visible marks and in my line of work I saw far more children scarred by that pain rather than the physical kind.  Life can be painful.  If we are heading to a society where we limit a parents’ ability to teach their children life lessons, even those that cause a little pain, we are doomed.  We may as well put our head between our legs and kiss our asses good-bye. 
Folks may think this is a good thing, but it’s not.  Not only are we removing the rights of parents (who haven’t crossed the line into abuse) to raise their children as they see fit but we are adding another notch to the belt of ‘what is wrong with the young people of today’.  Spoiled rotten and not legally allowed to be spanked?  I shudder.  I truly do.  Equally important though is for us to ask the question: What rights will be removed next?  Will we lose our right to raise them in the religion, or lack of religion, of our choice?  What about our right to home school?  Slippery slope folks, slippery slope! 

~Mari B.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Dont Be an Askhole!

If you ASK me for my opinion and then get pissy with me when I give it that makes you an ASKhole!

~Mari B.

Socializaton? Ridiculous!

I've been home schooling long enough to know that ‘socialization’ is a prime focus of individuals who are either questioning the 'rightness' of home schooling or looking for a way to poke at homeschoolers.  How will your children be socialized?  I didn't understand the concern when I first looked into home schooling and the truth is, over three years later, I understand it even less.  I'm to the point now where it is such a ridiculous question that I ignore it all together.  I don't think that the folks (friend or foe) who ask it really have stopped and thought about what they are asking.  I've also been fortunate to be surrounded by supportive friends and family and even for the one or two strays who are 'concerned' over our choice to home school, "How will she be socialized?” is not one of the concerns that have been voiced.  My point being; I had yet to be asked the question; even though I know the 'rumors' of unsocialized homeschoolers exist.  So, imagine my surprise when the other day I am confronted head on with the question.  I ran into an acquaintance that I had not seen in many years.  'What have you been up to?" leads to the fact that we are now home schooling.  And then, bam!  I'm asked, "What about Punky's socialization?”  Socialization?  Seriously?

The reason I have such distaste for this issue is two-fold.  I suspect when one asks the question, “What about socialization?” what they really means is ‘What about a student’s social life?”  Socialization and social are two different issues.  As a homeschoolers, at least most of the ones I know (and I know a lot) would agree, we have a hard time balancing our children’s academic schedule with their social schedule.  Our children are involved in so much, with other children, that we usually have to say “no” to many wonderful social opportunities in which our children could be participating.  And on top of that, our children's ''social' is also educational and, more often than not, of their own choosing.  Our children interact daily with a wide range of folks - not just little people of their own age.  These are valid points; however there is an even better point to be made, in my opinion; the one that actually addresses ‘socialization’. 

Socialization, by definition, is a continuing process whereby an individual acquires a personal identity and learns the norms, values, behavior, and social  skills appropriate to his or her social  position. 

 When I began to look into home schooling, I found many research articles that indicate young children do best by developing a strong foundation of right and wrong and who they are through the family.  Children for whom family is their primary educator and influence for the first twelve years have a more firmly established understanding of their place in the world and what is and is not morally acceptable.  Interesting.  If a child were to spend the majority of his or her day interacting mostly with other children their age, how then can they learn what they need when their peers are also in their formative years and as yet not secure in their foundation?  When my daughter was two, I did not think she would learn manners and respect from other two year olds; I knew she would learn it at home from her father and me.  Why then would I think she would learn about even bigger moral and social issues from her peers in elementary school?  

