Monday, April 30, 2007

"1/3 of all homes has a gun in it"

This according to Sam Donaldson during on an appearance on This Week with George Stephanopoulos the week before last.

Well I must say that I found that statement more than a little disconcerting. I am going to have to be more aware of checking in with parents in homes where my children are visiting. People used to roll their eyes at me when I asked them if they owned a gun, but that was fine. It's been a while since I've had to ask anyone, but as our circle of friends expands and we are visiting new homes, I need to start being aware again.

I think I need to have a conversation with my kids about the topic too. It's been a while since my ten year-old and I talked about it, and I've never talked about it with my six year-old at all.

I don't have a problem with people owning guns, as long as they are tucked away someplace where children can't get them. However I do have a problem with people being able to legally get automatic weapons. Rosie O'Donnell, who I am a big fan of, spoke about her efforts regarding gun control on The View after the Virginia Tech shooting. She insists that fighting the NRA is impossible because of the powerful lobbyists they can afford. I have to agree.

One look at the NRA website is actually pretty scary. Sorry, not providing that link.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Sharing Breastfeeding

On the Today show on Friday was an interesting story about wet nurses. They definitely covered the ew factor, but also had a woman on who had wet-nursed 40 babies. She spoke about how milk banks pasteurize their milk, so many of the live antibodies which breast milk is so renowned for, are killed by the process. They also had a La La Leche League Leader there who clearly stated that LLL does not approve of the practice.

Well I'm glad I'm not an LLL Leader anymore, because that means I get to share my own opinion!

I know someone who hurt herself shortly after giving birth, and had trouble breastfeeding. She was thrilled to have a sister who was able to do it for her, until she had recovered enough to hold her baby without fear of dropping her.

I also had the privilege of experiencing this myself. I was babysitting for my friend's toddler, who took about one minute to nurse herself to sleep, after I offered. I was so happy to be able to respond to her need in a way that was so natural to me.

While watching Today, my older son (ten years old) came into the room and started watching with me. He feels it's a bad idea because then the baby will start bonding with the wrong person.

I agree that a breastfed baby bonds with the person the breasts are attached to. But on the other hand, we all know of children who are more attached to their day care providers than their own parents. Many people shrug that off as being a necessary evil. So why isn't a baby's first food seen the same way?

Personally, if I were not able to breastfeed, and money wasn't an issue, I would probably try to find someone to pay to pump for me and give me the fresh milk to bottle feed. I appreciate the value of breast milk, but would also be terrified of my children bonding with someone else more than me.

That's why I'm a stay-at-home mom.

And that's another reason why we homeschool.

Saturday, April 28, 2007


"Teaching kids to respect their elders or everyone on the planet automatically, is what leads to molestation and other abuses. Kids need to trust their own instincts."

This was left in my comments the other day, and I think it's important enough to blog about by itself, since it's something I've given much thought to. The writer was indicating her discomfort with my statement that "I certainly expect [my children] to respect not only their elders, but all other people, simply by virtue of the fact that we all share the same planet."

It's funny, because I really did pause over that sentence before deciding to leave it as is; I wanted to make sure that I really do mean it. And I do stand by it now. The difference is one of semantics; my reader's definition of the word is different than the one I usually assign it. I looked up the word on and think she may have understood my meaning to be "To feel or show deferential regard for" whereas when it comes to this usage, I intended it to mean "courteous regard for people's feelings". So when I expect my children to have respect for everyone, that doesn't mean I expect them to always show deference.

I agree that expecting children to ignore their own instincts by demanding they show deference to everyone would be a monumental mistake. My reader is absolutely correct in her statement that this "is what leads to molestation and other abuses." Having grown up in New York City, I am very proud of my instincts about people, and in my hopes of making sure my own children's instincts are not corrupted, I devoured the book Protecting the Gift by Gavin De Becker:

Mr. De Becker has appeared on numerous TV shows, and does an amazing job of helping parents trust their children's instincts.

