I have been meaning to post a link to this podcast of a discussion with Philip Pullman for awhile now:
In this month’s Christmas book club, John Mullan turns his attention to Philip Pullman’s expansive, magnificent His Dark Materials trilogy.Listen to the podcast of last night’s book club event, in which Pullman talked about Milton, morality and heading for the Arctic, and answered some searching textual questions from younger audience members.
At over 45 minutes, there is a lot of meat to this discussion…lots of background including how he came up with the idea of daemons (animal representations of a person’s soul) which was one of my favorite concepts (turns out he needed someone for Lyra to talk to in the opening chapter when she is in the closet!)
His Dark Materials is such a wonderful trilogy and one of those gems that I am so glad to have discovered as part of our homeschooling. Philip Pullman is not only a masterful storyteller, but an incredible writer (these two do not always go hand in hand!) The way that he can build the rich world in which Lyra lives (and the other parallel worlds) and the way that he has with words just amazes me. There were times when I would re-read passages just to hear the words again. The audio book is very well done as well (read by the author with a full cast) and I highly recommend it.
It actually looks pretty fun…I can’t tell if the selection is any bigger than on the regular Audible site (where you can still get kids books). It does seem as if you have more ways to search for books…by categories, age, grade, series, popular characters and award winners.
And yes, you do use the same account for making purchases for both Audible and Audible Kids, so there is no new fee or anything new to join. If you have credits on Audible, they are available on Audible Kids as well.
I have only poked around a little bit, but it looks like lots of fun stuff. Although I can’t say that I could ever bring myself to buy an audio version of a good picture book (like Where the Wild Things Are)…even though it is not expensive (many are only $1) it still seems a bit of a waste for a 5 minute audio book! Not to mention not getting the wonderful artwork.
But there are tons of other books that I would definitely consider owning. Much of my audio book purchases are kid lit…for both the boys and myself.
I have been a member of Audible for over 2 years now and I have to say that I have gotten some awesome deals. They frequently run promotions and sales (in fact I have $10 waiting to be spent that I got for using 4 credits in March…I had a couple of items on my wishlist that I had been waiting to purchase, including John Adams by David McCullough which was on sale for only 1 credit (regularly $48.96/ 2 credits))
I have a new post up at Life Without School titled It’s Not the Child. I wrote this after what seemed like a slew of posts on some of my homeschool lists from parents who seemed very worried that something was wrong because their children were not picking up certain concepts at particular times.
When I first started homeschooling, I was very lucky to find some wonderful homeschool mentors who were able to reassure me that my kids and I were doing fine and that we were all right where we needed to be. That there were no such things as “educational emergencies”. And as my kids have gotten older, I have learned to that they were right.
I find that the longer I homeschool, the more paradigm shifts I have. One of the most reassuring shifts I have had is that if my child is struggling with something, he either is not ready to learn it and needs more time or the information is not being presented in a way that makes sense to him and he needs a different approach. Either way, the problem is not with my child.
One of the things that I truly love about homeschooling is that I am on my children’s side. If something is not working, we can fix it. I don’t have to get them to be where someone else says they should be. I can help them get to where they should be.
Yesterday the Diane Rehm Show (on NPR) did a segment on homeschooling. It featured Mike Donnelly (from HSLDA), Rob Reich (associate professor of ethics at Stanford) and Gretchen Roe (homeschool mom and part-time liaison for Calvert School).
I have lots of comments about the show which, in my opinion, came across as fairly positive to homeschooling. I do not want to get into all the points that I would have liked to have seen made, but I did want to focus on one aspect that Rob Reich brought up…the issue of the rights of children.
At one point, Reich posed a question to Donnelly (who had just said that HSLDA was for more freedom for parents, wanting parents to have more choices and less government intrusion): “Are you also for the freedom of the children? What if the child wants to learn, say science, but the parents haven’t taught them that?”
This argument for additional oversight of homeschoolers is one that I have seen made other times as well, mostly by my fellow progressives and mostly in response to the perceived “brainwashing” of children by Christian homeschool parents. And to be honest with you, on face value, this can seem to be a compelling argument, especially for those with stereotypical views of homeschoolers and homeschooling. The idea that children can be sheltered and only hear “one point of view” (one with which many progressives would have issues with) bothers many people.
