Monday, June 30, 2014

Secular Parenting?

I am Still Homeschool Atheist Momma!

I recently had a question from a reader about secular parenting. I think that my blog is full of good stuff to read if you are seeking to raise freethinking children. This blog is a good place to start.

Dear Parents Seeking to Raise Your Children in a Secular Home:
There is no doubt that you are struggling a bit to live your life deliberately and thoughtfully and with integrity.
Welcome to the movement of secular parenting!

Please be WELCOME here!

May I also recommend this blog carnival:
The Carnival of Atheist Parenting

If you are interested in blog posts on secular parenting, may I suggest:

The Big Question:  Death

Friday, June 27, 2014

We did it Wright Today!

I am Still Homeschool Atheist Momma!

This week John and I are in Pittsburgh visiting our dear, dear friends Julie and family:  Natalie and Jacob and husband,  Dave. We have been friends with this family ever since John was about two years old when Julie and I met online at an atheist parenting site somewhere (I have NO idea which one!) and eventually met and become very good friends. While Julie's family was still living in Missouri the friendship was easy to maintain with frequent hour-long drives to each other's home. And now, since they have moved to Pennsylvania, STILL EASY TO MAINTAIN!  (*wink)

Between the two of us, Julie and I drag our delighted sons back and forth to each other's homes several times a year.

At the moment John John and I are visiting Julie and her family at their rural home just outside of Pittsburgh. The boys have been busy and happy all week; we barely see them! Swimming and hiking and playing!

Today Julie and I took the boys to a place that John has been wanting to see for months:  Fallingwater or Kaufmann Residence, a house situated forty+ miles south east of Pittsburgh. Designed by the brilliant architect Frank Lloyd Wright in 1935, this building is literally built over a waterfall on the Bear Creak in this small rural town of Fayette County Pennsylvania. This is a Bucket List kind of thing!

John is a lover of design and architecture and has wanted to see some of Frank Lloyd Wright's work ever since we read about him as a biography a few months ago while we were still living in Brisbane. We visited a "minor" FLW building in Springfield, IL, but Fallingwater is an icon of legendary design and John knows it!

While the outdoor images are stunning, (all of the outdoor pics in this post are my own), the indoor design is truly magnificent and seals the deal that this building is a work of art from the roof to the water. Pieces of art work include several pieces by Picasso, a few by Diego Rivera, ancient stone works from India, Mexico, and all over Europe, vases and bowls from rustic and rugged to priceless, incredible book collections, lavish fiber arts of every ilk, stamp art from ancient Japan, pieces given as gifts by FLW, pieces created by FLW, and furniture whose artistry and craftsmanship is breathtaking.  Truly.

I was unable to get any indoor images, so all of the indoor images here were taken from public sites on the internet, many taken by photographer Lee Sandstead

Bear Creek just as it hits the property
Bear Creek approaching the building.
That staircase leads directly into the Great Room.

Notice how the building is anchored right into the rock

This cool statue is highlighted by a serendipitous flash of sunlight

It is impossible to get a "bad shot".
The place is stunning!

This photo location is the iconic shot all tourists hope for!

Just across Bear Creek

The unique outdoor design is truly secondary to the inside!

The main room, dining room area.
The three shelves on the wall snake around to the left and down the left hand wall.
It is a STUNNING shelving system!
Also you can get a TEENY TINY idea of the range of sculpture and art from these next few pics.

Beautiful shelves in a little nook stairwell.
I wanted to spend the week reading books!

You can just see the beautiful fireplace on the right
in one of the bedrooms.
The limestone is all local, from within 500 feet of the place.

Mr. Kaufman's office space with cool cantilevered windows.
Also, note the desk on the right with a notch cut for the window to open

Back to the main great room, this fireplace is gorgeously wrought from local limestone
And includes natural layers of stone on the floor.
The red ball swings over the fire and is for mulled wines.
See the continuing three-shelf piece along the ceiling.

Also in the Great Room, one of many patios out the window,
This is a library area.
But books are plentiful through the house.
Another area for guests to lounge
and talk of important things.
Or neck.

John and I with Fallingwater in the background.

The drive out to Fallingwater is a real commitment, but it is SO worth it. We spent nearly three hours on this beautiful spot in the Allegheny Mountains. John and Jacob were entranced with the place and, if given half a chance, would be there tonight playing hide and seek with all of their best friends!


I missed the truly heartwarming shot of the boys walking away with arms around each other's shoulders, buddy hug style, but they turned around and I got this one and I'm OK with that.