How many complaints have been heard from parents about the horrible children their children have been exposed to in brick and mortar schools?    Now, how many homeschoolers have we heard about in the news that brought a gun to their school room and took out the teacher and fellow students?  How many homeschoolers have you read about in the newspapers that were caught dealing drugs on their school grounds?  These are examples of real ‘socialization’ issues that occur in the public school system that do not seem to come up in home school.  These examples may seem excessive, but they demonstrate my point, because really, I could go on and on.  Perhaps what sums it up best is what I've heard public school teachers say regarding many of their students, "These kids are animals".  Yep, they are social – just not socialized.
 I am not attempting to prove, or even validate, the idea that home schooling is better than public schooling.  The real truth of the matter is that there are issues with traditionally schooling your children and there are issues with home schooling your children.   But an equally valid truth is this:  one could encounter unsocialized children in the home school community; but no more so, and usually less so, than can be encountered in the public school systems. There is no Utopia.  So please, unless we are going to put socialization on the list of problems in the public school system, remove it from the list of problems with home schooling because it is ridiculous.

~Mari B. 

P.S.  Punky was very excited to receive the homeschooling shirt SHE has been dying to have:


Monday, September 24, 2012

I Want to be a Time Lord

As I believe I have mentioned, Punky is a huge ‘Doctor Who’ fan.  Interestingly enough, this show offers up a variety of openings for interesting, even philosophical discussions.  I’ve always enjoyed the idea of time travel.  It may seem silly, I know.  It’s not like I am saying I believe in time travel (though I’m not saying I don’t), I just like the idea of it ~  all the possibilities that I can conjure up if time travel were possible.  That girl back in 8th grade who bullied me everyday after school when I got off the bus?  Yeah, I’d so handle her a different way now, if time travel were possible!!

But there is one idea that strikes me as the most fascinating about time travelers.  In my house we watch a lot of the History Channel, TLC, etc.  We also view movies that are ‘based’ on true events or stories.  (As we are a home school family, we try to fill our television viewing with a lot of ‘educational’ material and what better way to do that than to watch ‘Gone with the Wind’, for example.  This is a totally historical account of life in the South during the Civil War, right?)  I digress. 

In watching various programming containing historical accounts I am always struck by those people who were so forward thinking.  What I mean is that often there is one person whose ideas seem ‘modern’ to me.  It wouldn’t take a long period of thought to pull a few names up.  Thomas Jefferson immediately springs to mind.  “All men are created equal” ~ forward thinking.  (We won’t get into how he still kept slaves, least I digress, again).  Susan B. Anthony believed and fought for equality of women, particularly in receiving the right to vote ~ forward thinking.  These are obvious examples, but there are many, many more in historical accounts that are lesser taught in our schools yet still very forward thinking.  Forward thinking enough that when I learn of that person’s views, opinions, thoughts, and the influence they used to bring about change, I can’t help but think, “ yes!  That’s how it is today and rightly so!  Thank goodness there were people then to take the reigns and move us into enlightenment!”  It almost seems impossible, that during a certain period of time where the standard, accepted thought was what it was, that there would be anyone who would be so forward thinking.  And that, brings me to the next thought I have.  Time Travel.  Could is be possible, no matter how improbable, that that person came from the future back to that time to do exactly what they did, ‘move things forward’?

Silly, I know, but it makes me wonder.  It also makes me curious, when we hear today of someone who is speaking up for or against something, with their “new, confounded way of thinking” if they aren’t’ “here” from “there” trying to move things forward.  Punky, who vacillates between wanting to be an actress or a Time Lord, completely supports my fantastical thinking.  She also throws out the idea that if it is not time travel involved, perhaps it is reincarnation.  Folks who have been around the block, so to speak, enough times that they have higher evolved thought.  Hmmm……

~Mari B.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Sunday Funny

We have an odd sense of humor at our house, I'm sure others would think anyway.  My husband does this little thing we call 'The Sheldon'.  (Yes, we are HUGE Big Bang Theory fans).  While driving home from Punky's theatre performance last night, Punky begs her daddy, "Do the Sheldon!  Do the Sheldon!".  

My husband begins to tilt his head from side to side and stare off into space.  After a few moments, he begins to giggle (yes, giggle) hysterically in a very high pitched manner and then he says, "Oh, I wish you all could be inside my head, it's delightful and how I laugh."

We all die laughing.

Maybe you have to be there.