So when the word respect is defined as "courteous regard for people's feelings", yes, I expect my children to show respect for all people, same as I do. Even to "the lady that grills my child about what he/she knows". A blunt response might be where I end up, but hopefully never where I start.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

10 Favorite Quotes...on school

It is, in fact, nothing short of a miracle that the modern methods of instruction have not entirely strangled the holy curiosity of inquiry.
...............Albert Einstein

Thank goodness I was never sent to school; it would have rubbed off some of the originality.
...............Beatrix Potter

I am beginning to suspect all elaborate and special systems of education. They seem to me to be built up on the supposition that every child is a kind of idiot who must be taught to think.
...............Anne Sullivan

I suppose it is because nearly all children go to school nowadays and have things arranged for them that they seem so forlornly unable to produce their own ideas.
...............Agatha Christie

I have never let my schooling interfere with my education.
...............Mark Twain

Common sense is in spite of, not as the result of education.
...............Victor Hugo

All men who have turned out worth anything have had the chief hand in their own education.
...............Sir Walter Scott

Drop out of school before your mind rots from exposure to our mundane educational system. Forget about the Senior Prom, go to the library and educate yourself if you've got any guts.
...............Frank Zappa

I know my enemies, they're the teachers who taught me to fight me.
...............Rage Against the Machine

It is the absolute right of the State to supervise the formation of public opinion.
...............Joseph Goebbels, Nazi Germany

Radical Unschooling vs. Self-Directed Learning

Learning is not the product of teaching. Learning is the product of the activity of learners.
...............John Holt

From the beginning I have referred to my family as unschoolers, since we don't sit around the kitchen table and "do school". We do have workbooks in the house, but only use them when one of my kids asks to. Okay, I do occasionally suggest we do some pages, but if they don't want to, we don't. Our days are filled with reading, playing, watching TV or DVDs rented from Netflix, playing board games and computer games, doing puzzles and crafts, playing, talking, doing household tasks (yes my ten year-old does his own laundry), playing, and mostly being out in the world. We love museums, libraries, letterboxing, shopping, and playing with friends. We don't even mind having to do errands since we are together.

I remember first hearing about unschooling when my older son was about five, and being appalled to hear that the child of someone I knew, was ten years old and could not yet read. So I appreciate that a lot of people do not understand the concept of unschooling, or are uncomfortable by it. It really takes a giant leap of faith to live this lifestyle.

I've always been proud to call us unschoolers though, since it does require an awful lot of trust in my children to be one. But these days I'm finding myself hesitant to use the term, since I've been on a few unschooling email lists and have been increasingly uncomfortable by how some other unschoolers define us. And the fact that the term "radical unschoolers" even exists indicates that there are others out there who feel the same way I do.

So what do radical unschoolers do that makes me hesitate to call myself one?

Kids who are radical unschoolers watch whatever they want, and as much as they want on TV, all the time. They spend as much time as they want on the computer. They eat whatever they want all the time. They are not required to contribute to the running of the household unless they want to. They don't even have to pick up their toys off the livingroom floor unless they feel like it. They can go to bed whenever they want. And from what I read, they also have the right to refuse when their grandmother, who needs a walker to get around, asks them to get her something from another room.

I'm sure there is a lot more, but the emails dictating that those who don't do these things can't call themselves unschoolers had me leaving the lists before I could learn what they might be.

Now I am an attachment parent, so trusting my children, from the time of breastfeeding, is something I've gotten pretty good at. However I am also clinically obese, along with dozens of family members. So when my younger son tells me that the reason he is so upset that his brother was invited to a birthday party that he was not, is that he is going to miss the cake, I hesitate to trust him to eat what his body needs.

I expect my children to eat the nutritious foods I provide for them. I expect them to stop watching TV and playing computer games when they start to ignore other things that they have previously enjoyed doing. I expect them to do their share of the household chores, since I'm not a slave. I expect them to go to bed at an hour which will assure they get enough rest. And I certainly expect them to respect not only their elders, but all other people, simply by virtue of the fact that we all share the same planet.

And for all this, I "have no right" to call myself an unschooler. Well, if that's what being an unschooler means, then I don't want to! So these days I call us "self-directed learners", hoping that it conveys what we are about without the negative connotation that radical unschoolers have given the word "unschoolers", to pretty much everyone who is not one. I have to admit that I also avoid associating with radicals since these kids, in my experience, do not have the respect for others that I expect from my children. And one of the good things about homeschooling is that I can (somewhat) control the time frame in which my kids are exposed to different things.

Like I said before "I appreciate that a lot of people do not understand the concept of unschooling, or are uncomfortable by it. It really takes a giant leap of faith to live this lifestyle." But when it comes to radical unschooling, that's one leap I'm not willing to take.

