They Like Me! (Or Maybe They Don't. And I Don't Care.)

I used to walk into a room full of people and wonder if they liked me… now I look around and wonder if I like them.Rikkie GaleMost of us want to be liked, right?  It’s human nature, isn’t it, to crave acceptance, to want to be part of a tribe?  But worrying about whether people like you can be debilitating.  And it’s downright unhealthy if you let your desire to be liked trump your integrity.
My  first job out of college, my supervisor (who was a deeply troubled woman) did not like me.  In fact, she hated me, and I came to hate her.  It was a terrible situation (that I, in my immaturity, probably made worse), but I think one of the things that made it so bad for me at that time is that I wasn’t used to people not liking me.  I don’t mean that I had been the most popular person around, or that I had huge numbers of friends, but I was used to people thinking I was a nice person.  I did not know how to handle not being liked.
Well, that was almost 26 years ago (ACK!) and there have been a few people who disliked me in the intervening years.  Probably more than a few.  But I made a statement a few years ago that I will stand by today: “I don’t care who likes me as long as *I* like me.”
That is a bold statement.  And it doesn’t mean that it doesn’t sting a little when I feel misunderstood or left out.  It does mean that I will not change myself to win friends and influence people.  I have strong beliefs; sometimes I feel the need to share them, and I ALWAYS feel the need to live by them.  I have kids who I have to advocate for.  I sometimes have to take unpopular positions in my own home.  I have discovered that staying true to myself and what I believe is more important than being popular.
I’m linking up with #WorthRevisit  this week  Visit the hosts Reconciled to You and Theology is a Verb, and check out the linkup for great posts you might have missed the first time around.

Brave New World: Gender Selection

I haven’t tackled a topic like this in a while.  But, y’all, I can’t write about pretty graveyards and fall hikes all the time.
Today I read this story  about an Australian woman who traveled to the United States to undergo in vitro fertilization and pre-implantation genetic diagnosis to achieve her desired goal:  a baby girl.  “The process involves harvesting a woman’s eggs, injecting each one individually with sperm, then growing the embryo from a single cell to around 130 cells, at which point it’s possible to tell whether the chromosomes are XX or XY. Only embryos of the desired sex are transferred to the uterus.”
Here’s just one example of a facility in our country that provides this service.  From their website: “While the desire to choose whether a baby would be a boy or a girl has been present throughout human existence, it is only recently that the technology to do so has become clinically possible and available. With improvements in gender selection technology, demand for gender selection has also been growing steadily.”
There’s that slippery slope that I’m always being told is a logical fallacy! It goes on to say, “Sometimes gender selection can be “non-medical” or “elective.” In such cases, a child of a specific gender is desired without obvious medical indications. The most frequent indication for such gender selection is “family balancing,” when one gender is already represented in the family unit and the other gender is desired.”
Which makes me say, WHY IS THIS LEGAL AND WHAT ON EARTH IS WRONG WITH THESE PEOPLE?
Y’all, please understand, after three boys in a row I was very much hoping #5 would be a girl.  I also was hoping #4 would be a girl!  Instead we got William, and unlike the lady from Down Under, I did not “[sob] with disappointment to discover I was having a second son … and then a third.”  
Anyway, I understand the DESIRE for a daughter.  But most of us just suck it up and appreciate the children we have.  Maybe we accept that God knows what he is doing and set about parenting the kids we were lucky enough to get.  Maybe we realize we should be grateful for conceiving in the first place and for producing a healthy baby of any gender.  Remember when our mothers were having kids, and there was no way to know in advance what they were having, what they said when people asked if they wanted a boy or a girl? “I don’t care what it is as long as it’s healthy.”  I haven’t heard that in a long time; have you?
Five Kids
I know that, to a childless woman struggling with infertility, I might seem ungrateful because I already have three healthy sons. But unless you’ve experienced “gender disappointment”, you can’t understand how crippling it can be. My desire for a daughter caused me to spiral into depression and left me virtually housebound. Every time I went out, toddlers in pink seemed to taunt me.”  
If “gender disappointment” was so “crippling” to her, what she needed was not a daughter, it was therapy and lots of it.  She doesn’t just SEEM ungrateful, she IS ungrateful.  One can only imagine what her sons will think of all this when they come across this article online in the future–if they don’t already sense her feelings toward them now.
And what about that little girl, who has a lot of expectations heaped upon her already?  My Facebook post on this topic has generated some indignant comments.  One person said, “I hope the little girl likes karate instead of ballet!”  Well, you know, since ALL KIDS tend to do the unexpected, and since they are, you know, INDIVIDUALS, that’s just as likely as not.  There’s no one kind of “girl” and no one kind of “boy,” which is why I always find these stories about “gender balance” so ridiculous, and why I always think it’s funny when people think one boy and one girl is the ideal complete family.  My three boys are NOTHING alike.  My girls are not much alike either, and their gender is only one part of what makes them unique and special.
There is so much about this story that is disgusting.  The fact that she paid $50,000 for this procedure.  That could have been used to send one of her boys to college.  Or to fund the adoption of a daughter. The fact that this is a for-profit venture in the first place. From an article in Slate:

“Just over a decade ago, some doctors saw the potential profits that could be made. . . They coined the phrase “family balancing” to make sex selection more palatable. They marketed their clinics by giving away free promotional DVDs and setting up slick websites.  These fertility doctors have turned a procedure originally designed to prevent genetic diseases into a luxury purchase akin to plastic surgery. Gender selection now rakes in revenues of at least $100 million every year. The average cost of a gender selection procedure at high-profile clinics is about $18,000, and an estimated 4,000 to 6,000 procedures are performed every year. Fertility doctors foresee an explosion in sex-selection procedures on the horizon, as couples become accustomed to the idea that they can pay to beget children of the gender they prefer.”
Then there is the immorality of the procedure itself.  What happened to all those little boy embryos, after all?  They were discarded.  Her own children, and she threw them away BECAUSE THEY WERE BOYS.  And where is all this headed?  Do you really believe that selecting for other desired qualities won’t be a thing in the future?  From the Slate article: “In 2009, [Dr.]Steinberg came under a worldwide media firestorm when he announced on his website that couples could also choose their baby’s eye and hair color, in addition to gender. He revoked the offer after receiving a letter from the Vatican.” Thank God for the Vatican, is all I can say.
Says the happy mother/satisfied client:  “It’s not about playing God, it’s about giving women reproductive freedom.”  Um, no.  It IS about playing God. And it’s wrong, wrong, wrong.

Persecution and Perspective

It’s that time of year again!  Yes, it’s time for the annual “War on Christmas,” when all we faithful Christians must endure the pain of being wished “Happy Holidays” and seeing retailers advertising “Holiday Sales” and let’s not forget all those evil people taking Christ out of Christmas and replacing him with an X!
I could write several blog posts on this topic, but this morning I just want to provide a few points for your consideration.

  • Nobody can take Christ out of YOUR Christmas, no matter what they say or do.
  • Holiday = Holy Day.  So Christians still win on that one.
  • X = Christ. YES IT DOES.  If you don’t believe me, read this.
  • This is what an actual war on Christians looks like:”According to the U.S. Department of State, Christians in more than 60 countries face persecution from their governments or surrounding neighbors simply because of their belief in Christ . . .    Christians in North Korea face the risk of detention in the prison camps, severe torture and, in some cases, execution for practicing their religious beliefs . . . Catholic and Orthodox groups in Syria say the anti-government rebels have committed “awful acts” against Christians, including beheadings, rapes and murders of pregnant women . . . In August 2013, Egypt faced what has been called the the worst anti-Christian violence in seven centuries: 38 churches were destroyed, 23 vandalized; 58 homes were burned and looted and 85 shops, 16 pharmacies and 3 hotels were demolished; 6 Christians were killed in the violence and 7 were kidnapped . . . [In Pakistan] two suicide bombers exploded shrapnel laden vests outside All Saints’ Church in the old city of Peshawar. Choir members and children attending Sunday school were among 81 people killed. The attack left 120 people wounded, with 10 of them in critical condition . . . . Four Christians in Iran will get 80 lashes each this month for drinking wine during a communion service . . .  An average of 100 Christians around the world are killed each month for their faith.”  If you can stand it, you can read the rest here.
  • If you still feel persecuted, take heart!  Here’s what the Scriptures have to say to you:

    John 15:18  “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you.” 

    2 Timothy 3:12  “Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.”

    1 Peter 4:12-14  “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. “

    1 Peter 3:14 “But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled”

    Romans 12:17-21 “Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

     Matthew 5:44 “But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you”

    I’ll just leave you with this.  What would Jesus do?  Seriously?  This is the guy who gave us a NEW commandment, to love one another as He loved us, to turn the other cheek, to love our enemies, to forgive seventy time seven.  Do you really think He would want us feeling and spreading ill will on His birthday over the way people extend greetings at this time of year?  

