Monday, July 25, 2016

As I Get Older...

atheist blog
Me, 1980
Getting older is not an option, yet so many of us fight it tooth and nail. And no wonder. Our country fetishizes youth. Photoshop and everything related to marketing and social media hypes us up to want to look thinner, younger, more perfect, inhumanly thin/young/perfect. It's weird and hurtful and I have no idea what to do about it.

I've talked with the kids about the impossible standards that social media puts out there for appearance and the kids both seem to get it, but I would understand completely if either one of them felt inadequate, too fat, too natural, etc. The pull of the false images is unmistakable. Some adults even fall for the falsified images of what being human should look like.

I'm so grateful the pictures during my youth were largely unretouched. But appearance was a huge issue back then too. (Back in the dark ages.) Maybe it always has been. But because of a number of personal experiences during my youth I have never had the desire to remain young. Instead I have always had a strong desire to be older, wiser, more legitimate, someone to be listened to. And that's saying something because I was pretty cute back then.  *wink*

But I wasn't taken seriously and I needed to be.
I was twelve when my parents divorced, leaving me the eldest female in the house. For a variety of reasons, that put me into a pretty parental role in the house, especially for my two younger sisters. 

The world-at-large, however, didn't accept my parental role; they weren't convinced. (And who can blame them; I was twelve!) But there were still times when I was the one calling the school, the doctor, making appointments, signing things, being there for them, making sure they had what they needed, household management. * Although I was the de facto parent to my sisters in many situations my parental role wasn't publicly sanctioned or understood. Or believed.  For that reason I was constantly battling for legitimacy from an early age. 

SO, getting older is actually such a good feeling to me; it feels right, like I'm finally the age that I feel inside.



Sunday, July 24, 2016

Atheism and the Sacred: A Useful Concept?

atheist blog
The minds
of our children

What is sacred?

In the strictest definition of the word, or at least according to dictionary.com, sacred's primary definitions include: devoted or dedicated to a deity or to some religious purpose; consecrated, entitled to veneration or religious respect by association with divinity or divine things, holy.


In that sense of the word, there is absolutely nothing sacred on the planet.

However, in the secondary definitions of the word sacred, using the same dictionary means: reverently dedicated to some person, purpose, or object; regarded with reverence; secured against violation, infringement, as by reverence or sense of right, sacred oaths, sacred rights. And reverence: deeply respectful.

Under that definition I would propose that there are, indeed, several sacred things on this planet, purposes and objects worthy of deep respect. First two important caveats: no one and nothing is automatically and universally deserving of worship and nothing I say here represents anyone except for me. And no one at speaks for atheists. I speak for myself. This post is about what I deem to be sacred, things for which I am reverent, purposes and objects that I consider ...sacred.


  • A Child's Mind - It is my belief that we should respect the minds of our children by giving them every tool we can possibly offer them for healthier living, for critical thought, and for tremendous personal power..
  • Freedom and Equality of every sort - By freedom and equality I mean the absence of every -ism on the planet. No more racism, sexism, classism, ageism, abilityism. Only humanism..
  • Potential - I strongly believe in the potential of the good people of this planet. Therefore I believe in supporting quality of life, knowledge, freedom, choice..
  • The Universe - The universe requires no word from me to announce it's grandeur, but I am completely reverent toward it. That includes our planet, our atmosphere, our oceans, us.


Some hardcore atheists' knee jerk react to the word sacred and I completely understand that. We have witnessed our boundaries transgressed terribly and frequently by the assumed power and imagined sanctity of words such as sacred.

And that is why I'm here again to say that I claim my part of this word and every single word that has ever been usurped by the religions. There are better words than sacred, but I will continue to feel free to use this word and every word in my language freely, wisely, and decidedly.

This is my list. Every other human on the planet is entitled to their own distinct list. Isn't that lovely? Do you have a reverence list? I would love to hear it.


Why am I an Openly Atheist Blogger?

atheist blog
  Why am I an Openly Atheist Blogger?  