For more information on unschooling, check out John Holt's book:

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Freedom of religion means all religions

Today this article made it's way into my mailbox.

"The Wiccan pentacle has been added to the list of emblems allowed in national cemeteries and on government-issued headstones of fallen soldiers...This settlement has forced the Bush Administration into acknowledging that there are no second class religions in America..Wicca is a nature-based religion based on respect for the earth, nature and the cycle of the seasons. Variations of the pentacle not accepted by Wiccans have been used in horror movies as a sign of the devil...."

It made me very happy to read this, as many of my friends are Wiccan and Pagan, and it's always been frustrating for them to be viewed as devil worshipers. Even members of my own extended family have raised their eyebrows when I've taken out my tarot cards to do a reading for someone, and that is not even connected to any religion! They just assumed that tarot cards = paganism = the devil.

I have read several books on Wicca, and it is a religion same as any other. Wiccans honor a deity and try to be good people. The main difference that I have found is that they actively try to be good people; they don't just talk about it. They believe in karma, and even more, that what we put out there returns to us threefold. And I have found this to be a better incentive than any threat of hell or chance of heaven. Just be a good person, because if you put good energy out there, it will come back to you. If you act like an idiot, you surround yourself with negative energy and that is what you attract. Simple.

The reason I am not myself Wiccan, is because I don't believe in a deity, and I have a problem with dogma. And what I have read leads me to believe that, like every other religion, Wicca has dogma. (Twelve years of Catholic school turned me way off to dogma.)

It's unfortunate that people have not taken the time to learn more about this religion. There are terrific books on the subject, one even being written specifically for "outsiders" (family and friends of those who practice) to begin to understand it:

There are way more Wiccans and Pagans out there than you probably think. I only wish it were included in books for children. For example, this book, which we own:

covers Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism, Taoism, Shintoism, Jainism, Sikhism, Zoroastrianism, and Islam. It's a good book; it covers a lot (although Christianity and Judaism get lots more pages than the others). But notice anything missing? Where's the Wicca? Where's the Paganism? Honestly, here in the US you are far more likely to meet a Pagan than a Zoroastrians, I would think. It just annoys me that they are overlooked. (You know what else is annoying? Every single one of these religions is showing up in blogger's spellcheck EXCEPT FOR WICCA!)

I think it is because so many Christians feel threatened by it. So many Christian holidays have intertwined themselves with pagan holidays, that Christians, whose numbers are far greater than most other religions in this country, are afraid that they will debase their own religion by acknowledging these others.

It is so unfortunate, because if people could just put aside their fears, and learn about the real deal, they might be pleasantly surprised.

More on my own religion another time (like perhaps on "National Prayer Day").

Monday, April 23, 2007

The Wal-Mart decision

Okay, so a lot of people I know don't shop at Wal-Mart because of their horrible business practicesand the incredibly poor way they treat their employees. I have continued to shop there, however, despite having watched an enlightening PBS show on the subject.

It really was quite good, and I'm going to have to pick it up to show my kids.

Anyway, I knew how awful Wal-Mart is and how I shouldn't be shopping there. But for some reason I had kept going. Even though every single time I stepped into one I hated being there the whole time, despised the messy and crowded aisles, and kept asking myself why I continued to shop there.

I was having a great discussion about this with a few homeschooling moms at a playgroup one day, and one of the women I was speaking with - someone who is always very thought provoking - was saying that we don't always have the choices we perceive we do, that our choices are really quite limited. We discussed this and she tried to explain what it is she meant, and before I knew it, out of my mouth came "well, if I'm going to continue to be able to afford to feed my family grass-fed beef, I'm going to have to buy my hair conditioner at Wal-Mart". So yes, it is a choice whether or not to shop at Wal-Mart, literally speaking. But as my friend said, my choices are really quite limited; I could choose to not shop there, and feed my family crappy beef. Is that really a choice?

Well, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that for my family, it is. I can do both, but for some reason continued to shop at Wal-Mart. Perhaps it's because I simply love a bargain. Perhaps I had started feeling that one person couldn't make a difference. Whatever the reason, I could not bring myself to stop going.

