Unschooling So Far

When I started homeschooling, I was drawn to the Sudbury model. While I do not completely follow that model, I do like that they let learner interest drive instruction, and that they divorce mastery of reading from success in all subjects. Where most schools drill reading earlier and earlier (despite research showing this isn’t the best policy), Sudbury model schools allow the child to learn to read at his own pace, with lots of exposure. In most schools, a child who has not mastered reading also will not do well in math, science, history, etc. In a Sudbury school, a child who cannot read can still excel in math, science, history, etc., because those subjects are taught in such a way that reading mastery isn’t required for success.

So I *gasp* didn’t drill reading from an early age. I read to my children all the time, so the exposure is there, but my eldest didn’t read early. By age, he’s now in 3rd grade, and is just now reading confidently. Yet he did well with other subjects, because he didn’t have to read well to do well in other subjects.

There were times when I second-guessed my decision not to drill reading from that early age. But every time I tried to push more, it made both of us frustrated and neither of us enjoyed it. Not only that, but he became self-conscious about it, which never helps with learning something. So I backed off and continued with exposure, but didn’t push if it was too much. He went at his own pace, often learning on his own without me with him. If he’d been in a public school, he probably would’ve been tagged for intervention. But there was nothing wrong, and now, if I  can’t find him, I know he’s probably reading a book.

Moral of the story: I’ll continue doing things this way unless and until it no longer works.

15 Years

Has it really been 15 years? 15 years since I got on a computer after class at Harlaxton and chatted with a friend back in the States who told me a plane had hit the Twin Towers. She had to go to class and logged off, so I went back to my room, not thinking anything of it. Both of us assumed it was a freak accident, certainly not intentional.

Has it been 15 years since the dean then knocked on my door, telling me a plane had hit the tower? I was confused about why she was telling me this and simply said, “I know.” She was confused why I wasn’t freaking out and told me it was on the television downstairs. So I went.

15 years ago, I watched the second plane hit in disbelief. The few of us in the common room tried joking because we couldn’t take in what was happening. We couldn’t process it, and I knew if I did, I’d cry and I didn’t want to cry in front of others.

Then there was the one that hit the Pentagon. Has it been 15 years since that happened? I knew my parents were in D.C., and my brother works near the city. I didn’t know how to get in touch with them. My sister was in FL, wondering about them and about me, overseas for the first time. I’d only just arrived in the UK a few weeks before.

15 years ago, everything changed. When I flew to the UK, my parents went to the gate with me, I had my knitting in my carry-on bag, I wore my Heelys through the security check-point, I didn’t have to take my computer out of the bag. When I came back, only 4 months later, I couldn’t wear my shoes, I had to take out and turn on my computer, I couldn’t take my knitting needles in the carry-on, I had to take off my shoes. When I arrived, my parents weren’t at the gate, and I didn’t understand, because I didn’t know they were no longer allowed to go back to the gate to meet me.

For the past 15 years, we’ve been at war, and heightened security levels. Everything has changed. I mourn for those killed on 9/11, and all those after. Never forget.

The Boy Who Cried Wolf

Remember the story of the boy who cried wolf? After falsely warning the villagers of a wolf a few times, they wouldn’t believe him when there was actual danger.

Sometimes I feel the news media need to read that story. It’s been almost 11 years since a hurricane hit Florida. Nearly every year since then (or maybe every year), our newspaper has warned of an active hurricane season with dire warnings of the damage the storms will cause the state. Any time a storm is predicted to even come close, we’re given serious warnings about how to prepare and told what all the damage could be.

Now, on the one hand, it is good to be prepared. There could always be a surprise where the storm hits harder than expected, or changes course, or whatnot, and it would be better to be over-prepared than under-prepared. However, I’m afraid the overly dire warnings have the opposite effect. After so many times of being warned with nothing bad actually happening, I think people see the news in the same way as the boy who cried wolf and just ignore a lot of the warnings.

I could be wrong. Maybe people do take the warnings more seriously than I think. Or if they don’t, maybe it’s because a storm hasn’t hit in so long and so people don’t remember the reality of a hurricane making landfall while still a full hurricane.

