Wednesday, October 30, 2013

The Humanist Ten Commandments for the Modern Age

1) You should strive to promote the greater good of humanity before all selfish desires.

2) You should be curious, for asking questions is the only way to find answers.

3) Harm to your fellow human is harm to humanity. Therefore, you should not kill, rape, rob, or otherwise victimize anyone.

4) You should treat all humans as equals, regardless of race, gender, age, creed, identity, orientation, physical ability, or status.

5) You should use reason as your guide. Science, knowledge, observation, and rational analysis are the best ways to determine any course of action.

6) You should not force your beliefs onto others, nor insist that yours be the only and correct way to live happily.

7) If you govern, you should govern with reason, not with superstition. Religion should have no place in any government which represents all people and beliefs.

8) You should act for the betterment of your fellow humans, and be, whenever possible, altruistic in your deeds.

9) You should be good to the Earth and its bounties, for without it, humankind is lost.

10) You should impart your knowledge and wisdom gained in your lifetime to the next generation, so that with each passing century, humanity will grow wiser and more humane.



~Mari B.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Danger, Will Robinson, Danger!

Why the Homeschooling Community Needs to Get Over Itself

I am no fan of HSLDA, prior blog posts have made that clear.  If you wonder why, first I'll say:  I am a SECULAR homeschooler and HSLDA is a Christian group promoting Christian homeschooling to the degree that it seeks to have only Christian homeschooling recognized as 'legitimate' homeschooling.  Then I'll say, go through the archives and read what I've written before regarding HSLDA.

I'm not a fan of Christian homeschooling groups.  Again, read through the archives.  (Personal Note:  I have several Christian friends who have no problem with me not being a fan of the religion and I have no problem with them because they are the folks that are living their faith - which includes recognizing that my spiritual belief system is my business.)

Here's what I *am* a fan of - homeschooling.  I'm a HUGE fan.  I'm such a huge fan that I could be classified as being in the closet because I don't go on and on about how much I'm a fan.  I'm such a fan of homeschooling that I personally believe everyone CAN and SHOULD homeschool. 

I'm enough of a realist to recognize that not everyone's life is set up in such a way as to support homeschooling.   Women have to work or want to work.  Men have to work or want to work.  That's the reality and the 'stripped down to the core' reason why everyone doesn't homeschool.  Both parents have to work or choose to work.  Other reasons that some give like "I can't teach my children" or "I couldn't spend every moment with my children" are superficial reasons that are based in insecurity or fear.  But I'm digressing big time. 

So, here's the thing - because I am such a HUGE fan of homeschooling, I totally and fully support anyone who homeschools no matter how they homeschool or why they homeschool.  Whatever reason you have for keeping your kids at home, under your care and tutelage, is a legitimate reason.  Whatever method you choose to educate your children while they are at home with you is a legitimate method.

Guess what?  THAT is how we should ALL feel toward one another.  Support homeschooling no matter what and for the love of all that is holy, support every parent who chooses to homeschool no matter HOW they do it.  Otherwise it's a slippery slope folks.
Now what the hell is this all about?  I'll tell you.  A fellow homeschooler posted yesterday that their children are not 'allowed' to attend an open homeschooling event - a Halloween party - if they are virtually schooled, i.e. Connections Academy or K12.  Why is that, you wonder?  Why it is because the HSLDA and OCHEC have adopted a policy that virtual schooling isn't legitimate homeschooling and the group who was hosting the Halloween party is following their leadership and guidelines.  Danger, Will Robinson, Danger!

