Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Two Posts Worth Reading

On the Townhall blog today, there are two excellent posts, both worth taking the time to peruse.

The most recent is by Mary Katherine Ham, on the topic, "Another Reason for the Pay Gap." Mary Katherine highlights an article in today's Washington Post online, an article which explains that the biggest reason women today don't make as much as men do is that they are unwilling to negotiate for higher pay. Here's the beginning of the Post article:

About 10 years ago, a group of graduate students lodged a complaint with Linda C. Babcock, a professor of economics at Carnegie Mellon University: All their male counterparts in the university's PhD program were teaching courses on their own, whereas the women were working only as teaching assistants.

That mattered, because doctoral students who teach their own classes get more experience and look better prepared when it comes time to go on the job market.

When Babcock took the complaint to her boss, she learned there was a very simple explanation: "The dean said each of the guys had come to him and said, 'I want to teach a course,' and none of the women had done that," she said. "The female students had expected someone to send around an e-mail saying, 'Who wants to teach?' "

There's much more, both in Mary Katherine's post and in the Washington Post article, to help you understand why, in the researcher's words, "Women working full time earn about 77 percent of the salaries of men working full time."

The second great post is by Dean Barnett, on "The Left and Good News From Iraq." It points out that news from Iraq is almost entirely positive lately - and that the left is not happy about it. It's a somewhat long article, but a very good one. Here are a couple of highlights:
Historians will long debate how much blame President Bush will get for these blunders. War is a tough business, and even successful ones are chock-full of screw-ups. Abe Lincoln doesn’t take much of a rap in the history books for letting the inept George McClellan or the buffoonish “Fightin’ Joe” Hooker run his armies during the Civil War. The fact that he got it right by the end of the war essentially erased many of those mistakes.

Since David Petraeus came to command in Iraq, unanimously confirmed by our prescient and wise senators, have you noticed what we haven’t heard? We haven’t heard any stories of operational stumbling. We haven’t heard any stories of strategic cluelessness. We haven’t heard anything that resembles the breakdowns at Abu Ghraib or the temporizing in Fallujah. In short, General Petraeus is running things superbly in Iraq.

. . .
The left doesn’t want good news out of Iraq, and it certainly doesn’t want the American public supporting the war effort. In a story that James Taranto noted last week, the New York Times asked in its most recent poll a recurring question that they also asked in past polls: “Looking back, do you think the United States did the right thing in taking military action against Iraq, or should the United States have stayed out?” When asked the same question in May, the 35% of the public said yes, 61% said no. This time around, 42% said yes and 54% said no, narrowing the percentage of people who consider it a mistake to invade Iraq vs. those who thin it was the right thing to do from 26% to 12%.

The Times found this result so “counter-intuitive” that they re-polled the question. Much to the paper’s surprise/horror, they got the same result. It’s odd that the Times settled on the word “counter-intuitive” to describe the polls’ results. With the situation improving in Iraq and the war effort having dramatically improved, why would you be shocked that the public feels a bit better about the war unless you’ve come to adopt your own echo-chamber rhetoric as gospel truth?

Excellent points.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Dr. Phil's Questions Applied to Government Programs

On Friday, July 27, the Free Market News published an article by Dr. Michael Cloud, co-founder of the Center for Small Government, entitled Dr. Phil's Simple Questions Can Open People's Minds. The article applies some of Dr. Phil's most common questions to government programs, and finds some fascinating results. I generally try to avoid reproducing someone else's work in full, but in this case, the article is so well-done and so well-written that you really need to read the whole thing. So here it is:

"...Then I yell at my teenaged daughter, tell her what'll happen if she keeps acting this way, and ground her for 2 weeks," says the frustrated mother.

"How's that working out for you?" asks Dr. Phil.

"She talks back to me or gives me the silent treatment. She sneaks out late at night. And she refuses to listen," says mom.

"Are those the kind of results you want?" asks Dr. Phil.

"No," answers the mother.

Then Dr. Phil discusses different ways of meeting both of their needs.

Dr. Phil asks simple questions about actions and consequences. About causes and effects. About behaviors and results.

What might happen if you and I asked these kinds of questions about government programs?

Anti-gun laws. "The Brady Bill and other new gun control laws have been on the books for over 10 years," says the anti-gun activist. "We're very proud that we finally have these laws enacted."

"How's that working out?" asks the freedom advocate. "Are fewer criminals getting their hands on guns? Are there fewer armed robberies? How's that working out?"

"Well, the same number of criminals are getting guns. And we have the same number of armed robberies," answers the anti-gun activist.

"Are those the results you expected? Are those the results you want?" asks the freedom advocate.


After an honest look at results, the freedom advocate can suggest and discuss different - perhaps counter-intuitive - ways of reducing crime. Ways that restore gun freedom and reduce gun crime. Ways of meeting both of their needs.

Government-run public schools. "We've doubled the number of dollars spent on each child during the last 12 years," beams the politician. "But we have so much more to do."

"You've doubled spending for each school child in the last 12 years? How's that working out?" asks the home schooling mom. "Have literacy rates dramatically improved? Have SAT scores substantially increased? Have math test results skyrocketed? Have dropout rates plummeted? How's that working out?"

"Well, we face a number of problems..." begins the politician.

