Friday, December 24, 2010

Getting It Right - How to Choose Homeschool Curriculum

How do homeschooling parents know what to teach their children?
(i.e. what curriculum to follow for the specific grade level, etc.)

Good question!!!

Before you purchase curriculum, do some homework! There is a lot of curriculum available to homeschoolers and it can be overwhelming and expensive if you don’t do a little research first.

What does your state recommend?  Look at the homeschool laws in your state using the Homeschool Legal Defense Association at this link:

At that website you will find so much information, you might just want to spend an evening reading on that site!

After that, think about why you want to homeschool.  Are you concerned that your child is “behind”, “ahead”, “lost”, not getting enough, getting too much, or the many other reasons that a parent might begin looking into homeschool. Think of those reasons. Materials are available for the struggling learner as well as for the motivated learner.
  • Do you have a scope in mind? An array of materials that you feel are the right materials or subjects at this time?
  • Do you want materials that will tell you what to say?  Materials that are designed to walk you, the parent, through the lesson, and give you the words you need to explain clearly?
  • Do you want to proceed with “outside of the box” or non-mainstream ideas?
  • Do you want to work on lessons for hours each day?
  • Is your child ready for independent work?
  • Does your child prefer “hands on” materials, doing it themselves, being read to, lectures, reading independently?

All of these questions and more are a good place to start as you begin your search for your own style of homeschooling.  Some parents feel free to pick and choose materials from across the spectrum; some parents choose a “boxed” curriculum; some parents do not purchase specific materials at all.

You Don’t Have To Make This Decision Today.

I give you permission to take all of the time you need to look at the various lines of materials out there.  
  • Take as much time as you need to familiarize yourself with styles of learning.  
  • Take the time to work with and talk to your children and figure out together what WORKS with them and what direction would they like to go.  
  • Furthermore, get out there and make every effort to meet other homeschoolers, learn from them, talk to them, and ask every one of your questions!

Let go of the fear this moment. Go read with your child. And allow yourself all of the time you and your child need before purchasing or acquiring any materials at all!


How to homeschool parents know what to teach their children?

By taking the time to listen and to learn.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

As Marvin said, "What's goin' On..."

Elizabeth's rehearsals have been taking up so much of our time!   And it is totally worth it!  This is her first time at the community theater level to have a lead part in a play and she is certainly up to the task.  I am frequently WOWed by her... seriously!  She has her lines memorized already...and that includes the FRENCH lines and the LATIN lines!  lol  She is really a delight to see on stage.
One day, as we were driving home from rehearsal, I asked her what I look like while she is on stage.  She puts on this HUGE smile and sits up ridiculously straight in her seat and squeals...
"THAT"s what you look like, Mom."

We are working on some interesting lessons lately.  John is still working on American Presidents, Critical Thinking, Central America, electricity, and a million other things.
Elizabeth is writing and reading constantly...when she's not at rehearsal..!

We've been happy to be spending time with Tim and Jessica (my stepkids, who are AWESOME!) a bit more now that their schedules allow it.  Tim is starting the police academy in January and Jessica is doing her part to save the alligator gar.  She is begging us to dig a six-foot-deep pool in the backyard for a breeding and protection project she has dreamed up.  If I don't watch Jerry carefully, we could have these beasts spawning in our backyard before you know it!
And alligator gars are NOT attractive fish!

We are also doing another thing that I HIGHLY RECOMMEND!  We are hanging out together!  We are doing puzzles, playing board games, reading together, seeing Grandma, dancing, laughing, and just doing NOTHING together.  It is great...why don't we do this more often?

For our loved ones and friends, I hope that your December is just as you want it to be, filled with those things that you find meaningful and joyful.


Sunday, December 12, 2010

Homeschooling: Chapter One

atheist homeschool
You return home from the library with your arms full of books:  HOMESCHOOL SELF HELP BOOKS.  Your husband will see them, pause, and say, “Honey, you promised yourself to not bring home anymore ‘how to homeschool your child’ books.  Remember?  You promised me!!!"

"Remember the last time? Remember how late you kept the kids up last time reading Twain, Ptolemy, Shakespeare? Honey, the kids are just now beginning to lose the whimper while they sleep. Our oldest has almost stopped the tic, it's almost unnoticeable now. Remember that time you didn’t sleep for forty-one hours straight while trying to construct a time line? The one that started in bedroom, ran down the hallway, around the house, and into the family room...

"Honey, please, remember the schedules? The attempts to create a homeschool curriculum from birth to age eighteen? The three year plan??? The single year plan? The monthly unit studies? Honey, do you remember the weekly memorization?  

"Why are you opening the book?! 

"Please, I could use your help moving the furniture around. Really, I have been wanting to see what that is growing out from under that base board by the patio door for a month or so now. It started growing there just a few days after the genetics experiments. 

Gee, I wonder if what we’ll find in these couch cushions, hmm? Let's vacuum! Come on, Honey. Put the book down and help me plan an Indian unit study. How about starting with a nice authentic Indian meal. We can use that dahl or we could make some nice Paneer Pakora. Let’s include some Indian map work complete with climate, political, and economic map studies. Do you know of any Indian philosophers? How about poetry? Art? Games??? Honey, PUT...THE BOOK...DOWN."

