1.29.2010

I just realized...

...that I spent most of my writing time this evening trying to find somebody (anybody!) who had already said what I had to say, so maybe I wouldn't have to write it.

It was during the chunk of time when I was looking for a potential publisher for this half-written article, that I realized why nobody is saying it.

So for now, I'll just have to say it here, on my unfunded little blog.

Every word in the mainstream media is funded by big corporations.

Not something that mainstream media is likely to point out, and not something that you can really do much about, without making matters worse. It's simply a fact of modern life--our society has an awful lot of mighty effective megaphones available for purchase, and most of that purchasing happens in ways that are utterly untouchable by campaign finance laws.

Thank God that ordinary citizens are now permitted to pool their resources, and make their voices heard too.

Even if they aren't quite rich enough to buy the whole television network.

1.21.2010

It's always bittersweet...

...to find a splendid library discard.

1.16.2010

I remember...

...that little gold typewriter.

It was so very beautiful.

And I would sit there in my little yellow director's chair, at my little white desk, and while Daddy and Mommy clacked away, I'd do my "exegesis on Luke."

And now my very own little girl sits next to me at Starbucks, with her little purple notebook and her little blue pen. We like to go write together, her and me.

And it is very sweet indeed.

1.08.2010

How We Homeschool

Emily wonders how we're going about the business of homeschooling.

The short answer would be: mostly incidentally.

See, school is about 90% socialization, 10% academics. I'm pretty sure I'm not saying anything controversial there. Most advocates of public school (or private school, for that matter) that I've talked to readily agree that most students can get through all the necessary academic coursework at home in anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours. But school isn't just about academics; in fact, socialization--learning how to live well in community--is a much bigger, and much more important part of the education of a virtuous soul.

But there's some pretty intense disagreement among parents about how exactly they would like their children socialized, and thank God, America allows us the freedom to agree to disagree, and socialize our own children according to our own beliefs.

So, even in the states with the very strictest requirements for homeschoolers, the law only addresses the academic 10%.

There are a lot of great curricula out there that would enable us to give the kids the academic portion of a public school education, with a pretty minimal time investment, and others that would let us give them a much more intensive education with a bit more thought and work. I can respect either approach.

But for us, academics is just a way of life. We talk about number theory while setting the table, Plutarch and philosophy of history over the dinner. We listen to Cry the Beloved Country while we wash the dishes, and then we sit around the fire and read the Odyssey. I'm planning on periodically assessing, and making sure that we really are covering all the bases... but I'm not too worried about it. This is one of the perks of living in Texas; as long as I'm using some sort of written materials to teach my children the three R's, good citizenship, and Texas history, I can be as loosey-goosey about it as I please.

The kids really do have to learn to read, though. HAVE to. For my sake as much as theirs... I want them to start looking up their own history questions. (And mine, too!) I've found that they just aren't mature enough to pay attention to words when there are any pictures whatsoever on the page, so I'm just using the primer in the back of Why Johnny Can't Read. It's a bare-bones set of word lists, and we're grinding through, just a little bit of sounding-out and a little bit of dictation every day. It's amazing how important the dictation is--it turns out that spelling comes easier than reading, and it's through learning to spell that they're learning to read. Anyway, it's slow slogging, but there's a whole library full of history books at the end of the tunnel, and I read them fun books as a more immediate reward.

As for the 90%, I'm of the opinion that participation in a vibrant, healthy family (and church!) is the best socialization. Learning to navigate friendships with kids their own age, and also spending time with older kids, and godly grownups. And learning how to pull their own weight around the house. And camping, and spouting poetry, and building stuff--from tiny wooden boxes to grandiose universes, worlds in which Jim the Warrior was there to stop Alegdander of Jalon from stealing the whole world, and in which the Titanic was truly indestructible, but had enough lifeboats anyway.

1.07.2010

All Done Being Angry

The Common Room is always a great place to go for fantastic discussions of philosophy of education.

The Deputy Headmistress is mad, mad, mad about Berkeley High School's proposal to try to address the racial achievement gap by cutting science labs.

I can see how one might be angry about this. Why, yes... it's quite maddening, isn't it? I can also see how the school might want to do this, though. Not because science is too "white," but because other resources might be more immediately beneficial to students who can't even read. First things first. Who shall we throw under the bus first? The struggling students or the students who are starting to get somewhere?

