Friday, November 30, 2012

'Tis the Season

I *will* say "Happy Holidays". 

Because I am disrespecting Christmas and Christians?
Absolutely and Resoundingly NO.  It is because I speak very deliberately and I use words and expressions thoughtfully and I choose to include all people I see in my good wishes.
When I say "Happy Holidays" I absolutely mean that I wish YOU and yours a very happy holiday of your choice.

Please, accept that certain parts of the media (Bill O'Reilly, for example) have created such fear of a "war on Christmas" that simply isn't there.  There is NO war on anything.  Only a desire to include all people and to spread well wishes to all. 
I can not know what your belief system is simply by looking at you.  And so I will always choose "being kind and respectful to all". 

I carry no attitude if you use "Merry Christmas" and I don't judge.  In your heart and with your words, do everything you can to *increase* the holiday spirit and values of LOVE and FAMILY and CELEBRATION.  Your religion of choice has much more "meaning" than that to you.  I'm happy for you.  Enjoy it and feel the warmth of it.  And know that people of other belief systems feel that exact same warmth and meaning in their beliefs.  That is why they believe it and practice it!

Fear less and love more!

And I do, most sincerely, wish you a Happy Holiday!


Thursday, November 29, 2012

Secular Thursday

The kids and I were doing some shopping today and we noticed the Australian stores having their holiday decorations and things up.  One of the store checkers told us "Happy Holiday!" with a lovely smile.  She was so sincere!  And I kept thinking about why some people get so uptight about the various options of how to wish a person joy during this upcoming season ~~ because she was SO sweet!

So, I get home and a friend had posted this on his Facebook page:

Now WHY anyone would have a problem with someone saying anything except for "Merry Christmas" is really a mystery to me.  I don't get the vehemence of such responses.  And, although this clip art states a "respect" for Kwanzaa and Chanukah, somehow it is still kind of rude about it.   So, here was my reply to my friend:

You don't HAVE to stop saying "Merry Christmas"!
Just understand that I have chosen to include
everyone in my happy seasonal wishes, including those who are not Christian.
I, in no way, mean my 'Happy Holidays' as a DIS to anyone. Instead, I prefer to acknowledge that many wonderful people have celebrations at this time of year and I wish them well.

So, be warned, it's here already!
Enjoy your holidays!


November 30th addendum. 
Bella Casa, a reader of this blog recommended this wonderful blog post for further thoughts on the matter from a blog called
The Fat Pastor I read some more of his blog.  I appreciate his ability to think critically about some religious doctrine and practices.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Homeschool Atheist Momma


Are you an atheist homeschooler?
If you are, then I KNOW you have spent hours upon hours on the internet looking for guidance, like-minded people, curriculum, and support.

I've been thinking about this so much lately.  One reason it is so difficult being atheist parents is that, for most of us, we are first generation atheists.  We have no frame of reference, no common rituals, no role models, no easy fall-back positions, and VERY FEW homeschool materials to help us on our journey in raising ethical and educated children.

I admire all parents who take the difficult journey with their families because they feel that they must take the road less traveled.   So, for all parents on this labor of love, welcome to the journey.  Enjoy each moment.  Don't sweat the small stuff.  And blaze your own trail!


If you like this post you might try this one:
On Being an Atheist Parent
Or you may enjoy:
or this one:
Ten Homeschool Myths BUSTED by Homeschoolers

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

What Do Homeschoolers Do: Barely Out of Tuesday

A Day in our Life

Do you wonder what goes on in the house of other homeschoolers? Do you try to figure out exactly what homeschooling looks like on the inside of a long-time homeschool family? I remember, in the beginning, wondering what everyone else was doing right now...  What are they talking about, planning, working on?  LOL
Our days now are far different from our early days of homeschooling.
In the early days, we sat down at the table and went through books from front to back, and I wrote down all of the activities in a record book. Our schedule was pretty flexible, but we did spend most of our time at the table...

Now, a great many days and weeks and months and years have passed and our homeschooling days have changed about a hundred times. These days, since we are in Australia for the year, we do far fewer actual lessons now. Every day brings us something new.  New people and places that we enjoy exploring.

Let me tell you about our day today.  
It's fairly typical, if there is such a thing.