“We still have the completed dioramas of the Mayan temple or the Roman Gladiator scene.  I'm sure I could find them in the basement...boy, those were nice!  

"Hey, let’s go and get some ice cream, huh? 

"Remember those nerve pills, the ones the doctor prescribed after that time the kids decided that they all wanted to learn different percussion instruments. I still have those in the bathroom, can I get you one? I’m pretty sure there's one under the floss on the top shelf. Actually, hey, here’s the other homeschool helping book you started, here, under the table…it’s got some of that homemade playdough stuff on it...  Anyway, remember deciding to stop reading this book, Honey?  I remember you getting that look in your eyes; in fact, we’re still paying for that weekend getaway you needed… Hey, did the kids ever read any of these books over here? Nevermind, that’s not important now. Can I get you some tea?

"Look, Sweetie, the kids are here, wanting to play some multiplication game with a deck of cards. Maybe you'd prefer painting that popsicle stick Yert from yesterday's lesson. We could run down to the nursing home and sing some folk songs...I think I have that new Slovenian Folk Music book here somewhere. Look what I found! It's the puppet stage the kids love so much. Honey, let's take turns singing songs from 'Phantom of the Opera'; the kids know every word! Sing with us Honey.

"Honey. Honey, are you laughing? What are you laughing about? 
 ...Can I read it next? "

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Tween/Teen Reading List


Tween/Teen Reading List

Of all the emails I get asking for homeschool book recommendations, my largest single request falls within the preteen  category which would be books for ages 9 to 12.  Somewhere around this age, readers get choosier about their reading or parents get frustrated when all their kids want to read is Captain Underpants or the “Twilight” series.  There is nothing inherently wrong with the popular reads.  It’s nice to have one of your children read one of these titles and announce that it is “lame” and offers nothing of interest to them!
Allowing your kids to read these lightweight and popular books is no problem as long as their reading diet includes other works of weightier content.  As the parent, we often want to offer some other titles to lead them into a direction that offers some substance.
There are many choices out there.  Some are great reads and some…some don’t quite reach the bar.  As a heavy reader myself I have found that you sometimes have to read quite a few books by frogs before you fine a true king or queen or writers.  Along these lines, I began putting together a list of tween/teen books that I can highly recommend.  Each of the following books I have read personally and many I have used with my book clubs to the delight of the readers in them!  I have purposefully NOT included “classics” as you can find these lists everywhere!

Here is my list and I welcome YOUR recommendations too!

Poetry collections are real treasures.
Jeremy Fink and the Meaning of Life by Wendy Mass
Every Soul a Star by Wendy Mass
The Wednesday Wars by Gary D. Schmidt
The 39 Clues by various authors
HATCHET by Gary Paulsen
HOLES by Louis Sachar
JULIE OF THE WOLVES by Jean Craighead George
LIFE OF PI by Yann Martel
MY SIDE OF THE MOUNTAIN by Jean Craighead George
TREASURE ISLAND by Robert Louis Stevenson
NIGHT by Elie Wiesel
OCTOBER SKY by Homer Hickman
LORD OF THE FLIES by William Golding
ERAGON: INHERITANCE by Christopher Paolini
THE HOBBIT by J.R.R. Tolkien
REDWALL by Brian Jacques
THE THIEF LORD by Cornelia Funke
AL CAPONE DOES MY SHIRTS by Gennifer Choldenko
JOHNNY TREMAIN by Esther Forbes
FRANKENSTEIN by Mary Shelley
WITCH CHILD by Celia Rees
Galileo’s Daughter by Dava Sobel
WASHINGTON’S CROSSING by David Hackett Fischer
THE WHALE RIDER by Witi Ihimaera
THE LOVELY BONES by Alice Sebold
ROMEO AND JULIET and WEST SIDE STORY by William Shakespeare, Arthur Laurents, & Stephen Sondheim
THE KITE RUNNER by Khaled Hosseini
THE POISONWOOD BIBLE by Barbara Kingsolver
THE PRINCE by Niccolo Machiavelli
BEL CANTO by Ann Patchett
MY SISTER’S KEEPER by Judi Picoult
PLAINSONG by Kent Haruf
BEE SEASON by Myla Goldberg
THE BRONZE BOW by Elizabeth George Speare
THE CHOSEN by Chaim Potok
THE MISTS OF AVALON by Marion Zimmer Bradley
NOT THE END OF THE WORLD by Geraldine McCaughrean
THE RED TENT by Anita Diamant
THE CITY OF EMBER by Jeanne DuPrau
ENDER’S GAME by Orson Scott Card
THE GIVER by Lois Lowry
I, ROBOT by Isaac Asimov
JURASSIC PARK by Michael Crichton
Avi, The Crispin: Cross of Lead
Avi, The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle
Blue Balliett, Chasing Vermeer
Brandon Mull, The Candy Shop Wars
Brian Selznick, The Invention of Hugo Cabret
Jon Scieszka, Time Warp Trio Series
Christopher Peter Grey, Leonardo’s Shadow: Or, My Astonishing Life as Leonardo da Vinci’s Servant
Cordelia Funke, The Thief Lord
D.J. MacHale, Pendragon Series
Edward Ormondroyd, David and the Phoenix
Eva Ibbotson, Island of the Aunts
Gary Paulsen, Hatchett
Gordon Kormon, Schooled
Alan Gratz, The Brooklyn Nine
Hester Velmans, Isabel of the Whales
Jean Craighead George, My Side of the Mountain
Joseph Bruchac, The Code Talkers: A Novel About the Navajo Marines of World War II
Wm. Shakespeare, “Twelfth Night”
Justin F. Denzel, Boy of the Painted Cave
Lois Lowry, Gossamer
Rick Riordan, Percy Jackson and the Olympians Series
Trenton Lee Stewart, The Mysterious Benedict Society

