Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Thinking About Homeschooling? Here's the Info You're Looking For

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This blog post is for parents who are considering whether or not to homeschool their kids. I created this series of posts just for you.

If you take the time to read through a few of these posts I do hope you leave a comment or two to let me know if they have been helpful.  Thanks.

Maybe Homeschool is to Blame

It wasn't long ago I was sitting with someone, out on the deck, enjoying the sun, catching up; we were talking about the kids and how they are doing in all of their activities. College is great: check. Work is great: check. Friendships are great: check. Kids are happy: check. The kids are amazing: check. Stuff, in general is good: check.

I mentioned that my daughter struggles with some minor anxieties, namely an anxiety when it comes to calling people on the telephone. My chatting partner said Hmmmm, do you think it has anything to do with the fact that you homeschooled her?Really?

NO, I didn't blow my stack, but I was very taken aback.

Will we ever get past the stigma of homeschooling, that thing where every single imperfection of my children won't be attributed to homeschooling? Do we sit together, talk about our own imperfections and think Hmmmm, do you think it has anything to do with the fact that we went to public school?

Human beings are imperfect. We have fears and anger and turmoil and struggles and anxiety and down times and conflict and all of that. It's normal. It's noteworthy when these challenging things happen because usually we are fine and dandy and strong and happy and productive.

And FORGET THE FACT that nearly everyone on both sides of my family take antidepressants.  😒

And now, to give space to the rant that I didn't do that day:
No one, NO ONE has thought about how homeschooling (and every other choice we make in this family) affects my children more than I DO! If I thought that homeschooling was not the right thing to be doing for my children, I wouldn't be doing it! ALSO, anxiety is everywhere in my own family of origin, is it any surprise that this child has a touch of it? And, if she had been in school we would blame the system! ALSO, this is a thinly-veiled criticism directed toward me...from this person.

AND, WOW, my kids are cool!
Can we attribute any of their good qualities to having been homeschooled??????

AHEM......I'm better now.

Homeschooling is bold and dynamic and unique and empowering. Study after study after evidence after proof and still I get this question?  LOL...someone is out of touch...and it isn't me.

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Busy with Love

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What a week. It's just busy, you know?
I remember reading a book years ago that was very critical of the idea of being busy. As though being busy is always mindless and loveless and selfish.

Being a homeschooling family means that there are times when having a busy lifestyle is quite normal, when it is a choice that is made. This week we are choosing the hustle, the engagement. 

John and I took some time off to do something we haven't done in months; we went to a homeschool play group that is nearby. We haven't been to any playgroup activities for a couple of years for so many reasons, the list of our reasons is endless. But today we went to the park and it was glorious! We reconnected with friends we haven't seen in months and we made some new friends too. Our busy schedule is something that we are deeply enjoying for its industriousness, for its energy, and for its sense of purpose. But today we delighted in something truly homeschooly: we ditched it all to play!

Later this week we will be going to a play that Elizabeth is involved in at her college. The show is playing for five days so you know that these last two weeks have been stressful and busy for her. Tech week and intense rehearsals and work and classes and other lessons. She is exhausted and hardworking and earnest. I adore seeing her this dedicated to a show. She glows with her lively activities!

People tend to consider a busy life problematic, unhealthy, even dismal. But we are thriving and growing and engaging: bring it on FALL!

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Monday, September 28, 2015

Eating Cherries or Oysters

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Most of those who make collections 
of verse or epigram 
are like men eating cherries or oysters:
 they choose out the best at first, 
and end by eating all. 

~Sébastien-Roch Nicolas

I generally have a hideous memory.
I can never remember jokes or names or dates or...quotations. But there are a few quotations that mean something to me, words that have been important to me over the years and that have helped me to get to a healthier place.

One of the very first time I became attached to a quote was in about 1990 or so. I was working as a substance abuse treatment center in the 90's and those places are swimming in catchy quotations. I was working at a psych tech at an alcohol treatment center and I was in attending a meeting. Although I have never been an alcoholic, I sometimes enjoyed the meetings.