~Mari B.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

American's Education System is Stunting Innovation

According to Tony Wagner – Harvard Education Innovation Research there are five ways in which America’s education system is stunting innovation:

1. Individual achievement is the focus: Students spend a bulk of their time focusing on improving their GPAs — school is a competition among peers. “But innovation is a team sport,” says Wagner. “Yes, it requires some solitude and reflection, but fundamentally problems are too complex to innovate or solve by oneself.”
Move up Move down

2. Specialization is celebrated and rewarded: High school curriculum is structured using Carnegie units, a system that is 125 years old, says Wagner. He says the director of talent at Google once told him, “If there’s one thing that educators need to understand, it’s that you can neither understand nor solve problems within the context and bright lines of subject content.” Wagner declares, “Learning to be an innovator is about learning to cross disciplinary boundaries and exploring problems and their solutions from multiple perspectives.”
3. Risk aversion is the norm: “We penalize mistakes,” says Wagner. “The whole challenge in schooling is to figure out what the teacher wants. And the teachers have to figure out what the superintendent wants or the state wants. It’s a compliance-driven, risk-averse culture.” Innovation, on the other hand, is grounded in taking risks and learning via trial and error. Educators could take a note from design firm IDEO with its mantra of “Fail early, fail often,” says Wagner. And at Stanford’s Institute of Design, he says they are considering ideas like, “We’re thinking F is the new A.” Without failure, there is no innovation.
4. Learning is profoundly passive: For 12 to 16 years, we learn to consume information while in school, says Wagner. He suspects that our schooling culture has actually turned us into the “good little consumers” that we are. Innovative learning cultures teach about creating, not consuming, he says.
5. Extrinsic incentives drive learning: “Carrots and sticks, As and Fs,” Wagner remarks. Young innovators are intrinsically motivated, he says. They aren’t interested in grading scales and petty reward systems. Parents and teachers can encourage innovative thinking by nurturing the curiosity and inquisitiveness of young people, Wagner says. As he describes it, it’s a pattern of “play to passion to purpose.” Parents of innovators encouraged their children to play in more exploratory ways, he says. “Fewer toys, more toys without batteries, more unstructured time in their day.” Those children grow up to find passions, not just academic achievement, he says. “And that passion matures to a profound sense of purpose. Every young person I interviewed wants to make a difference in the world, put a ding in the universe.”

 Creating-Innovators: The Making of Young People Who Will Change by Tony Wagner 

“”We have to transition to an innovation-driven culture, an innovation-driven society,” says Wagner. “A consumer society is bankrupt — it’s not coming back. To do that, we’re going to have to work with young people — as parents, as teachers, as mentors, and as employers — in very different ways. They want to, you want to become innovators. And we as a country need the capacity to solve more different kinds of problems in more ways. It requires us to have a very different vision of education, of teaching and learning for the 21st century. It requires us to have a sense of urgency about the problem that needs to be solved.”
Wagner is not suggesting we change a few processes and update a few manuals. He says, “The system has become obsolete. It needs reinventing, not reforming.”

Friday, September 21, 2012

An Unforeseen Benefit

When my daughter, Punky, was in Pre-K, Kindergarten, and 1st grade, at both a private and then public school, her best friend was a little boy, Dylan.  She and Dylan were as close as two friends could be at that age.  They not only played together at school, but afterschool and on the weekends as well.  Their play was very imaginative.  They created entire make-believe worlds for themselves and acted out story lines in their worlds that kept them engrossed and entertained for hours.  They had their differences, of course.  Some of which were a product of different personalities and some of which were the product of the inherent difference between boys and girls.  They learned resolution strategies as a result of any conflict that arose from these differences.  My daughter thought nothing of being best friends with a boy and Dylan had no concerns that his best friend was a girl.  Each had same-sex friendships that they enjoyed immensely as well, but they treasured each other as only best friends can.  Even now, years later, though Dylan’s family moved out of the area, they remain friends.
During their 1st grade year at public school, it became apparent that the other children did not always view their friendship with the same perspective.  Little girls who ‘liked’ Dylan would be ugly toward Punky and other little boys would tease Dylan about his ‘girlfriend’.  One incident involved Punky getting punched in the face by a little girl for talking to Dylan because this little girl wanted him to be her boyfriend.  I was stunned; not because children can’t be thoughtless or cruel, but because this happened as a result of jealousy over a ‘boy’ at the age children are when in the 1st grade!  Dylan and Anna prevailed in their friendship and with parental guidance they remained comfortable and confident.  When Dylan moved the summer before 2nd grade Punky was heartbroken to have her best friend move so far away.