The Hobbit II: The Desolation of Peter Jackson

Beware!  Herein lie spoilers!
I’m not in the habit of writing movie reviews, but then I’m not in the habit of going to movies either.  John loves them, and occasionally he insists on taking me, but usually I’d rather spend date nights talking.  I go to the theatre for big events:  Harry Potter, Star Wars, The Hobbit . . . the movies whose opening date you’ve known for months, the ones where your heart is pounding and you are a little bit breathless as the show finally begins.  Y’all, I had actual tears in my eyes when the theme music started.  This is serious stuff to me.
Why so serious? you ask.  Because I am, and have been, a certified Tolkien geek for most of my life, since I first read The Hobbit when I was about eight years old.   I can’t tell you how many times I’ve read it–and its “sequel”–since.  I read it aloud to my children; I read The Lord of the Rings (yes, all 1,200 pages) aloud to my husband.  Pre-fire, I owned most of Tolkien’s books, including obscure works; I had the soundtracks of the animated versions of his books; I had encyclopedias and atlases of Middle Earth; I even had the War of the Rings board game.  In college, I wrote a term paper on Tolkien’s life; in grad school, I created an annotated bibliography of sources related to the languages he created.
So I’m not a casual fan, or someone who just discovered Tolkien because of Peter Jackson’s movies (which up until now I’ve mostly been pleased with).  And this is a family full of serious Tolkien fans.   We were so excited about this movie that we kept the kids out of school today so that we could go as early as possible.
the hobbitSo I hate that I was disappointed.
I was skeptical when Peter Jackson announced that he was making The Hobbit into a trilogy.  I knew he was going to have to make additions, but I expected that most of them would involve adding scenes from other Tolkien sources (like Gandalf’s meeting with Thorin in Bree, a scene in this movie) or expounding on things that are mentioned in the book but not fleshed out (like flashbacks to the fall of Dale and Erebor in the last one).  I did not expect him to flat-out MAKE THINGS UP.  His efforts to insert matters from The Lord of the Rings  into the first installment were irksome, requiring mischaracterization of the relationship between Saruman and Galdalf, and I groused about that then, but for the most part his tampering was minor enough to overlook.
But not this time.  You know, I could overlook Azog not being actually dead in the first movie, but I can’t overlook the appearance of Bolg as well and orc after orc after hideously ugly orc in this one, especially not in freaking Imax 3-D.  THERE SHOULD BE NO ORCS IN THIS SECTION OF THE MOVIE.  They go back to the Misty Mountains and don’t reappear until the Battle of Five Armies.  Y’all, orcs are repulsive to look at and I’m tired of seeing them get their heads cut off.  I mean the thrill is totally gone.
You know what else shouldn’t be in this movie? Legolas.  Now. don’t get me wrong, I love Legolas.  And I was prepared to go along with his presence, because Thranduil IS his father, and he is a Mirkwood elf, so he was probably there.  So give him  a few lines or whatever, but don’t give him a huge subplot, complete with a love triangle.
Oh, and don’t create a “she-elf” to be one of the vertices of said love triangle, and have her be the one who enlightens Legolas on his duty to leave the safety of the forest against his father’s will in order to help stop the spreading darkness (which is not really even mentioned in this book but which is insisted upon over and over in the movie–by the elves, Gandalf, the orcs, and even Smaug).
So belatedly I should say that the first problem I have with this movie is it adds things that never happened.  More things than I’ve mentioned.  But enough said.
Second, just because a movie is fantasy doesn’t mean it doesn’t have to be believable.  Believable, I mean, within the confines of its own universe.  So yes, dragons and elves and dwarves exist, but even awesome elves like Legolas cannot physically do the things he does in the crazy action sequences (SO many action sequences) in this movie.  After awhile you are just shaking your head.  Nor can Thorin constantly survive blasts of Smaug’s fiery breath.  Or people fall repeatedly from great heights and hop right up with no broken bones.
Third, wouldn’t you think that one of the pluses of turning a short book into three long movies is that at least nothing would need to be cut?  That you would get to see every beloved scene on screen?  Well, think again, Buster.  Because Mr. Jackson is so enamored of his manufactured subplots that he doesn’t have time for the things that ACTUALLY happened.  The weeks of weary travel through Mirkwood?  Five minutes, tops.   Bilbo’s time spent skulking in the halls of the woodelves?  We see plenty of Thranduil (and what an ass he is) and Legolas and Tauriel (aforesaid she-elf) but we have no idea what poor Bilbo is up to until he appears with the keys.  The weeks the dwarves spend on the Lonely Mountain before they get inside?  They arrive moments before the keyhole appeared.
Fourth, the Ring.   The chief importance of the Ring in The Hobbit is that it’s Bilbo’s little secret weapon–he’s invisible while he fights the spiders, he’s invisible in the elf king’s halls, he’s invisible while talking to Smaug.  The Ring is NOT yet exerting some malevolent influence over him, for one thing because Tolkien hadn’t thought of that yet (although he goes for a little revisionist history later himself), but more important, MUCH more important, because it takes years and years and years before the Ring even begins to affect Bilbo.  His ability to resist its evil effects is miraculous and a tribute to him and to hobbits in general, and Gandalf makes much of that in The Fellowship of the Ring (the book, I’m talking about here).   But in this movie he has to be constantly pulling it out and staring at it and hearing the words that he does not even know are inscribed in it inside his head–in the Black Speech, no less–and even tells a spider, “It’s mine!” (At least he didn’t say it was precious.)  And when he should be using it, he’s always TAKING IT OFF.  Like when he is standing a couple of feet away from the MOUTH OF A FIRE-BREATHING DRAGON.
Finally, and most important of all, Peter Jackson has missed the point of The Hobbit in every possible way.  It’s a children’s story that he wants to rewrite for an adult audience.  It’s a simple tale that he wants to make complicated.  It’s a standalone book that he wants to tie to the War of the Ring.  And at its heart, it’s BILBO’s story.  It’s the story of how a simple, stay-at-home hobbit left his comfortable fireside for an adventure he never knew he wanted  and discovered that there was more inside him than he and others guessed.    Bilbo is largely missing from the second installment, which plays partly like Thorin’s story and partly like a prelude of the evil to come.  His triumphant moments are passed over quickly or even taken away from him all together (the elves come to the rescue and finish killing off the spiders, his single-handed liberation of the dwarves from the eleven king requires more elvish assistance as well as help from the dwarves and Bard).  In the book the dwarves respect and rely upon Bilbo more and more as time goes on.  That’s important–central–and you don’t see it here.
If I had never read The Hobbit, I would have liked this movie.  It was fast-paced and exciting and visually appealing.  I thought the 3D was used to much better effect this time around–there were times where the characters looked REAL to me in a way I can’t exactly explain.  The spiders and Smaug were awesomely scary.  I liked Tauriel’s character.  But as someone who loves the book, I instead found myself constantly shaking my head, and thinking, “Did he really just do that? Really?”

