Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Our Budding Environmentalist

Today we had an impromptu field trip to a semi-local little zoo. (aka: the kids earned free tickets to said zoo in the library's summer reading program, and the tickets were only good during the month of September, but since we received them in July, I forgot about them until last night and today was the only day this week we could go before the tickets expired, so... we went.) The zoo's brochures read "picnics welcome", so I packed up a stunning picnic of peanut butter and jelly on whole wheat bread, individual bottles of 100% apple juice, pretzles, and chocolate chip cookies for us to enjoy while at the zoo. The zoo had these great little picnic areas set up throughout the park so that you could eat while overlooking various paddocks throughout the park. The kids decided that they wanted to eat the first portion of thier lunches (i.e. PBJs and apple juice) while keeping an eye out for the black bear... who seemed to be in nap time like 90% of the other animals.

When we finished eating, I asked the kids to put thier trash in the trash can. Everyone dutifully gathered up thier sandwich wrappers, napkins, and juice bottles and placed them in the trash. Secondo was the last one at the trash can and distractedly (she was afraid to take her eyes off of the bear paddock for fear of missing the bear) placed her trash in the can... or so I thought.

After I heard the trash door close, I noticed that Secondo was slowly spinning around and looking confused. She still had her juice bottle in her hand.

"Where's the recycling bin?"

"I don't think they have them, munchkin. Just put your bottle in the trash can and we'll go see if we can see the bear from the other side." (Bad granola mommy, I know.)

"But this is a zoo. They take care of animals. They should have recycling bins."

"You're right. They should. But they don't, so just..."

"I'm going to hold on to my bottle and put it in the recycling bin when we get home."

"Okay, but you have to carry it." (attempting to make up for my reduce - reuse - recycle lapse with a good dose of personal property responsibility training)

"I know." (Pensive pause.) "Mom?"


"Can I write a letter to the zoo people when we get home? They really should get recycling bins."

"Um... well... sure. That's a good idea." (Said in my best "don't sound shocked, be encouraging" voice)

Apparently that training by example thing really works. (Except that Secondo has me beat. I only recycle when it's convenient, apparently. I was so tempted to make everyone fish their bottles out of the trash can and take them all home to recycle them to save face.)

Friday, September 15, 2006

Time to get ready for...

Banned Books Week

September 23-30

The American Library Association has a list of the 100 Most Frequently Challenged Books of 1990-2000. However, I like The Forbidden Library’s less-complete but amusingly annotated list of Banned and Challenged Books which includes selections covering the entire history of the written word.

Some quotes to put it all into perspective:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. - Constitution of the United States, Bill of Rights, Amendment 1

Censorship, like charity, should begin at home, but unlike charity, it should end there. -Clare Boothe Luce

First they burn books, then they burn people. – Unknown

The nine most terrifying words in the English language are, 'I'm from the government and I'm here to help.' -Ronald Reagan

Thursday, September 14, 2006

The age-old question...

I was reading a couple of articles on homeschooling last night, and one of them brought up the age old question, “What about socialization?”

The National Education Association (NEA), the nation’s largest teacher’s union, said there is another hidden cost to home education. Home-educated students miss out on opportunities to build socials skills by not studying with their peers.

In a Feb. 26, 2002 letter to the National Home Education Network, former NEA president Bob Chase wrote his organization was “concerned that homeschooled students were not provided a comprehensive education experience because they did not have an opportunity to interact with students of different cultures, economic status or learning styles. They felt homeschooled students learned in a setting primarily made up (of) family members and friends.”

- Lessons From Home, Macomb Eagle, Sept. 13, 2006

My standard response to this argument is, “And that’s bad because…?”

If my goal were to raise a life-long eight-year-old or nine-year-old or Kindergartener, maybe I wouldn’t be so concerned that my child spent all of his/her time around other eight-year-olds, nine-year-olds, or Kindergartners in an institutional setting. However, I am not raising career eight-year-olds, nine-year-olds, or Kindergarteners; I am raising adults… adults who will hopefully function in and contribute to the whole of society. Thus, they should be raised among those with whom they will interact for the rest of their lives. They will spend most of their social time as adults with family more than with any other social group, so learning family dynamics is the most important social skill they will learn.