"I'm sure you do," says the mom. "But with your doubled spending, are you getting better results or worse?"

"I don't know why, but literacy rates are lower, SAT scores have fallen, math tests results are worse, and dropout rates are nearly 30%," said the candid politician.

"Are those the results you expected? Are they the results you wanted?" asked the mom.


"Would you be interested in considering different - maybe even revolutionary - approaches to getting children a much better education for a lot less money?" asks the home schooling mom.

Disaster Relief. Food Stamps. Welfare. Social Security. Medicaid. Medicare.

Imagine asking Dr. Phil's elegantly simple questions about each and every government economic and social program.

Cause: "What are you doing now?" Effects: "How's that working out for you?"

Action: "How are you handling this now?" Consequences: "What kind of results are you getting?"

Dr. Phillip McGraw keeps it simple: What are you sowing? What are you

Then he asks: "Is this what you want?"

Sometimes he follows up with: "If you keep doing what you're doing, you're going to keep getting these results. Do you want that?"

This is when Dr. Phil offers new and different choices and actions. And the different results they produce. To change what you're reaping, change what you're sowing. To stop reaping what you're reaping, stop sowing what you're sowing.

A wise approach to counseling. And to government programs.

Whether you read Life Strategies: Doing What Works, Doing What Matters by Dr. Phil McGraw to learn this more fully, or simply remember his key questions above, the more often you use this approach, the more often you'll change the hearts and minds of those you speak with.

How would that work out for you?

Great Rules for a Road Trip!

After a weeklong trip to California, we have made it home! We combined an airline trip and a driving trip, flying into Las Vegas and driving to the LA area. It was a busy week, but a fun one, with trips to the Aquarium of the Pacific, the San Diego Zoo, and Knotts' Berry Farm. When I got back, I found this great post by Paul Coughlin called "A Father's Summer Trip Road Rules." Here's a short sample:
These are the road rules your Father has for you as I look in the rearview mirror this glorious summer day. Rules for Good and not for Evil as we travel in this mighty suburban that handles so well, but also drinks gas like a football team at a drinking fountain. Listen to what I say, for you are my children and I am your Father.

When you sit next to your brother or sister, do not put your hands all over them as the heathens do. No, I say, do not. Put your hands in front of you; not to the left or to the right, but in your lap for this pleases me. Likewise with your feet. Keep them to yourself for they are yours and yours to be felt only by you.

There's lots more where that came from, including a very nice conclusion. It's the kind of thing you might put into a scrapbook, if you're into scrapbooking as I am. You might even build a set of pages around it.


Sunday, July 22, 2007

Off to California!

Well, I'm off to California for a family wedding. I'll be enjoying Knott's Berry Farm, the San Diego Zoo, and other fun California events.

Blogging will be light - maybe nonexistent - until the end of the month. See you later!

Friday, July 20, 2007

It's About Time!

For months I've joined other conservative Republicans in feeling very frustrated with our party's leadership, especially in the U.S. Senate. Well, apparently last night Mitch McConnell stepped up to the plate and at last provided the courageous political leadership that was needed, outmaneuvering the Democrats at their own game.

Hugh Hewitt posted (at 1:00 AM!) with a thorough exposition and commentary on what happened. It's a bit long, but here's the most significant part:
The Senate spent much of the day discussing the merits, or demerits, of HR 2669, the Student Loans and Grants Act. Maybe it was the culmination of a long week already, or maybe it was the upper chamber being lulled off guard by the increasingly senile senior Senator from West Virginia, Robert Byrd, who spent 25 minutes decrying the plight of the helpless fight dog in response to the weird Michael Vick story in the news, but tonight, McConnell and the Republicans decided to take control of the Senate. The Republicans offered amendment after amendment to the bill, catching the Democrats flat-footed. In case you want to hear about the plight of the fight dog, here’s Robert Byrd’s Senate floor address.
After a couple of Republican amendments failed, Mitch McConnell took to the floor and offered his own amendment, which was a Sense of the Senate that Guantanamo detainees not be allowed released or moved to U.S. soil. To conservatives, this obviously makes sense. To liberals, especially California’s Dianne Feinstein, one of the chief proponents of the effort to close the detention center at Gitmo and relocate these detainees into the American justice system, especially when tagged onto a student loan and grant bill, you’d think this measure would go down in flames. Except a funny thing happened. The bill was titled in a way that you had to vote yes to vote no, and no to vote yes. The final vote was 94-3, officially putting the Senate on record as saying terrorist detainees shouldn’t be moved to the U.S. Before the Democrats, who clearly hadn’t read the amendment, realized they screwed up, the vote was recorded.

Jim DeMint of South Carolina was the author of the next amendment in line, had just gotten the consent of Bernie Sanders, the presiding officer, to order the yeas and nays. Up stepped Massachusetts senior Senator Ted Kennedy, now obviously aware that he and his colleagues just got bamboozled, and went on a full-throated rant, with reckless disregard to obvious hypocrisy, and blasted DeMint and the Republicans for slowing down the works in the Senate. The rant is worth hearing, so here it is.