"The School I Would Run"

The title is in quotes because I utter that phrase frequently, mostly when complaining about something that has happened in one of my kids’ schools or when reading about the latest stupid educational fad.  (I also sometimes say “If I ran the world” but that is another post for another day!)
This is not an exhaustive list, nor is it in any particular order.
AT MY SCHOOL WE . . .

  • Would have Mass EVERY MORNING.  My parochial-schooled kids only went twice a week.  For most of my childhood it was every day, then later switched to three days.  It doesn’t have to be elaborate and it doesn’t have to take more than thirty minutes.  I did not realize what a blessing and a privilege it was at the time, but I do now.
  • Would have gym EVERY DAY.  Physical exercise is important.  Kids are getting fatter.  Some kids don’t play sports and they need the exercise.  Taking breaks to move around aids in learning as well.  We had gym every day when I was a kid and I bet you did too, but my kids go twice a week, and sometimes it’s two days in a row!
  • Would have thirty minutes of recess EVERY DAY.  I don’t honestly know how much kids get these days but I’m sure it’s not that much.  They don’t have the freedom we did to rush through lunch to try to get as much playtime is possible, and half the time recess isn’t after lunch anyway. And my middle school child doesn’t get recess AT ALL.  Not only do kids need exercise, they also need nature.
  • Would not have a technology/computer class AT ALL.  I’m not saying that computers might not be available, maybe for enrichment activities of some kind, but the idea that we need to “prepare our kids for the future” by teaching them computer is laughable.  Were we in any way prepared for the digital age?  Are we doing okay anyway?  My kids get plenty of screen time at home and they don’t need anyone at school to teach them how computers work.  Besides, what we teach kids about today’s technology in kindergarten will be obsolete within a few years anyway.  Let’s use that time for things that really matter.
  • Would have regular art and music classes.  Because these things are fun and enhance academic learning besides.  HOWEVER, and I know the teachers of these subjects won’t like this, for the most part these subjects should be taught in the regular classroom, with the teacher rolling her materials in on a cart.  Why?  Because the “specials” schedule, with kids traveling to different rooms on different days, is confusing and disruptive and wastes huge amounts of instructional time because of the transition required, both for the movement of bodies and the settling down of them afterward.
  • Would treat Spanish as a serious academic subject or omit it all together.  My big kids had Spanish for nine years in grade school.  Now ask me if they are fluent.  Kids in Europe attain fluency in English so we know it’s possible.  Our schools teach kids colors and body parts and songs in Spanish year after year after year so they can show it off when they are applying for accreditation.  If the kids aren’t coming out fluent, it’s a waste of instructional time.
  • Would emphasize grammar and diagram sentences.  There is no better way to understand the structure of the English language.  And you can’t learn a foreign language later if you don’t understand the grammar of your own.
  • Would teach cursive and practice it daily.  Some studies have shown that learning cursive improves academic performance.  But it’s also close to becoming a lost art and it’s a civilized skill that an adult should possess, if only for writing thank you notes.
  • Would use a math book that is full of math problems, not distracting color photographs.  For homeschooling, we used the Saxon program.  Seriously, y’all, have you looked at your kids’ math books?  Why do we think we need to entertain kids constantly?  When it’s time for math, let’s do math,
  • Would teach spelling the old-fashioned way.  Because it works.  We used a speller from the 1940s at home.  You have a weekly list of words, you write sentences, you do activities with them, you take a pretest, you copy over the ones you miss, you do a post-test.  Over the years I have seen some incredibly stupid methods of teaching spelling.  I will write a whole post (rant) about that some time.
  • Would encourage creative writing.  My sister’s third-grade teacher gave them a writing prompt every morning in the form of a magazine photo she hung on the board.  They could write anything they wanted to.  Betsy brought home wonderful stories every day.
  • Would offer plenty of time for reading, with an engaging reading series like the Keys to Reading series that my classmates and I enjoyed at St. Joseph.
  • Would have no summer homework.  Enough said.
  • Would have, in fact, no homework at all.  Unless you goofed off and didn’t finish what you should have during the day, or with the possible exception of long-term projects.
  • Would require uniforms.
  • Would EXPECT good behavior, not reward it.
  • Would start later in the year, maybe later in the day, and would have a shorter day for kindergartners and first graders.  And don’t tell me we need more instructional time, not less. For one thing, I’m not buying it, and for another, I’ve freed up time by getting ride of Spanish and computers and unnecessary transit time.
  • Would have the option of writing a paper on a scientific subject rather than completing a science fair project.  A corollary:  projects with obvious parental involvement would get a WORSE grade than ones kids obviously did on their own.
  • Would offer every kid an opportunity to shine, whether they are athletes, mathletes, budding scientists, artists, musicians, or writers.  Rather than awarding everyone for everything, my school would instill the concept that everyone is especially good at something and celebrate that.  Yes, that means that some kids would go home ribbonless from Field Day. It’s painful (as I know from experience) but that’s life.