But when you start looking closer at the argument about protecting “the rights of the children”, you realize that it is not as clear cut an argument as it would seem. And this is because it implies that children have rights over what/when/how they learn outside of homeschooling and that it is homeschooling itself that deprives children of these rights.
But this most definitely is not the case. Switch his argument around a little bit and ask: “What if a child does not learn best with the curriculum the school has chosen? Does he have the right in school to get a different curriculum that better fits his learning style?” Ummm….no. He barely has the right to get accommodations and the parents usually have to fight tooth and nail to get those.
“What if a child is a right-brained learner who is not truly ready to read until between 8 or 9 years old?” Does that child have the right to wait and not be forced into learning to read before he is ready? No. He gets labeled as “late” and slapped with a learning disability (because of course it has to be the child that is broken, not the school).
To be honest with you, one of the main reasons that I am homeschooling is because I believe that children should be allowed to learn on their own timeframe and in a manner that works for them. I am homeschooling precisely because I do feel that my children have rights and that homeschooling is the best way to ensure those rights.
Reich’s argument seems to be less about whether children should have rights and more about who gets to make the decision about what the child learns. The state or the parent. I prefer to let the parents, who have a much more vested interest in the child, make this call. Does that mean that parents always make the right call for what is best for their children? Nope. But please don’t tell me that the state gets it right every time either.
I find it interesting that people who call for more oversight of homeschoolers often seem to have more of a problem with what is being taught rather than with the actual idea of homeschooling. These are the people who call for more oversight and want, as Reich has advocated for, some kind of “curricular oversight” to ensure “that parents are exposing their children to ideas, beliefs and values that go beyond what the children would encounter naturally in the home”.
Now, I am most certainly not arguing against exposure to alternative points of view! It is something that I consciously try to do. What I am arguing against however is the state enforcing how this is done. And here is why:
In order for me to have the freedom to teach my child what I feel is important (such as the different world religions) that means that others have to have the freedom to teach their children what they feel is important (even if I do not agree with it). It is the old free speech argument…I may not agree with what you have to say, but I will defend your right to say it.
Again, suppose the tables were switched…suppose fundamentalist Christians got to decide what was taught in public schools and only creationism was allowed. Would liberals feel that they should have the right to take their children out and teach them evolution at home? Would they feel that the Christians in charge of the schools had a right to dictate what they could/could not teach at home? If not, then they should not feel that they have the right to dictate what Christian homeschoolers teach at home.
It is a hard issue to grapple with, because we all want children to have the best environment in which to learn and grow. And we all have different ideas of what this “best environment” looks like. What it comes down to for me is that we live in a free society and one of the aspects of living in a free society is that people are going to make choices for themselves and their children with which not everyone agrees.
I have more to say on this subject, but I think that this has been getting a bit long. I will save the rest for tomorrow…
Someone on the Living Math email list forwarded a link to Shapirolab.net, a fun website focusing on optical illusions and patterns. Lots of information about why the illusions work and many have options where you can play around and change the illusion to test different effects.
This came at a perfect time as it ties in with a fun Brain Awareness program that Jason did a couple of weeks ago at the National Museum of Health and Medicine Armed Forces Institute of Pathology (at Walter Reed). One of the aspects of the brain that had been covered was optical illusions so this is perfect (I love when that happens!)
“Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.” – Mahatma Gandhi
While I was catching up on my blog reading, this post over at Child’s Play reminded me that I have wanted to try to get back into doing more “Wordless Wednesday” posts. While it is not Wednesday, this challenge by Mama Podkayne seemed like a great place to start.
I was able to find two pictures…each taken by the boys (which seems appropriate).
First, one by Kyle, taken two Christmases ago…right after I had gotten my new camera. Kyle had my point and shoot and we were taking turns taking shots.
The second taken by Jason in December 2001. Hmmm…the story of my life?
Here is hoping that I can get back in the Wordless Wednesday habit (and maybe actually post it on a Wednesday!)