I was sitting in the room with a fellow psych tech and I confessed to him that I was not recovering in any way but that I was enjoying the meetings. I told him that I felt kind of weird about that. He simply said to me Don't sweat the small stuff.

Sure, I had heard those words about a thousand times before that moment, but they really hit me. It must have been the right moment for them because Don't sweat the small stuff became my mantra for several years. It reminded me to stop putting the magnifying glass to my life and to just relax.

The only other phrase that ever really hit me was Question Everything. I grew up in a place where non-truths were passed off as truth for many years...actually questioning everything was essential in my life. My sister once painted a really kick ass sweatshirt for me that read Question was my favorite shirt for years. 

Today I don't really have a mantra but I do have a few things that I say fairly often. Things like Do what makes sense, Being kind is usually the right answer, and I'm always on your side. Those three seem to get me by for most things these days. 

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Saturday, September 26, 2015

The Pope is a Rolling Stone: An Atheist's Perspective

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It has reached mass saturation: 
the pope was here.

Admittedly I don't stay as informed as I could. I'm not a regular news reader/viewer. I used to follow the news very closely but I got ovewhelmed with it, with the zillions of news sources and with the horrible events. But who can have missed the grand news: The Pope is in America!

I'm as skeptical as the rest of you. And as indifferent about the pope's activities and events. When it comes to this new pope people people have been singing his praises and I all I could think was I'm not seeing any protection for the sexually-abused victims of the church leaders
That is unforgivable. 

This pope, this leader of people seems to be a liberal, advanced thinker...and that seems rare in that institution. I do not worship him, I do not praise him. I am merely appreciative that he is moving the Catholic church forward...albeit very belatedly so. 

The Catholics that I know are so appreciative in their new-found freedom to believe in evolution, to be kind to atheists, and to acknowledge global warming, among other things. Why these people require being led is completely beyond me, but if they must be led let it be by a person with science knowledge and humanist values. All along I have been very unwilling to be impressed with this man; even the NPR interview of some American ambassador for the pope left me unmoved. 

My small crack happened a few nights ago when I was talking with a group of friends. One of my friends is Catholic and she was delighted with her landmark freedom to believe in global warming and evolution. My friend was overjoyed at the new latitude of thought offered by this church leader. 

I didn't kill the buzz with my overwhelming disgust with her need for an approving overseer to allow clearer thought. Instead, I was grateful that this church is moving into reality...however slowly, however belatedly.  I'll give... a little.

From Facebook just today

The very moment I see priests who have 
sexually-abused children being prosecuted...we'll talk.

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Thursday, September 24, 2015

Guest Post: Gender Equality is Not the Same as Tumblr Femimism

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Teen boys these days are struggling.
The so-called feminists on 
teen social media
are rightfully taking a stand,
but about an entire group of people
who aren't responsible
for the ills of inequality. This is my teen's thoughts on the matter.

Guest Post: A Post from John

This is a fictional story about a hypothetical situation where injustice is happening; welcome to my mind. In this fake universe I have been confronted by a “Tumblr Feminist” who is complaining about the issues and non-issues of her generation. “It scares me that the men of this generation think it's ok to joke about raping someone," she says staring me down with a carnivorous glare, "me and other women shouldn't have to deal with this.” She proclaims this while pointing to the picture of the sleeping girl edited to have the question “If you walked into your house to see her laying there what would you do?”. The comments filled with a string of comment stating rape is the obvious choice in an obviously joking manner.

“It’s terrifying they shouldn’t be able to do this!” she says almost shouting. “You and your gender have made a general statement that men are rapists,” I state trying to be calm, but clenching my fists, “so no matter what they say they will always be the bad guys”. She doesn’t even pause to think before making her retort. “They shouldn’t be offended by a blanket statement like that, if you said something about people with my hair color or body type I wouldn't be offended!” she proclaims.

Knowing that that is exactly what her version of ‘Feminism’ is just that I think of shouting, but calm myself enough to continue. “Ok then, how come when anyone says that feminist are being rude or sexist everyone explodes into a cloud of anger instead of not being offended?” I ask, fighting a smug look. She smirks like I’ve fallen into a trap. “Because the world needs feminism to function; if you insulted the government the same thing would happen,” she retorts. It’s becoming clear to me that she’s just quoting unsourced documents and since her arguments are other people's opinions I’m not going to change her mind with facts my fists clench harder.

