Saturday, September 24, 2011

Don't Kill the Writer

I'm teaching an English 1 course to homeschool kids who are about 12-15 years of age. Each child has a different writing level and a different levels of grammar work. I find myself learning something new each class!

I started out with the first class containing a Powerpoint presentation on basic grammar and sentence structure.

Have you ever looked out into a class full of bored faces? I hesitate to tell you what it is like... I don't want to frighten you! The Powerpoint event was.....terrible! It must be a nightmare to teach unwilling high school aged kids literature. (I sincerely apologize to my literature teacher from my senior year who was trying to get us to read William Faulkner!)

I saw doodling, yawning, eye rolls, gum bubbles, texting...
It was awful!
Immediately I started rethinking my teaching method.

The next class we did more in-class writing and reading.
It was better, but still a grind.

This last class, I think I finally got it.
First we wrote a paragraph while sitting in my living room.

What is the day like? 

Most kids talked about the beautiful sunny weather and the nice temperatures.

Then, I marched them outside, moved around the yard, sat in the warmth of the sun on the soft carpet of my front lawn. Then we rewrote the paragraph. Talking about sensory words. Noticing the variety of birds overhead, the depth of the amazing color of blue in the sky, the thousand colors of green in the grass, the nonstop sound of insects, the smell of the grass, leaves falling from the trees onto our toes, the feel of the breeze that moved the tree leaves...

The paragraphs that came from that exercise were top notch!
And I learned a thing or two too.

Keep it simple. Keep it interesting. And keep it real.

Monday, September 19, 2011

What's it Like Being an Atheist?

It’s a lot like being the only sober person in a car full of drunk people,   
and they refuse to pull over and let you drive.

 full on STEAL from:

 The interesting thing is, I seldom go through my day thinking of religion or gods or anything supernatural.  Dream reading, ghosts, tarot cards, talking to the dead, afterlives, prelives, for that matter, runes, angels, daemons, dream interpretation, Phrenology, palmistry, alchemy, Big Foot, Astrology, Crystals, crop circles, UFO abductions, Deja Vu,  faith healing, telekinesis, faith healings, reincarnation, palm reading, vampires, horoscopes, and the like. 

I'll just be moving through the day, rationally.  

Suddenly someone will say something about an angel thing or a prayer thing and I'm immediately like  


Oh yeah, people out there actually believe this stuff and it is meaningful for them...

 Here is an example:  I was as Walgreens earlier today and saw a DVD meant for TODDLERS explaining the beauty of God's creation...  I literally nearly tripped!

All I could think was:  ACK!!!

Struggling With a Label...

If you read my blog, you know that I have been struggling with a label. Am I Humanist?

I've been reading and watching and thinking and musing and whatnot and, sure, I agree with so much of the tenets of those who call themselves Humanist or Secular Humanist. So what. I realize it's not that big of a deal.

The other day I was listening to a podcast that had a wonderful interview with Neil DeGrasse-Tyson talking about this EXACT THING. Isn't it amazing and serendipitous when you are thinking about a thing and the next thing you know NPR or someone is doing a segment on it. It was weird and great like that.

He was talking about why he does not espouse an 'ism' or an  "ist".  It's the very reason why I am having trouble with labels at all. 
As soon as anyone knows your "label", they can claim to understand where you are coming from. You are immediately pigeon-holed and filtered and fitted with your "beliefs" by the person with whom you are speaking. You are immediately seen as having a set of things for which you stand. What you love. What you hate. What you criticize. What you support.
Besides, most "isms" are shallow and hate-based.

I find myself living in the gray areas of life. In the spaces between things. I can't claim to be either Republican or Democrat. Liberal or Conservative. Friendly but shy. Sensitive or indifferent. Confident but insecure. Enlightened and biased. Dingy or deep.
Maybe I should consider calling myself a Dichotomous Freak of Nature.

My point is, if a person knows me as an atheist, and most people do know me this way, they make assumptions about who I am and what I stand for that may or may not apply to me.

We are all complicated beings. We have our own personal filters.  Our histories that move us in many directions at once. Our cathected ideas and objects. Personal injuries, emotional and otherwise. Those things that fill us with excitement and passion.
We are simply TOO COMPLEX to allow any "ism" to define us.
And I say we embrace that.
Today we stop using "isms" and "ists".