Julie and I just sigh with love for these best buddies.

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Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Build a Bridge...

my child is a bully, sarcasm hurts
Happy, secure people have no need to put other people down. 

I know of some people who seem to feel empowered when they say things to break someone else down. Most of us know people like this. Recently I heard one person lay down a dis to a really nice friend of mine, a very sweet person whose feelings were hurt. The disser could easily have claim just kidding. In fact, people do it every day and get away with it. 

Sarcasm is hidden bullying.

In fact, the Greek root for sarcasm, sarkazein, is to tear flesh like dogs
Did you know that?

We all back down from our confrontation of a bully when they claim kidding because we don't want to look petty, overly sensitive, or victimy. But we all know that people who claim kidding are really getting their licks in any way that they can because no one is calling them on it. We also all know someone who is the target of this kidding and who feels powerless to stop it. That is why I make it a point, any time someone is pulling this old trick, to say No More Kidding, then. Because it is not funny and because we all know that old trick. I think it's time to put an end to it for so many reasons.

Often, people who use sarcasm as a passive-aggressive way to make fun act disdainful of kindness, politeness, awareness of the feelings of others. They see kindness and such as weakness. At this point, they don't understand that it takes a strong person to show kindness in the face of unpleasantness, rudeness, or treachery.

Sarcasm and put downs are insidious for another reason: they are underhanded and secretive. Behind mocking and smug superiority is a hurtful criticism hiding behind a veil of jocularity. The joker can even say to someone with hurt feelings, I'm just kidding!  You are too sensitive!

People who rely on sarcasm are displaying their inability to verbalize their feelings, their disrespect for others, their poor impulse control, their inchoate self knowledge, and their undeveloped sense of compassion. They are even, sometimes, identifying with a person who has victimized them in the past. And they don't even know it. They are busy closing their eyes to the harmful effects that their words have on others and they are busy thinking, Why don't you just lighten up?

The person who bullies in this way has no need to
see themselves as an oppressor because they keep themselves veiled in the cloak of joking, even to themselves. The acerbic-tongued person is quite convinced that they are superior, entertaining, and well-liked. But a person who relies on sarcasm, scorn, ridicule, or mockery is actually struggling with low self esteem and poor knowledge of their true selfThey just don't realize it. 

On Facebook I often see memes glorifying sarcasm as a superior way of dealing with "stupid people". But I disagree. Sarcasm is nothing more than bullying and a lack of grace, kindness, and courtesy. Maybe I am alone in this, but I don't find sarcasm and derision entertaining.

As a recovering sarcasm junkie myself, I know that when a person uses sarcasm as a major approach to interact with the world around them, they keep true friendship at bay. They see others as inferior, stupid, irrelevant while being unaware of their own fragility, vulnerability, fear of failure. Personally, it took a few episodes of injury to people that I care about before I saw exactly how the sarcasm reflected my wounded internal self. I was convinced that I was joking, clever, funny, and entertaining when, the whole time, I was floundering and fearful of having others discover my ineptitude.

But I couldn't have said that at the time.

Knowing this has made me far more compassionate to people with caustic personalities or disparaging tones when interacting with others. I recognize that they are hiding so much from themselves. In fact, most do not recognize it in themselves...

Breaking away from sarcasm was a very deliberate and long road, but with a determination to be authentic and compassionate and open and growing, I made it. And so can you. Become aware of it. Choose to make a difference. Decide to become a happier person.

And if it is your child who is sarcastic or bullying, you won't find much on the internet to help you, but this is a good place to start. If you are a parent looking for what to do when the bully is your child, come back again because I do plan on writing more about this in the future.

SO, if you are putting others down, think about working on yourself first.
You are worth it.

 One of my long-time readers
and Facebook friends
unfriended me in a major huff because of this post.
I can't help but wonder how fragile 
she must be inside...

THANK YOU to my readers.
I truly appreciate you.

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Do What Needs  Doing
Are You Happy?
With Flaws and All
100 Years From Now it Won't Matter

Monday, June 23, 2014

It's the PITTS

I am Still Homeschool Atheist Momma!
 homeschool, long field trips, atheist parenting
John and I are visiting some friends in Pittsburgh and are having a wonderful time!

You know that idea where you can tell what kind of a person someone is by looking at their books? If you check out the bookshelves of my friend Julie you would totally want to be her friend! She has interesting books of so many genre'; I always find new titles here. I always pick up a random book and wonder Where does she get these books?! What are her secret resources for this stuff?!