Once the rant was over, Kennedy threw the Senate into a quorum call so that the Democrats could regroup. The session progressed well into the night, and McConnell could easily have rested on his laurels, but he wasn’t finished. Colorado Democrat Ken Salazar offered his own irrelevant amendment, asking for a sense of the Senate that President Bush not pardon Scooter Libby. McConnell, with that wry smile he offers when he’s up to something, countered with a secondary amendment to Salazar’s, saying that if it’s fair to bring up the Senate’s view of potential future inappropriate pardons, maybe we should also have a sense of the Senate of past inappropriate pardons, and proceeded to maneuver the Senate clerk into reading off the laundry list of Clinton administration pardons, including those of Marc Rich and others, which again set the Democrats off in a tailspin. After throwing the Senate back into a quorum call for half an hour, the beleaguered Harry Reid came out and pulled the Salazar amendment off the floor. He’d been Mitchslapped twice in one night.

I'm not surprised to see Ken Salazar offering an irrelevant amendment. He's clearly maneuvering for national position, paying no attention to the opinions of voters in Colorado (of whom I am one) and spending most of his time playing for position with the Democratic leadership. I'm glad to see him "Mitchslapped"!

Meantime, it's nice to see McConnell demonstrating the kind of leadership the Senate Republicans so desperately need. The Democrats may not generally be very intelligent, but they are shrewd politicians who know how the game is played. I'm thrilled that McConnell is willing to play it too, and I hope he keeps it up!

Are Homeschoolers Intolerant?

On Wednesday, the Palm Beach Post published an editorial by Frank Cerabino, a columnist who apparently thinks homeschooling is nothing but a place for parents who have eccentric religious beliefs to shelter their kids from anything remotely resembling the real world. Frank's article is sarcastic and sometimes downright rude, a classic example of someone who has rarely had a conversation with an intelligent homeschooler. Here's a sample:
She's the West Palm Beach mother who did a quick word search on library computers at a couple of local public high schools and was shocked, simply shocked, to discover 80 objectionable books available to students.

Let's face it, some books are just plain hard to even look at - never mind to actually open them and read the words inside. . . .

I agree with her that the public schools are very light in their teaching of those early days when people were tyrannosaurus food. And if that's your issue - making sure that your children learn that the collected wisdom of science is dead wrong - then public schools are in regrettable shape.

I personally don't agree with Ms. Lopez' crusade to rid public school libraries of everything she doesn't agree with. I'm surprised she even expected, in our pluralistic society, to find anything other than what she found. In fact, I'm amazed she found only 80 objectionable books, especially given that her criteria included evolution, abortion, and atheism! And I DO agree with Mr. Cerabino that perhaps the best solution for Ms. Lopez is to homeschool her children. But I must take issue with Mr. Cerabino's reasoning as to WHY she ought to homeschool:
This is why there is home schooling. Home schooling is a wonderful form of school choice. It allows parents lots of elbow room to create parallel universes, worlds of their own making inside the comfort of their own homes, where there never shall cross a fragment from the outside world that hasn't been purified through the crucible of their own narrow beliefs.

It's a safety net for the intolerant.

I think Ms. Lopez ought to homeschool because it would give her children a better education and expose them to more of the real world (rather than the insulated world of the classroom, where input is controlled exclusively by the teacher and the child's peers of identical age). In spite of his recommendation, it would surprise me if Mr. Cerabino were actually supportive of homeschooling. It seems quite clear that he thinks it is nothing but a way for religious and conservative people to raise their kids in a cocoon.

This morning, Dana over at Principled Discovery takes on his argument - and does an excellent job of it, too! She points out that parents have every right to direct the education of their children. (I would suggest that not only do we have the right, but we have the responsibility to direct our children's education, whether they attend public or private schools or are homeschooled .) She brings up the recent Supreme Court judgement making it clear that private schooling and homeschooling is an option for those of us who disagree with the way the public schools are teaching our kids. And then she makes this statement:

And teaching them through my worldview, with my faith and my values is not creating a parallel universe. The essence of pluralism is diversity and mutual respect. It allows each of us to keep our own culture, our own religious beliefs, our own traditions intact while respecting those around us (emphasis mine).

I have no disrespect for atheists, Hindus, Muslims, etc. I have no desire to impose governmental regulations on any group for religious means. But I do think it ironic that, as a member of a group attempting to preserve a segment of that which has historically been distinctly American, I am accused of attempting to create a parallel universe. Because it doesn't fit with the vision certain social engineers have for America.

If you agree with these social engineers, that is fine. I don't mind what you teach your children. Just leave mine out of it.

I agree 100%!

What amazes me is that people like Frank Cerabino have the nerve to write editorials like the one published this week, and then to call me intolerant! Mr. Cerabino is able to obtain an education in accordance with his beliefs in the public schools (whether because his beliefs were shaped by public education or merely because he now agrees with the values taught by public education really doesn't matter much at this point). All I want is to educate my children in accordance with my own values; I have no wish to impose those values on others. But because I homeschool, I am intolerant (and therefore apparently worthy of ridicule, in which he freely engages) - while his wish to see all public school children (preferably including mine) educated according to his values is somehow tolerant.

He's right - Ms. Lopez can't expect the public schools to teach her children according to her beliefs, and she ought not to be surprised when they don't. On the other hand, the desire to teach our children in accordance with what we believe is normal and natural, and there's nothing intolerant about it.