However, this article didn’t stick out to me because of the quoted statement. I (as well as every other homeschooler) have heard this all before. It stuck out to me because of another homeschooling article that I read immediately after.

The second article was about virtual charter schools in California. If you are not familiar with virtual charter schools, they are basically government schools that children participate in via online classes and instant messaging along with the traditional book work that they do at home with a parent. Government schoolers consider this type of schooling homeschooling while many homeschoolers consider it government schooling. In either case, one would think that the problem of socialization would come up with these virtual charter schools as it does with traditional homeschooling because of the lack of ‘peer interaction’. Socialization does come up, but it is not seen as the problem it is for traditional homeschoolers:

As for the social components most educators agree are an essential to the school experience, the report, produced by an “e-learning ad hock committee of educators,” finds: “Quality online courses are highly interactive. ... Teachers interact with students in real time via live video and audio … through discussion boards and email.”

Torres added that such tech-savvy communication more accurately reflects the way today’s youth socialize — through such vehicles as MySpace, chat rooms, email and text messaging.

“We all value socialization,” Torres said. “We have to take into account that the population of kids we’re dealing with is very different [today]. … When we were growing up, you would get one hour on the phone. Now there are multiple sources of communication.”

- Virtual Learning, Pasadena Weekly, Sept. 14, 2006

Educators seem to be broadening the definition of the term “socialization”, from face-to-face daily interaction with peers in an institutional setting to virtual interaction with peers and teachers in an institutionally-controlled setting, to suit their own purposes. Adults know that there are huge differences between reality and virtual reality. Virtual reality is more like a play than real life. It is rare for real relationships to develop is cyber space because it is too easy to put on masks and develop a cyber-persona. Children don’t need to learn how to interact with a keyboard and imaginary friends. They need to hug, cry, debate, and hear and see those who are different from them and similar to them so they can mature in faith, emotion and thought.

The only part of the definition of socialization that doesn’t seem to be changing is the “institution” part. This reveals to me that many professional educators are not as concerned with our children’s social development as they are with maintaining their control… whether it is controlling who our children interact with or what their minds are exposed to. (And mentioning MySpace and chat rooms -known tools of cyber predators, child molesters and parental defiance by children- don’t exactly shout “positive socialization”.)

Are there homeschoolers who have socially inept children? Yes. Are there government schoolers who have socially inept children? Yes. The government does not hold the monopoly on socialization just as they should not hold the monopoly on education. Socialization and education are the parent’s responsibility… no matter where a child is educated.

Monday, September 11, 2006

What is the chief end of man?

On her blog, Writer Mom, Nan (wife of a PCA pastor), shared her recent ponderings of the first question of the Westminster Shorter Catechism.

What is the chief end of man?

Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy Him forever.

A portion of her post reads:

I have been summarily told by an atheist that Christianity provides no more meaning in life than Atheism does and therefore cannot be more worthy as a belief than an unbelief. The atheist adjudges that if the chief end of man is to glorify God and if God is glorious in and of himself then humans are unnecessary. Hence the life devoted to God, if he does exist is meaningless because we are an unnecessary part of the story. He concludes that life apart from any god is every bit as meaningful as life with a just, all knowing, all powerful, all loving God. He derives that the Christian life is every bit as meaningless as the atheist life.

Being a member of the PCA myself (and thus also holding to the tenets of the Westminster Confession and Catechisms), this statement forced me to revisit this question in my mind and see if I could defend my position. After reading the rest of Nan’s post and rereading the Scripture proofs for the question, I developed a defense which had not occurred to me before and has strengthened my belief that man is not meaningless.

The problem with this atheist’s argument is his point of view. He argues from the viewpoint of men, but for man to find his purpose, he must look through the eyes of God.