For a myriad of reasons, we pulled Punky from public school and began home schooling in October of her 2nd grade year.  Despite being new to home schooling, and having decided to home school after only a handful of weeks of research and preparation, I was very aware of the supposed socialization fears of home schooling a child.  We joined home school groups, including a Co-Op, so that she would not ‘suffer’ from lack of socialization.  Punky formed friendships from these various home school groups that included both girls and boys, some her own age and some a bit younger or a bit older.  Three years later and those friendships continue.

 Punky remains friends with a few girls from her public school days and one of these girls is her ‘best friend’.  She has the opportunity to ‘socialize’ with girls and boys, both home schooled and public schooled, on an almost daily basis.  An interesting and unforeseen benefit of home schooling has arisen that I believe is a very valid one.  As a result of spending a large majority of time with her home schooling friends she interacts with both girls and boys on the same level of friendship.  There is no real distinction made between the sexes.  The amount of ‘teasing’ she receives for having friends who are boys is almost non-existent.  These children are entirely used to and comfortable with engaging with a variety of aged children and both sexes.

As I’m sure is this case in home schooling communities everywhere, I personally *know* most of these children and their families, many of whom have become my personal friends as well.  I know the parenting styles of these families, their value systems, their expectations for their children and their children’s behavior.  If, or when, an issue or conflict arises, I do not have to enter into the situation ‘blind’ because I’ve never met the parents, nor am I clueless as to what to expect.  For me, that is a huge benefit of homeschooling, especially compared to the exact opposite scenario when dealing with issues or conflicts with Punky’s public school classmates in the past.

The unforeseen benefit of homeschooling is that my daughter does not view boys through a single, sexualized lens and she is not being viewed by them in that manner.  With all the talk about how home schooling children won’t be properly socialized (which anyone who home schools know isn’t a conversation even worth engaging in any longer because the ‘proof is in the pudding’) we need to make the connection between how our young people learn to socialize with the opposite sex in public school versus home school.  Our personal experience showed us that today’s children, young children, are more aware and interested in sexual matters long before they have the proper maturity to actually deal with such issues.  They do not seem to be able to relate to each other as ‘people only’ for a very long period of time before sexual influence enters the relationship. 

Friends who public school their children tell me of the issues their children are experiencing.  One friend relayed to me how her 4th grade son was told by his male peers that they needed to get him a girlfriend so he could start having sex too.  It’s not that these children are actually engaging in the activity, of course, but that this perspective of girls is already being discussed is not only disturbing, but I personally believe this can be very damaging to the children and it can lead to the sort of problems and issues we know tweens and teenagers experience today.

Home schooling, for the most part, has freed us from these conflicts and issues.  The one or two issues we have had arise as a result of the boy/girl dynamic were so minor in comparison and were dealt with easily, quickly, and positively by all the parents involved!  My daughter is learning how to be social with boys as people first, not some foreign entity to be either frightened of or sexual with.  I know that the day will come when she will develop feelings for a boy that stretch beyond mere friendship.  That is a normal part of growing up.  Those types of feelings are supposed to begin around puberty when ‘awareness’ starts to set in for both sexes.  It can be, of course, an awkward time.  It is not that I believe she won’t experience this milestone as all young people do, but I believe that these years she has now of being ‘free’ of such awareness and pressure will have given her a better foundation for interacting and connecting with boys as they become young men as she becomes a young woman.  For our family this is an unforeseen, but most welcomed benefit of home schooling!