I often get asked why my blog is so openly atheist and I have to wonder if the openly Christian bloggers get this same question... Anyway, this blog post was written in response to that question.

I don't know why most people start blogging; I assume it has something to do with feeling they have something they need to work out or that they need to say. My own reason for starting my blog was fairly unclear to me in the beginning, though I knew that it had alot to do with my disappointment with Facebook.

On Facebook, I found it impossible to post my real beliefs about our family’s lifestyle. I got so much negative feedback on Facebook and, yet, I felt the need to be honest about my beliefs.

You see, I do not debate. If you have a differing opinion or point of view, I generally reply “Oh, okay.” But that’s not always enough. Some of my Facebook “friends” were putting me in positions where I had to explain what they would never be capable of even considering.

In February of 2010 I started blogging for peace of mind. I needed it, the peace, the accepting white page, the welcoming expanse of freedom on blogspot. As time went on, I realized that I actually did have a larger mission for my blog: to confront the ridiculous stereotypes of atheists in this country. I felt the need to join the few, brave voices with the courage to stand proudly in this atheist lifestyle.

These days I have made it my mission to blog and broadcast about secular parenting. Celebrating the liberating secularity, encouraging those blazing new trails, and exploring the little niches of our lives. It matters to me, and I hope my voice means something to someone out there — both on my blog called My Own Mind blog and on my YouTube show called The Secular Parents.

Being an atheist parent is, in some ways, like blazing a new trail. The Christian parenting books are piled high, while secular parenting websites and reading materials are still in their infancy. In fact, atheist authors are seldom welcomed by larger publishers and are
self-publishing… support them! Happily, the road is widening and getting easier to find. More and more, secular parenting groups and entities are online. And the content is less and less about debating or insulting believers and more about the wonderful journey of secular parenting.

Atheist Parenting

Atheist and secular families have exactly the same struggles as every other family in the world, with the addition of a few small issues:

First, we have no religious stories to feed our children or with which to comfort ourselves in our distress. Instead, we have truth and questions and natural explanations. Very often, we are first-gen freethinkers and have nothing from our past to build on. No wonder we often feel so alone and unsupported. The road is ours to blaze and, in the beginning, that is terrifying. Eventually, that trailblazing is a treasure.

Second, we deal with having our families and our small children being treated with derision, hatefulness, intolerance and anger. I mean, how often have you had to explain cruel “hell” comments to your children… without passing along a similar, reactive intolerance to them? Who, among us, hasn’t had to face our sweet children after someone dared tell them that they are “of the devil” or “going to hell”? I don’t know how long this particular battle will be so culturally sanctioned, but I know some wonderful Christian families who openly and courageously fight this intolerance.

And third, atheist and freethinking parents are blazing trails in ethics that make me proud to join them. I have never been a black-and-white thinker. The world is astonishingly complex and fruitful and requires the ability to appreciate all of those lovely smoky oyster shades of grey. Yes, we are free and inspired to view the known and unknown facets of the world with awe and unabashed wonder.

These days, unlike in my old Facebook days, I don’t feel much need to thrash around in frustration about how atheists are treated — though I feel it deeply. Instead, I’m here to celebrate being an atheist and to, hopefully, inspire my viewers and my blog readers to let their own lights shine.



BTW, has anyone read this new book by David Silverman?

Saturday, July 23, 2016

My Two Lizzies

atheist blog
I have loved two Lizzies in my life. My daughter Elizabeth is so very beloved to me; I would do anything for her. The other Lizzie that I would have done anything for is my great aunt,
Elizabeth Marie Becker.


When I was a  little girl, my dear Aunt Elizabeth was just an old person we used to visit to me, you know, the type with weird candy and weird smells in the house. Our family would visit and while the kids explored the house and yard trying to occupy ourselves the adults talked. She wasn't really meaningful to me when I was a kid, really, but sometime during my twenties my Aunt Elizabeth became so very important and special to me. Necessary, even.