Friday, December 3, 2010

Atheist Christmas

OF COURSE we celebrate Christmas!
We don't do the *Christ in Christmas* thing, of course!
Instead, we have created some wonderful family traditions that entertain and delight us.  We have created a few games, there are plays, songs, performances of every kind, there are gifts, shared meals, music, laughing, and lots of love.
We invite beloved friends and family and call it the "Christmas Open House".  People do drop in and stay all day long!

As for the questions about how atheists can celebrate Christmas, I don't even have to use my snotty voice to simply remind the questioners that this time of year is celebrated in many traditions and I am thrilled to celebrate the love in our family ANY DAY!

One thing I really love about the holidays are the cards.  I enjoy the evenings that I spent with my address book, cups of tea, and a package or two of holiday cards.  I truly enjoy the opportunity to send my good wishes for happiness and joy for the season and for the upcoming year.
I've been looking for secular holiday greeting and~VIOLA!~I stumbled on this website devoted to the newest thing...ATHEIST holiday cards!  Wouldn't you want to be the one to create these little gems?  "REASON~the Reason for the Season"...things like that.  I saw this little cutie and thought I'd share it with you.
If you are interested in checking out the website:
From the sweet, professional, and cute to the snarky, you won't want to miss this website!
Too bad I already bought my little snowman cards...

Also, as for homeschool lessons, we're still working HARD.  We've been a bit less busy lately, so we've gotten more done each day.  What a relief to have gotten past that CRAZY few months!
Even the kids are happy to be accomplishing more.  John has continued to work on his multiplication tables...Why can't he memorize 144 problems when he can totally memorize 6,478 Pokemon cards???  He's also working on various countries of the world, the presidents, and some critical thinking.
Elizabeth is writing, reading literature, working on her play, and helping me with a scavenger hunt at the excellent local art museum.

This year for the holidays, we are having gift giving, our usual gift games, and we've invited a new family to celebrate with us:  a Christian family who is far from their families.  We are very open as atheists, so I'm hoping these folks will be able to come over, join in the fun, and have themselves a Merry Little Christmas.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Skepticon 3, Springfield MO

Skepticon 3 was this weekend and it was a BLAST.
Imagine an entire building full of brilliant, sardonic, BRILLIANT, fun, brilliant, educating speakers and people in the audience. I can assure you, you WANT to be at this event next year.
For one thing, it was totally free! That's right. No admission fee at all for hearing the likes of Dan Barker, James Randi, Rebecca Watson, Joe Nickolls, John Corvino, Greta Christina, PZ Myers, Richard Carrier, and some other amazing people!
The Springfield MO area is quite "Bible Belt" so, consequently, our convention was NEWS:

I was very inspired by so many of the speakers, some of whom I'd never heard of before! The brilliance and brains was overwhelming! It was the type of community that makes one feel PROUD to be a part of.
If you can make it next year...WOO HOO! 
New ideas are swirling around in my head. Ideas for this blog, beginning with the new and for always name: Homeschooling Atheists. I have tiptoed around this one for awhile now and I am PROUD to be one of the few blogs by homeschooling atheists! I also have some ideas for our lives here in the Atheist Homeschooling home, on lessons, in our lives, future work, and future study!

Dr. David Fitzgerald, author of many books on HISTORY and PHILOSOPHY. This is that lecture that you have been waiting for, the one that shows you incontrovertible, historical PROOF of all of those things you have always wondered about church history, Jesus, and early writings and stories. GREAT Lecture! I got the book 'Nailed".
His lecture contained so many facts that I simply started photographing his slides so that I could continue the research on my own!
He is a former Associate of CSER, the Committee for the Scientific Examination of Religion, and has been researching the Historical Jesus problem for over ten years. In 2005, he helped director Brian Flemming launch his documentary film The God Who Wasn't There. His lecture "The Ten Thousand Christs and the Evaporating Jesus," is now a full-length book: Nailed:Ten Christian Myths That Show Jesus Never Existed at All.

You want to talk BAD ASS?  This woman was a moderator for a panel discussion and she made the other people on the panels look like AMATEURS!  She rocked!
I have no idea what her name is...