Now this lack of solidarity annoys the ever loving shit out of me.  People wonder why I'm so 'anti-Christian homeschooling groups''s because they are usually the ones who show a lack of solidarity in the homeschooling movement.  They discriminate.  To a certain extent, while I don't like it, it's understandable.  They do not want your science loving, evolution learning child to poison their Jesus loving, Creationism believing kid.  Fine.  That is one thing.  It is another thing entirely though to discriminate against an entire group of people based on how they homeschool.  It's asinine.  The HSLDA is very adept at using fear-mongering to control their members views on homeschooling.  Making statements against virtual schooling, including their supposed 'reasons' is just more fear-mongering.  You can read their statement here:

Now, is there ANY truth to what they say?  A bit.  Virtual schooling is not the exact same as traditional homeschooling.  In virtual schooling the curriculum is provided by the state and is funded with public dollars so there is to be a separation of Church and State.  Traditional homeschooling gives the power to the parents - or at least as much as the individual state allows - in deciding when, what, where, and how your children learn.  There is more freedom with traditional homeschooling than virtual schooling.  There just is.  However, having said that, let me say this -- your children are still at home with you as their daily mentor, guide, and parent.  They DO NOT face all the same situations that children who attend Brick and Mortar schools face.  If one wishes their child to be at home with them but does not want to buy curriculum or put together their own, or wants their child to earn a state issued diploma, virtual schooling is the ideal solution.  If one wants to avoid the social issues that come with attending a B&M school, yet wants their children to receive a public school curriculum education, virtual schooling is the ticket!

Discriminating against children and their families because they don't chose the SAME method of delivery for their education as you do hurts the whole movement a hell of a lot more than the supposed hurt we could suffer by confusing our government representatives about what homeschooling is.  Here's something that homeschooling WAS but is no longer:  a strictly religious movement.  Sorry if that upsets some, but it's the truth.  More and more parents are choosing to have their children educated at home, via some method that works best for their family, for reasons that have nothing to do with religion or spiritual beliefs.

Here's how we should recognize homeschoolers as it pertains to allowing them to attending homeschooling events, functions, or field trips:  Are you home during the day as opposed to being locked in a B&M school?  Do you have the freedom and flexibility to attend events, functions, or field trips outside the home during 'normal school hours'?  If the answer is yes to those two questions - Congratulations YOU ARE HOMESCHOOLING!

Christian homeschooling groups can turn people away for not subscribing to their proclaimed religious beliefs, but to turn kids away because of the method they use to school in their home is the most asinine form of discrimination I've ever heard!

I've said it before, and I'll say it again, secular homeschoolers need a national alliance to work for the betterment of ALL homeschoolers and I'm rededicating myself to making that alliance a reality.

In the meantime, the homeschooling community, as a whole, needs to get over itself and embrace itself - the totality of itself.  The more labels and limitations we place on each other inside the homeschooling community the more tacit permission we give to outsiders to label homeschooling and limit it.  No one should want that. 

~Mari B.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Lessons Learned From a 5K Run

As some of you know, I began training in June with the goal of getting into better shape and losing some weight.  A month later I incorporated weight training as well.  I don't know how in the world I finally got the gumption to do this, and then stick with it, but I did - with help from my friend who was my training buddy  My goal was to run 3 miles in under 45 minutes and lose 25 pounds.  For three and 1/2 months I trained.....diligently.  I reached the point where I was clearly seeing muscle definition and feeling increased strength from the weight training and I was able to run 3 miles in just over 45 minutes.  I did not, however, lose a freaking pound.  It nagged at me mentally and emotionally and I had to fight to keep that from discouraging me and I will admit it became harder and harder to find the will to keep going.....but I did.  Then 'life' started happening.

Seven weeks ago Punky began rehearsals for her first major role as Scout in To Kill a Mockingbird.  Counting driving time, our entire evenings, from 6:30 until 11pm or later were taken up with preparing to perform and then performing.  I was no longer able to make it to weigh training class - which is only offered in the evenings and I was exhausted in the mornings and getting up to run was more of a struggle than ever.  I did keep training, working toward running 3 miles in 45 minutes or less, because my training buddy and I had decided to register to run our first 5K marathon - Run of Dye.  I was determined to run and not die.