I will stop there for now since I DON’T have my own school and have to spend some time actually earning a living this morning.  But I’d love to hear your thoughts.  Would you like my school?  How would YOUR school be different from mine, or different from the ones you’ve experienced?
7th grade
UPDATE:  For the past few years I have had my own school in that I am homeschooling Lorelei and just want to state for the record that it is sadly missing a lot of the above elements!

Feminism's Rotten Fruits

UPDATE:  I was inspired to repost this by discussion surrounding the Women’s March on Washington and by what many referred to as vulgar signs and speeches they saw on the media.  While I understand that many women find such things empowering, I too question whether it’s necessary to sink to the worst levels of vulgar men in order to assert our claim to equal rights.
billy-ray-cyrus-79522_1280
I’m not jumping on the let’s-make-fun-of-Miley-Cyrus bandwagon to get page views, y’all.  I’ve got three kids around her age.  I know her brain isn’t fully formed yet.  It’s hard when all your stupid adolescent tricks become tabloid fodder.  I wouldn’t be writing this if I didn’t think I had something to contribute to the discussion.
Here’s the thing.  What Miley did is NOTHING NEW.  She’s selling her body–her sexuality–for money.  That’s the world’s oldest profession.  What’s more interesting than what she did is the world’s reaction to it.
Everyone, EVERYONE, from religious conservatives to liberal feminists, had something to say about Miley.  I didn’t read them all–who could?–but I read a fair sampling.  And I won’t post links here, because Google.
Feminists had a hard time.  They knew there was something wrong about the display, but it was hard for some to articulate because slut-shaming is the latest verboten activity.  The best many could do was try to spread the blame and ask why there was no indignation about the cooperation of the object of her twerkiness, or to attempt to focus on the racial implications of Miley’s routine instead of the sexual ones.
The fact is that Miley’s performance showcased one of the biggest failures of feminism.
No one is outraged by Mr. Thicke’s performance because men have been objectifying women since the dawn of time, and they are going to go right on doing it.  Feminism has in fact made this easier for them by making women willing and enthusiastic conspirators in their own objectification.
Miley appears to have fallen hook, line, and sinker for the idea that a great way for women to be equal to men is to compete with them sexually.   There has always been a double standard, but instead of trying to raise the consciousness and the moral behavior of men, feminists apparently embraced the “if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em” philosophy.  If men can have consequence-free loveless hook-ups, than women can too, and biology be damned.    And if women “are in control of their own bodies,” it follows that feminists have had to embrace the right of women to engage in the sex trade, to appear in pornographic movies and magazines, to sell their eggs, and to rent out their wombs.  It is hard for me to see how any of this represents an actual improvement for women.
So Miley has grown up watching entertainers like Madonna very consciously using sex to sell music.  Madonna and others like her call this embracing their sexuality but in reality they are partners in their own objectification, willingly reducing themselves to even less than the sum of their parts.   Y’all, it’s really no different than the old-fashioned “sleeping your way to the top” routine.  The only gain women have made in this area–if you can call it a gain–is that we can do it publicly and proudly now.
Madonna and Lady Gaga are not only older than Miley, but much better at this than she is.   Moreover, even though they were all sweet and innocent little girls once too, we did not know them then.  We did not have to watch them discard their innocence for money in a public way.  That ship had sailed by the time we became fans.  We did not have to acknowledge our part in it all.

little miley
CREDIT – PEOPLE MAGAZINE

miley now
And that was the difficulty for many pundits yesterday.  Miley’s awkward, hypersexual routine stirred feelings of suppressed discomfort at the unexpected rotten fruits of the feminist sexual revolution.
chivalry
 
Linking up with Reconciled to You and Theology Is a Verb for their weekly re-run feature.  Click below to read more!
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Summer Is No Time for Homework