There is an in depth interview with Terry Pratchett (author of the Discworld series including the boys and my favorite Wee Free Men). I love this man’s humor…even about things that are not really funny:
“When I was going in for the tests, they asked my wife and PA to say what they had noticed in my behaviour. They jointly wrote a letter saying, ‘Like any author who’s in the throes of writing a book, Terry probably shows all the signs of dementia: he’s unworldly, he doesn’t pay attention to things, he’s antisocial, grumpy.’ I’m a typical bloody writer. Maybe all of us have had Alzheimer’s for years without realising it.
If you have not read Terry Pratchett with your kids, don’t wait another minute! The Wee Free Men and its sequels are so skillfully written…great characters, rich, colorful writing and best of all absolutely, frickin’ hilarious (this might be one to get on audio book as I know that I could never have done the Nac Mac Feegle’s accent justice).
We recently finished listening to The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents which I also recommend. It is a take-off on the Pied Piper tale. Talk about food for thought…there is so much there to discuss…death, loyalty, ethics, what makes you human…Pratchett won the Carnegie Medal for it in 2001:
A brilliant and witty twist on the tale of the Pied Piper. Funny and irreverent, but also dark and subversive, in the way it parodies the classic folk tale genre. This is a story that holds a mirror up to our world and questions attitudes and behaviour prevalent in our society. A clever and most entertaining read.
My friend and fellow Virginian, Shez, has started a new carnival: the Carnival of Cool Homeschoolers. The inaugural edition is up and ready and looks like some good reading.
She is planning on making it a weekly affair, so if you have a post you want to share, be sure to send it in! (directions are at her blog)
I had been not been overly thrilled with the direction that the primary campaign and coverage had been taking lately…mostly getting tired with slew of “resignations” and the “controversy” surrounding them on both sides. Seems as if anyone says anything remotely “wrong” and they had to be ejected and the candidates had to completely distance themselves (yes, it bothered me on both sides). Every word and reaction was being parsed and analyzed and the “effect” it would have on each campaign was being analyzed.
Then the “controversy” surrounding Reverend Wright reared its head and I had just about completely stopped reading any kind of coverage because I was so sick of the divisiveness and nit-picking and knee-jerk reactions and judgments. I resigned myself to accepting that it was “politics as usual” and I would just have to accept that this was the way it was going to be and hope for the best.
But then Barack gave his speech yesterday and restored my faith in this political process. I realize that not everyone has the same opinion about it, but I have to say that personally it blew me away. If you have not heard it in its entirety, I encourage you to listen (or read it) on your own. News coverage and sound bites can not do it justice. And that was the beauty of it. It was not a typical politician speech…it acknowledged the fact that there are shades of gray to everything…that things are not as black and white as our politics would have us believe.
[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/pWe7wTVbLUU" width="425" height="350"/]
For we have a choice in this country. We can accept a politics that breeds division, and conflict, and cynicism. We can tackle race only as spectacle – as we did in the OJ trial – or in the wake of tragedy, as we did in the aftermath of Katrina – or as fodder for the nightly news. We can play Reverend Wright’s sermons on every channel, every day and talk about them from now until the election, and make the only question in this campaign whether or not the American people think that I somehow believe or sympathize with his most offensive words. We can pounce on some gaffe by a Hillary supporter as evidence that she’s playing the race card, or we can speculate on whether white men will all flock to John McCain in the general election regardless of his policies.
We can do that.
But if we do, I can tell you that in the next election, we’ll be talking about some other distraction. And then another one. And then another one. And nothing will change.
That is one option. Or, at this moment, in this election, we can come together and say, “Not this time.” This time we want to talk about the crumbling schools that are stealing the future of black children and white children and Asian children and Hispanic children and Native American children. This time we want to reject the cynicism that tells us that these kids can’t learn; that those kids who don’t look like us are somebody else’s problem. The children of America are not those kids, they are our kids, and we will not let them fall behind in a 21st century economy. Not this time.
I also encourage you to listen to this NPR report: Chicagoans: Reports Misrepresent Obama’s Church.
The Rev. Jeremiah Wright’s comments from the pulpit at Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago have put the spotlight on his church and his relationship with Sen. Barack Obama. The church being portrayed in the media, however, is unrecognizable to many who are familiar with the congregation.