About four and a half weeks before Marathon day, I did something to my left hip while running.  Whatever it was that I did it hurt like a son of a bitch.  I was already battling some pain from my left knee (I tore the hell out of it in a bicycle collision when I was 15) and swelling and pain in my left ankle, which I had severely sprained Spring of 2012 in a bad fall.  Did I mention that I have fibromyalgia?  Training became more and more of a struggle and I really missed my weight training - which really had helped with the 5K training.  I went from running 3 days a week to 2 days a week and then only here and there.  The day after a run my hip hurt so bad I could barely walk.  Finally one morning while running I 'blew my hip out'.  I say that because that is exactly what it felt like.  That was my "hit the wall' moment because I was never able to run again.  It took several days before I could even power walk and the last time I power walked the pain in my hip didn't disappear until a day before the marathon.    I didn't run again.  At all.  I couldn't.  To tell the truth I wanted to skip the 5K marathon all together.  I was still walking with some pain and a slight limp.

Yesterday was the marathon and I didn't skip it.  I did it.  Not only did I do it, but I actually met my goal.  I finished in 44:57.  That's a 14.37 minutes mile.  That's my best time ever.  While I'm not surprised I finished, I'm a little surprised I finished in my goal time.  Why,  I wondered, was I able to do that?  I hadn't run, or even walked, for weeks.  My hip had only JUST stopped aching every day and I have been so busy with Punky's schedule, having company, and preparing for hubby to get home for his two week R&R that I *never* thought it was even possible to finish within in my goal time.  On top of all that, when we arrived at the marathon we discovered that the terrain we were running on was more like a cross country experience than what I was used to doing - running on pavement/sidewalks.  The area had been mowed down but it was the most uneven terrain - roots sticking up everywhere, slopes and holes, etc.  I had to keep my eyes on the ground to avoid tripping or worse crashing to the ground like the giant in 'Jack and the Beanstalk'.  True story.

So, today I'm still wondering:  How did I do it?  How was it possible?  After some thought I have a few answers and I realize that they don't just apply to my 5K run. 

1)  Set a goal and work to achieve it.  You might fail, you might have to stop and start again, or you might just might succeed.  It's worth the effort to set the goal and work to fulfill it.  Success or failure notwithstanding.  The journey really is the most important part.

2)  Don't do it alone.  Find a buddy who understands you, wants you to succeed, knows when to push and how to push you and when to back off.  Most importantly find a buddy that will truly celebrate your success and support you when you don't.

3)  Realize that what you do today has a ripple effect in your life.  If you work hard for days at a time, weeks at a time, even months at a time and then become derailed remember that all that hard work you did isn't for nothing.  It *does* pay off in the end and maybe in ways you didn't expect.  It becomes a part of who you are and helps you along your path - one way or another.

4)  How you meet your goal may not end up being how you planned to meet your goal.  Putting in your best effort and working toward your goal matters more than following a detailed list of HOW to meet your goal.  Flexibility is necessary because life is always in a state of flux.

5)  There is nothing more rewarding that proving to **yourself** that you can do what you set your mind to do.  Nothing.  All the 'way to go', 'good job', comments from friends and family don't mean as much as being able to carry around that bit of pride and accomplishment in your mind from actually going for it!

So not only did my 5K training journey emphasize these life lessons for me, they are the reasons I succeeded.  I set a goal and worked, as best I could, to achieve it.  I didn't go it alone.  The time I was able to work hard and train paid off for the times I couldn't and still counted.  The last quarter mile of the race, when I wasn't going to finish in time, I wanted to prove to myself I could do it and I ignored the pain in my hip, knee, ankle and chest and pushed it as hard as I could and that last quarter of a mile felt like it would be the death of me in some ways, but I wanted to prove to myself I could do it and the pay off was huge.