I’ve got some pretty strong opinions about education, after 17 years of having kids in school–and they’ve attended several, so I’ve got comparative data–plus my own years “in the system.”  I am very fond of proclaiming what would and would not happen in the hypothetical school that I would run.  (I need to write that post some time!) [edit: I did!]
And I’ve got a new item to add to that list:  there would be NO SUMMER HOMEWORK.
When I was little I remember a year when we were supposed to keep track of all the books we read over the summer, and draw a picture representing our favorite one.  I was a voracious reader and I also loved to draw; I ended up drawing a picture to go with every book I read (probably 30 or more) and had a great time doing it!  But this wasn’t a requirement; there wasn’t a list.   Forcing grade school kids to read certain books or kinds of books for a grade over the summer is a recent phenomenon in my experience.  I don’t remember my big kids having to do it, but Lorelei was issued a reading list even before kindergarten!
Still, reading is one thing.  Everyone should be reading anyway, right? But what no one should be doing in the summer time is MATH WORKSHEETS.
Yes, at the end of first grade Lorelei’s school announced that summer math workbooks would be available for purchase.  This was suggested, not required, and I ignored it, even when they went ahead and sent the book home anyway.  But this summer the books were issued and we were told that every child must complete them for a grade.
Lorelei is rule-driven and slightly compulsive when it comes to school, so she opened up her book on the first day of summer and did a few pages.  Quickly she became frustrated by questions she could not answer and by the thought of having to do work every day in the summer time.  So I told her she didn’t have to do it.  Yes, I did.
I hate homework, and y’all know that already.  And I’ve seen plenty of educational fads come and go (that’s another post I need to write).  I know why they want kids to do math in the summer.  It’s the same reason some push for year round school:  to keep kids from forgetting what they’ve learned.  But we all managed pretty well, didn’t we, even with the slightly longer summer breaks of yesteryear?  And if they think they are going to encourage a love of math by doing this, no.
School started, and I still wasn’t sure how we were going to handle the problem of the math book.  It ended up being due only days into the first week.  I originally had some idea that maybe I would just tell Lorelei all the answers and have her write them in, or that I would do them all myself in little girl handwriting.  Why rock the boat and make the teacher decide I’m crazy with the year just beginning?  Lorelei is the only child we’ve had at this school, and I’ve kept a low profile so far.  But I decided that would set a bad example for Lorelei and that I needed to stand up for my principles.
So I wrote her teacher an email.
I told him that the math book was stressful for Lorelei and for me.  I told him that I do not believe in summer homework.  That summer in my opinion is a time for decompressing and relaxing and playing and being a kid, and the stress of a looming assignment has no place in that.  I told him how I thought about doing the math myself and why I was being honest instead, and that I felt my decision was the right one for Lorelei and for our family.  I acknowledged that I knew Lorelei’s math grade would be affected, but that grades interest me only insofar as they provide evidence of learning anyway. And I asked him to make sure Lorelei did not feel he was upset with her.

I didn’t get a response for a whole day, and I was nervous every time I checked my email!  When he did respond, it was fine.  He thanked me for being honest and explained the reasons for summer math.  He said there would be plenty of time for Lorelei to improve her grade, and that of course his interaction with her and with me would not be affected.

I feel really good that I resisted the further intrusion of school into family life, that I was brave about standing up for my decision, and that it all turned out okay as I had assured Lorelei it would.

first day of third grade

 Update:  Lorelei received a C that first quarter in Math because she failed to turn in the summer homework.  She would have received an A otherwise.  In other words, she was penalized for failing to do homework meant to keep her from falling behind over the summer, EVEN THOUGH THE VERY FACT THAT SHE DID NOT NEED TO DO IT WAS PROVEN BY THE GRADE SHE EARNED.  And now we homeschool. 🙂
I’m sharing this oldie-but-goodie post at the #worthrevisit linkup today!  This weekly look back at old posts is hosted by Reconciled to You and Theology is a Verb.

 