Then my ten year-old and I had a very interesting conversation about the whole thing. I explained about how Wal-Mart employees are not allowed to work enough hours to receive insurance, how Wal-Mart refuses to let unions form, how Wal-Mart bullies companies into underpricing their merchandise so they barely break even, and even covered how Wal-Mart effects manufacturers in China. We even talked about how Wal-Mart had contributed to the closing of Caldor and Ames, and the decrease of K-Marts in our area. So together we decided to stop going there. Maybe I brought the subject up with him because my conscience needed a good kick in the butt?

We went to Target instead (who of course have their own issues). I was momentarily surprised to find a few of the items on my list not available there. We surmised that Wal-Mart must have a monopoly on these brands (Ivory soap, for example). The prices were not all that much higher than Wal-Mart's were, which was good news. We'll continue to shop there for now, and maybe make the drive to K-Mart to check them out too.

Overall I am glad to have "quit" Wal-Mart. And even if they don't feel my absence, I do. And it feels good.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Where do I get my news?

I had a subscription to Newsweek magazinefor a few years, but cancelled it last fall. Then it took them three months to believe that I really wasn't renewing, so I got three months worth free. I stopped because I just couldn't keep up with all my subscriptions and was feeling overwhelmed. (That's a blog for another day.)

These days I get my world news from This Week with George Stephanopoulos on Sunday mornings. He starts each week with an interview (today was with Newt Gingrich), then does a round table with George Will (who does a bi-weekly column for Newsweek and writes for the Washington Post), and two different additional media people each week. Sometimes is Cokie Roberts, Sam Donaldson, and another of my favorite writers for Newsweek, Fareed Zakaria. The show also includes "In Memoriam", listing all of the notable people who passed away that week, and all of the soldiers whose names were released that week, as well. And finally, he includes "The Sunday Funnies" which highlights some of the better jokes of the week, from the likes of Jay Leno and Jon Stewart. Overall I'm very happy with the show. It captures all the relevant news of the week, and leaves out all the crappy sensationalism stuff, which I find so annoying. I mean, who really gives a crap about Anna Nicole Smith's baby's dad? Really?

A while ago, I was talking with another homeschooling mom about the show and she told me that she gets her news from The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Well, I have to admit that I was appalled to hear that. How could someone actually get their news from a comedy show? But then I got cable and along the way I started watching the show. I have to admit that Jon also covers all the political commentary without the crap, and he does it with the roll-of-the-eyes that our news so often inspires. It makes me happy that enough people agree that our news is ridiculous enough that we need to laugh about it.

For that reason I also love Stephen Colbert. It amazes me that he manages to get the people on his show that he does. And people are so earnest in thinking they will actually have the opportunity to say anything other than what he manipulates them into saying. The man really is a genius. He does cover the crap, but he makes it worth watching. Check it out.

So that's it with me and news. I have really cut down a lot. It was just getting really depressing, knowing what a mess our country is in, and knowing there is little I can do about it. The feeling of powerlessness was too upsetting. So now I know just enough so I don't appear to be an idiot, but little enough to not be stressing about it.

Other news sources I have trusted in the past were US News And World Report, The New York Times Week In Review (back when I lived in New York and could get delivery at a reasonable cost), and BBC World on PBS, which I still watch when I can find it.

Other News Magazines

Friday, April 20, 2007

A place to talk about what's on my mind

That's what this is. My first blog is mostly to remind myself of all the wonderful learning that goes on in our family throughout our unschooling lives. But this is where I get to say what's on my mind. Because I really do have a lot on my mind, and think other people might be interested in hearing what that is. Also, back in school my teachers used to say I had a good "voice" for writing, so I think I'll go ahead and try to use it.

I'll start out with some of my favorite places to surf around online. Those giant questionnaires that seem to make their way around every once in a while, are always asking me for my favorites, so here some of them are:

The Positivity Blog
This is a really upbeat place to be. Check it out.

Daily OM
Your daily horoscope with inspiration.

The Breast Cancer Site
If you have a fast internet connection, clicking every day through all of the links (Hunger site, Animal Rescue, etc.) should take you no more than about 20 seconds. Just do it!

Your own personal DJ will find you new music you will love, based on songs or band names which you input. A must for music lovers.

Screen It!
If you have children, and you are concerned about the movies they see, and don't trust the reality of the rating system, this site is for you. These folks rate movies very, very thoroughly. It's a don't miss site.