Thursday, October 1, 2009

why can't we just respect our differences?

I realize that this post is a bit different from what I normally post here, but I just needed to get it off my chest.

As we were sitting talking about Banned Books Week the other day, it dawned on me just how many banned/challenged books Annie and I read for school. It's not that we single them out for that reason; it's just that so often the books that deal with the tough, real-world issues are the ones that some feel the need to try to keep others from reading. And yes, I admit that I often pick our mutual reads just because of the discussions I know they will lead to.

I don't for a minute think I have any right trying to dictate what another family might choose to allow their children to read at any given age. Annie and I read To Kill a Mockingbird when she was ten, but I can understand that not every child might not be ready to tackle some of the issues in that book at that age. When my boys reach that age, I may not feel they're ready. Not that I would stop them from reading it if they felt the desire to, but I can't yet say I will be recommending it for them at that age either.

Each child is an individual, with their own needs and their own desires! And no two families are identical; they each have their own varying values and histories and financial situations and support systems, etc., etc., etc.

And that's why the efforts of some to keep books off the shelves of public libraries is so upsetting. Are there books that turn my stomach? Sure. That doesn't mean that I will try to keep anyone else from reading them.

And this whole issue of the right to choose what's right for our children and our families extends far beyond the shelves of our local libraries. In this country, it is legal to homeschool our children. (The number of hoops you must jump through varies from state to state, of course.) But just because it's legal, that doesn't mean one won't constantly be judged. When we pulled Annie out of public school, we expected to receive some flack from people. And we did. Because there are people who always think they know better. Doesn't even seem to matter that they don't personally know your child or the situation in general.

Refer back to words in bold!

The thing we didn't expect was the vitriol we sometimes receive from other homeschooling families because Gray and Max are in public school. How can it be that some of the people who argue so strongly and passionately for their right to educate their children in the manner they find appropriate, can turn around and so easily dismiss others' rights to do the same?

Refer back to words in bold!

Is it simply human nature to judge others? I'll be the first to admit that thoughts like, "How could they let their child do that?" pop into my mind. But I'm very happy to say that those thoughts are almost immediately followed by, "Because it's their place, not mine, to choose what's in the best interest of their child." Yes, I do try to refer back to those words in bold myself. (And I'm sure we all know this does not apply to neglect or abuse here, but the right to teach our children the values that we hold dear.)

--Yes, I allow my children to read banned/challenged books. We're a family of readers, and the discussions that follow from reading books are some of the most wonderful discussions we have. 
--Yes, I have two children in public school and one child who is homeschooled. We weigh the pros and cons of all available educational options for each of our children individually. We take into strong consideration their personal desires.  We reevaluate regularly.
--Yes, I have two children who choose to be vegetarians. We make sure they eat a healthy, well-balanced diet.
--Yes, we will be getting our children flu shots. Two of our children have "lung issues," so the potential negatives of the flu vaccine pale in comparison to the potential effects the flu could have on them.

(Just a few of the ways we've been judged as of late.)

You can accept my brief explanations or not. But they are our decisions to make. I will try my hardest not to second-guess your decisions for your family, and I'd like to hope you will do the same for me.

And hey, Happy Read Banned Books Week!

Saturday, September 26, 2009

what's in store...and those first day photos

Sheesh...why can't I get my act together and keep this blog up-to-date?!!

"School" officially started a few weeks back. And I did take those obligatory first day photos. (Poor munchkins...rarely a day goes by when I'm not taking their pictures.)

Oh, how I love those gorgeous little mugs! And oh, how sad it makes me when they head off on that school bus each morning. :(   They began school this year on the 9th. And so far, they are having a lot of fun. I just can't believe how incredibly lucky we are that they both have such amazing teachers (they each have the same teacher as they did last year). Both have joined Chess Club again. And Gray has started the violin and joined the Math Olympiad team. Barring disaster, Annie will never be going back to public school, but we all feel confident in the decision to have the boys in public school again this year. Next year? Who knows.

Annie officially started the school year on the 8th. Off to MCC she headed for her Children's Lit class. Um yeah, she's loving it! Hardly a surprise. :D

This year, we're also tackling geometry, using a  DVD series from The Teaching Company. Though I've bought a few of their courses, this is the first one we've used. (Will hopefully use a couple more next year.) And we are absolutely loving it...I can definitely see why people recommend these courses so highly.

And for science this year, we're delving deeply into the world of environmental science. We're actually using the same textbook, Environment: The Science Behind the Stories, that Rich uses in teaching it at the community college. But we're just using it as a jumping off point. Since we're devoting the entire year to it, we've got lots of time to explore in all kinds of ways. Added bonus: Annie's Children's Lit class is on the same day as Rich's environmental science lab, so since she's already on campus that day, she's doing some of the labs with his class.

For U.S. history, we're exploring the 20th century. No textbook or anything. Just using a myriad of resources. Including continuing with our "history through literature" explorations. Annie just finished The Jungle by Upton Sinclair...and YAY!...she liked it. Here's her review. (I'd hate picking out a book she despised, but luckily that hasn't happened yet.) We're still deep into the turn-of-the century period, and will be for a few more weeks.

This first quarter of the school year, we're focusing on HIV/AIDS for health. We've been over the basic biology and whatnot in the past, so this year we're focusing on the history of the epidemic/pandemic and on personal stories. Among other things, we've watched movie And the Band Played On and read the graphic novel Pedro and Me by Judd Winick. (Annie's review.)

(As usual, PBS's Ed.Online has provided a wealth of resources! We've already watched videos for both history and health this year. Anyone homeschooling in NY is able to set up an account and have access to a wealth of free resources. I'm guessing that other states have similar programs through their PBS affiliates as well.)