My daughter, Secondo, has two baby dolls. These dolls have a cradle next to Secondo’s bed and a special place in her heart. When she refers to these dolls, she does not refer to them as “my dolls” she calls them by name, Ashley and Jonathan. When a stranger looks at these dolls, he will see cloth sewn into the shapes of human bodies with plastic, humanoid heads. These organized pieces of cloth are clad in clothing that could be seen on a human baby. In other words, the viewer would see ordinary dolls. He would not, however, see Ashley and Jonathan. The dolls’ Ashley-ness and Jonathan-ness come from Secondo. When she looks at them, they live. When she talks to them, they respond. If the stranger came across these dolls lying on the street, he might pick them up and look for an owner, or he may toss them in the trash. If Secondo came across them in the street, she would see Ashley and Jonathan and feel remorse for not caring for them properly. She would feel pity for them and clean them and talk to them. Their value comes not in what they are, but in who they are to Secondo.

The same goes for man and God. Man has no value except that which God gives him. We have value because God gives us value by loving us and making us in His image. The scientist may look at us and see carbon-based beings, but God looks at us and sees His handiwork. If we are His children, He sees His Son. We can do nothing to give ourselves value… just as Secondo’s dolls do nothing to make her love them. They are because Secondo says they are. We glorify God because He made us to glorify Him. That is the purpose to which we were created. We cannot change it, and we cannot devalue it. We are necessary because God has made us necessary. Could God have gone on for eternity fully glorified in and of Himself without man? Yes. He doesn’t need us; He wants us. What greater value is there?

Guess what I did on Saturday?

I bought pants

(are you ready for this?)

(you may want to sit down)

that button!!!!!!

You may be wondering, "Why is she so excited about that?" Well, if you are, you obviously haven't given birth to four children and/ or had abdominal surgery. Lucky me... I've had both! And that is why I have been wearing pants with elastic waistbands since I was pregnant with Quarto. But, no more! Welcome back buttons! You have been missed.

Stay tuned for my next update...

wearing a belt!

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Happy Birthday, Frodo!

May you recognize grace every day!

Sleep tonight
And may your dreams
Be realized
If the thundercloud
Passes rain
So let it rain
Let it rain
Rain on him


Thursday, September 07, 2006

Proof that Some Politicians Have a Sense of Humor

California State Assemblymen Kieth Richman (R) and Joseph Canciamilla (D) have introduced House Resolution No. 36 to the California Assembly. The bill, entitled Relative to Pluto's planetary status, is a formal condemnation of the International Astronomical Union and it's "decision to strip Pluto of its planetary status for its tremendous impact on the people of California and the state's long term fiscal health." Below are two of the reasons, cited in the bill, such legislation is necessary (click on the link above to read the text of the bill in its entirety):

"WHEREAS, Downgrading Pluto's status will cause psychological harm to some Californians who question their place in the universe and worry about the instability of universal constants"

"WHEREAS, The downgrading of Pluto reduces the number of planets available for legislative leaders to hide redistricting legislation and other inconvenient political reform measures"

As AlmostLucy pointed out on the WTM Message Boards today, "Now every astronomy chart/ toy, etc. will come with a label that says, 'This product does not meet the California standards of planetary classification.' "

Now, before you get too upset about the waste of the California Legislature's time and money, remember that while the Legislature discusses items such as HR36, they spend less time on bills like Senate Bill 840: Single-payer Health Care Coverage (which passed, BTW) which paves the way for universal health care in California. Ironically, in California's Assembly, a bill passed that same week (AB 1840: Employer Coverage: Disclosure) that would require employers with 25 or more employees to make public how many of their employees receive state-funded medical care with the goal of either 1) shaming 'big' companies into providing health care for their employees or 2) angering citizens so they boycott these companies. Well? Which is it? Does California want thier citizens on state-funded health care or doesn't it?

Yup, the California Legislature needs a little levity.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Didn't He Already Ask That?