Or maybe it’s just that Floridians prefer to prepare by throwing hurricane parties. Off to check and see if TS Hermine will become a hurricane before it makes landfall. . .

Thoughts on the Rhythm Method

Have you ever noticed how the societal views on the Rhythm Method are rather contradictory? They rightly point out its flaws and highish failure rate (roughly 25%, though I should point out that it actually can be quite effective for a woman with a very regular cycle. It is unlikely to be able to be used throughout all of her reproductive years, though, since teens and perimenopausal women have irregular cycles). In the next breath, though, they seem to think it is accurate enough to use to calculate a due date (due dates are calculated from LMP and assume that ovulation and conception always happen on day 14; if that were true, then the rhythm method would work nearly 100% of the time).

I get irritated at modern methods of NFP being conflated with the Rhythm Method so people can deride NFP, despite the fact that modern FABM (fertility awareness based methods) are very effective at either achieving or avoiding pregnancy. At the same time, there are a plethora of apps out there that are said to be great for tracking your cycle. And guess what? They’re basically the Rhythm Method. So is the rhythm method outdated, or a hip new app?

I honestly think the plethora of apps for tracking cycles are a sign of something good. It shows that women want to know their bodies more and are trying to take ownership of that knowledge. However, until girls and women are better educated about their bodies, that sense of knowledge and power is more an illusion than reality. When we do try to learn more and apply it, we’re often dismissed by others who say we cannot possibly know our bodies. The tide is slowly turning, but there’s a long way to go to dispel all the misinformation out there.

Which Candidate is Pro-Life?

If you’re Christian (and especially if you are a Catholic Christian), you’re likely to want to vote for the pro-life candidate. The question is: are either of the major party candidates pro-life, and, if so, which one? Many say that Trump is the pro-life candidate because of his promise to appoint pro-life Supreme Court justices, but is this credible, or enough? Here’s my take on it. I am using the website onetheissues.org as a way to quickly check their stances.

Abortion

Trump is now claiming to be pro-life, but his statements in that regard are hardly stellar. In one breath he praises Planned Parenthood, but in the next says it must be defunded, or just the abortion part. He says he’s against late abortions, but gives an exception for rape, incest, or health. If abortion is wrong, it is wrong. Full stop. No exceptions. Also, the health of the mother exception could be broadly applied, depending on the doctor. Furthermore, since technology has advanced to the degree it has, second trimester babies can survive! I personally know a 24-weeker, so I fail to see why such a child would need to be aborted instead of delivered and cared for. As far as I know, he has said nothing about how to reduce the number of abortions beyond restricting abortion (and as I pointed out, his statements on that sound more like rhetoric than anything that would make a real difference, in my opinion).

Clinton, of course, is pro-choice. She uses some of the same language, though, saying that she’d support restrictions on late-term abortion, provided there are exceptions for the life/health of the mother. Sounds rather like Trump’s statement, there. Despite what some viral posts have said, she hasn’t said she’d legalize abortion to 36 weeks with no exceptions. She has also said that she would prefer to encourage foster and adoption as a way to reduce the numbers of abortion. I know many who would love to foster or adopt but who have been unable to do so because of cost, waiting lists, etc.

ETA: I just learned that Clinton is in favour of abolishing the Hyde Amendment, and that is not good.

Conclusion: Neither candidate is truly anti-abortion. One could debate whose stance would reduce the number of abortions more.

Court:

This is the point that many stress, saying that the next president will likely appoint 3-4 justices. Here, though, we can’t just look at what the candidates say, but at what the Senate make-up will likely be. Trump says he’ll appoint justices like Scalia (though in the past he’s commented that his sister, who is liberal, would be a good justice); it’s a pretty good bet Clinton would not appoint justices like Scalia. I think the GOP shot itself in the foot, though, when McConnell refused to even allow a vote on Gardiner, who is a moderate and could have made a good justice. So I’m not confident that there will still be a Republican majority in the Senate, which means that if Trump is elected, he’s going to have to compromise on his choices if the Senate is to approve them. I don’t know if either side will have filibuster-proof majority, so Clinton may also have to make concessions to avoid a filibuster.