Victor Stengel is a professor of some pretty brain blowing physics classes. Made Jerry feel brilliant. Made me feel puny!

Dan Barker was there! I didn't have my books by him, but I still got his autograph! LOL
You might know Dan Barker as the minister of 19 years who left the ministry and became a foremost speaker on atheism. He also wrote the books "Maybe Yes, Maybe No" and "Maybe Right, Maybe Wrong"; titles designed to encourage critical thinking in the young.

PZ Myers, famous for his website Pharyngula, was a super funny and amazing speaker. He is a biology professor at the University of Minnesota Morris. Jerry was totally star-struck!

There were MANY other speakers and MANY other things I will say about this event, later. I mean, this is just the beginning! In the meantime, I've got some laundry to do, some CT lessons to prepare, and some kids to kiss and squeeze!


Friday, November 12, 2010

Homeschool Questions: Do your children get lonely and bored?

There are many questions that homeschool families hear again and again and this is one  of the biggies:  Do your children get lonely and bored?

Well, yes, sometimes.  Don't all children get lonely at times?  Not 24/7.  Not 365.  Not enough that I think it is a problem.  In fact, it is those days that they are feeling lonely that that homeschool MAGIC happens. 

Before I know it, they are creating a game, making a movie, creating a dance or song, creating some sort of new project, intensely working on an existing project, thinking, reflecting, observing, TALKING to each other, baking, acting out a play, playing on the Wii, laughing in the other room together as they "clean", and, dare I say it...READING!

Loneliness isn't awful, you know.  It can be the very impetus for creativity, innovation, and finding yourself!

Most parents don't EVER want their children to feel boredom or loneliness.  It scares the parents or makes them feel inadequate or something.  MUST FILL EVERY MOMENT!!!  Some families will fill every moment with classes, lessons, games, computer programs, hand-held devices, ANYTHING to keep the boredom at bay.
I submit that it is that very thing that is feared, BOREDOM, that can spur a person, adult or child, to try new things, have a moment to think things through, or simply relax and unwind. 

The kids have a nice group of friends, many individual friends, and plenty of other acquaintances that they know that their alone times are opportunities.

So, what to do about boredom?
I encourage you to reframe the concept of boredom, from something to avoid to something to EMBRACE and to see as an opportunity to think, to become, to observe, and to be BORED!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

SKEPTICON Here we come!

Skepticon is the largest skeptic and atheist convention held in the Midwestern United States. Guest speakers are invited to discuss atheism, skepticism, and other related topics. This free event is sponsored by the Missouri State Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, and is held on the campus of Missouri State University. There have been two iterations of Skepticon, the most recent held on November 20th and 21st, 2009. Skepticon III is scheduled for November 19th-21st, 2010.

Jerry and I are headed to Skepticon 3 this year! (THANK YOU to the inlaws for staying at the house with the kids while we are gone!) We are looking forward to the stimulating conversation, the atheist humor, and an entire room full of like-minded diners!  And we don't even have to take the RV!  lol

The Amazing James Randi
The Amazing James Randi, PZ Myers of Pharyngula fame, Dan Barker, Richard Carrier, John Corvino, Brother Sam Singleton  the atheist evangelist, Rebecca Watson of Skepchick fame, and many more names are on the SPEAKER LIST!  My husband and I have been fans of several of these folks for years and are looking forward to hearing them speak!

Atheists are such a minority in this country. It's truly amazing to me the strong division in the United States between the believers and the non-believers. If one were to rely on the internet to test the temperature of the country, one would be tempted to say that there is very little to be found in the mid-temperatures.

Maybe I'm just living right. Certainly I have found both the fundamental believer and the angry atheist in my travels, but, for the most part, honestly, I have found people to be good and kind and somewhere in the middle, or at least fairly tolerant of those with differences of opinion...
Respectful, even.

There's no doubt we're in the minority, though, and BOY are we looking forward to conversation about REASON, SENSE, LOGIC, HUMOR, JOY, and GENERAL GOODNESS.

Looking forward to it!!!!!'re it!

Someone sent me the FB "tag" to answer these questions.  Thought I'd spend some time with them here...and TAG, you're it!  Post a bit on yourself, let me know you were here...


1.  What prompted you to begin homeschooling?

It started with an innocent comment from a friend about how I talk to the kids and how I was already a homeschooling mom. I began to realize that she was correct. I started thinking about homeschooling when my daughter was in kindergarten.
I volunteered in her classroom one afternoon a week; it was the afternoon they went to the school library and heard stories read by the librarian. For THREE straight weeks in December, she read Jesus stories. I was angry and confused and upset as hell. No Santas, no snow, no reindeer, no Hanukkah, no dredels, no solstice.  Jesus. In a public school.
My daughter was confused and convinced that I was not telling her the truth.
It was awful and just enough to push me over the line.
That started it.
Now, the reasons why we homeschool today have nothing to do with those early reasons!

2. What homeschooling book/s have encouraged you in your journey?

Does it make me sound like a doofus if I don't read many homeschooling books anymore? I used to read every single one I could get my hands on to and I always ended up feeling totally inadequate...
I loved "Teenage Liberation Handbook" best in the early days of reading (eight years ago). 
Nothing lately, though.