Look at Dana's statement about pluralism again:
The essence of pluralism is diversity and mutual respect. It allows each of us to keep our own culture, our own religious beliefs, our own traditions intact while respecting those around us.

She is exactly right! Pluralism doesn't mean that we are spineless wimps with no belief system, "driven and tossed by the wind," but that we hold firmly to our own beliefs without denigrating others. That is what tolerance is all about - and homeschooling our kids is a great way of achieving that.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

God's Plan for Me?

Wow! John Shore has a great post on his blog at Crosswalk.com about God's plan for our lives. If you're like me, you've spent a lot of time praying about, and wondering about, and trying to find out, God's will for your life. John has a keen insight on the subject:
Whenever I hear how God has a plan for me, I always think, "Excellent! I can't wait to find out what it is!" Like any time now a Fed-Ex guy will knock on my door with an overnight delivery envelope.

"Looks like God's plan for you has arrived!" he'll say. "Sign here."

Lately I've been rethinking the whole idea of God having a "plan" for me. Because if there really is a plan for me, then that means that ultimately God intends me to be somewhere other than where I am right now, to do something other than what I'm doing right now, to maybe be someone other than who I am, right now.

Something about that feels a little counterintuitive. And it makes me wonder if instead of being essentially subject to a "plan" God has for me, I'm not, exactly as I am right now, being the "plan" God has for me. I think maybe I'm already living the exact "plan" that God has had for me since the beginning of time. Not that I'm perfect, or have arrived at some lofty height just south of heaven, or anything like that. No, because that kind of paradigm -- that "I'm moving from this lower point to that higher point"-- is, I think, a view of God's relationship to us that's entirely too simple, linear, essentially evaluative in nature. I think it's too ... human a way of looking at how God looks at us.

If there's one thing we know about God, it's that he's all about process. All any of us can ever be is a work in progress. It's not like we ever complete our relationship with God. None of us ever reaches a point where we go, "Ah, good. I've now attained complete spiritual and intellectual understanding of God, and of all his glory! Great! Well, I'm off to the store! Big sale on watermelons!"

No. God ever unfolds before us. From wherever we are we keep falling, and he keeps catching us, and putting us back in place. That's the relationship. That's the model.

That's the plan.

That's always the plan.

There is no other plan.

I do think God has a plan for me. I think maybe God's always had a plan for me. I think maybe that plan was for me to be born, to live exactly as I have, and to be, right now, exactly the imperfect, questioning, arrogant, willful, stubborn person that I am. Something about me being just who I am right now must work for God, or he'd have arranged it so that I had somehow ended up being different than I am.

It's a scary thought, in that it's awfully close to really arrogant, and dangerously satisfied. But that's not what it's about. Instead, it's about saying, "Okay, if God loves me, then he loves all of me, right now. So maybe I can just relax. Maybe who I'm supposed to be, and how I'm supposed to be, and where in this life I'm supposed to end up, is all up to God. Maybe all I'm supposed to do is just be alive. Maybe simply existing-maybe simply living every moment of my life exactly as I have up to this moment-is God's "plan" for me. Maybe that's always been God's plan for me."

Maybe the whole of my life has been the fulfillment of a plan God's always had for ... well, me.

Maybe God's entire plan for me is nothing more complex or demanding than my finally understanding that God really and truly loves me, just as I am today.

I'm going to have to think more about this. I'm not sure I totally agree with John, especially about being "the imperfect, questioning, arrogant, wilful, stubborn person I am." I believe God's plan is for me to be more, greater, holier, wiser, more loving than I am today.

But on the other hand, just reading his post and noting his thoughts is wonderfully freeing. We American Christians often get far too preoccupied with God's future plan for us, and forget that His plan for us includes where we are now and what we are doing today. "God's plan for my life" is for me to spend TODAY doing what He has called me to do TODAY; if I focus too much on His future plan, I may well miss His plan for me right now. Who does He want me to talk to today? What should I do in the next hour to carry out His plan for me?

He's right, too, about accepting who we are today; about "understanding that God really and truly loves me, just as I am today." As Paul said in Philippians 3:13: "One thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus." As a homeschooling mom, it's easy to focus on all the things I've done wrong, all the areas I haven't touched, all the times I've yelled at my kids or neglected them in favor of the computer. But God intends for me to reach for what is still ahead of me, to "press on toward the goal," and to know that He loves me. If He was willing to love me enough reach down and redeem me when I was still His enemy, lost in my sins, then how much more does He love me now, imperfect though I am? Do I really think He didn't know then, when He sent Jesus for me, that I would have failed as I have? Of course He knew - and He chose me anyway.

No wonder the Psalmist says, "I will sing of the Lord's great love forever."

THAT'S God's plan for me - to grasp His love for me, in all its glory, and to live out what He has called me to do, today and every day.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Home: The Best Place for Preschoolers

In The Home Educator's Family Times today, Barbara Frank has a thought-provoking article entitled "Where Little People Belong." She makes an excellent point: our culture has developed the habit of getting children out of the home as soon as possible, but little children really belong at home. Loving parents can meet the needs of preschoolers so much more effectively than teachers in group situations.