“Alright then, why am I the bad guy in all of this if I say ‘not all men’?” I ask knowing the knee jerk reaction I’m about to get. “Because it’s enough men that it’s a problem! Women should feel safe walking home from school, Not threatened! Rape is a real problem you can’t just brush it off!” she says grabbing my shoulders. “Why the Hell am I the bad guy though. Stop dodging the question.” I say standing completely still with her hands on my shoulders.

“You’re a potential rapist to someone you pass on the street. You and I know you wouldn’t do that but they don’t,” she says angrily. I can see the rage in her eyes, like a fire burning from a large vast space of opinions mixed with facts. “Did you know that over half of rape is initiated by women?” I ask, hoping that this isn’t the last conversation I have as a free man. “That’s not what we’re talking about here John, don’t change the subject,” she says, near scream level. Even though that’s what she has been doing this entire conversation if I try to change the subject so I’m not in the firing line I get shot down. “I’m not going to go on with this conversation if you’re going to be angry like this”. I finally say. “Well fuck you too” She exclaimed before leaving the room stomping. “Thank god” I say unclenching my fist and being glad that there were no knives in the room, for then I would have murder charges. That is a true story about how fake ‘feminists’ are treating individuals like me. Thank you for your time, don’t be an asshole.

Are you on Tumblr?
Do you see this anti-male phenomenon
that our teen boys are fighting?

SOOOOO Glad we Homeschool

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I love it that we homeschool.
Our family has homeschooled for about thirteen years now and each year it grows better and better; so many things I read about in the world make me so grateful that we made that decision so long ago.

From actual prayer in school to the teachers who proselytize to their class to science classes deciding to leave evolution and science out of science class I have celebrated our homeschool lifestyle dozens of time. The mere fact that our already near-bottom-rated schools are so excellent at handling religion, diversity, and pluralism takes out the sting.  Not.

One of my young teen friends frequently tells me about her high school science class. There is no mention of evolution or the big bang in that class. My friend has talked to her teacher about this and the teacher has stood by her right to not in the science class. In fact, the teacher seems to be bopping around the classroom feeling quite justified in her state-supported Religion-as-Science high school science class.  And my friend who wants to learn about reality is out of luck. Because some deity or another gets dibs.

The politically- and religiously-charged atmosphere of our country is such a divided powder keg right now, and I do think it is important for our kids to have a general understanding of the energy and the conflict...but I truly don't want anyone else doing the explaining to my kids, you know? Especially not someone who might be more than happy to pretend that they have all of the answers, the right answers. I simply don't trust the teachers, especially the less-qualified or less-educated teachers, to be objective about this issue.

The diversity of our country and the constitutionality of the separation of church and state would seem to suggest that this whole science in a science class would be a done deal. Even the continuous debate about religion in the schools in this country would seem to suggest that at least some people are aware of little things like the constitution, yet religion keeps gaining ground in our classrooms. (Not all religion, just the Christian religion.)

Perhaps it is the people wanting to have religion in public schools who need to be worrying because, in my experience, it is the freethinking atheist children/humans of the world who are the best informed and the ones willing to speak up for their rights. So, YES, I'm happily educating my children in a secular home with secular values and no one can come in here and take our science out of science least not yet.

The posturing in the debates is freaking me out. 
So VOTE people! Support the ACLU!  

Are you going to vote?
Are you Republican?

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I Wish More Homeschoolers were Secular
You are not Alone
The Greatest Gift
Secular Parenting...In the News & I'm Loving It
On Being Religion-Free

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Death, Grief, Loss: Atheism Style

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One of the easiest steps to trip over as an atheist parent is helping our children to understand and to face the realities of death, grief, and loss. Some people want so desperately to help their children avoid the pain of loss that their self doubt sneaks in and suggests that the idea of heaven is a good place holder for reality...until their children are older.  After all, isn't it easier?