3. Do you have a favorite read aloud?

The kids and I enjoy reading adventure series books aloud. We are currently reading "The Lost Hero" by Rick Riordan, one of his new series. We loved his other ones as well. And the kids and I finished "39 Clues" and enjoyed it tremendously. We also love reading poetry aloud. "Mandy" by Julie Edwards (Andrews).

4. If you could only have three homeschooling books/curriculum, which would you choose?

meh… I’m not much into text books. I collect them, but I don’t really use them. I would say various Kingfisher and Usborne books, literature books, dictionary.

5. Where can we find your favorite homeschooling blogs?

I don't have the time to read them, actually. But I love "The Dysfunctional Homeschooler" as I love THE dysfunctional homeschooler...

6. What do you to do to demonstrate continual learning to your kids?

Reading is a big one. I am almost never without a book or three within reach. I answer questions with, “Let’s look that up.” to the point that my kids usually just ask to look things up now. I also try to display a willing attitude to try something new. We’re forever going some place or doing something new, and I always try to remind them to take something away from the experience and we usually reinforce that at home with the next day’s lessons – even if it’s only a question or two. I am a continual learner myself and, although they tease me about it, they see it and emulate it.
We research major purchases together, check out news stories and background stories, science stuff...just everything, really!

7. What’s your favorite way to unwind after a crazy day?

Hot tea, reading, Facebook, movies

8. Is there a quote you find inspiring?

"Question Everything" and my absolute favorite quote, by Carl Sagan:  
Pale Blue Dot by Carl Sagan

Here are MY questions for YOU:

  1. What did you do to prepare for homeschooling?
  2. Where do you find your best support for homeschooling?
  3. Where do you encounter the most difficulty in homeschooling?
  4. How do you challenge yourself to be a better teacher?
  5. What is your schedule like?
  6. What has been your best accomplishment as a homeschooling parent?
  7. What item has made the most significant impact to your homeschooling?
  8. What is the most important thing that you want your children to come away with as a homeschooling graduate?

Tag. You’re it!

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Introvertedly Extrovert

I am an oddity. I am an introverted extrovert.

I can say for certain that most people think I am totally EXTROVERT. Confident. Out spoken. I place my attention on others. My energy is focused outward. One who enjoys human interaction. Enthusiastic, talkative, gregarious, taking pleasure in social gatherings.

And these descripters are true. All except for one.
At times, I have no idea where my confidence goes! And when it happens, all of the extroverted behavior that I exhibit makes me feel very insecure! I feel negativity from people instead of encouragement.
It's happening now.
I am hating it.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Sibling Rivalry and Homeschooling

Every parent on the planet who has two or more children know this word well. Most of us can recall our own brushes with sibling rivalry from when we were children. Children who function in close proximity to one another find themselves wrapped in competition. I wonder how this trait developed in our species. Surely I’m not dealing with this one because the ancestors of our species feared that moment when a predator was out for a meal and a mammalian parent had to choose which offspring to protect?!

Suffice it to say that this rivalry is absolutely normal. Even the intensively competitive feelings that an older toddler can experience when a new baby comes in to the family. Parents of new infants can be shocked when their older, loving, confident child begins to exhibit wild jealousy and competition with the younger usurper. Life in these newly growing families can be very untidy, beginning with these young lives causing such difficulty to one another. Parents watch in shocked wonder when their older children begin exhibiting those rivalry tendencies towards the new little one.

We recently uncovered a VHS movie taken when my youngest was about two and my oldest was about five. It was amazing to watch the jealousy in my older, previously totally confident daughter! I wanted to just hold that little one again and remind her that my love is always with her! And parents can do many things to help sooth some of the pain of that little one going through such large and new feelings. Eventually, families begin to find their way through these years…

Homeschooling adds some special issues to sibling rivalry. Children homeschooled together tend to have very close bonds but that doesn’t preclude the rivalry issue. My own children tend to move through phases of rivalry. For the most part they get along well, respect one another’s differences, support each other, and recognize their differing personalities and traits. Usually.

Maybe it is because we don’t have public school peers to encourage distance between the ages and the genders. I could be wrong about that, but I remember many instances when my peers undermined my close relationships with my little sisters when we were kids! Maybe it is because homeschooling in our family fosters clear communication, responsibility, and individuality. Something happens that makes these difficult periods of very short duration and intensity. I am fairly certain that my EXPECTATIONS of little rivalry has something to do with it. The kids know that they are expected to respect one another and that they will be respected in turn.

It is our attitude, my husband and I, that I believe is the strongest influence on the kids’ ability to navigate their sibling rivalry as well as they do. We try to be fair, we acknowledge that one has a right to their own feelings and those feelings are honored, we give them room to deal with their strong feelings and with one another on their own, we make ourselves available for assistance if requested, and we live under the assumption that children will treat one another with respect.