This is the way that politics and our media works…ideas, people, places are reduced to sound bites which have little resemblance to how they really are. Talking head “experts” who have little to no direct knowledge of the subject at hand come on and talk like they know something, when they don’t. Because life can not be distilled down to 3 or 4 minutes on tv. Life is more nuanced than that.
All the pundits have been asking “is it enough” or “will it work”. I am sure that it will not please everyone and there will still be some who dismiss it. I for one, however, am thankful that yesterday was not “politics as usual” and that Barack at least attempted to move the conversation forward.
I love serendipity. Such as when I stumble upon a new blog right when I need it. Like Tara’s Periwinkles and Pine. I am incredibly art/craft challenged and kept thinking that I needed to poke around online to get some inspiration. And then Periwinkles falls into my lap with inspiration to spare. I think that we will try the crayon and hot rocks tomorrow. It looks fun and doable (seriously…homeschool math, no problem…homeschool art and crafts and I run screaming for the hills). Oh and she loves children’s lit too…looks like a lot of good finds in her reading lists.
And if the neat art ideas and books were not enough…I have absolutely fallen in love with her music choices. Because, you see, Tara has a neat plug-in that allows her to have her favorite music playlists playing. Now usually music on websites sends me running the hills…I hate it. It is one of my pet peeves actually. Please don’t subject me to your tastes in music because it most likely is the not the same as mine.
But that was not the case here! I got caught up in the first track by Amos Lee and was hooked. Soon I was clicking through her playlist and checking out artists on iTunes. I ended up discovering three new artists that I absolutely LOVE…Amos Lee, Jack Johnson and Jamie Cullum. And due to the magic that is iTunes, I am enjoying them as we speak (as I write?)
I have actually been on the search (without much luck) for new artists since I discovered Martin Sexton this summer. My friend Joanna’s husband is a musician who plays all over Ocean City in the summer and he played a wonderful cover of Sexton’s Hallelujah that I fell in love with immediately. After finding out it was by Martin Sexton, I downloaded most of his albums over the course of the summer (interesting side note…each summer seems to have its own “soundtrack” to it…last summer it was Martin Sexton, the summer before it was James Taylor (go figure and don’t ask me why…))
I am so surprised any time I find a new artist that I actually love…my music tastes are pretty heavily weighted towards music I loved growing up…Billy Joel, Chicago, Paul Simon, Simon and Garfunkel, Eric Clapton. Lots of classical (Bach, Mozart and others), and instrumentals (like Linus and Lucy and the Canadian Brass). Most of the more recent stuff I have discovered is instrumentals from movies/tv such as the Pirates of the Caribbean soundtracks (the boys and I both love these) and the Robin Hood soundtrack.
I don’t like much “popular” music…which is why I was amazed to find so many good tracks on Tara’s playlist. I guess that I need to do more hunting in the folk music category.
Another interesting thing is that I just realized that I am most definitely more partial to male vocalists…I had never realized that before. While I enjoyed the female vocalists on Tara’s playlist and would more than enjoy hearing them at a friend’s house, there were none that I grabbed me enough to want to purchase for myself. Not sure if that means anything…
I looked through my music list and sure enough, the only female artists (other than the Indigo Girls) I have are part of ensembles (like The Mamas and the Papas and Peter, Paul and Mary…um…did I mention that I am a bit stuck in the past musically?)
I guess that I should probably stop babbling now. I just can’t tell you how excited I have gotten over all this. (And how much time I have blown over at iTunes) Doesn’t take much, does it?
I saw this quote in a sig line on one of my email lists:
I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by.
- Douglas Adams, The Salmon of Doubt
I can definitely relate. I find that I sometimes have a mental block when it comes to deadlines…if I know that I have to do something, then I tend to not want to do it…even if it is something that I enjoy. I work much better without the pressure of a deadline…
I know, not very original and there definitely has been lots of talk about the California court homeschooling ruling. But since there is so much information floating around, I kind of felt like I needed to pull some of it together in one place, at least for my own sake. It has been amazing the amount of speculation going on about what this means, both for homeschooling in California and for homeschooling nationwide.