Her daughter has me reading H.P. Lovecraft and I'm all like WOW, this man can write! His use of language is somehow beautifully description, freaky and horrific, and compelling. If you have any Lovecraft to recommend me, I'm all ears!

This afternoon we just returned from a junk store where the books were ninety-five cents!  I bought a couple of books that were originally over forty bucks! My only problem, as all travelers know, how to get them home?????

Anyway, Julie has the best reading collection ever. She is incredibly resourceful and is willing to read books outside of her comfort zone and outside of the box. She and the kids are at the library at least twice a week, visit bookstores of every ilk, and bring home amazing treasures. I LOVE her bookshelves, and I adore her!

You would too.

Julie and I met years ago as new homeschoolers. We lived about an hour apart and were willing to make that drive often. Now, living an eight hour car drive apart, we are still willing to make that trip often because our boys ADORE one another! We barely even hear from them unless they are hungry.  LOL

Do you have a Julie in your life???

Friday, June 20, 2014

With a Nod to Harry Chapin...

I am still Homeschool Atheist Momma!

I don't know about teens in other states, but here in Missouri the regular high schooler and the homeschooling high schooler can dually-enroll in community college as well as their primary education source when they are sixteen. These dedicated students can continue high schooling in their chosen way as well as starting classes at the college level, within testing parameters of the institution.
My daughter is seventeen and has started taking classes at the community college this summer.

Many years ago I was chatting with one of my homeschool parent mentors, Nancy. She was telling me about taking her daughter to the local community college and sitting out in the car for hours while she waiting for her daughter to come out of class.  Although I thought she was a remarkable mom for doing this, Nancy insisted that any mother would do such a thing. I thought she was crazy and I thought she was going beyond the call of duty but she insisted that she was doing nothing notable at all.
Harry Chapin "Taxi Driver"
These days, sitting outside of the local community college and reading my books and magazines, I see that Nancy was right. Being a parent means doing what needs doing.  And my time is not my own at all these days as I taxi the kids all over the place all through the day, all through the week.

But another thought comes to me often as I sit out there in the shade of the community college campus with my ereader. Back about fourteen years ago, I had a daughter in day care as I worked and I was pregnant. Often that first trimester saw me hanging out in the daycare parking lot and napping.

Spending time in my car has been another step along the road of doing weird things in order to do the right thing for my daughter.  

So if you find yourself in a reclining driver's seat, remind yourself that this is your teen's time to shine...and it is your time to taxi.

Time moves quickly.
You can handle it.

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Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Favorite Book Redux

I am still Homeschool Atheist Momma!
Atheist parenting secular, doubting god, secular homeschool

A few weeks ago I asked you for your favorite books and THANK YOU for those new titles! It is not too late to add your favorites either on that post or on this one!
I promised that I would post my favorites. Well, Lucky You, today is the day.
I have been far too busy to read lately, what with life and all, but reading is one of those touchstone things for me. I always get back to it.
Here are the titles that you have been waiting for!
Drum roll please... 
My Favorite Reads of All Time, ime ime ime ime

1. parenting book:  The Over-Scheduled Child: Avoiding the Hyper-Parenting Trap by Robert Coles, Alvin Rosenfield, and Nicole Wise.
2. freethinking books:  Nailed: Ten Myths that show that Jesus Never Existed At All by David Fitzgerald and A History of God: the 4,000 Year Old Quest Judaism, Christianity and Islam by Karen Armstrong.  TOUGH CALL, though!
3. classic novels:  How did you decide what I meant by "classic novel"? Mine are:  Great Expectations by Charles Dickens, Candide by Voltaire, Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell, Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson, Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Dafoe, The Prisoner of Zenda by Anthony Hope, Civil Disobedience and other Essays by Henry David Thoreau, Lysistrata by Aristophanes, Les Miserables by Victor Hugo, Age of Reason by Thomas Paine, Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, and The Prince and the Pauper by Mark Twain.
4. fiction: All of the Stephanie Plum books by Janet Evanovich, Red Storm Rising by Tom Clancy, oh gosh...too many.
5. kids' books: The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle by  Avi, The Candy Shop Wars and Fablehaven by Brandon Mull, Isabel of the Whales by Hester Velmans, Holes by Louis Sachar, Where the Sidewalk Ends and The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein, Mandy by Julie Andrews Edwards, Thirteen Reasons Why by somebody....
6. sci/fi or other genre: Ender's Game and Speaker for the Dead by Orson Scott Card, A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller Jr., Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris,
7. all time reads
· Prodigal Summer by Barbra Kingsolver
· This Side of Brightness: A Novel by Colum McCann, everything by CM
· Timeline by Michael Crichton
· The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell
· The Source by James Michener
· Les Miserables by Victor Hugo
· The Count of Monte Christo by Victor Hugo
· Harry Potter, ALL by J.K. Rowling
 ·Galileo's Daughter and Longitude by Dava Sobel

Do you know what? 