John John woke up first, as usual. On the table was a list of work for him to do.  (*more on this list later) He watched a few TED talks, did some Geometry and some Algebra, read a part of a chapter in biology about habitats and niches. He swam for about an hour. He talked to a friend from back home for about an hour and a half...creating a Minecraft world and playing a game of Yugiho while on Skype with friends. Then he helped get some meals together for the day. 
This afternoon he and I did some work with Australian history and geography that we picked up from the local library and then went for a drive. After dinner he and his dad watched a science documentary on cars and...something.

Lizzie slept in. She talked with a friend online. Then she had a guitar lesson, an acting class, and did some rehearsing then we got back home. She helped with dinner. Tonight she is doing some writing and some Algebra. She is also working on figuring out her outfit for an acting performance she has this weekend (this is quite a time-consuming activity). Tuesdays are her theater days so we go light on academics.

This evening we heard that a good friend of ours is in the hospital with complications from an earlier surgery. We will go and visit Jai tomorrow. And now we are sitting in the living room, everyone doing their own thing. I am blogging, my husband is doing some work on the PC, Lizzie is still writing, and John is watching some funny video series on YouTube that he loves. Just a regular day.

What will tomorrow bring???

*  About the notebook:  Each child has a notebook in which I write assignments. Sometimes I will write several days worth of lessons. Sometimes I write what is to be done in a single day. A "typical" entry might look like this:

  • Algebra:  Read pages 180-182.  Do practice problems 1-30, even only. Ask Mom if you need a hand. Review pages 55. Do practice problems 10-20, odd only.
  • Geometry:  Do pages 177-178 with Mom.
  • Life Science:  Read pages 210-217.  Review all photos, charts, graphs, and review questions. Be prepared to discuss with Mom. Go onto YouTube and watch a couple of videos on habitation and specialization in animals
  • Chores:  empty dishwasher and bring in the wash on the clothes line.
  • Choose two TED talks to watch
  • Choose poetry or music to listen to with Mom.
  • Write five "thank you" notes for birthday things.

John's work usually takes about 2-3 hours in a day. I try to make sure he does at least an hour's worth of work independently. He also has friends he hangs out with and projects that they are working on. He has a few projects he is working on alone. He also requires an hour or more of physical activity at least once a day, often more. And he and his sister usually do chores and neighborhood stuff together.

So, that's what a typical day for John looks like, with LOTS of variation on that.
Any questions? I'm happy to answer them!


If you like this post you might also enjoy:
On Being an Atheist Parent

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Hot Air


I think it matters what you call things.  I guess it is true that a rose, by any other name would smell as sweet.  But you can't ignore the fact that words are powerful.  Words have the ability to bring one's emotion up to the heights or down to the lowest depth.  Words are powerful.  That is why I am quite militant about language and the use of certain words.
I'm not a freak about your spelling (though mine will, in general, be correct).  I'm not the punctuation police or the grammar bully.  Feel free to make every error and to use all of that newfangled internet shorthand like brb and 4 sure and how ur?  I won't stop you.

But when it comes to word use, I have a problem with using religious rhetoric lightly. 

For example, you will never hear me call anything a miracle.  Or mention a spirit, a soul, or an aura.  I won't use the word creation.  Not because religions own these words.  They don't get to claim the language as their own.  But some words are a bit besmirched by the religious groups and the words do carry religious undertones.  In short, some words and expressions have been hijacked and can't be used freely without caveats or clarification.

That is why one of my pet peeves is the "name" often given to this cool deep space image taken by the Hubble Space Telescope.  Within the Eagle Nebulae, M16, is this area of star formation, dubbed "The Pillars of Creation".

The pillars are composed of cool molecular hydrogen and dust that are being eroded by photoevaporation from the ultraviolet light of relatively close and hot stars. The leftmost pillar is about four light years in length.  The finger-like protrusions at the top of the clouds are larger than our solar system, and are made visible by the shadows of Evaporating Gaseous Globules (EGGs), which shields the gas behind them from intense UV flux.  EGGs are themselves incubators of new stars.  Isn't it gorgeous???????  Isn't it astonishing that our generation gets to see this?!!  Isn't the Hubble Telescope a marvel of human innovation and technology?!!!!?!

But that moniker, "The Pillars of Creation" could willfully be used by a creationist to claim some "rightness" of that creation ideology or by other religious groups to support their various mythologies.  It bugs me.  Why would astronomers or scientists use that expression EVER, especially on an image of such an fascinating part of space!  In a way, I think the name given to this deep space object cheapens the reality of it.  Erodes and detracts from it's magnificence.

I understand the all-too-human need to see spirituality in an image such as this.  It is so immense that our human brains can hardly wrap themselves around what we see.  I understand the awe!  But I cannot stand to see that sense of the infinite being reduced to any religion that our species has ever created.