Of course, I'm not the inappropriate homeschooler for nothing.  There were a few inappropriate lessons I learned doing the 5K:

-  I am capable of being so LOUD that the emcee of the event could hear me yell, "You suck" over the roar of a VERY large crowd and rock music coming from the speakers.  (In my defense he was throwing out free prizes and was totally ignoring the folks in the back, where my friends and I were.)

- When being chastised by the emcee for yelling out he sucked, I resort to language that wasn't appropriate.  It wasn't language that turned the air really blue - more like robin egg blue.

- I'm brazen enough that when city didn't provide any cops to help direct the crazy traffic into and out of the parking area I am willing to take my hat off and use it to direct cars.

So, that's my 5K training journey.

The most shocking thing of all for me though is the fact that I fully intend to get up in the morning and run.  I'm doing it for me, just for me. 

~Mari B.

P.S. - Can you believe the chick in the flexible picture??

P.S.S. - I didn't think it was necessary, but apparently it is.  I KNOW that a 5K is not a marathon.  I know that the proper terminology is 5K, 10K, half marathon and marathon.  I know what the distances are for each as well.  I was being IRONIC.  ;-)  The 5K was my know for me, it felt like a marathon.....see it's not as funny when you have to explain the joke.  ;-)

Monday, October 21, 2013

How Scout Finch Changed Our Lives

The Evolution of Punky

Punky has spent the last 7 weeks in a small town in Alabama called Maycomb County.  She has a father named Atticus and a brother Jem.  She's a tomboy with a keen mind and a bravado that only a 10 year old can have.  She's dealt with folks calling her all sorts of names and screaming at her about how her daddy defends niggers.  She's been attacked and watched her brother's arm get broken by the most bigoted, lying scum in all of Maycomb.  She's dealt with the death of one innocent black man and witnessed the death of another.  She's learned valuable life lessons about courage, empathy, and honesty as well as having the innocence torn away from her childhood by witnessing the horrors man commits against his fellow men.

Punky has brought the role of Scout, in 'To Kill a Mockingbird', to life in a way that has astonished me.  More importantly, the leap she's taken in her own growth and maturity matches her ability to breath life into Scout.  Punky's dedication to her craft and her commitment to the part, her cast mates, and the director rival - in my opinion - an adult who is a veteran of theatre.  Somewhere along this 7 week journey Punky became a young woman.  She's only 12 but she has demonstrated the maturity, responsibility, and ability of a much older girl.  Her composure and demeanor are remarkable for one so young.  She's dealt with a few personal issues along the way and there has been a marked difference in how she would have handled those issues 7 weeks ago to how she did handle them.

It may all just be a coincidence, but I personally believe it is not.  I believe that by allowing Punky to reach for her dream - auditioning for the role of Scout, pursue her true passion - acting, and giving her total ownership of the entire experience she grew up these last 7 weeks more than she would have, and in ways she might not have, if she had not had this experience.  The educational value of this experience is equal to a semester in a college theatre program.  The personal value of this experience is equal to nothing I can think of to make a comparison.  Her hard work and determination have paid off BIG for her.  

The confidence she's gained by working hard to deliver a deeply moving performance and  knowing for certain where her joy lies gives her a focus and understanding for her life that so few of us ever know, let alone learn at so young an age.  That is all so much more than any classroom could give her.

Punky has received numerous compliments and extensive praise from family, friends, and even strangers for her performance.  That is what they all see....
her talent, her abilities, her dedication, her commitment, her acting.  It's all wonderful!  It's what I see though that means so much more than all that.  I see the woman she is becoming and that woman, in my opinion, is Oscar worthy.  How does any of this relate to homeschooling you may wonder?  We owe a debt to homeschooling.  If it were not for homeschooling there would have been no Scout audition and without that all that has been realized and achieved in these last 7 weeks would not have been possible.

We made the choice to homeschool and Punky made the choice to go for her dream.  Life is all about choices, good or bad, right or wrong, our destinies will unfold according to our choices.

~Mari B.