This is a fool’s errand and my memory is failing me.
Just go and read!

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It Takes More Faith to be an Atheist

Here's another one of those claims made by believers and supposed to be Christian wisdom, but do you know what? I'm not at all sure what is meant by the claim it takes more faith to be an atheist. It's been said to me a few times, most recently by my mom, but I'm not at all sure what it means.

Perhaps a person who makes a statement such as this might be saying, that since one can not prove that a god does not exist, then believing that there are no gods requires faith. A freaky double negative might sound slick and unclear or mysterious to a person who counts on their religion having all of the answers.

But, in that case I also have faith that there are no singing dandelions on Jupiter, I have faith that there are no chocolate-covered pecans on my rooftop, I have faith that there is no Ceucy or Artemis or Nuwa, and I have faith that monkeys will never write Shakespeare. These things mean nothing.


Is it being suggested that, since so many people believe in a god... or twelve, it takes more faith to disagree with the beliefs of the local popular religion? In that case I have no more faith in my disbelief than Christians do in not believing that humans came up from the middle of the earth in the form of ants. I have no more faith in my disbelief than any other non-Hindi in not believing that an elephant's head makes a wonderful replacement for the head of a decapitated baby. 

I have no more faith than a Muslim might doubt the claim that the earth rests on the top of a sea turtle. I have no more faith than a Mormon might doubt the claim that humans were created during the Dreamtime. Or the fact that most Americans don't believe in the Chinese claim that the powder made of elephant tusks are a cure-all for what ails you. Or that we no longer believe in Anubis, Hera, or Odin.

That is nothing more than being afraid to be outside of the crowd.

Cernunnos ~
Wild God of the Forest
Assuming my argument is going in the right direction, I can't prove that a god doesn't exist. I can use logic to prove that all things that make a deity logically impossible, but I can't prove a universal negative. No one can. I can't prove that Amanda Bynes is the best movie star on the planet OX⏬s&💏↻ap㉿ and I can't prove the existence of fluff on the navel of a unicorn. Nor can I disprove these things. This is nothing more than being out of the habit of thinking critically.

...Upon some reflection, I think that a person who says it takes more faith to be an atheist is saying that belief is more rational than disbelief. Or perhaps it is more like things are so complicated and I don't understand them that I prefer to believe that a creator god made everything and has everything under control. If we don't know something then a miracle had to happen. If we don't have enough evidence or understanding for something then it's much easier to assume a supernatural being gets it because the idea that this is not true scares the hell out of me. And I don't want to go to H E Double hockey sticks.
That is nothing more than being afraid to acknowledge one's own limitations and the basic abhorrence of our own human mortality.

Mother Moon and Father Sun
Maybe the statement is from the standpoint of viewing the entirety of the universe and thinking WOW, it is beyond comprehension, therefore, god. Or perhaps the statement is on the lips of a person who has no faith in their own ability to understand the change and evolution that a few million years can bring about on this planet. 
That's nothing more than a fear of the smallness of a single person and of one's place in the grand scheme of things.

Perhaps it is even more basic than that. If I do not believe in the miracle of Jesus, then I don't know what else there is. My religion does not offer much hope for those who cannot accept their stories, so I can't even begin to think outside of the box in which I live.  
And that is nothing more than the fear of the unknown.

South American
deity of labor
Furthermore, when some believers are faced with evidence or with problems and discrepancies with their holy book, religions require that the person in this quandary simply have faith and ignore the nagging doubts that the world clearly brings about. The idea of being a heretic, worldly, or godless is the scariest thing they can imagine. 
That is nothing more than being afraid to stand alone with integrity against a crowd.

We truly don't have all of the answers, but we have some of them and we are working on it. Also, I think that our ability to know some things is very limited. That doesn't mean I advocate substituting knowledge for stories.
I can handle the not knowing.

Adam and Eve
So for some, their faith keeps them feeling safe, it keeps them comfortably numb, it keeps them from facing a world in which all questions aren't easily answered by miracle, god, and afterlife, it keeps them in a nice community, it keeps them from feeling insignificant. It doesn't require the struggle of rational thought, and it prevents them from the existential angst of essential humanness.

Now I see.
It's fear.

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