Learning how to deal with conflict, how to maintain dignity, how to express one’s self clearly, how to respect differences in one another, and how to find forgiveness and acceptance and peace again are ongoing lessons in our family. We talk about peacekeeping often and point out moments of excellence in communication. We’re not perfect, any of us, but I’m convinced that our focus on positive character traits is preparing the kids to be peacekeepers, confident adults, and loving human beings.

* Reading this in 2019, I think we were simply LUCKY.  😆

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Egg on my Facebook

I have some interesting ideas I want to share...but then I chicken out. The fact that some of my friends and acquaintances who are people of faith are actually reading my stuff on Facebook has come to my attention. Out of fear of offending I feel like I'm walking on eggshells. Mincing words. Biting my tongue.

Facebook is the community site. I mean EVERYBODY is there reading what EVERYBODY ELSE is writing. I often find great links, great sites, great quotes that I want to post on my Facebook page, but I don't.
I chicken out.

I SAY that I am "out" as an atheist, but when I think about what I do and do not post on Facebook, I realize that I am NOT out. And I'm bummed about this.

I have many friends and family on Facebook that happily post "Messages from God", "Let's pray for our pets today", and other nonsense and I don't have the courage to post my stuff.
It's embarrassing, my trepidation.

What, exactly, am I fearful of? My real friends and my family are completely aware that I am an atheist AND being an atheist is something that I am quite proud to be. (I mean, it was a long road getting here!) So what is it that stops me?

For one thing, Facebook is totally open. I find the posting of other people so annoying at times. Am I fearful of annoying people? No.  Not really. I don't post Mafia Wars or that Farm game. I don't post quizzes. I seldom repost/share from others. I'm a pretty innocuous poster.

Yes, I think this is it. I have a small business that is frequented by Christians and I fear losing their business...

Well, given that reason, it's fairly understandable. Right?

Are You Fully ENGAGED?

I've been online for awhile now reading atheist blogs and I'm discouraged. There are so many ANGRY ATHEISTS.
On one hand, I can totally understand the Christopher Hitchens in many of us. That vitriolic anger, that refusal to sit back quietly and bite my tongue, that decision to finally let the sarcasm run rampant, the eye roll that has been waiting to happen.

The public debates of religion and other belief systems has reached an all-time high. I am certain that there has never been such a storm of opinions out there. The WWW has made it possible for each of us to sit with our selves and to post our deepest beliefs out there in the ether.

For better or worse, we are embroiled in a debate that is unprecedented.
At the same time, I know many atheists who are sitting quietly in their closet, in their cars, at their dinner table, at their desks, quietly being skeptical. And no wonder. Posting opinions online is a bit like mooning the world from a passing never know who has your picture or when or where it will show up again. nd it will show up again... 

Does this flurry of verbosity require that we are all fully engaged in the discussion? Can we sit quietly with the knowledge that we are atheists? 
Must we "come out"?

It's a good question, really. Because each time we don't speak up to the vocal fundamentalist or to the "Bless You" or to the majority prayer/sermon/message, we are giving our tacit approval, we are allowing the word "Christian" to mean "Good Person". We are allowing that moment to go by where we might open the door a bit.

I am certain that most atheists are entirely in the closet. Because "coming out" means facing the furious debate. It means identifying with that angry atheist out there who is speaking the words we feel but not living in our skin. It is hard! It can mean that WE become the face of ATHEIST to someone out there.

I have found that I MUST be "out". I must be true and honest and proud of the label "ATHEIST". *I* am the definition of that word for many people and it is important to me to represent that as naturally, comfortably, positively, and joyfully as I can.

Occasionally the stigma is there. But I can handle it. Because it is my way to live with integrity.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Indeed, you say!

I had a thought today.

My 13 year old daughter and I were talking about a myriad of subjects and it occurred to me, that thought that I often had when I was a teen:  enlightened educators should heavily focus attempts to teach to the years from 1-12 and then again from 25+. AVOID trying to teach the teen!

Do you remember those years?! By her own admission, even when working on fractions or decimals or pre-Alg, listening to Swing music, reading Shakespeare, learning about arteries, or watching Louis Leakey videos this child is thinking about three things:  boys, books, and her BFFs. Yes, she has that uncanny ability to have her pencil moving, her eyes roving the page, and to STILL be thinking about her friends.
It’s the hormones, remember!?
My secret for keeping her focused?
She follows her own bliss.
No, we are not the ubiquitous and unconventional unschoolers. She wishes to write, so she writes! And writes, and writes. And she reads and reads and reads. Attempts to actually teach her have failed for the past few months, and yet, somehow, she continues to blossom! She is thinking, talking, debating, exploring ideas, questioning, and being true to herself.
Truly, this is the moment of REAL homeschooling for me. I am thrilled to be witness to the fact that she is teaching herself!
One more occurs to me that I am learning again too...

Monday, September 27, 2010



Dale McGowan at the awesome and excellent Parenting Beyond Belief blog is recounting the ongoing saga (well, perhaps ongoing, perhaps as resolved as it’s going to get) of his efforts to handle what appears to be a creationist science teacher at his son’s school. I can’t strongly enough urge you to read the entire saga, starting with the first post and continuing via the links at the bottom of his blog page.  (Be sure to follow his hyperlinks!)