~Mari B.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The Blind Can Help You See

Punky and I had the wonderful opportunity this week to take a tour with our homeschooling group of our state’s School for the Blind.  It was more than wonderful; it was a privilege.  The school has approximately 120 students ranging from age four to eighteen, 60% of whom are residential students, as they come from all over the state.  Some of the students are legally blind, others visually impaired, and others completely blind.  Some of the students have other disabilities along with their blindness, while others are academically proficient and are at the school mostly for their need to learn life skills.

The school sits on 14 or so acres and has many wonderful amenities.  There is a very large Greenhouse and the students grow an assortment of plants including Poinsettias which are utilized by the State’s government buildings during the holiday season.  The school has a very large gymnasium that includes a basketball court and a pool.  They do a variety of activities in that pool – including learning to kayak!  The local competitive swim team utilizes the school’s pool for swim practices and in return, the team provides life guards for the students at the school during the course of the week.  The students at the school have many opportunities to be involved in clubs and activities, just as one would find in other public schools.  You name it and they can do it – just with modifications.  It was fascinating to see and learn about those modifications.  The main sport that’s played is Goal Ball - imagine European Soccer crossed with bowling (sort of), but with bells in the balls.  Hearing, obviously, is a very developed sense for these children.

The school has a sensory garden.  A variety of plants and flowers are in the garden, each with a different smell or texture.  Sprinkled throughout the garden are the community signs we would see driving through any town.  Stop signs, street signs, cross walk, etc are in this garden for the students, who have some sight, to be able to learn to recognize them in a safe environment.  We saw Braille textbooks that require 17 volumes to cover the same material found in a standard school textbook as well as other devices that the students use to access, read, or hear information.  There were students with sight guides, canes, or glasses and other items we already associate with blindness.  The math classroom had talking calculators and the students work with abacuses in the same way sighted students use scrap paper for doing their figuring. 

 Our home school kids had the chance to be blindfolded (more like black goggled) and then eat a snack and clean their area.  They were also taught, by the blind school students, how to use the embossing machine to create their individual names in Braille.  Totally cool!  The most fascinating part of the tour though was the students themselves.  These children were so friendly, welcoming, funny, bright, and utterly delightful.  So many of them would walk right up to our children and ask, “What’s your name?  What grade are you in?  I’m Austin and I’m in the 6h grade.”  They would chat, joke, and laugh with us in a manner that fully demonstrated their joy at living.  They were excited to have our kids join them in the cafeteria for lunch and spent the entire lunch hour chatting and joking with our kids as if they were already fast friends.  It was a blessing to meet these kids and spend a few hours in their world.


I tried to imagine how children at a regular public school would react to having a bunch of homeschooler’s invade their classroom for a day and to be honest, I couldn’t imagine the most friendly of welcomes.  I wondered how these beautiful, bright, blind children would be treated at regular public school and had a very hard time imagining they would have received even 1/10th of the welcome or friendliness that they bestowed upon us.  I couldn’t help but be struck by the fact that these children, who must conquer more obstacles in one single day than other children will have to conquer in a lifetime, could see something that so many sighted folks just can’t (or won’t):  the beauty of the world not visible to the naked eye and the joy of simply being alive. Both Punky and I left the School for the Blind able to see a little better and that is the greatest lesson we learned.

“The only thing worse than being blind is having sight but no vision.”
                   ~Helen Keller

~ Mari B.

Are We Schooling Them in Every Way We Should?