Although there was a schism in my family of origin that I disliked intensely, Aunt Elizabeth was the first family member who didn't live under my roof to understand my need to heal that schism. She supported me one hundred percent in my desire to love everyone, in my desire to let go of the hurt. It surprised the hell out of me and, suddenly, I realized that there was so much more to this woman than I knew. Suddenly she seemed to me like an avant garde thinker, a woman of integrity and unusual clarity.

Here she was in her 90s and I was finally beginning to understand just what a treasure she was. I started spending as much time as I could with her, however I could find the time. She was incredibly humorous, very loving, a real optimist, well-read, highly interested in world events, and completely opposite me philosophically in every other way. But I loved that woman with such intensity!

That woman generously and instantly gave me something I had been longing for: beautiful familial love, sincere affection, vitality, her complete support, and her heart. How I enjoyed learning about my family history, more importantly about her own history, as we sat together, touching hands and faces. And OH how I loved bringing my second Lizzie into the world and sharing her with Aunt Elizabeth. It was like a beautiful gift I could give back to her.

Aunt Elizabeth's son, Paul,
Late in his life,
So much love
I remember this one time, in her 100s, against her better judgement, she came to a birthday party that we had for little Elizabeth. Although Aunt Elizabeth wasn't well, she still made the taxing trip over to the house, out of the car, and into the party. She wasn't feeling well and had a brief moment where she regretted coming, felt embarrassed with her ill-moment. It was at that moment that my heart swelled to ten times it's normal size. Against her better judgement Aunt Elizabeth showed her love by struggling through the day, all for us, all for her love for us. I will truly never forget her generous heart.

When Aunt Elizabeth died at the golden age of 105, I hope she knew how important she was to me. I hope she knew how renewing and hopeful her spirit was for me. I hope one of her last memories of me was me sitting beside her bed, loving her with all of my heart. Each time I look at my daughter, I see a small part of Aunt Elizabeth...I'm so lucky to have both of them in my life.


The Ultimate Homeschool Co-op Idea List

homeschool blog
Are you involved in a homeschool co-op? If so you are probably required to offer a class or two each semester to the group. The idea of offering a class can be intimidating for some. Co-op classes are a wonderful way to share your skills and to benefit from the clever families around you. 

A Co-Op means, Co-operative… sharing your passions and learning about the passions about others…for free or cheap. Exchanging strength for strength. For example, our family is heavy into the hobby of astronomy so we have often offered observing nights to our homeschooling friends, while they offer their skills to us. I am also a book lover so I have offered many years worth of reading groups to the kids in our co-op.

If you are new to this form of sharing-the-love, you might be experiencing anxiety trying to think of something to offer your group. I know the fearful questions in your mind:  Do I have a skill? What am I qualified to teach? What can I do?

LOL…listen, I've been there.  
Fear not, for you have plenty to offer.

As you experience the homeschool lifestyle you will find it easier to think of things that interest you and that you wish to offer to your group. For now, here are a few ideas you might like to borrow, keeping in mind that your children might have ideas of their own because your kids probably have some great ideas about what types of activities they would love to share with their new friends.  

Homeschoolers are all about field trips so I'm sure your family has had their share of trips to the museums, parks, zoos, nature areas, theaters, libraries, and cultural events.  Field trips have the added bonus of being a one-time activity, though I generally offer a list of field trips and activities to our co op. Although I have created this list mostly from my brainstorming, I have also included wonderful ideas that I have seen or heard of through my own or other homeschool groups. 
The kids with astronaut Sandra Magnus

 Have you thought about some of these places:

Field Trips
  • Trash pick up along the highway or in a special place
  • Use the schedule of your town's public transportation and go tour your city
  • Creek or pond exploration using Peterson's field guides and magnifying glasses
  • Bird watching
  • Insect discovery
  • Fish
  • Geocaching
  • Caving
  • Learning the rocks
  • Answer phones for public television or other fund drive
  • Attend hobby clubs offered in your city: rock clubs, robotics, astronomy, ham radio, rocketry, 
  • Toastmasters
  • Attend civic meetings and political rallies
  • Go to the airport
  • Tour of Public Transportation with Surprise destination
  • Art Museum
  • Visit a nursing home and/or day care center to sing or entertain or read
  • Explore your library system, visit each branch in your town
  • Mini golf, or create your own!
  • TV/radio stations, newspaper tours
  • Control tower at a small airport..very cool!
  • Follow a creek and discuss how is oxbows, erodes, changes
  • Tour industries
  • Tour the local university or college
  • Tour a local quarry, utility company, city hall, water treatment, lock and dam
  • Arrange Shadowing opportunities with local business people
  • Tour historic homes, cemeteries, architecture, statues and monuments, museums
My experience with unique field trips is that my children have become familiar with how our town functions, they follow local news, they get to know local politicians and officials, and they have a real sense of belonging. We have formed real attachments to the places that we have visited and we notice activities involving these places. Also I have found that many of these places are more than delighted to have interested visitors. 


ART
.
Art work can be expensive, frugal, or absolutely free. Use the resources available to you within your homeschool co op to find others who are interested in exploring the arts and combine your talents and resources. A clever method of offering good co op classes is working with another family within the co op in order to offer the best of both of your resources! So double up with a friend and make the activity even easier to accomplish!

  • Guitar singing in the round
  • Clothing design
  • Create a drama club
  • Tie dying
  • Architecture Tour
  • Batik
  • Woodworking
  • Create a Game
  • Embroidering
  • Study of abstract art or artists
  • Artist a Week study
  • Sculpture Walk
  • Create large scale art pieces
  • Docent-led tour of local galleries
  • Journal making
  • Papermaking    
  • Mendi, henna
  • Gourd decorating
  • Cake decorating
  • Beading
  • Film noir
  • International film study
  • Make a video
  • Paint a room
  • Weave
  • Clean up lot or yard of someone in need
  • Learn a Bollywood dance number
  • Play dress up
  • Dancing lessons with a big dance at the end, invite family and friends
  • Photography
  • Beginning instrument lessons
  • Explore poetry types
  • Sewing/knitting/crochet
  • Knots
  • One family we know has the kids paint their car!
  • Finger painting
  • Anime' class
  • Anything with glitter or glue
  • Study a film genre' or two
  • Friendship bracelets
  • Victory garden, from design to dinner
  • Create a co op newsletter
  • Create a co op logo
  • Make greeting cards
  • Sing campfire songs
  • Telescopes
  • Write a one act play and perform it
  • Make soap
  • Healthy cooking
  • Create art out of discarded junk
  • Nature crafts


Outside Activities

As long as the weather cooperates, taking the kids outdoors is one of the best benefits of homeschooling. Knowing that we are in the sun and fresh air is a great way to remember this is why we homeschool! Playing in parks is a great activity, but there are more creative and fun ways to use outdoor fun as a co op activity. Here are some fun, easy, and cheap or free ways to take your lessons out-of-doors:

  • Create an obstacle course
  • Clean up the park
  • Archery
  • Fitness Class
  • Cooking over an open fire
  • Cooking underground
  • Map making
  • Geocaching
  • How early man lived, survival
  • Hayride
  • Yard games
  • Fort building
  • Build fairy houses
  • Clean a favorite lot
  • Horseback riding
  • Volunteer to manage an elderly neighbor’s yard or garden
  • Scavenger hunt nature items without removing them
  • One wonderful mom that I know stages a full-on olympics!
  • Bike riding and nature hikes
  • Photographing architecture
  • Photographing the letters of the alphabet
  • Rocketry
  • Gardening
  • Team sports
  • Jump rope games and rhymes
  • Kite building and flying
  • Tulip bulb planting
  • Water play day
 
 Academics

Obvious classes to offer are weekly or recurring scholastic skill building classes that build on certain skills. Of course these courses require more organization and planning but they are very productive, fun, and very welcome. Scout among the other parents and families in your co op to see what kinds of things they can offer the group.