Monday, September 13, 2010


My son and I were at the public park the other day.  He was "dressed out", as he says.  Wearing some concoction of a costume, including a red scarf around his head and hanging down his back, ninja style.  He was feeling fine, hip, cool, happy, and energized!
Now, imagine him running up to the swings, pushing off, soaring as high as possible with a smile as wide as the sky.  Next to him, the child on the swing asks him, "What's that thing on your head for?"
My son replies, "I'm a ninja".

The boy jumps off of the swing, runs over to the climbing structure to converse with his pals.  Suddenly, from the play structure, we start hearing kids snickering, laughing, pointing, and, finally, we hear several of them saying under their breath "Ninja FREAK!"  Again and again these boys taunted and teased while my son swings slower and slower, finally coming to a stop.  Looking at me.
"You know, Mom, those kids are calling me names.  But I don't feel bad.  In fact, I feel stronger."
So he gets off of the swing and goes to the large structure to hang and climb.  A boy asks him just how he can be a ninja and my son replies, "In my imagination."  The boys start laughing again and we hear "How are you a ninja in your imagination?"

My son looks at me while hanging upside down from a cross bar and asks, "What?  Don't these kids know what imagination is?"

Well, eventually we noticed a boy that we knew some years ago when he and his sister used to homeschool.  We say, "Hi, Ryan, remember us from when you and your sister Shay used to homeschool?"  He looks at the "lead" teaser and says, "No".
If you guessed that my son was now the "Homeschool Freak", you're right.  It wasn't sixty seconds before several of the boys were snickering and taunting again.
My son looks at me and says, "Mom, is this what a bully looks like?  I've never seen one in real life."
Leave it to my wonderful son to take a situation such as this and turn it into a learning experience!
On the way home he says, "Mom, I hope the kids who go to school with him aren't teased every day by him..."

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Why are they SO HAPPY the kids are back in school?

I've heard dozens of mothers across the area sigh, saying "Yay!  School started!"
I'm kind of baffled, honestly. I honestly don't mean to sound snooty or superior or holier-than-thou. I simply don't understand why these mothers and fathers are so happy and relieved to be separated from their children for 35 hours a week...or for 20 hours a week...

Listen, I understand the need to have a few minutes or hours to yourself where the kids aren't knocking on your bathroom door, picking up the telephone while you are on it, expecting regular infusions of food constantly. I haven't even been in the tub alone without interruption for over two weeks! (ASK YOUR DAD!  He's the other adult in the house!) Surely the ability to complete a thought (or a magazine article!) has it's appeal. Certainly I can appreciate the total and utter appeal of silence. Silence, aaaahhhh. (And, here, I am referring to the silence that doesn't leave you running around the house looking for children sneaking Ding Dongs or whispering snotty stuff to a sister or brother so I don't hear.)

But WHY would I want to be away from these kids for HOURS for days and days? Why? Are we, as a society so brainwashed into thinking that their lives should be over....HERE and my life should be over..........HERE?  Are you buying that? 

From the time my kids were born, my mom has always teased me that they are so attached to me. She'll tease me, insinuate that this makes them weird, and then wistfully hug them. She is convinced that me being with the kids is a BAD THING and that I am constantly in need of TIME ALONE. She seems to think that there is something wrong with me, with us because we don't long to be away from each other.

It is difficult for her to see that we love this arrangement! We enjoy one another. We actually want to be together! What, exactly, does she think I am missing by not being "ALONE"?

My friend down the street went to a "MOMS LUNCH", all caps, the second day the kids were back in school. WOO HOO. Now, for the next 178 days of school...?

Look, I can see celebrating a free day or two, but 178? Who needs it?
Why is she so happy??? Will these MOMS LUNCHES keep up all year? No, of course not. The moms will go back to their own homes or places of work or other employment and spend them alone or busy.

Is it possible that they have just bought the idea that they "should"?
Is it the "new shoes", "new clothes", "new friends"? Let's face it, new shoes are expensive, new clothes are "old" the second time wearing them, and there are, genuinely, few new friends from year to year. I'm convinced that these contrivances entirely to persuade the masses what they "need" to do. It is rather shocking to hear the moms cheering and cartwheeling across the lawns...

Who enjoys the PTA meetings? Who enjoys the SELLING CANDY and other crap? Who enjoys having someone else tell you your schedule daily? Who enjoys early nights, early mornings, two days to relax, and dreading Sunday night? Have you forgotten homework battles? Late night headaches of work? How about a thousand illnesses? Have you forgotten the required parental activities? Day care? Car pools? Fire drills? The need for emergency and "stranger danger" drills? Getting out of the house on time? Hungry and tired children in the mornings? Meeting the expectations of the school at all times?

Is it a matter of habit?
Well, I for one, am THRILLED that we are celebrating NOT GOING BACK TO SCHOOL!
WOO Hoo!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Keeping the "Home" in Homeschool

Choosing to be at home: A crucial step in creating a better homeschool environment is to home! We need the long stretches of time that go uninterrupted by doctors, trips to piano lessons, vet appointments for the pet, post office, and grocery shopping are essential to create a feeling of time and space to learn. Just because you are at home, does not mean that you are “available”. Schedule “at home” days that are inviolable, fixed, and respected.