One thing you will see is that I am not going to link to any news coverage. Most reporters really do not understand homeschooling in general and there are so many subtleties to this case that media just can’t seem to get it right and has been full of dire predictions and misinterpretations.
VaHomeschoolers has put out a statement for Virginia homeschoolers who might be worried about the larger implications of this case. It is very unlikely that this will affect us here because, unlike California, we have a specific home instruction statute and in order for us to loose our rights, the General Assembly would have to pass legislation to remove that language from the Code of Virginia and the Governor would have to sign it. VaHomeschoolers closely monitors legislation every year to ensure that this does not happen.
I have found that the best place for information has been the California state homeschool organizations. They are the ones most familiar with the state laws and the political climate (not to mention the ones with the most vested interest in the outcome!) and will be posting frequent updates as things go on.
There was an informative podcast interview with Debbie Schwarzer,HSC Legal Team Co-chair. She talks a little about what they know about the case, what they are doing and reassures folks that right now what they need most is for everyone to sit tight and let them work on it.
National Home Education Legal Defense (NHELD) has issued a Bulletin about the ruling in which they talk a lot about the legal issues involved. I found this to be a good overview of the legal intricacies.
As far as the petition being circulated by HSLDA, HSC has said the following:
Dear List Members
We have seen a post forwarding a letter from HSLDA that addresses the recent court ruling regarding homeschooling in California. Their letter offers a link to a petition, saying that you can help stop this threat to homeschooling by signing the petition. While we believe there is no harm in signing the petition, we do not feel it is necessary.
We believe that it is important to remain calm and allow the Legal Teams of the various homeschooling organizations to address the issues appropriately through legal channels. We certainly understand that you will want to stay informed and be involved in any ways that can help in resolving threats to homeschooling freedoms, and we will be keeping you closely posted as things arise that can be impacted with your help.
So while we do not discourage you from signing the petition, we also see no benefit in signing it either.
We encourage you to read our position recently posted on our website at http://hsc.org/Appellatedecision
Thank you so much for all your patience and support.
HSC Board of Directors
HSC Legal Team
I find this good to know as I have many issues with HSLDA’s political stances on issues outside of homeschooling and prefer not to give them my personal information (although I would have if it would have helped). It does look as if HSC and CHN are taking donations for their legal funds so that is another more direct and effective way of helping.
One lesson that I think can be taken from the situation in California is that it is is vitally important to support your statewide homeschool organization, if your state has one. California is lucky to have several active groups who already had networks and relationships in place so they were able to mobilize quickly.
Virginia is lucky as well to have two statewide organizations and it is for this reason that I donate both my time and money to VaHomeschoolers. VaHomeschoolers has been working for over 10 years to promote homeschooling, developing good working relationships with both the Virginia Department of Education as well as state lawmakers. VaHomeschoolers believes that all homeschoolers’ interests are served when government, news media, and the public see us as a diverse people united in our love of our children and in our valuing freedom to teach and learn at home.
Education is the key to keeping our homeschool freedoms.
I just wanted to take a minute to thank those folks who nominated me for an E for Excellent award. You all are too sweet!
Thanks goes out to Not June over at These Go to Eleven, Joanne at Unschooling Voices and Christa at Sandy Feet (which was a delightful surprise as I now have a new blog to follow…what’s not to like…a homeschool mom of 3 boys…who loves the ocean (I get relaxed just seeing the header picture on her blog!)…and has great pics of life in New England…what fun!)
So thanks once again everyone and since I am so late to this game, I am not going to nominate anyone (not to mention I have no idea who has already gotten one and who has not). And I do apologize for not having my act together enough to say thanks in a timely manner! The thought and kudos were very much appreciated.
So last week it got really cold for a few days (by northern Virginia standards…below freezing) and today it was 70 degrees. It seems to have been doing this for awhile this winter..days of really cold followed by days of spring.
My crocuses came up probably about a month ago and I keep expecting them to be dead. They would come up, open up, then shrink back and close up, but here they are opening up again (sorry, no picture!) The fragrance today was beautiful and you could smell them every time we opened the door.