The Blogger's Pit Stop

Thinking outside the Box: Ten Pro-Life Groups That May Surprise You

So I kind of went on a tear on Facebook the other day.   I flipped out just a little bit.  Here’s what I said:  “When certain people assume that “women” all believe the same things and support the same issues I get really, really irritated. It’s patronizing and ANTI-FEMINIST to act like all women think the same way and have the same opinions.”
What brought this on?  The sanctifying of the latest liberal media darling, Wendy Davis.  As Kirsten Powers stated, I don’t stand with Wendy Davis.  She does not speak for me, nor does she speak for a majority of women, and I am tired of reading articles that assert that women as a group embrace all of the same interests and convictions.
Kirsten Powers cites a recent National Journal poll in which 50% of women FAVORED a ban on abortions after 20 weeks.  According to Nate Silver, more women than men support such a ban!  Even 33% of Democrats support it–a sizable minority that Democratic leadership would do well to note.
Seventeen of my friends liked my Facebook status–several of them liberal women, I am pleased to report–indicating that I’m not the only one who doesn’t like being told what I think or what I should think.
I didn’t stop with the Facebook status, though.  Since clearly there is a lot of misinformation out there about who is against abortion (hint:  it’s not exclusively old white Republican men) I started posting information about surprising (that is, if you are close-minded and like to put people in boxes according to categories) groups that oppose abortion.  And I would like to share some of those groups with you.
1.  Feminists for Life:  “Women deserve better than abortion.
2.  Democrats for Life:  “We believe in the fundamental worth, dignity, and equality of all people.  We believe that the protection of human life is the foundation of human right  authentic freedom, and good government.
3.  National Black Pro-life Coalition:  “The National Black ProLife Coalition is a network of prolife and pro-family organizations committed to restoring a culture that celebrates Life and Family cultivating Hope in the black community.
4.  Pro-life Alliance of Gays and Lesbians:  “To challenge the notion of abortion as acceptable, to bear witness to the Gay/Lesbian/Bisexual/Trangendered (GLBT) community that abortion rights and GLBT rights are not one and the same, and to work towards those alternatives that are life-affirming as well as pro-woman.
5.  Atheistic and Agnostic Pro-lifers:  “… because life is all there is and all that matters, and abortion destroys the life of an innocent human being.
6.  New Wave Feminists:  “New Wave Feminists are here to take feminism back from those who have corrupted it.  Sometime before we were born our womanhood was traded in for a handful of birth control pills, the “privilege” to pose for playboy, and the “right” to abort our children so we could work a desk job.  We embrace the early American feminism of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony, which was righteous, virtuous, intelligent and moral.
7.  Secular Pro-life:  “If you are pro-life because abortion violates the Constitutional right to life, science shows that human life begins at conception, abortion hurts women, or for any other non-religious reason: make yourself at home! Here you will meet like-minded atheists, theists, and agnostics who are eager to save lives and fight the media portrayal of pro-lifers as “religious extremists.”
8.  Libertarians for Life:   “Libertarianism’s basic principle is that each of us has the obligation not to aggress against (violate the rights of) anyone else — for any reason (personal, social, or political), however worthy.  That is a clearly pro-life principle.  Recognizing that, and seeing the abortion-choice drift within the libertarian movement, Libertarians for Life was founded in 1976 to show why abortion is a wrong under justice,  not a right.”
9. Students for Life:  “Our mission:  abolish abortion in our lifetime.”
10.  Pro-life Pagans:  “If the Life of a single tree, flower, or frog, is to be respected then why not our own? If fertility is sacred and to be celebrated in 3 festivals a year then why would we commit the opposite of life and fertility?
I’ll stop with ten, because it’s a nice round number.  I’m sure I’d find more, if I looked.
UPDATE: I didn’t exactly look, but I’ve stumbled across a few more I’m going to add to the list.
11.  Pro-life Liberals:  “We support the right to life and quality of life both before and after birth.”
12.  The New Pro-Life Movement:  “The mission of the The New Pro-Life Movement (NPLM) is to reexamine what it means to be pro-life in the 21st century.”
13.  The Jewish Pro-Life Foundation: “We seek to save Jewish lives by promoting alternatives to abortion in the Jewish community.
If you are pro-choice, I hope you will stop and think the next time you assume that all women agree with you, or should agree with you just because of their gender.  If you are a conventionally conservative religious pro-lifer, I hope you will find some new allies in this list and realize that it’s just as bad for YOU to assume that no one could possibly be [fill in the blank] and be against abortion.
prolife kids

An Embarrassment of Riches?

020
Most of the time five kids doesn’t seem like a lot to me, it just seems normal.  I can blithely respond to that ubiquitous comment, “I don’t know how you do it!” with “Oh, after three it’s not any harder, just louder,” and mostly mean it.
But there are times when I just want to turn to John and say, “We have too many kids.”  Not that we’d send any of them back . . . (well, only sometimes!).  I don’t know if it will make me feel better or worse to reel off the reasons I am feeling that way right now, but at least I will get some sympathy–right?
1)  John is currently en route to pick up Emily for her Spring Break.  She will be home all this week, and so will William.  However, Lorelei’s break is next week, when William will be back in school.  So no vacation OR staycation for me.
2) Easter is one week away.  That means five baskets full of candy, and bunnies, and maybe some new clothes, and sweet rolls, and lots of church this week, and Easter dinner, and lots and lots of money (and did I mention my car is in the shop and will cost over $1000 to ransom?).
3) On Easter Monday, the ONE DAY when all the kids have off, guess who gets to drive Emily halfway back to Mobile?  I bet you’ll guess it in one.
4) That same week Teddy is going on his first road trip to Florida with his friends.  (Good news–he saved money for this so that at least is taken care of!) During the week he is gone I expect all his college letters to arrive, so it could be a good week, a bad week, or a mixture.
5) TAXES.
6) April 21 is Lorelei’s First Communion. (I’ve got the dress, thank God, but not the veil and the gloves she insists on.  Or a present for her.  And I’ve got to plan some celebration afterwards and make sure people are invited.)
7) April 26 is Prom Night.  Jake and Teddy are both supposedly attending proms (in two different locations).  Tuxedos have to be ordered.  Rides have to be arranged.  And MORE MONEY.
8) April 27 is my birthday.  Somehow I doubt I will get to spend the weekend away alone, which is what I like to do.
9) May 4 Emily graduates from college.  IN ALABAMA.  We need hotel reservations. We need to buy her a present.  We need to figure out the logistics of having John’s mother get there from Baltimore.  We will have to take two cars, and we will be bringing her and all her stuff back to Knoxville for the coming year.  Did I mention we need more money?
10) May 18 Teddy graduates from high school.  Another celebration will need to be planned!
11) At the end of May we are all supposed to go to Washington for John’s 25th college reunion and to Baltimore for a visit.  Granted we would be doing this regardless of the number of children we have but supposing they all go it now requires two cars and three hotel rooms and needless to say MORE MONEY which we therefore somehow have to continue to earn throughout this two month period of craziness because we are self-employed.  And don’t get paid to go on vacations.
Now I realize that except for the taxes these are all joyful celebrations for which I should be grateful, and of course I am.  And a wonderful things about having lots of children is that there are so many more celebrations.
But why can’t they be spread out just a little? 🙂
Five Kids