I spoke with a friend last night who also home schools.  She was sharing with me that she has a number of home schooling friends who very much believe in and support ‘child-led learning’.  Apparently these home schoolers believe that a child should be allowed to lead in all ways of their upbringing.  All ways.  My friend posed the question to me, ‘If that were true then what do our children need us for?  What purpose do we serve beyond providing food, shelter, and clothing?”  My friend and I both agreed that we are to provide them with guidance (based on the wisdom we have acquired from experience and education) and limitations to keep them physically, emotionally, and spiritually safe.  I think that to allow the child to lead in all the matters of his or her upbringing is risky.  To be child focused is only one half of the parental contract.  The other half of the contract involves setting limits, enforcing limits, and meting out consequences that should be the result of violations of those limits.

After being in the home schooling community for a while now, a few things have come to my attention.  As home schoolers we spend so much time ‘defending’ our choice to home school that we often do not want to face some of the issues of home schooling that may not paint home schooling in the best light.  I can certainly understand why.  However, amongst home schoolers, outside of the ear shot of traditional educating families, should we not be able to be open and honest about not just the benefits of home schooling, but some of the challenges as well? 

The reasons one has for home schooling are personal and they vary from family to family.  No matter why a family chooses the home school route there can exist certain challenges.  Ensuring that our children are learning a few ‘life’ truths are among those challenges.  Those truths include:

  • Our children need to learn how to operate within the defined, acceptable standards of our society.
  • Our children need to learn how to meet deadlines, finish assignments, and have accountability.
  • Our children need to be allowed to experience the consequences of their choices, even if those consequences are unpleasant.
  • Our children need to learn self-control and self-discipline.
  • Our children need to learn to treat their fellow human beings with respect.

As home schoolers, we know the advantages of letting our children work at their own pace, choose many of their educational paths according to their interests, and live in their own self-created world.  However, we should never negate the fact that our children are going to grow up to work and play in the outside world one day.  In that world, they will need the ability to have self-control, act respectfully, meet deadlines, complete tasks, and bear the consequences of their own choices.  Regardless of where a child is educated, teaching these life skills should be a parental job. 

However, as home schooling parents we must accept this responsibility because our children do not contend with many of the influences that can be found in the public schools.  I struggle with some of these truths myself in regards to home schooling my child; especially meeting deadlines, finishing assignments, and having accountability.  No matter how challenging it may be, certainly these lessons factor into the success our children will achieve as adults as much, or more so, than how well they can perform on a standardized test, recite the Gettysburg address, or explain the periodic table.

~Mari B.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Just Be Polite

I had an experience today.  Unfortunately it isn’t a stand alone occurrence.  Punky and I have been attending a two day class on the Civil War at a local historical museum.  You can’t swing a dead cat here in the Deep South without hitting either a historical Civil War site or a church – but I digress.  This was a class for homeschoolers.  There was a young man in this class, a 6th grader, who was very bright and full of knowledge that he wanted to share with all participants.  You know the type – he’s headed to Harvard in another year or so.  Despite this child’s obvious giftedness there is one thing he truly lacked – manners.   

When the portion of the program turned to women’s clothing of the time period he grumbled about how useless this information would be.  I made the comment that a lot can be learned about a society by studying the accepted dress code of women during a particular time.  This child looked me straight in the eye and said, ‘fashion freak.’  “EXCUSE ME?  What did you just call me?  Did you just call me a freak?”  I took the time to point out to him that archeologists study the clothing worn during different time periods to better understand the society of that period.  He merely smirked at me and looked away without apology for his remark or even a flicker of remorse for having just addressed an adult in such a manner, or any embarrassment for being called out.  Later, while taking the walking tour of the house, I was headed down the stairs when he darted out from a side room and cut me off (nearly knocking into me) to get in front of me to descend the stairs.  I had had enough.  I remarked to him, ‘You really are a rude child.’  He walked down a couple of steps, looking back at me, and then stopped and waited while motioning for me to pass him.  When I did he said to me, ‘There, do you feel better now?  You’re back in your place.’  I didn’t answer him because it took every ounce of energy I had to control my desire to knock the hell out of the little shit.