Immigration:

Trump has said he wants to add an ideological test to immigration and to restrict/ban Muslim immigrants from entering.  Besides violating the Constitution, it also isn’t pro-life. These are people seeking relief from horrible situations (some of them). We don’t believe in only helping people who are Catholic – we believe in helping everyone because we are Catholic.

Clinton has said she’d end the mass deportations and such, though I was under the impression that she was involved with that under Obama.

Healthcare and family leave:

I have no idea how Trump feels about paid family leave, though if I had to guess I’d venture to say he’s against a federal law on that. I could be wrong, though, so I won’t take that into consideration. He’s in favour of more competition with health care. On the one hand, I can see how would seem to make sense, except that I think, in practice, the poorer people would still be up a creek. Access to good health care shouldn’t hinge on the economic status of the person seeking it.

Clinton is a supporter of paid family leave, which is a huge need. So many parents must return to work immediately after the birth of a child, even though that isn’t in the best interest of the parent or child, because they cannot afford to stay home even for a few weeks. Supporting paid family leave is pro-life. Having a policy like that may even reduce abortions because a woman will know she doesn’t have choose between losing her job, paying for day care, or having a child. Interestingly, she doesn’t seem to be in favour of a single-payer system, so that needs work. Everyone needs to be able to access truly affordable health care (and that is not possible at the moment, at least in my state).

So, yay for paid family leave. Neither is perfect on health care.

Gun control:

Yes, I consider gun control to be a pro-life issue. Many seem to have this idea that they’ll be John Wayne and save the day; I’m sceptical.

Trump says mental illness is the problem but that guns save lives. Clinton points out the high number of gun deaths in this country (which, yes, includes suicides and accidents, but those things wouldn’t be as common, either, without those guns) and supports gun control. To me, that is pro-life. I know others disagree and point out that there are law-abiding gun owners. I know that. I also see how some gun supporters have this idea that they’ll then be safe, yet in order to be a responsible gun owner you can’t just keep a loaded gun in easy reach because you have to ensure kids can’t to them (thus the accidents). I know that wouldn’t apply in every situation, since there aren’t always kids around. I also see how police must immediately assume that people have guns, and therefore there is a more adversarial approach to policing. Maybe it’s just because I lived in the UK, where neither the citizens nor the police carry handguns, and I never felt the need for one. Even when my house was broken into (while we were at home), I didn’t feel the need to have a gun, and I doubt I would’ve been safe with one because I would’ve been too quick to grab it if I had it. I know that isn’t a universal. Also, I feel that just blaming mental illness isn’t an answer. It’s true that many mass shootings are carried out by those with mental health issues, but the vast majority of those with mental illness are danger only to themselves and need help, not further stigma. I am not stigmatizing gun owners (or I’m not trying to do so), because I know the majority are good citizens. I simply see no good reason why everyone needs the ability to own hand guns.

Jobs

Trump has contradictory statements, at one time saying to raise the minimum wage and another time saying the opposite. I can hope that his most recent statement (raising it) is what he’d actually do, but given his frequent contradictions, I don’t know that I can trust that.

Clinton also says she’d raise the minimum wage. Both say they’ll bring back jobs from China. They aren’t incredibly different in their statements here.

Death Penalty and Torture:

Trump supports both of these. Interestingly, so does Clinton, to a degree. She does say that torture cannot be part of our policy, but did condone some exceptions in 2006, apparently.

So, who is pro-life? Neither of them. You could weigh the different issues and see which one is more pro-life if you insisted on voting with a major party, or you could find a third party that is truly pro-life (I recommend looking at the American Solidarity Party), or abstain from voting in the presidential election. Just don’t claim that one of the major party candidates is truly pro-life, because it isn’t true.