It can be tempting, easy to tell our children that there is a lovely heaven waiting at the end of our lifetime. We look into their frightened faces, we see their eyes pleading for another answer, we know how difficult reality is to deal with. We know because reality is difficult for adults to deal with too. And yet...

The shortcut offered by magical thinking has a very high cost. It gives a fertile ground for fiction and mythology to grow like a weed. It circumvents critical thought. Often...often it challenges parents who are still very uncomfortable with the concept of death being the final point of life.  Brainwashing can be strong and we can be weak.

Some recovering first-generation atheist parents still feel the guilt, the pull of the supernatural. It might seem so much easier to offer heaven to reality. But it's not easier because it's not true.

They will look at you with those faces, those adorable faces, asking questions like Will you die, Momma? and Will I die, Momma? and, though your heart is breaking, you will have to answer those I've made this video for you so that you will be prepared...a little.

The video is on SecTv's channel and is called 


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Biblical Parenting

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I've been reading around the internet a bit this afternoon as I prepare some lessons for John. Just as he slips into gaming while he is doing lessons, I slip into reading stuff unrelated to my work too.

This afternoon it was Christian rants.
Specifically Christian Parents ranting....ALOT. There was lots of spanking, discipline, certainty, and fear mongering. 

My co hostesses on Brunch with The Secular Parents, BeAsia and Rayven, and I spend time talking about topics for our show and researching those issues. I enjoy the process of researching because it encourages me to read outside of my comfort zone and that is fun. But this stuff is kind of ridiculous. These woman, the women who choose biblical parenting, live in such fear of so much of the world and I think that that is such a waste of human beings.

The point is that so many of the blogs and writing have answers: The Answers.

I find that truly bizarre. I did find a few perfectly 
reasonable sounding articles that didn't grate...right there, among the freaky hell articles, lists of why some deity doesn't plan on saving you, shaming is a great tool for discipline, demons, spanking, the essential evil nature of human beings, why you should control the friendships your children have, why homophobia is OK, tantrums equal misbehaving and defiance, and well, etc. Just the titles of the articles were prickly, not even mentioning the content! 

I'm sad and angry that truly well-meaning parents choose to parent this way.

The Secular Parents and I have been talking about having a show on biblical parenting. The idea was that we would would biblically parent for a week and discuss that. I refused to do this completely but Rayven thought she would be willing to try it.  I simply didn't want to learn their rules and try to live by them...not even for one second, much less for a full week.  

Have you ever attempted to parent while in a cult?
How was that different?

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

The Greatest Gift

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Have you given a gift to your children lately?

It occurred to me recently that being an atheist parent, a first-generation atheist parent, was a gift I was giving my kids...and their kids.

Imagine the amount of energy and breaking free our children and their children
and their children will not have to go through. What a gift we are giving our descendants. Think of how all of our future generations will be free of the chains that have bound the minds of so many before us. It didn't occur to me until recently how momentous of a time this is.

People are figuring it out.
People are looking at the crazy beliefs and realizing how incredibly bizarre the ideas are; the taking snake, the evil guy, the supposed great guy who never actually shows up, rituals and special words change bread to human flesh, alot of issues about how foreskin is bad, walking on water, the supposed global flood, sprinkling water on the head makes some sort of difference, creation in seven days,bashing babies' heads in on the stones, eternal life after death, giants and dragons and unicorns, it's just ridiculous.

It's unbelievable how this tribal religion, originating in the tiniest desert group of sheep herders, has spread across the globe. The blood thirsty, crazy beliefs from that tribe are totally unworthy of our attention and time and fret. Religious beliefs are weird, man. And because of us, our beloved scions can skip the drama and get right on to the business of living. 

Don't you wish OUR parents had been the first generation?
What would be different?

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Friday, September 18, 2015

Curriculum for our Atheist Homeschool

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Back to serious lessons with John.
This boy is absolutely determined to feel productive and to use our time together wisely. Before I even got up today he read a chapter in his Civics book, wrote a piece about one of his interests for me to read, and completed a page in Key to Algebra 3. This human being does phenomenal things when he is given some leadership, direction, and thinking conversation. Coming home from Colorado was absolutely the correct thing to do for John.