This entire experience really got me thinking though.  I don’t know when it happened, I’m pretty sure it was a gradual process, but I’m certain there are studies or something that have probably been done.  We, as a society, are no longer polite.  Folks with far larger brains than mine can probably trace back the beginning of the decline and its root causes.  I just don’t care.  Is that impolite of me?  Well then, I fit right in!  Seriously, we live in a seriously impolite society now.  It is so hard to raise a polite child in an impolite world.

Let’s start with the basics.  Remember these words?  Please.  Thank you.  You’re welcome.  Excuse me.  I remember them fondly.  They were the words of my youth, ones that were drilled into me by (God bless them) depression era parents who came from a more polite time.  They are words that my husband and I have drilled into our daughter’s childhood with fervor and veracity.  She is a polite child, for the most part – we aren’t done raising her yet! 

Politeness goes beyond ‘please’ and ‘thank you’, of course.  Politeness implies, by actual definition, an appearance of consideration and courtesy.  Wow, what an idea; to be considerate of and courteous to others.  We live in a very ‘me’ age.  We are now all about ‘me’.  How can I be happy?  How can I find the real me?  How can I have a better quality of life?  Lots of self help books are on the market today to help guide you on your journey to an authentic you.  Makes sense then that YOU think it’s all about YOU.  I’m not trashing these books.  I think it’s fantastic that there are so many resources available today to help a person become the best version of himself.  I own a few of these such books myself and I have been enlightened and uplifted by them.  One or two have actually helped me change my life.  Irony ~ har.

However, I can’t help but wonder if we wouldn’t be better off if when trying to make our lives better, we start with the concept of polite.  Yes, of course the ‘please’ and ‘thank you’, but are we incapable of going even deeper?  Can we get down to the nitty-gritty of consideration and courtesy to others?  In stopping and thinking about others first, at least some of the time, would we not create a better version of ourselves?  We are so consumed with the idea that we have to do what’s right for ourselves that we forget that everyone else is a ‘me’ too.  Others are about the business of pursuing their own happiness and our actions should, at the very least, do no harm to their pursuit.

I know, I know, these are BIG concepts that can’t be implemented overnight!  So, in the meantime, while we all wait for a radical wake-up call to change our behaviors so that we become a little more aware that there are others around us to whom we should treat with courtesy and consideration; why don’t we just start with the same basics that my husband and I did with our daughter?  So, excuse me, but please, give it some thought.  Thank you for taking time out of your day to read this.  Have a nice day.  Oh, and, you’re welcome!

~Mari B.

Monday, September 17, 2012

The Braying Donkey

I live in a subdivision.  That subdivision is surrounded, for the most part, by countryside.  Various homes, with well over a few acres each, are scattered about outside my neighborhood.  One of these homes clearly has a donkey in residence.  I’ve never seen the donkey, but I’ve heard him.  Granted, my ears are far more tuned for ‘city’ noises, but I’m pretty darn sure that’s a donkey braying that I hear in the morning.

It’s always early to mid-morning when I hear him.  He’s not as faithful as a rooster, but he’s at least as consistent as the weather report.  I’m always startled when I hear him start up.  I forget he’s out there until the braying begins.  I find myself wondering what he’s braying about and why it’s always around that time of day that he elects to do so.  Did the rooster on that property pass away and in doing so left the responsibility of the morning wake-up call to the donkey in his will?  Does the donkey have some instinctual message delivered to his brain to bray after the sun comes up?  If that’s true, why isn’t he consistently performing this duty each day?

Or, does the donkey have more in common with me than I had ever have suspected?  Some days he wakes up with a perfectly fine disposition.  His water and feed are delivered promptly and he didn’t sleep on the wrong side of his stable.  So he quietly goes about his day in contentment.  But other mornings... well, look out!  Nothing has gone right for the poor guy since opening his eyes and he doesn’t foresee the day improving.  Is it those mornings (when left with no other outlet for his anxiety, stress, or discontent) that he just opens up and lets it all out?  I feel you, dog ---- or rather donkey; I really do.  I, too, have my mornings when nothing is going according to plan and I find myself braying like a jackass.  