I have already begun, actually.
I was talking with my sister about this tonight. (Well, sort of about this...) I would say that we all have a degree of being friendly, unfriendly, sensitive, indifferent.
In fact, I believe it is these very dichotomous natures within me that allow me to have compassion and respect for many people with whom I disagree. I can appreciate the even and the odd, the dark and the light, the easy and the difficult, the  self aware and the unenlightened.

And why not?  Viva La' different!

And that statement in other languages too!

The Greeks, way back at Delphi, graffitied on their walls "Know Thyself".

γνῶθι σεαυτόν

All through history philosophers have talked about the wisdom of knowing one's self. Plato made the phrase his own personal catch phrase, for goodness sake! And my favorite philosophical writer from the last two hundred years or so, Ralph Waldo Emerson, frequently wrote about the need to know the self within.

So, I have decided to take Dr. DeGrasse-Tyson's lead and NOT label myself further.
I AM a homeschooling parent and I AM an atheist.

Beyond that, hey, I'm a rolling stone...

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Brights Mag

A good friend of mine, Rayven Holmes, has started her own secular parenting magazine called "Bright Parenting Magazine".  Her first edition comes out tomorrow.
The COOL thing, besides me having an article in the issue...AND the fact that this magazine is going to be in existence at all...I was there as Rayven took the pic for the cover art...ON HER PHONE.
Man, the cameras on those little devices are amazing...

Here is a link to the mag's website:

I will follow up with more information as the issue comes out.

Count down:  1 Day until First Issue

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Thoughts and Humanism

We're having one of those weeks. FAR too much to do on each day. It's a bit overwhelming just thinking about it...


The kids who are taking my English 1 class are SO inspiring!

I am offering an English 1 class to the kids on our co op (Who have already signed up and started the class) this semester and next. One of the things they are to do is begin a blog to be used only for the class and for publishing their writing for my perusal only. (Well, mine and their parents.)

I am enjoying them immensely! Each child comes across so uniquely in his or her writing. We are planning on reading some of the classic "freshman" reads this year, as well as a few different titles. So far, I'm very excited!

I do hope to see more interested faces next week...LOL.

I have been working on a costume for John for a costume birthday party he is going to this week.

I'm making the costume on the fly and it's looking a bit...weird.
I hope I can get it done and I hope I can get it done in a way that doesn't make him weep.
Laura or Ashlea, where are you!!!!

Laundry, lessons, cleaning, shopping, working on the bathroom remodel, working on lessons that I am preparing, working on the yard, and so many other forms of working...
Did I mention lessons?

⟴⟴⟴ ⤲ ⬲⬲⬲

As for HUMANISM, I've been listening to some good and not-so-good podcasts. Still enjoying learning more.
At this website, I read this:

What Is Secular Humanism?

Secular Humanism is a term which has come into use in the last thirty years to describe a world view with the following elements and principles:
  • A conviction that dogmas, ideologies and traditions, whether religious, political or social, must be weighed and tested by each individual and not simply accepted on faith.
  • Commitment to the use of critical reason, factual evidence, and scientific methods of inquiry, rather than faith and mysticism, in seeking solutions to human problems and answers to important human questions.
  • A primary concern with fulfillment, growth, and creativity for both the individual and humankind in general.
  • A constant search for objective truth, with the understanding that new knowledge and experience constantly alter our imperfect perception of it.
  • A concern for this life and a commitment to making it meaningful through better understanding of ourselves, our history, our intellectual and artistic achievements, and the outlooks of those who differ from us.
  • A search for viable individual, social and political principles of ethical conduct, judging them on their ability to enhance human well-being and individual responsibility.
  • A conviction that with reason, an open marketplace of ideas, good will, and tolerance, progress can be made in building a better world for ourselves and our children. 

Do I have a conviction that dogmas, ideologies, and traditions must be weighted rather than accepted on faith?  YES.
Am I committed  to the use of critical reason rather than faith or mysticism?    YES
Am I in a constant search for truth?  YES
Do I believe that this life can be made better and more meaningful through connection with others?  YES
Do I believe that ethical principles are judged on their ability to enhance humanity?  YES
Do I believe that these principles can lead to a better world?  YES

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Secular Thursday: Good Video

But WHY do people wish to believe?  
WHY does religion thrive?
Why do people continually ignore obvious facts before them in pursuit of a myth?
For one brief, excellent video response to these questions, check out this video

Friday, September 2, 2011

For Poetry Rushes in Where Fools Fear to Tread

The Quiet Life
by Alexander Pope

Happy the man whose wish and care
A few paternal acres bound,
Content to breathe his native air
In his own ground.