(I have important and meaningful stories about my other kids, my husband, and some very important people in my life; it was correct to come home)

John and I have been working hard at determining what materials to use this year for his freshman year of homeschool. We are quite happy with what we have decided to use and with what we have acquired. The image at right is a small collection of books we are opening just today. But our lessons are not primarily about books, they are about a multi-media, multi-venue approach to learning about our freshman subjects and about the world around us.

This year is amazing for the year that my son begins to open his eyes and notice the world around him.  This year the news is absolutely full of important things to know, the debates and Donald Trump are entertaining and informing as HELL, the online news sources are remarkable ways of opening the eyes of my son and making him more aware, Americans are faced with understanding exactly why immigration happens and who these immigrants are and how that informs our country about immigration at our own borders, NPR is freaking spot on and worth listening to 24/7, and his Civics textbook is internet-connected.

I have purchased several used textbooks off of this year for John's freshman year. The Civics textbook I bought is from the year 2007. It is not very current and does not have a single thing useful about today:  2015, and I think that today's political atmosphere is dynamic and vital.  HOWEVER, this textbook is internet-connected. Many units and lessons contain an internet site, page, or further information. I love it. Charts, graphs, internet sources, other ways to further explore subject matter. Yeah, that was a good ten bucks, well spent.

I have multiple textbooks on Algebra that I've purchased from Looking at my bookshelf right here in this room I see FOUR Algebra textbooks, each one costing me no more than ten bucks. Each book also having teacher books available on if a parent would need or want one, usually as a much higher price.

Right now John is doing the Key to Algebra by Key Curriculum Press, authors are Julie King and Peter Rasmussen. I love the Key to... series books. If you have a young teen and want to intro them to algebra but you don't know how to do that, please check out this source for algebra. For less then eighty bucks, this entire ten-workbook series will explain in simple language with easy-to-follow examples. Word problems make sense and will help your child understand abstract concepts and equations. 

I know squat about algebra and my son is able to move forward confidently and successfully through these books. 
Caveat: John gets math.
But my daughter struggles with Algebra and she, too, felt successful with Key to Algebra as well as Key to Fractions, Key to Geometry, and Key to Decimals.

And just for a mention, The Story of US by Joy Hakim, in fact, anything by Joy Hakim, VERY worth a read for American History. This is an eleven-book series, totally secular, very inclusive, and honest about issues without being dogmatic or nationalistic. It's not a cheap series, even used, but it is absolutely the way you want to teach history. You will be come a lover of America again,not as a shallow flag-waving, blind patriotism kind of pride but the kind of pride that makes me want to continue defending the principles, values, and ideas on which that our country was founded.

As for SCIENCE:  TEXTBOOKS and other books. The library is truly full of science books. Free your mind from needing a textbook. There is nothing spoon-fed. But there is still plenty of materials out there. Please check out Joy Hakim's three book The Story of Science series.  Great reads!

Incidentally, to supplement the Civics books and websites, John and I have been watching the second Republican debate --we're both reeeeeeeally looking forward to hearing from the Democrats. 😉

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Thursday, September 17, 2015

The One About the Difficult Choice

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Because my sister is dealing with a major illness I've been out of town quite alot, for long stretches of time helping her out and taking care of her. That leaves my 14-year-old son on his own...doing his homeschool lessons independently. 

He's not so good at that.

I made tons of plans with him and for him. He and I had talks about how we were going to handle my absence. I left him calendars and lists and Google docs with stuff to do and online messages but he was just not cooperative. He wasn't keeping up with lessons at all. I was in Colorado, ten hours away, worrying about this kid spending too much time playing stuff online with friends instead of doing lessons. Yes I've been angry, but I also know that this guy really needs help staying on task, keeping up with lessons. He just needs help. 

Although I know my sister prefers that I be out there, I had to make a difficult decision and I made it in a snap. I headed home.

It was the right decision. Everyone in the house has been so relieved to have me home and I'm glad I followed my intuition and was the right thing to do.