The kids and I were at our local "Generally A Dollar" store today. This store seems to always be going through changes, and none of it for the better... lots of employee turnover and a floorplan that changes so frequently I half expect to stumble across a Minotaur. Because of all this upheaval, it appears that the "powers that be" at headquarters decided to send a regional manager to the store to help them regroup and increase their efficiency.

While I was at the checkout, aforementioned regional manager approached the clerk waiting on me. In his hand was some retail-related gizmo. He stuck it in front of the clerk's face and asked, "Is this broke? Or just ain't workin'?"

Poetic Procrastination

Along with the other members of The Great Books Reading Partnership, I am reading Chapter 9 (History Refracted: The Poets and Thier Poetry) of The Well-Educated Mind by Susan Wise Bauer. However, I am finding the section on the history of poetry very difficult to get through because of an anology Ms. Bauer uses that makes the topic more, rather than less, confusing for me.

Anyway, I decided to take a break from reading in the hopes of clearing my head and starting anew after the kids went to bed. I went out to the back porch to watch the kids play outside and to watch the beautiful flights of the brown bats that hunt bugs in our backyard. As I was watching Terzo pick up a stick to fight an enemy I could not see, a poem formed in my mind. Although I like to read poetry, all my attempts at writing it are very juvenile and uninspired. I am generally too concrete and to-the-point in my thinking... i.e. not poetic. This time, however, I wrote the poem down and read it to Frodo... and he liked it. So here it is... such as it is.

It is so

The Child stands, spies a stick

He stoops, “You shall be my sword.”

And it is so.

The Child looks, observes the air

He commands, “You shall be my enemy.”

And it is so.

The battle begins, creature against creator

The victor is no mystery, still the battle must be fought

There is honor in it.

Armageddon, the fates of worlds

The creator triumphs, “I am the hero.”

And it is so.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Noah Takes A Picture Of Himself Every Day For 6 Years

This is the name of a short film that I discovered on YouTube this evening (a web site I am now totally addicted to, by the way). The film is exactly what it's title says it is. It is a series of photos that Noah Kalina took of himself everyday from January 11, 2000 to July 31, 2006 set to original music by Carly Comando (very reminiscent of Phillip Glass... so much so that Frodo thought I had started watching Truman Show without him... a cardinal sin in our house).

This film fascinated me. I felt compelled to watch it once it began and wanted to watch it over and over once it was finished. We may notice changes is our appearance year-to-year, but it was surprizing to see how much Noah changed day-by-day. I would watch the changes in his hair length, wardrobe, background and people who provided his 'supporting cast' and find myself thinking:

"Wow, he likes that plaid shirt."

"I wonder where he was going." (He had on a tuxedo shirt and bow tie twice... on non-consecutive days but within a week of each other.)

"Did he move?"

"Is that his girlfriend?"

"What is that picture on the wall?"

"Did he take his picture at the same time every day?"

"Why is there a seemingly long period of time when he took his photo in front of the alcove with the computer then another long period of time when he didn't?"

"What was his purpose in doing this?"

The film is 5.5 minutes long, so if you have a few minutes and you want to rest your feet while exercising your brain's areas of abstract (or not so abstract) thought, check out the film and let me know what you think.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Never Mind

Well, I guess Target didn't like me (and many others) pointing out the gaps in their copywriters' educations. If you were among the many people who were confused when trying to click the link in my post Sigh, there was good reason... Target changed what it linked to.

The link originally brought you to a doll that was obviously supposed to be Benjamin Franklin. However, the Target people identified the doll as being "Franklin Roosevelt".

I guess it is good that they have taken the page down to be edited properly, but I am sad over being made to look like I am clueless. I often am clueless, I just don't like it pointed out!

To prove that I am not crazy, here is a copy of the original product page.

On the plus side, Christmas is coming up. Why not buy a Presidential Action Figure for the child in your life today! They'll be glad you did.


I don't even know what to say about this.

Really. What could I say?

Note: For those of you who receive copies of these posts via email, you need to head on over here to the website so you can access the hyperlink. And since most of my posts contain at least one hyperlink, coming here to read the posts might be a good common practice.