Round and round and round it goes, and never any answers, never any answers. And I'm tired of it. Tired of it being that way, but also just plain too tired to keep caring about it.

The post delves into lots of great discussion of Hirsch and Mason and Russeau.... good stuff, excellent stuff, marvelous food for thought. But round and round and round it goes, round and round some more. Shall we teach kids things, or shall we teach them how to learn? Hirsch is absolutely right--kids can never learn how to learn without things on which to learn. Children need the core knowledge which is the basis of cultural literacy.

So he went on to carefully devise a curriculum on that basis.

I have no doubt that it's a very fine curriculum indeed. (Really. I've heard fantastic things about it.)

But, oh, the years of high quality work put into adapting the great works of western civilization, making their important ideas compatible with the school setting.

Round and round and round it goes.

These questions and dilemmas are fascinating, and I'm sure I'll revisit them over and over again, like crosswords and sudoku puzzles, and probably I'll also revisit them to slightly more purpose as thinker, as a writer, as helpmate to a professional educator. But in my capacity as a mom... there's only one way out of this Gordian knot. I'm done with the endless puzzles, the endless dilemmas, round and round and round.

And I'm going downstairs, to read to my kids. Real books, books that matter, books that haven't been edited down to their level... or mine, for that matter. Books that challenge and change me, even as they challenge and change my little ones. Funny books, too, that delight and entertain me, even as they delight and entertain my little ones. And yes, the dull grunt-work of endless word-lists and dictation. But even that, we're doing straight-up, unadorned but for the promise that at the library downtown, they have more history books than would fit in our whole house, and if you'll just get through these few dull lessons, my child, you can read them all.

1.01.2010

New Day, New Year, New Post

I write from Starbucks--our computer sort of died, and so that made for a nice opportunity for an internet fast.

I miss being able to instantly dash upstairs and get a kazillion answers to sift through, whenever I have the slightest question about anything.

The fruit of the tree of knowledge is intoxicating and addictive, but it's been good to stop the information flow for a while, and just figure out how to live according to the knowledge that I do have. To seek wisdom as hidden treasure.

But I do terribly miss writing.

My parents came for Christmas, and among the lovely and generous, carefully selected gifts they placed beneath our tree, was a bound copy of The Wuggy Chronicles. A touching gift, a valuable archive... and above all, a not-so-subtle hint.

And I came to the conclusion that I'm am in the wrong career.

As Aristotle would say, my proper function is my unique function. Nobody else can mother my children quite like I can, or educate them like I can. All this is most definitely my proper function.

But as for housekeeping,... well, actually, there are quite a few people who could do that part of my job considerably better than I can. And so, even though I have no intention of pursuing a career that will let me outsource my mothering responsibilities, I see no reason why I shouldn't work toward levering my strengths so I can hire somebody to clean my house for me.

And you know what? Proverbs 31 doesn't say a single thing about cleaning. The excellent wife is good with textiles, and she uses the profits from those skills to dabble in real estate, and she takes good care of her maids, and makes sure that they take good care of her house. I owe my husband a well-kept home... but maybe I don't have to be the one running the vacuum cleaner.

Of course it takes time to convert words into supplemental income, and I'm not quite sure how I will go about it. But I do know of at least one way that I can. I have a lovely plan for teaching flute lessons during naptime to leverage myself into some serious writing time--the time the housekeeper is cleaning the house would be sacred to the non-creative gruntwork of cover letters and queries and such. On the other hand, as I was flipping through my old (very out-of-date) Christian Writer's Market Guide, I realized that the whole process is much, much less intimidating than I had imagined it to be. I've never really worked up the nerve to seriously pursue publication, because I'd heard that it was impossible for the unpublished to get published... But while that is true for the big publications, there are plenty of small publications that really do read unsolicited manuscripts. There's a finite number of steps to take, and it's really not so complicated after all. No guaranteed outcome, of course... but no reason I can't give it a try. And if the family suffers from the time investment it requires, I'll go the flute-lessons-for-now route.

I'm excited. =)

And now, if you'll excuse me, a have a touchingly humorous grandparent/grandchild story to write for some small Christian seniors' magazine.