On Listening

Dear person with whom I only spoke briefly but who was so sure you knew the cure for my son’s cvs:

I was hurt by your comment. Not because of what you said, but because you didn’t listen. You didn’t listen, because you didn’t even ask. You didn’t ask what the cause of it is (for him, it’s caused by a fatty-acid disorder that requires him to take L-carnitine daily). You didn’t know that there are others in the family with milder symptoms of this, and that I am also on L-carnitine to treat this. You didn’t ask if diet played a role (it does, but not in the way you suggested; we know that dairy is a trigger for him at times, as is chocolate). You didn’t know that we’d tried fixing it without meds, but that it didn’t work. You didn’t ask, and therefore didn’t know, that he sees a good team of doctors, in genetics and GI, who have actually gotten his episodes under control. You had no idea how often I’ve heard that my boys would be cured if they just made this or that dietary change and that I’m just fed up with hearing it.

I would’ve gladly told you all these things, if you’d asked and listened. Really. I don’t openly share these things unbidden, but if you had shown you were truly interested and asked, I’d have divulged more details.

But then, I wasn’t listening to you, either. I didn’t listen to the subtext in what you were saying. In telling me that this dietary change would fix my son’s problem, I didn’t listen to hear that, most likely, you or someone in your family had had a great success with a medical issue through making this dietary change. I didn’t listen for the gratitude you have for that cure, and the excitement to share that relief with others. I didn’t think to remember the times I’ve found a seemingly miraculous fix and have been overzealous in sharing that with others without listening to their unique situations. Situations where the cure I found might not work for them.

Maybe next time you’ll ask and listen before immediately suggesting a cure. Maybe in your zeal you’ll forget to listen. I can’t control that. But I hope that next time, I’ll be sure to listen to the subtext and not completely dismiss you, even if I don’t think your suggestion a good one for me.

Being Frugal and Saving Isn’t Enough

Did you hear about the family with 13 kids and no debt? Now, let me begin by saying that I’m happy for them, truly, but I am also angered at the insinuation in the article that their feat is possible for everyone. They don’t even see how they have been very privileged in their opportunities and contacts and such.

For example, the article said that, at the husband’s first job when they were married with kids, he never made more than $36,000, as if that is a mere pittance. It isn’t a huge salary, to be sure, but it is more than a lot of families make. Even a small difference in salary can make a huge difference. He later got a better job that made $40,000, then $60,o00, then $110,000/year, so hardly the norm for a lot of people.

Then there’s the mention of saving 25% of their income. That is laudable! I often see people saying to save 10%, give 10% to Church, and live on the other 80%. Even that is a stretch for many families, though. For some, every cent earned is spoken for, and nothing can be put back in savings, no matter how frugal and how much they plan. So telling such families that they just need to plan better and be more frugal doesn’t actually address the fact that the ability to put back in savings isn’t always possible even with doing that.

Speaking of being frugal, I couldn’t help thinking about how the things they bought to eat, which are indeed on the cheaper end of things, wouldn’t work for my family. I know having a nightshade allergy isn’t common, but not being able to buy potatoes does make a huge difference with the grocery bill. As does needing to buy coconut milk, rice milk, and Earth Balance. Oh, and the chicken breasts which are more expensive than thighs, but child with gallstones can’t eat the thighs. Obviously if no one in the family has special dietary requirements, then shopping as they did is possible and is a good lesson, again assuming one has the cash available to take advantage of the specials (there’s a good article on how being poor is actually quite expensive because you can’t take advantage of sales and specials and buying in bulk).

They bought a house out of foreclosure, saving quite a bit. That’s great. The house was in great disrepair, and they were able to get friends to help with everything. That may not sound like much, but having that kind of help is huge. Not everyone has that kind of community. I wish they did. I also have a bit of an issue with the possibility of profiting off of someone else’s misfortune. Maybe it’s just because we sold our house on a short sale and are still paying on a house we no longer own, but I’m rather sensitive about such things.

Finally, they speak of how others have given them a lot of things, including cars. That is huge! I know people with fewer kids who need cars but aren’t gifted them. Again, let me be clear that I’m thrilled that people are generous to this particular family. However, this point shows that it isn’t just the family’s own efforts that have made all this possible. Having access to a reliable vehicle is a huge need for a lot of families, especially in the (many) areas without reliable public transportation.

I’m glad this family has been so lucky. Let’s just no pretend that all families can do what they did, or that they did this all themselves without a ton of help from their community. Let’s recognize that they had a lot of advantages, and made the most of them.