Frankly, I am passionate about astronomy.  As a hobby it is a thing that brings our family great joy and wonderful friends.  But as an atheist, it brings us a sense of the immensity of everything and it provides us with a sense of awe at the wonders of the natural universe.

File:M16 - Eagle nebula.jpg
Infrared image of the Eagle Nebula


If you enjoyed this post you might also like:
Going Back in to the Atheist Closet
or this one:
That's My Girl 

Friday, November 23, 2012

I'm Not From Brisbane

I saw this post on Facebook from Yankeebean at the I'm not from Yorkshire blog. And I have to out-and-out steal it because I have some things to say about Brisbane Australia.

I'm not annoyed about Australia, like Yankeebean is with the UK in her post, but I do have some observations:


Driving in the CBD (Central Business District, Downtown) is a DRAG! There are so many pedestrians who seem to assume right-of-way, walking right into the street without looking. Just assuming you, the driver, will step on the breaks. The pedestrians gather in huge groups on the corners, spilling into the street. Are you walking across or waiting for the light?

All of the roads are one way. If you pass your destination, the return route is circuitous enough to give you a headache.
AND, there is no parking. AT ALL. One day Jerry parked in a parking garage for four hours and it cost him SEVENTY DOLLARS! On another day I was seven minutes getting back to my car. It cost me 200 dollars. AND I had to stop the tow truck from taking my car!!!!

Also, my GPS doesn't like the CBD.  I guess the buildings block the signal...


There is none.
Don't be fooled by anything advertised as "American". It is SO not American.
Anything advertised as "Mexican" or "Italian" is not good either...
Yeah, food is a biggie for us. We SO miss Panera!  lol


The main thing: everything is so high here. Food, gasoline, property, clothing, postage, laundry soap, eating out...everything!  And that's too bad, because I love to eat out!  (or should I say "I dislike cooking"!)


'Nuff said there!


The steering wheels are on the wrong side of the car AND we drive on the wrong side of the road!!! The streets tend to be quite narrow. People drive those little cars fast! And the motorcycles drive down the center lines of the in LA! After over three months here, I still walk up to the door on the right side of the car!


There is nary a city planner to be found in Brisbane. The roads are so weird with these odd little half-assed exits and's like someone dropped their earbud chord into their purse, then dumped them onto the table three weeks later. THEN and arranged the Brisbane streets into the shape they saw from the chord. Chaos.
In fact, tonight I realized that there is no wrong way OR no right way to get from one point to another in the city. Chaos.


But that is it!
Otherwise, we love it here! The people are wonderful. There are many parks and public activity spaces. The weather is amazing. Bike riders have such freedom and equal rights on the road. People are extremely environmentally aware and actively live conservatively. Cars and homes are smaller, requiring less fuel and power usage. There are many solar-powered homes. Stores and other public places close down at 5 pm, even the mall!  (Others might disapprove of this. But I like it!) 

People are very self-sufficient. People, in general, have "can do" attitudes. Brisbane has far better public transportation options than St. Louis does. Families travel a great deal. Certainly, people have some religions, but the state is secular and religion almost never even comes up in conversations. Religion is private and does not have power and control over large numbers of people. In fact, many politicians are publicly atheist! People don't seem to be as obsessed with having things. Health care is socialized and everyone, I mean EVERYONE, has access to medication, therapies, physicians, medical specialists. It's a wonderful thing. And, homeschoolers who have medical or social issues get discounted or free curriculum. Nearly everyone I have spoken to is politically-active and aware of international news and events.

So, yeah, it's quite great here! It's not perfect, no, but it is a wonderful place to have our family!


I have so many ideas running through my head right now, but no time to sort them out, organize, and write.  So, when I get some time I will blog.

In the meantime, I leave you with this lovely photo of the kids and I at Cairns Botanical Garden.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Her Face

My daughter just came down here to talk to me.  She had been upstairs in her room, doing...things... and felt like she needed a hug. So she did what she does when she is feeling light-headed with joy these days...she sat on my lap and hugged me!  Talking. Smiling. Feeling happy. In so many ways she is growing up right before my very eyes. What with the heels, make up, boys, cell phone, hanging with friends, private jokes, etc. She sat with her arms wrapped around me, loving me and holding on with all of her might. On and on she talked about the things going on in her life...and all I could see was Little Elizabeth, sitting on my knee.