~Mari B.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Why Kids Hate School

I wanted to share this link on my blog because it ties in to one of my earlier posts regarding academics, what kids really need to learn, and my personal theory on education.

This is an interesting read!

~Mari B.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Bringing Home Sushi

(This life event occurred last year, but was too good not to share)

Punky owns a fish names Charlie.  He is a beautiful, sparkly metallic brown goldfish who has big ole’ bug eyes.  I love him.  Perhaps it is hard to believe that one could love a goldfish, but I do.  He’s so frickin’ cute with his buggy eyes, plump little body, and swishy tail.  When you open the lid to the tank and place your finger on the surface of the water he’ll swim up and give you a little nibble.  Now, that may be normal goldfish behavior of which I’m unaware, but I think it makes Charlie special.

Punky has had two other fish, Nemo and Minnie.  They’ve both passed on to the Great Sea, but it’s Charlie who holds our hearts.  Punky loves him too, although maybe not with the same gusto that I do.  I’m not really sure how a fish stole my heart, but he did.  And so, when Punky and dear hubby came home with two new fish I was not nearly as enthused as they.  They brought home these two tiny little fish that looked a little like bait to me.  They are bright orangy-reddish with some black on their sides or tails.  They are skinny little things with small, squinty eyes and no fancy tails.  I was not impressed.  Punky was so excited and announced that the red one (which one is that?) is Scarlett and the orange one (come again?) with the pretty black outlined tail is Sushi.  I spit my coffee out, I have to tell you.  Sushi?  You are naming a fish Sushi?  The irony was lost on her, but I got quite a chuckle out of it.  After explaining it to her, she became rather sad, saying, ‘I hope Sushi doesn’t die because it’ll be my fault.’  I assured her that if he does die it wouldn’t be her fault.  And with a 9 year olds’ intensity she said to me, “Yes, it would be.  I named him and he’d be living up to his name!”  Who can argue with that logic?

Not being a fish expert I had no idea that it mattered that these two little fish were ‘Molly’ fish.  Having a great resource of friends who are knowledgeable on a large variety of topics, I discover from one of these friends, who is a fish expert, that Molly fish: can arrive to your tank locked and loaded, give birth to live fish, and do in fact carry and catch ‘ich’ rather easily.  Upon hearing this all I can think is, “What about sweet Charlie?”  I further find out that a tank is supposed to be big enough to hold one gallon of water for each inch of fish you have.  Charlie’s big and bold and beautiful and comes in at about 2 inches.  We have a 2 gallon tank.  You can do the math.

My friend explains to me all the problems with our current dilemma and how to solve them.  Aquarium salt to prevent the ich, a larger tank to accommodate the two Molly fish, which together equal another inch, and we should be good to go.  So we are in the process of gathering and preparing all that needs to be, well, gathered and prepared for the fishes’ big moving day when tragedy strikes!  One of the fish isn’t looking so good.  She is wedged in, totally of her own doing, behind a rock and her little mouth is just moving – gasp*gasp*gasp.  Ut oh, not a good sign.  I tell Punky that one of her fish isn’t looking so good as I send up a message to the fish gods that it not be Sushi who is in peril.  She runs and looks and then calmly announces that it is Scarlett who is in distress.  Damn!  Where’s Rhett when you need him?

Sad to say that Scarlett did not make the move to the big house with the others.  She was buried at sea on a cold, rainy, wintery night (hubby flushed her).  Punky seems fine with the fact that Scarlett is gone.  She’s more relieved that Sushi has made the transition to the new home and seems to be settling in to his accommodations.  Charlie is as big, bold, and beautiful as ever and he’s still my favorite.  Yet, I have to admit I’ve always admired the underdog.  The guy who beats the odds and gets out in front, survives his tragic upbringing, or in this case lives ‘down’ his name.  Yes, I must admit, for the first time in my entire life I am developing a fondness for Sushi.

~Mari B.