John has gotten so much done since I got home and he's feeling so much happier. We all are.

That's a win.

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Sunday, September 13, 2015

That's Me in the Corner, That's Me in the Spotlight

If you are familiar with the Myers-Briggs temperament sorter you
will recognize the letters ENFP or INFP.  If you are not familiar, perhaps you would like to check out this website for a mini quiz sorter. The longer version of the quiz can actually take over an hour to take but this quiz will take you about ten minutes and then you will understand all of the letters that so many people talk about.

When I took the long version of the test about twenty years ago I got the results XNFP.  The "X" tells that I am half "E" for extrovert and half "I" for introvertWhen I took the mini quiz I got the exact same results. It's kind of odd being this middle-of-the-road person for alot of reasons. Some people refer to this as being an ambivert

I tend to do public things, this blog, a second blog, my show on SecularTv, and other public things in my personal life, so people are sometimes surprised to discover that I am also kind of an introvert - I recharge in solitude. I NEED to recharge in solitude. But I am also energized in public places and in relationships with loved ones.

I'm mentioning this because I'm on a road that is kind of taxing and I'm really needing the solitude to recharge. Maybe I don't really need to explain this, but I'm going to give it a try anyway. I miss this blog and I do plan on coming back to it. But this month, and for several months to come, I'm in a very strange place that often leaves me feeling like toast.

I still check my blog regularly, wondering if my writing is still relevant to anyone. I'm feeling far more introverted right now. Many things are coming together that require my emotional energy. Add to that that I am away from home, away from my loving and supportive husband, away from my dearly-loved children, and away from close friends in real life. I'm online and getting love from them, but the challenges are real and my rechargers are far away.

If you are a regular reader of my blog, a friend, leave me a comment below telling me something, anything.
Be a friend.

Thanks, I Needed That

I had the nicest message on Facebook today and I'm going to share it here with you for a couple of reasons.

1. I am so busy and preoccupied these days.
2. I have little time to write.
3. This message reminds me why I do the small things that I do.

Sara V-R, THANK YOU for contacting me; it really means alot to me.

Hi Karen, I have been following you on Pinterest for a while. I had a situation yesterday where I had to have an honest conversation with a neighbor about our difference in beliefs. I don't usually have these conversations and my first thought was what would Karen do. I just wanted to thank you for the content and perspective that you share. There are probably more silent followers like myself that enjoy your work and I just wanted to make sure you knew that! Have a great day and keep it up!!

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

I Meme Well

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Some nights I just get my mind all in an uproar and I get a veritable bee in my bonnet and make sets of memes for Pinterest. Here's what I made tonight.  :)

I Reserve the Right...

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I'm a generally, genuinely positive person. I honestly think that it helps that I don't remember things well.  lol With a memory like mine I'm lucky I can remember my own life history, much less your history.  Much less the many, many players in my husband's work spheres.

So I'm happy, really happy.
I'm optimistic.
I'm positive.

But there are several things that will always always piss me off or make me sounds dreadfully negative. Some homeschool things. Some atheist things. Some world things. I just have to share them in the spirit of transparency. I'm going to go ahead and post some of them here fully without apology...or defensiveness...and hopefully without also backpedaling.  :)
  • When one parent slanders the other to the kids.
  • When a parent slanders their children.
  • When children slander their parents.
  • Lies and SLANDER, apparently.
  • Pedophilia and child abuse of all kinds
  • The lack of good secular materials for homeschoolers
  • Fox News
  • Calumny in the name of religion
  • Casting guilt and shame of all sorts
  • Coercion through invective language
  • Blaming the victim
  • Racism
  • Every ism
I'm at a place in my life where I'm in the position of living outside of my comfort zone for fairly long stretches as I care for my sister. Because of this, I'm feeling reflective and contemplative, kind of fragmentary and inchoate. My thoughts are less specific and more in the realm of meta thoughts...but they will solidify as time goes on...

Because I am away from home, John is on his own with homeschool for the upcoming post were I talk about how we are managing his work while I am out of the house.