When my older daughter was 3 1/2, I began looking into preschools for her. I decided to homeschool primarily because I felt she already knew everything she'd learn in preschool; it didn't dawn on me at the time that a better reason for keeping her home was because that was a better, healthier place for her. Today she is about to turn 11, and she's been homeschooled all her life; she is lovely and wise and intelligent and outgoing and self-motivated and much more. Her younger sister has never gone to school either, primarily because big sister was at home, so there wasn't much reason to send little sister away - she too is developing well and turning into a beautiful young lady.

I'm so glad I made the sacrifice to be at home with them, especially during their preschool and early elementary years. There are many things a mom can give a little child in those early years that no one else can provide.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Carnival of Homeschooling, Teacher In Service Edition

The latest Carnival of Homeschooling was posted today at Principled Discovery. And it's packed with great links: everything from helping your kids find a sport they can love, to literature from ancient Egypt, to how to get a free pass to your local museum on Saturday, September 29, and MUCH more!

Be sure to check out the top section, entitled "Motivation." The best link I found was the one to Little Homeschool on the Prairie's post entitled, "The Wood Between the Worlds," about the meaning of "home" in our culture. Her comment on our culture:
Home in our modern society has been deconstructed into little more than a way-station, a place to sleep and eat (and not always even to eat!) and watch TV and store your stuff before you go out into the real world and live your real life.

And her solution?
One of the essential elements of homeschooling, as a movement, as a philosophy, is the reconstruction of home and family life, of home as the hub, home as the place where the most significant interactions take place, home as the place around which the activities of life revolve. I have yet to meet a homeschooler, fundamentalist, atheist, or other, who doesn't seem to have at heart a profound concern for the restoration of genuine family and community life.
Be sure to follow the link and read the whole thing. It's worth clicking on, if only to understand what home has to do with "the wood between the worlds."

And take some time to look at the Carnival this week. You won't be disappointed!

Monday, July 16, 2007

Third-World Missionaries Come Into Their Own

I'm back from our weekend camping trip. We had a great time! And what an intriguing article to come home to - the transcript of Chuck Colson's "Breakpoint" radio program today, entitled "Moving the Equator North."

If you're like me, you've been concerned and frustrated to read of the increasing immigration of religious peoples from the Third World into Europe. That can almost always be translated to read "the increasing immigration of Muslims." But not this time!

Colson's program highlights the Christian missionaries coming to Europe from nations in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. For many years, missionaries moved unilaterally from the Western, developed nations to those continents. But the tide is turning. Colson quotes from a new book by Phillip Jenkins,

As he writes in The New Faces of Christianity: Believing the Bible in the Global South, 60 percent of the estimated two billion Christians in the world live in Africa, Asia, or Latin America. By 2050, there will be an estimated three billion Christians, 75 percent of whom will live in what is the “Global South.”

But numbers only tell a part of the story. These Southern Christians have a much stronger belief in the authority of Scripture than their Western counterparts. As a Kenyan bishop said, “Our understanding of the Bible is different from them. We are two different churches.”

This belief in biblical authority produces the exuberant faith and the desire to share it that Europeans and Americans desperately need.

It also promises to change Christianity—and not just in the Global South. According to Jenkins, “as the center of gravity of the Christian world moves ever southward, the conservative traditions prevailing in the global South matter even more.”

After being "the senders" for so long, it is encouraging, in a way, to find that the people to whom we've been sending missionaries all these years have reached the point of taking responsibility, not only for their own churches, but for reaching out to those who desperately need the gospel. It is long past time for us to be supporting these national leaders in ministering, within their own nations and around the world.

Friday, July 13, 2007

"The Mass Education of Our Public School System Is a Vast Experiment"

One of the best quotes on education I've ever read was posted today on "The Buck Stops Here." It's a quote from Marvin Minsky, an amazing man, currently a professor at MIT, author, consultant to major movies including 2001: A Space Odyssey, and a leader in the fields of artificial intelligence and cognitive psychology. Stuart Buck's post is made up almost entirely of two quotes from Minsky, and these are significant enough that I'm going to reproduce the post in full here.

Well, it's not specifically about homeschooling, but it might as well be. The quote is from Marvin Minsky, one of the preeminent scholars in the artificial intelligence field:

The evidence is that many of our foremost achievers developed under conditions that are not much like those of present-day mass education.
Robert Lawler just showed me a paper by Harold McCurdy on the child pattern of genius. McCurdy reviews the early education of many eminent people from the last couple of centuries and concludes (1) that most of them had an enormous amount of attention paid to them by one or both parents and (2) that generally they were relatively isolated from other children. This is very different from what most people today consider an ideal school. It seems to me that much of what we call education is really socialization. Consider what we do to our kids. Is it really a good idea to send your 6-year-old into a room full of 6-year-olds, and then, the next year, to put your 7-year-old in with 7-year-olds, and so on? A simple recursive argument suggests this exposes them to a real danger of all growing up with the minds of 6-year-olds. And, so far as I can see, that's exactly what happens.

Our present culture may be largely shaped by this strange idea of isolating children's thought from adult thought. Perhaps the way our culture educates its children better explains why most of us come out as
dumb as they do, than it explains how some of us come out as smart as they do.