The Politics of Email

The quotation “Never discuss politics or religion in polite company” has been repeated so often that its original source is long forgotten.  And nowadays the wisdom of this advice goes unheeded, especially, I find, when email is involved.

Please don’t get me wrong:  I enjoy civil discussion on those topics, but that is hard to come by.  Tempers grow heated and no one’s views are changed.  Many of us would do well to remember that according to Emily Post (and who should know better than she?):  “Manners are a sensitive awareness of the feelings of others. If you have that awareness, you have good manners, no matter what fork you use.”  So we avoid politics and religion in conversation in order to avoid making other feel uncomfortable.  I, for one, feel intensely uncomfortable when (in polite company, which doesn’t necessarily mean  your nearest and dearest friends and family, though perhaps it should) political ideas with which I disagree are loudly voiced in my presence.  I don’t want to get into an argument, so I usually try to stay quiet, unless my opinion is directly requested.
But what constitutes “polite company” online?  When is it okay to write about politics and religion and when is it not?
Emily Post is no longer with us, but I have my own ideas on this topic, so here goes:
Rather obviously, if you have a blog, write what you want.  People can choose to read or not, and to join in the conversation or not.  People should feel free to disagree with anything written on a blog, and to comment thereupon, as long as they do so politely (which of course should apply to anyone anytime they disagree with anyone ANYWHERE!).
On Facebook, I consider a person’s Wall to be their personal space.  Therefore, they should be able to post anything they wish there.  Again, you have the ability to hide certain posts or even unfriend them if you find them offensive.  While I post religious and political items on my Wall, I try not to post things that are inflammatory.  I realize some of my Facebook friends may be offended by my very opinions, but I try not to express them in an offensive way.
If I post something on my Wall, I should expect that others may comment on it.  When friends of mine post things I disagree with, I almost always just stay away. (Of course this depends on the person and on how reasonable and calm I perceive that they are.)  If I am not going to change their minds, I don’t wish to alienate them or start a fight.  One exception is when they have posted something demonstrably false, and then I may post the Snopes link, although even that seems to irritate some people.  Or sometimes people WANT a discussion, and then I will weigh in.  And I actually love when people comment on my political and religious posts, because I have a lot of friends who disagree with me, but who know how to have a civil discussion, and since I don’t think I’ve ever experienced anything like that in real life, I think it’s great!  Maybe I will learn something from them, and maybe, just maybe, I may make them think a little too!
Now that I’ve been all reasonable, it’s time for the rant.  I DO NOT LIKE IT when people send me political or religious or both combined (which is the worst) emails, especially when I am reasonably certain that they know I am not in full agreement with the sentiments expressed therein (or if they don’t know me well enough to know!). Since I would think by now BECAUSE of what I say on my blog and what I choose to post on my Wall most of my friends should have a fair idea of where I stand on most political and religious issues of importance,  these emails taste of proselytization.
Yes, sending me an email like that (and how many of them are provably false anyway?) is tantamount to knocking on my door and asking if I’ve been saved, or seeking my vote for your political candidate.  Except that those people are strangers, not my friends.
My husband says I am overreacting, and maybe I am. (Feel free to tell me in the comments!)  But when a Catholic friend sends me an email implying that I should vote a certain way in November, I feel that I am being told I am not Catholic enough.  (Am I “Catholic enough”?  That will be a subject of another post!)  That a “real Catholic” can only have one viewpoint.  That if they just give me enough information I am bound to think the same way they think. (Whom did I vote for in the last election?  For whom will I vote this time around?  Take a wild guess and you will probably all be wrong.  More on that in another post.)
Unlike a Facebook post on your own Wall, I interpret an email in my inbox as an opening remark in a conversation.  And if you want to start that conversation by sending me something that isn’t true, or that makes me feel like you are trying to send me some kind of message, or that misinterprets facts (and I do investigate any allegations or assertions that arrive in my inbox), chances are you are going to receive a return email from me with my response to what you have asked that I read or watch.  So if that’s not a conversation you wish to have, please think before you hit send.