Another wonderful resource we discovered is  the National Gallery of Art's loan program. They have a variety of materials that they loan out for free. The length of time one can keep the packets varies. (We're using their Art Since 1950 packet, and are allowed to keep it for 9 months.) While we're adding many additional activities and resources to our unit, it is a wonderful base. This particular packet contains a book, both with history and art appreciation information, but also with suggested activities for various age groups, a collection of slides, and several prints. We're currently exploring abstract expressionism, and have watched two different videos about Jackson Pollock (one biographical, one dealing more with his oeuvre), read a short book on Willem de Kooning, and completed an action painting project.

Music will be much as it was last year. Annie's continuing with her flute lessons. Oh how I love listening to her play. :D She already loves an extremely wide variety of music, so we feel no need to push her in that regard. As usual, we plan on attending at least a couple of live concerts each quarter, as well as watching several specials on Ovation TV. We watched one already about Lang Lang, the Chinese pianist.

For the most part, her phys ed requirements are going to be met through her everyday life. Bike-riding, soccer, tag, swimming, ice skating, hiking, jogging, etc. She will, of course, be playing organized soccer in the spring as well. She has a "time sheet" she fills in each week recording her activities.

Quarter one for practical arts this year involves sewing. We started with a simple hand sewing project--a yo yo Christmas tree ornament. Annie then learned the basics of using a sewing machine and has nearly completed her next project--napkins.

And for library skills, the final required subject, Annie is doing a series of four independent projects. Each quarter she is choosing a different religion to research, and then is completing a project. She's chosen Wicca for her first project, a 10-ish page report written in MLA style.

She hopes to take another language course from MCC during the spring semester, either continue with Spanish, or ideally, if it will fit in everyone's schedule, Arabic. As Arabic is what she really wants to learn, I hope we can find a way to make it work for her.

Annie has also become quite involved with the local library...but I'll save that for another post.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

summer reading goal wrap-up

Well, Master Gray is the only one of us who met his goal! HOORAY GRAY!!!!

Final tallies:

Gray--36 books out of 30

Max--13 books out of 20

Annie--46 books out of 75

Debi--25 books out of 30

Rich--quit keeping track halfway through :(

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

summer reading goals

Afraid to say, with the exception of Gray, none of us are doing all that well. The exception really makes me smile though! While he's always been a very good reader (in the sense that he reads well-above grade level), he has not always been an enthusiastic reader. At least as far as fiction goes.

Here are the goals we set for ourselves, along with our progress to date:

Max: 20 books/6 read

Gray: 30 books/19 read

Annie: 75 books/30 read (she's been coming on strong as of late, so there's still some hope for her)

Rich: 25 books/12 read (he thrown in the towel...quitter!)

Debi: 30 books/6 read (despite the pathetic-ness of my progress, I refuse to give up)

**Our "summer" runs from June 24th-September 7th this year.**

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

still alive and kicking

Not sure how I managed to let this blog slide so. Oh, who the hell am I kidding. It was the same way I seem to let everything else slide. You know, the whole squeaky wheel thing. This blog has not been demanding my attention, so it has not be getting my attention.

So, why am I back now? I just miss it. And I'm going to try to do better by it. I think Annie will one day treasure this record of her homeschooling experience. And I'm going to try to be better about including what the boys are up to, too. After all, just because they are currently in public school, that doesn't make their educations any less important. It just makes it harder to capture. So I shall just try harder.

We took the summer off from official schooling. I think Annie needed it. I know that I did. And of course, homeschooling has still been taking up enormous amounts of my time, even if it hasn't the kids. I've been hard at work planning, and planning, and planning, and planning, and...yeah, you get the idea.

The kids?

Well, Annie just finished up soccer season last week. She's going to miss it. A lot. And I'll miss watching her games. Rich, as assistant coach, I think has a mixture of relief and sadness going.

She also participated in a track and field camp earlier this month. And loved it!

The boys have started karate. After just a couple classes, they're still rather unsure of themselves. I hope they grow to enjoy it.

Gray will begin learning the violin this year in school. They're having a little mini camp for strings this summer. Gray seems to be enjoying it, and taking it quite seriously. Such a relief to us, as he tends to become so incredibly anxious when it comes to trying new things.

And of course, there's been unstructured family fun and learning, too. Like painting.

And bowling.

And hiking.

And reading.

But we'll save that for another post...

Friday, December 5, 2008

this week's winning sentences...and game 3 comes to an end

First of all, here's a look at the sentences Annie chose this week:

Debi might have been more SOLICITOUS, but she knew all too well Rich's tendency to MALINGER to avoid even the few duties required for his SINECURE. (Jean)

The THESPIAN was RANKLED bu the critic's review, noting that it contained many a CLICHE but not a single BON MOT. (Jean)

That arrogant, annoying, narcissistic, moronic, stupid, supercilious jerk actually told me that he would never be confuted. (Rich)

The dog was indignant when I told him that it was cliche to pee on a fire hydrant. (Rich)

I was once arraigned for putting a chink in the wall of the White House with an errant shot from my catapult. (Rich)

This week's bonus word: nostalgia (Jean)

Okay, and now for the imaginary drumroll...the winner of Game 3 is...


Yeah, like anyone's surprised, huh? :)

Deeply felt thanks to everyone who played, be it for one week or all eight! You have no idea how much we appreciate it!

Game 4 will begin in January, and will be held over at Nothing of Importance. If anyone would like an e-mail notice of when we get started, just leave a comment here.

Thanks again! And congratulations Jean!!!

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Using that Vocabulary, Game 3, Round 8

So are you ready for the final round of Game 3? I guess we already know who our winner is, but I do hope you'll play anyway so Annie gets the benefit of hearing her words in use.












*bon mot

*bete noire












Good luck! And thanks for playing!