Here's a page that purports to quote from that McCurdy paper:

"In summary, the present survey of biographical information on a
sample of twenty men of genius suggests that the typical developmental
pattern includes as important aspects: (1) a high degree of attention
focused upon the child by parents and other adults, expressed in the
intensive educational measures and, usually, abundant love; (2) isolation
from other children, especially outside the family; and (3) a rich
efflorescence of fantasy as a reaction to the preceding conditions. It
might be remarked that the mass education of our public school system
is, in its way, a vast experiment on the effect of reducing all three
factors to a minimum: accordingly, it should tend to suppress the
occurrence of genius." (McCurdy, May 1960. p. 38.)

Thursday, July 12, 2007

"Okay" vs. "Fundy" Homeschooling

On the blog "All Things Hold Together" today, Charity has a good post dealing with a post by another blogger critical of some homeschoolers. The criticism can be summed up in this sentence:

There is a "right" way to homeschool ... and there is the fundy way.

I am amazed that there are people - including some homeschoolers - actually agree with this! But there are more and more indications that this is the direction things are going - that some homeschoolers are deemed acceptable, while others (especially if they are conservative Christians) are not.

Charity deals with the criticism beautifully, basing her argument on the fact that when we begin discriminating between homeschoolers, someone has to determine who is acceptable and who is not.

I mean, do you really want that line drawn when you want to homeschool, but the people deciding the acceptability standard are not like you?

I cannot believe there are actual participants in our democratic process that are so exclusive in how they think rights should be appropriated.

News flash: There is this little thing called Freedom of Religion that actually prohibits the government from disallowing certain parents to homeschool because they hold religious view you oppose.

She also points out that most religious homeschoolers do the same kinds of activities and seek just as deep and solid an education as most secular homeschoolers. We go to libraries, museums, and aquariums; we use excellent literature (as opposed to condensed and abridged textbooks) and real historical documents (as opposed to boring history texts); we teach our children other points of view; we do real science experiments and talk a lot about current events. The only thing that distinguishes our homeschooling from secular homeschoolers is that we teach our children the Bible as well.

Great points, Charity! And there's much more where that came from - go take a look!

Why We Need Term Limits

The Headmistress over at The Common Room had a really excellent post yesterday on why we desperately need term limits for all our politicians. The bottom line?

I am not aware of any period in this nation's history when war did not lead our politicians to amass more power unto the institution of government. In fact, I'm not aware of any time where any crisis, real or imagined, did not involve politicians using that opportunity to clutch a little more power unto themselves. It happens routinely, whether the politician is a 'nice' person or not. It doesn't matter what political party is in charge. It doesn't matter Institutions are self-perpetuating, and they do what they can to entrench themselves.

That's one reason why I think we need term limits.

I am also not aware of any politician able to stay in D.C. for decades and not lose sight of reality. They lose perspective. They lose the ability to connect with life in the every day lives of their constituents. They just don't get it. That's just human, you know? I find myself saying sometimes to people, "Oh, that was only five dollars," forgetting the time in our lives when the practical difference between five dollars and five hundred was negligible because they were each equally unattainable. We forget the intensity of what we once experienced every day. Politicians do, too. And they are surrounded by an artificial aristocracy in D.C. and they lose perspective. Bring them home. Force them back into private life.

She's right about that. It also seems to me that lawmakers would have much stronger incentives to keep the government limited and the laws simple if they had to live in the "real world" like the rest of us. If they knew they wouldn't be able to rely on the voters to support their lifestyle, they would perhaps be less willing to regulate everything under the sun.

I also think the term limits need to be uniformly applied; ALL lawmakers should be subject to term limits. Colorado currently has a term limits law; it limits our lawmakers to no more than 8 years in office (two 4-year terms or three 2-year terms). However, because Colorado is one of few states with term limits laws, which means our lawmakers rarely have the opportunity to become well-known in the federal government. About the time people begin to recognize their names, they are out. In my opinion, that's the way it should be for all politicians.

I feel less strongly about members of the executive branch being subject to term limits than I do about the legislative. Some functions of the executive branch demand expertise; there is little expertise necessary to simply pass the laws required to govern a free people.

Be sure to follow the link. The Headmistress has much more to say, including some great new suggestions. One of my favorites is this one:

Before approving any bill, the legislators must personally read every sentence in the proposed law, and demonstrate that they have read with comprehension by passing a test on the material. This is my favorite. I think I like it even better than term limits.

So do I.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Homeschoolers Take First Place!

Posted recently on the CHEC website (not sure how I missed this, but it's worth repeating!):

Another homeschooler snags national spelling bee title
Release June 1, 2007

Last night, a California homeschooled 13-year-old, Evan O'Dorney took home $40,000 and the national Scripps Howard spelling bee championship. The winning word was "serrefine," a small forcep for clamping a blood vessel. Five of the 15 finalists in the contest were homeschooled. Homeschoolers make up about 3% of the K-12 population in America.

This marks the first year that homeschoolers took first place in both the national geography bee and the national spelling bee.

There's more on Kevin's Swanson's blog, which IS fairly recent. It's dated July 8, 2007. (Unfortunately I can't find a way to permalink this, so if you click on the link and it's not at the top, scroll down!)