  • Current event, news review
  • Math tutoring
  • Poetry writing
  • Reading Group
  • Create a lecture series
  • First Aid
  • Toastmasters or public speaking
  • Sexuality
  • Fashion Design/costume design
  • Architecture
  • Philosophy
  • Critical Thinking
  • Bookkeeping, Personal Finance
  • Role playing Games
  • Writing Group
  • Constitution and government
  • Drivers Ed
  • I taught an excellent English 1 class
  • Babysitting Skills
  • Science Experiments
  • Ethics
  • Pet Care
  • Poetry
  • The Human Body
  • Choir
  • One Acts
  • Learn the Presidents
  • Electrical Circuits and magnets
  • Biology, Chemistry, Physics
  • Typing, blogging
  • Price comparison shopping
  • Budgeting
  • Sign Language or other language
  • Historical Fiction
  • Pretend store using real money
  • Exploration of history
  • MeasuringNote taking and researching
  • Math games
  • Third World Countries
  • Write and produce a newscast
  • Research a new country each week
  • Using your PC
  • How Does it Work?  AKA:  DESTRUCTION
  • Learn about marketing and propaganda
  • Show and share
  • Create your own service project
  • Pokemon/Yugioh/other game
  • Volunteer in the community
  • Food pantry or soup kitchen
  • Yoga or meditation
  • Exercise class
  • Careers, visit work places and learn about what they do

Include the Family

The homeschool lifestyle is so unique and inclusive. We can include our extended families and friends in our activities.! Groups of families and friends working together or playing together is another excellent thing that makes homeschooling such a rich experience. Talk to your relatives and see what skills or hobbies that they might like to share with your co op. One lovely woman that I know brings her mother to a gardening course on a regular basis and she helps us to appreciate the insects and other animals that share the garden space with us. Grandparents love sharing their knowledge and passion with their beloved grandchildren and their friends. Keep is simple and fun. Other family-pleasing ideas include:

  • Golf
  • Yoga
  • Role playing games
  • Game Night
  • Movie Night
  • Grandma and Me Tea
  • Bingo
  • Making Stone Soup
  • Storytelling
  • Formal dinner party
  • Camping trips
  • Caroling
  • Dance Lessons
  • Etiquette Lessons
  • Raise funds for the community, donate to a community project
  • Yard Sale
  • Careers
  • Learn history from real time stories
  • Living History Museum
  • Carwashing
  • Bread baking
  • Manicures and make up

Computers 

As the wife of an IT guy, I would be remiss if I didn't include some ideas about using technology and the computer. There is no doubt that the internet is an amazing tool that our children are lucky enough to have at their fingertips. Some websites have entire courses available; why not share them with the group? Here are a few ideas for using technology to offer a co op class:

  • Create, update, maintain a co op webpage
  • Learn to use MS Publisher or Paint or Photoshop or ...
  • Create a membership list or helpful links for your co op
  • Contact other HS groups and create a pen pal network
  • News Reviews by reading news from the point of view of other nations
  • Letter Writing
  • General WWW usage and safety
  • Kids teach adults
  • Use the computer to send letters to political figures about topics that are important to you
  • Create petitions
  • Create Personal Books
  • Resume writing
  • Bookkeeping programs
  • Play computer games together (duh)
  • Design a menu
  • Design a brochure or handout for the co op
  • Create a calendar
  • Make greeting cards


I guess that one key is to keep is simple, make it fun, and follow your own bliss. And consider including your children in the brainstorming and planning phase. My children have come up with some wildly successful co op class ideas, from a Power Ranger Party to swimming at the local pool to scavenger hunts across town. Children enjoying getting messy and creating things and most parents would be THRILLED to have these fun events happen at someone else’s house! Volunteer activities promote wonderful growth in our children and are much more fun when done in groups. Check out idea books at the library for even more ideas. If possible, get your hands on Cub Scout, Boy Scout, Girl Scout, or other Scout handbooks for more great ideas, skits, and projects.


The simple classes are wonderful but let’s not forget academic classes that are structured and that offer prep for higher learning. Most parents sincerely appreciate academic classes that are difficult to teach. If you can offer something like that each semester you will be everyone's best friend.


  Can YOU think of any ideas to share?