Whose herds with milk, whose fields with bread,
Whose flocks supply him with attire;
Whose trees in summer yield him shade,
In winter fire.

Blest who can unconcern'dly find
Hours, days, and years slide soft away
In health of body, peace of mind,
Quiet by day,

Sound sleep by night; study and ease
Together mixt, sweet recreation,
And innocence, which most does please
With meditation.

Thus let me live, unseen, unknown;
Thus unlamented let me die;
Steal from the world, and not a stone
Tell where I lie.

Humanist in the Making


I was listening to a humanist podcast that a friend left in the car the other day and it really made me think.
I realize that I have tired of talking about atheism and about reading atheists who rant.  I'm tired of being at a standstill.  I realize that I am moving back into life without that label being my first identification (this blog not withstanding!  lol)
I have been a humanistic thinking for most of my adult life anyway.  After moving from those early years when I thought that "nice people go to church.  I'm nice.  Therefore, I should go to church" place, I have come to a place where I am ready to simply BE.
I feel that I feel quite liberated from the frenzied anger that I had for awhile.  I understand it.  I appreciate it when others are there.  I, myself, have moved to another place.  I don't claim to be "beyond" anything.  Simply in another place.
I still have alot to read though!

I am a peaceful person who prefers loving kindness to most other things.
I still abhor hatred and pain caused by religions.
I still strongly hold with separation of church and ...well...everything.
I am a skeptic.
I believe in integrity and goodness.
I believe our species and our planet is a small part of a universe so vast we cannot truly comprehend it.
I believe in natural explanations.
I believe science has much to learn, but that it mostly operates with integrity.
I believe that every human being deserves respect.
And I am optimistic about people in general.

Furthermore, I feel the need to connect and to act ethically to improve my corner of the world.
The kids and I are planning on visiting the Ethical Society near us with the hopes of joining with a caring group that creates opportunity to help the community.

I'm happy with this choice, I've got alot to learn, and I'm looking forward to seeing changes take place in our parenting, in our family, in our lives, and in the world.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Secular Thursday Post Time

The gist of the article is found in these paragraphs:

"It seems as if the state is at war with the Catholic community, Springfield Bishop Thomas John Paprocki says.

“In many ways, it does certainly feel like our principles and our ways of acting within our religious beliefs are under attack,” Paprocki said in an interview.

The decision by the Department of Children and Family Services to sever its foster care and adoption services contracts with Catholic Charities is just one example, Paprocki said. He also cited an order by ex-Gov. Rod Blagojevich requiring pharmacies and pharmacists to dispense emergency contraception.  The order was struck down by a Sangamon County judge in April.

“We have concerns down the line about requirements mandating contraception in insurance plans and ultimately even requiring Catholic hospitals to perform abortion,” Paprocki said.

Following Circuit Judge John Schmidt’s ruling that Catholic Charities does not have a legal right to extension of its state contracts to oversee foster and adoptive children, Peoria Bishop Daniel Jenky said “important elements of the political establishment in the state of Illinois are now basically at war with the Catholic community.”

Asked last week if he agreed, Paprocki said, “It feels like it.

“We’re simply trying to continue to do the social services we’ve done for decades,” he said. “Suddenly, they are telling us we can’t do that anymore. We are concerned that this is not just an isolated case. We see a growing secularism in our society.”

I am THRILLED and HAPPY to see secularism creeping into Illinois decisions.  The Great Land of Lincoln!
Contraception, Pro-choice decisions, removing foster care from it's long-time near-monopoly relationship with Catholic Charities  Bishop PopRocks's fear of the frightening slippery slope ahead gives me hope.
But it also means he will be on his pulpit bad-mouthing the "secular" decisions of the state.

I can guess as to why Illinois Child Welfare Services has severed it's contract with Catholic Charities as of August 19th of this year, but that is HUGE.  Many Catholic social service agencies have been kept afloat financially by these contracts.  I wonder what will happen to them now?  Who has those foster care contracts?  DCFS?
Make no mistake, those foster care contracts were terminated with the Catholic agency for one reason:  they refuse to allow openly gay couples to provide foster care to children in need and THAT violates the Illinois state anti-discrimination laws.

Due to the Catholic Church's unwillingness to budge on this issue, over two thousand children will now have to be moved to new foster arrangements.  Two thousand children!

I salute the state of Illinois for doing what is right in this case and for sticking to the ethics of the situation.

Land of Lincoln