For the first time in the history of the modern home education movement, homeschoolers took first place in both the national geography and spelling bees. News coverage on the home schooled status of the winners was a little scanty this year, but it turns out both 14-year-old Caitlin Snaring from 13-year-old Evan O'Dorney were home schooled. Not bad for some folks who represent a minority group that only makes up 3% of the schooled youth in America!

Again and again home schooling proves itself a highly effective form of education that reverses all modern paradigms. The conception that it takes a professional don't try this at home, is pounded relentlessly into our heads on every side. A year or two ago, a brochure advertising a local private school caught my eye. There is a misconception, pontificated the EDD who penned the brochure, that teaching a child does not require university training or a degreed and certified professionals. Brain surgery requires professional training and so does teaching.

What these professionals do not understand is that we are not doing brain surgery. We're doing heart surgery.

And heart surgery requires a parent/child relationship, a focus on character, faith, and thousands upon thousands of hours of heart-deep discipleship. What wins spellihg bees and accomplishes great things for God and country is not so much brains as it is nurtured faith and character in the life of a child.

Heart surgery, not brain surgery - what a great thought! Thanks, Kevin, for reminding me again what I'm really about.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

A New Portrayal of Abortion

In Breakpoint's Worldview Magazine today, Gina Dalfonzo has an outstanding article on the way our culture's perception of abortion is changing, as illustrated by the TV show House, M.D. I've never watched the program before. But as Ms. Dalfonzo points out, science is making it increasingly clear that the baby in the womb is still a baby, and our culture's discussion of abortion is being forced to deal with that truth.

Here's a key part of the article:

By 1995, staunchly pro-abortion feminist Naomi Wolf would shock pro-lifers and pro-choicers alike when she wrote in The New Republic, “Abortion should be legal; it is sometimes even necessary. Sometimes the mother must be able to decide that the fetus, in its full humanity, must die. But it is never right or necessary to minimize the value of the lives involved or the sacrifice incurred in letting them go. Only if we uphold abortion rights within a matrix of individual conscience, atonement and responsibility can we both correct the logical and ethical absurdity in our position and consolidate the support of the center.”

In one breath, Wolf was arguing that the fetus is indeed a human life and that we must recognize it as such to be able to speak about abortion with the honesty the subject requires; in the next, she was still insisting that there are certain circumstances under which it is necessary, even right, to take that life.

Ms. Dalfonzo goes on to tell about an episode of House, M.D. in which the doctor is operating on a baby still in the womb, after the mother has refused to abort the child. During the operation, the baby's hand reaches out to grasp the doctor's finger. That picture, based on a real-life account, made a tremendous impact on the viewing audience (follow the link for more on that story). And as Ms. Dalfonzo points out,

Like ultrasound images, TV shows have the power to create moments that linger in people’s minds long after political speeches have faded.

Perhaps, after all, the pro-life movement will win the battle for the unborn by capturing not the government, but the culture—by turning people’s very hearts against abortion. That we should be aided in this effort by Hollywood, of all communities, is a proof of the greatness and grace of God that even Dr. House
would find hard to refute.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Countering the Homeschool Bashers

Alasandra had a nice post yesterday about those "homeschool-bashing progressives" who think they have a handle on truth and a reason to deny us the right to homeschool. She posts a great interaction with someone who wants to abolish homeschooling, and counters their arguments nicely. Take a look!

Friday, July 06, 2007

The Carnival of Homeschooling is Up!

Natalie at The Homeschool Cafe is hosting this week's Carnival of Homeschooling: Independence Edition. She's got some great links - take a look! Here's her summary:
Among the varied entries of this blog carnival, the central message is that knowledge is the key to effectively securing homeschool freedom. Awareness of our rights and responsibilities keeps us informed of beneficial resources, warns us of dangerous trends and empowers us to act appropriately to secure and defend those rights.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Warning Labels and the Gospel

I enjoy reading articles written by Dave Burchett, blogger at Crosswalk.com, Emmy Award winning TV sports director, author and Christian speaker. But I think the article he posted to his blog this week, "Saving Us From . . . Ourselves?," really takes the cake. Most of us have enjoyed reading about the crazy warning labels manufacturers put on products these days. Hair dryers labeled, "Do not use while sleeping," for example, or warnings on fast-food coffeecups that coffee is hot, seem ridiculous to most of us. Dave's article this week highlights a few of these warnings, and goes on to talk about how our lawsuit-happy, warning-labels-on-everything culture affects us, particularly our relationship with the gospel.

Take the time to follow the link and read this great article. It will make you laugh. It will also make you think.

C.S. Lewis Wrote Poems!

OK, I knew that C.S. had written prolifically, both fiction and nonfiction. But I don't think I ever realized he had written poems - and good ones! Over at The Common Room, "The EquusChick" has posted a copy of his "The Apologist's Evening Prayer." I knew I liked the poem as I read it, but knowing the author makes some of the phrases especially significant. I hope it speaks to you as it did to me.

From all my lame defeats and oh! much more
From all the victories that I seemed to score;
From cleverness shot forth on Thy behalf
At which, while angels weep, the audience laugh;
From all my proofs of Thy divinity,
Thou, who wouldst give no sign, deliver me.