Pick up your calendar and mark large “X”s through one day each week. This is the day that you are not available! This is the day that you and your children will be at home. Being at home.
Oh, you will find many, many reasons why you can’t keep this little sacrosanct day. We’re not used to putting ourselves first! But keep yourself disciplined! Keep this once-a-week schedule firm. Be together at home. Cook. Lessons. Chores. Movies. Games. Hang out. Talk! After those first few times you keep this little promise to yourself, you will find that it becomes easier to say “no” to all of the outside activities and to put this family time first! You and your children will look forward to the “home” in homeschool again!

Eventually, you will be surprised at how carefully you protect that day!

Be smart about outside activities. There is no doubt that homeschooling families can find many, many opportunities outside of the home. Lessons, play dates, classes with friends, field trips, museums, et al. I am sure we can all point to dates on our calendars from this month that have all seven days FULL of fun and great activities outside in the community.

We all feel the pressure to do more! Go more! Participate more! Schedule more!
It’s not that I don’t appreciate what prodigies our children are! I know how important these events can be. I also know how important lunch at the kitchen table is. Food that didn’t come through the car window. Juice boxes scattered in the car. Movies and music collections strewn about the vehicle as you drive, frenzied, from here to there. Schlepping! Yes, we have all been SCHLEPPING!

Remember the free time we promised ourselves? Remember the dream of allowing our children to fill those hours with activities of their choice? Remember playing for the sake of playing? Remember the fun of just “hanging out”? We promised ourselves that we would provide a happy childhood to our children. Let’s keep that promise!



I want to be grateful.
I want to remember to set down the "issues", the little annoyances, the things that "they" do that makes my days more cumbersome and complicated, or the sights and sounds that are noisy.
I want to pick up the mantle of love, appreciation, awareness, remembrance more regularly, NOT just when it is easy or comfortable.
I want to remember that being grateful is not the result of being happy, but being happy is the result of being grateful.

Here is my song, my poem of gratitude for today. Were I to add music to the words, they would sound like bird song, gentle breezes, silence.

I am grateful to this earth. To the sustainable soils, the richness and sweetness of the seasons. To the "always-ness" of the earth. For its deep and hidden places. For its changeability and its constancy. For those things that are buried within, calling it their home. For temporary things. For the core, the energy within. To it's mass that keeps our feet firmly on its surface.

I am grateful to the plants. To their ability to reflect the weather, the seasons. To their cleansing and gentle ways. To their oxygen chemical reaction, to their nutritious and life-giving grains. To the fine root hairs for gathering up the wealth of the soil and sky. To the flowering and blooming things that give our senses sight, smell, touch, taste, and sounds found in no other place. For the many ways they touch us. For the many ways that they move through their life cycles that have nothing to do with us.

I am grateful to the air and atmosphere. The soaring, swift, silent breath of our atmosphere. To our gravity, our weather, our colorful dawn and dusk. To the cleansing breezes and to the lift of birds all around us.

I am grateful for the animals and all living things. To their wildness, to their tameness, to their secret ways, to their way of moving along in the midst of our pain, reminding us that nature always moves forward, the true model for healing. For their friendships and gentleness and beauty at living in freedom.

I am grateful to water. For the cycle of release, storage, movement, revitalization, release again. For that that is so much a part of us, of which we are so much a part. For the elemental foundation of our existence, that which allows life on this planet. For it's cleansing, healing, connection, life-giving, infinity.

I am grateful for the sun. For that hydrogen-pulsing life giver. For the energy stored within it's mass, for the stored energy beneath our own crust from the sun's past energy transfer. For it's warmth, for it's light, for it's healthy energy to our bodies. For it's cycles that lengthen, shorten, lengthen again and bring the patterns of the seasons. For being our home, our parent in the cosmos. For being the closest and most necessary life-giving source.

I am grateful for the sky and beyond. For it's mystery. For it's beauty. For being a part of each of us, within us. For the uncountable stars and objects that make us all that is. For being beyond our comprehension, our know ability. For being that which is greater than us.

My Homeschool Thoughts for the day


Schooling confuses teaching with learning, grade advancement with education, a diploma with competence, and fluency with the ability to say something new.
~ Wendy Priesnitz

I have been talking to several parents this week who are all considering homeschooling their children. In every single case, the school's failure to meet the needs of their children is their main impetus to explore the homeschool lifestyle. I am angry and horrified at some of the stories that I have heard. The next problem these parents will face, though, once they move to a homeschooling lifestyle is to absorb the ethos of homeschooling. That "book learning" is not the same as getting a great education.

That, alone, took me a few years to grasp. How can I pass it on to these loving, angry, desperate, and wounded parents? The answer is that I'm not so sure I can do that in a few sentences. That truth, for me, was a truth that revealed itself to me as my research went on and on.

In the meantime, I am grateful to have the opportunity to offer my support and assistance to these new parents about to take the leap into the homeschool lifestyle!
Le Chiam!