She might have been annoyed if she has known that I was thinking along those lines...  But I was.

Even as her teenage self tilted her head, grinned, and tossed her hair, my eyes saw her four-year-old cheeks, smooth and round. As she talked and laughed I glimpsed her Little Girl smile and I heard that long-gone, sweet lisp. Her eyes went round and sparkled as she talked about her day...while my mind's eye caught sight of those small, trusting and adoring blue eyes of yesteryear.

It happens too fast.
Every parent knows that.
They grow up too fast.

But, sitting here on my lap, for just a second, there she was: 
My Little Girl.
I could clearly see her toddler- and preschool curls and her shell-pink cheeks, her sweet voice and her valentine lips, her giggly glee and her dimpled fists holding on tight with delight to the rusting chain on the park swing.

When we would swing together, we would put our cheeks side by side and just glory at our intimate nearness, a nearness that was ours alone. She would sit on my lap as we went back and forth on the her eyes would light up with delight. How she would hold on tight. How lovely her cheek felt on mine. Sometimes, if I squint my eyes, I can still see the sun behind that little head of blond hair as the swing's motion moved it around my face.

I remember feeling complete on that swing. I remember thinking, knowing, that those moments were pure perfection. They are the high summer days of her childhood. Golden days. 

And here she sat, on my lap tonight, long legs tucked behind her, laughing about some antics of her friends, and for a moment, I felt the cool of the breeze and I felt her cheek pressed so sweetly against mine...

If you enjoyed this post you might try this one:
Mother, the Word 

Sunday, November 18, 2012

He Just Doesn't Get It

Tonight our family had a very long family meeting.  We agreed to keep it all private and off of Facebook. Funny that families have to make that clear these days, isn't it? But I have to pass along this little gem:

The Doctor:  Carlo, Mom and I have had this conversation before where we talk about what my goals in life are. What I want to be and how to get there. Let's figure out what your goals are and we can help you get there. So, Carlo, what do you want to be?

Carlo, slightly teary-eyed:  A Leprechaun.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Advice from Expert Homeschoolers

My kids have been homeschooling for their whole lives and have become experts on the lifestyle.  They know the ups and down, ins and outs, and what it looks like on the inside. They have come up with some advice for kids and parents who are about to embark on the homeschool journey. Their words are here to enlighten your experience and to warm your heart!
The Experts
  1. Don't stress about it. If you think about it, your mom is having a hard time too and if you all just relax and talk about your goals together, somehow things get back on track.
  2. Sometimes it might be hard, I'm not going to lie. But, if you need more time to get something into your brain so that you can understand it, it's easy to get that time you need.
  3. If anyone named Bill comes to your door, run. Trust me.
  4. You get more time at home with your family and you get to be close to your family, way closer than your non-homeschooling friends and their parents. For some reason, it's just nicer.
  5. I have been in school and I know that homeschool lessons are not rushed. In school you get a single class on a topic and the next day - on to something else. Homeschooling you get as much time as you want.
  6. You can't cheat. Well, why would you? There's no reason to cheat, how's that?!
  7.  Go to another country! Every single thing is new and you are learning constantly, from shopping for food to looking around the area to figuring out the animals and plants of the area. I mean, you hardly have to do lessons from a book because you are always learning!
  8.  If you are reading a book of your choices, chances are your mother will totally leave you to your reading and not insist on lessons that day. The same with doing some activity or hobby you enjoy.
  9.  Don't even pay attention to clothes styles of the day. Wear whatever you absolutely enjoy. We wear costumes and vintage stuff and home made ideas and anything else we like. I have a collection of hats and vests and I love wearing them. They are cool.
  10.  Don't let your mom read the "How to Homeschool" books. Trust me!
  11. Go and look at the stars. There is SO MUCH to know!
  12. Mom always tells us to keep busy right before dinner time. She is usually a little bit stressed. That's the time I usually go to my room and catch up on Facebook, emails, and online games.
  13. I'm not going to kid you. You have to do your lessons. But the more you fuss about it, the longer they take. Your mom may even add lessons on to the end of the day just because you fussed about it. If you just get it done, it doesn't take much time at all! And,
  14.  I learned magic tricks from YouTube videos. You can learn almost anything on YouTube!
There you have it, free advice from expert homeschoolers!

Ask YOUR experts for some advice that they would pass along as wisdom.
Please share! 

Our family at the total solar eclipse in Cairns QLD this week!

If you enjoyed this post you might try this one:
Ask the Experts

Five Battles I No Longer Fight