Thoughts are but coins. Let me not trust instead
Of Thee, their thin-worn image of Thy head.
From all my thoughts, even from my thoughts of Thee,
O thou fair Silence, fall, and set me free.
Lord of the narrow gate and the needle's eye,
Take from me all my trumpery lest I die.

- CS Lewis

Of Knights and Princesses

A couple of days ago I ran across an excellent posting by Andy Rayner of Where in the World? blog. Andy is a lobster fisherman on Prince Edward Island. This post is entitled, Why I Love Mornings, Marriage, Post It Notes, and Recreational Companionship, and it discusses a husband's need for that recreational companionship in his life. I badly needed the reminder at this point in my life; maybe you will also find it helpful.

The key section, in my opinion, is this one:

Anyway, one of the needs for a guy is called "Recreational Companionship". This is the desire for the girl he married. The one he had before kids came along. The one he had before house work, dishes, and heaping loads of laundry came in as an exhausting swell into their marriage and smothered a guy from just having fun with his girl.

Let me put it in lady language for you ladies."The Royal Knight wants to ride up to The Princess and fling her onto his battle horse with him, and ride off into the sunset together for some adventure together, any adventure, come what may, every now and then."

You use to be interested in him and all that he did back then. You went and did things he liked, played a game, or a sport, or were present for some hobby of his. Simply put, you tried to be involved anywhere and everywhere you could in his life. You were genuinely interested in "playing" with him. Why? Because you wanted to be in every part of his life back then. Now? Well, you answer that for yourself. Guys really miss that girl as the years go by.

Isn't that great? Thanks, Andy, for the reminder! And to my lady readers, won't you join me in a challenge - to find some way to "ride off into the sunset" with your "royal knight" sometime soon?! :)

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Great Giveaway

Crystal over at Biblical Womanhood is hosting a giveaway of a 10-volume set of books sold by Vision Forum. This looks like a great set and it's FREE - just click on the link and follow the instructions!

This is part of what Crystal says:

For those of you who appreciate the high quality and character-building
books which Vision Forum sells, I have
some exciting news for you: I will be giving away an entire
Ballantyne Christian Adventure Library
this week on my blog, compliments of the wonderful folks at Vision Forum.

This 10-volume set (a $220 value - on sale for a limited time for $165!)
was written in the 19th century by Robert Michael Ballantyne, who was a devout
Christian of the Scottish Covenanter kind and perhaps the most influential
writer of boys' literature of his generation.

The drawing is on Saturday, so be sure to act quickly!

Christian Patriotism

Five days each week, Chuck Colson, author of Born Again, produces a 5-minute radio program called "Breakpoint." Today's program is entitled "The Cross and the Flag" (read a transcript here), and it is especially good.

Dr. Colson deals here with the struggle between a "wrap the cross around the flag" mentality (anything patriotic is Christian; anything Christian is patriotic), and "just passing through" mindset (Christians have no obligation to their community or their country).

His conclusion is worth noting:

The Christian position is beautifully balanced. On one hand, we don't deify
our country. Our ultimate citizenship is in heaven, and that's where our
ultimate allegiance is.

But the only place for expressing that allegiance is in the concrete
loyalties God calls us to here on earth—including loyalty to country. We can't
love mankind in the abstract; we can only really love people in the particular,
concrete relationships God has placed us in—our family, our church, our
community, our nation. I deal with this in a chapter in my new book, God and

So brush up on your civics, dust off your U.S. history books, and
celebrate this July Fourth by thanking God that He has not only called us into
His kingdom but that He's also allowed us to live in—and yes, love—this land of

Monday, July 02, 2007

Really Excellent Homeschool Blogs

Hello! I don't have a lot to blog about myself today, but I've seen some really excellent blogs on homeschooling lately, and I think it's time to give them credit.

#1 - My most recently discovered treasure, Yielded Heart, has much thoughtful comment on why we're homeschooling in the first place. Here's a quick excerpt from one of my favorite of her posts:

I wonder if Jesus would rather see my closet organized, or have me not easily
offended by what my loving husband says. I wonder if He’d rather have me make
sure I have the most nutritious and wholesome meal on the table, or show more
gentleness and patience to my oldest daughter. Ponder.
Wow. I learned a lot this morning- mostly from my own folly. But I thank the Word of God, that it has the power to admonish, to encourage, to inspire, to correct, to discipline- through the Holy Spirit.

Ouch! What a great reminder!

#2 - A new "find" for me - Principled Discovery. I really appreciate those homeschooling parents who take the time to blog serious reflections on homeschooling and on life, and Dana does that exceptionally well. Even her "About Me" page is thoughtful. As she says there,

I am reflective by nature and tend to agree with Socrates when he says, "The
unexamined life is not worth living."

#3 - One of my older favorite homeschooling blogs is Little Women, who incidentally just happens to be my sister. She has a great story on her last post about a 3-year-old's perspective on the rainbow!

#4 - Another blogger who's been a favorite for at least a couple of years now is The Common Room. She has a BUNCH of kids - 7 the last I checked! - and writes prolifically about all kinds of topics. You can see the quality of her homeschooling when you look at the posts her older kids add to the blog - it is a pleasure to read all of them. The Headmistress is both reflective and wise, and I never fail to learn something new when I visit her blog.

There are lots of other great bloggers, but these are special. I hope you enjoy them!