The boys spent a lot of time on the trampoline today and Ellie was plain tuckered out (we finally had an electric fence installed so we can take her out and let her run to her hearts content). Spent some time shooting off sling-shot rockets (have I mentioned how much I love our huge backyard?) and did some other miscellaneous fun stuff.
All in all a great day and one that was much needed. I have been feeling the mid-winter blahs creeping in…the ones where you start feeling as if you are in a rut and start having that old “homeschooling panic” of not doing “enough” creep in. A day like today is a great antidote to that!
Yes, I am still alive. Just lots of stuff going on in real life. Hope to get back to posting soon.
In the meantime, saw this comic in several places and had to laugh out loud. The truth hurts I guess…
Be sure to check the xkcd archives…lots of hilarious stuff there!
I have been reading Unshelved for over a year now and realized that I don’t think I have ever mentioned it here.
For book-lovers and wanna-be librarians (like me!) it is a must read. A comic set in a fictitious library. I have it set so that I receive a daily email or you can subscribe to the feed. The characters are fun and the strip takes on issues such as censorship and recently the issue of judging books based on controversial viewpoints of the author rather than on the book itself. Yes, I am a book geek.
To read more about webcomics, check out this Unshelved blog post which explains a bit about the ins and outs of comics:
But there’s a downside to our control-freak existance. And that is that webcomics aren’t as discoverable (or let’s say, differently discoverable). You probably discovered Unshelved because a friend or coworker recommended it, or you followed a link from a listserv or blog. But many others followed that link and weren’t compelled to return by what they saw. I am a little sad that there aren’t hundreds of thousands of people who read our strip in their paper day after day, slowly gaining a taste for our style of humor. Nor are there folks who start reading our strip because they picked up a paper at the barber and start reading it. It’s a lost opportunity. I’m not sure how much, but I do wish we had a way to reach a broad and highly diverse audience day after day.
Bottom line: all in all we like being on the web, and it’s been years since we seriously discussed the possibility of newspaper syndication. But we are almost completely dependent on our readers to expand our audience. Thanks to everyone who has told a friend or coworker, or blogged about us, or posted to a listserv, or skywritten “unshelved.com” above the Superbowl. Well, it doesn’t hurt to ask.
Well, it isn’t skywriting, but I am doing my part. Go check them out.
I came across the Arrow of Time today and found it utterly fascinating! (HT: Photojojo) An Argentinian photographer, Diego Goldberg takes headshots of each member of his family on June 16th of every year. Starting in 1976 (just he and his wife) and continuing through 2007, it shows not only how his family grew, but how they aged as well.
Be sure to check out his three boys…each one has a year when they make the jump from looking like a “boy” to looking like a “man”. I also got a kick out of how much his wife’s hairstyle changed and how much his did not.
I guess as homeschoolers, this is something that we might want to think about…if our kids were in school, we could get the “school pictures” which would chronicle our kids as they grow. I think that there is something to be said about taking pictures in the same place each year…
I have accidentally done this a bit over the years:
Taken in 2003 (the boys were 6 and 3 years old)
Taken in 2005 (Boys were 8 and 5 years old)
Taken 2007 (Boys were 10 and 7 years old)
I think that I want to do something a bit more consciously…I will have to think on that. I had hoped to take pictures at the end of every summer on our dock, but so far have only managed to remember to do it for two years…
Taken 2004 (Boys were 7 and 4 years old)
Taken 2006 (Boys were 9 and 6 years old). Two years sure does make a difference! And for the sake of full disclosure, I forgot to take the picture at the end of the summer so ended up taking it when we were down for Christmas!
I also have to remember to try to take the picture from the same angle…I think it would have a better effect…
Hope that you all enjoyed my walk down memory lane…which seems very appropriate since Kyle turned 8 years old today! Happy Birthday to my little guy (who is not so little any more!)
Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.
I find it very ironic that the same George Bush that said in his State of the Union speech “On matters of justice, we must trust in the wisdom of our founders and empower judges who understand that the Constitution means what it says.” seems to totally miss the whole idea of separation of powers and the idea that the president is not above the law.
Hmm….now there is a thought.