Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Halftime Review

Bring out the bands to entertain the crowds, and give the players time to catch their breath and review.


Sunshine is coming along very well in reading. We're currently using the OPGTR which Brighteyes just finished. She's working on words with consonant blends. She's much more patient with these lessons than Brighteyes was. Brighteyes would (will) go over something twice, then scream if she didn't (doesn't) get it right by the second try. Sunshine will go over the same word five or six times if need be to get it right. Consequently she's learning these lessons faster. She is also becoming much more talkative and more willing to state her own preference instead of waiting to get what her sister gets. While she still throws tantrums, their frequency has diminished. She has also become more demonstrative and affectionate.

I'm not sure what to do about Sunshine's writing and drawing though. She doesn't command a pencil well. I started reading Drawing With Children to see if that will give me any good ideas. If I can help her improve her drawing, her handwriting should follow.

At least, I'm trying to read Drawing With Children. It's treading really close to some old wounds about how badly art was taught to me. I keep having to put it down and run around fuming, "Where was this when I needed it?"


Brighteyes has been cranky lately. She doesn't want to do what she's told, and if something doesn't go her way she often throws a temper tantrum. I'm told it's a 6yo trait. I hope it leaves soon.

Then again, by the time I was 6yo I already had symptoms of SADS. Maybe it wouldn't hurt to start giving her cod liver oil gelcaps. She hasn't needed any vitamins or supplements so far (we eat a lot of fresh produce), but now might be the time to start. I tried giving the girls a gelcap last night. Brighteyes got it down after a few tries, but Sunshine couldn't handle it.

Brighteyes finished OPGTR and Singapore 1A right before Christmas. She's looking forward to starting Minimus. She's not looking forward to Singapore 1B. They're working on adding numbers in the 20-40 range, and that intimidates her. There's a 1 - 100 chart over her bed, so we'll be doing math in her room for the next few days until it stops being scary.

I haven't decided if I'm going to try to begin teaching Sunshine Latin now as well. I think she could handle the verbal work at her age, but only if she's interested and she has only shown mild interest. We'll see if she wants to be included once we start.

Foreign languages scare me. I was never introduced to them properly, and I don't have the kind of mind that can learn them well the way they were taught in high school and college. Hopefully, by starting early and going slow I can avoid the girls running into my problems.

Previously Brighteyes has insisted that we do the same work every day. Small children are procedural, and she likes her procedure. She fusses at me because we don't do both science and history every day, even though she's too little to handle both. But this time I worked up a schedule that has us doing alternative lessons on Friday and she was intrigued by it. I put all the things that don't normally fit, for one reason or another, on that day.

Monday - Thursday

Handwriting Sheet
History or Science


McGuffey Reader
Draw, Write, Now
Writing Letters
History Project

We'll see if that livens things up a bit.

Monday, December 26, 2005

"Intelligent Design" or What You Call the Game Determines How the Ball Moves

There are a lot of games that involve moving a ball across a rectangle of ground. One group of players tries to move it to the short end opposite them, while the other group of players tries to move it in the other direction. In the different games there are distinct but relatively inconsequential differences in the number of players, the size and shape of the ball, and the size of the rectangle of ground. The big difference is in how the players move the ball.

If the ball is kicked but never touched by the hands, it's soccer.

If the ball is bounced off the hands but never kicked or carried, it's basketball.

If the ball is kicked and carried, it's football.

If the ball is batted about in nets on sticks, it's lacrosse.

If the ball is scooted around the ground with sticks, it's field hockey.

Any group of people with a convenient ball and ground can decide to play any of those games. It doesn't really matter if they have the "right" number of players, or the "right" ground, or even the "right" ball. The important thing is that once they decide on the game they're playing, everyone moves the ball in the "right" way for that game.

That means that if you're playing soccer you don't pick the ball up and run with it. That move is acceptable in football, but in soccer it's cheating.

It means if you're playing basketball you don't kick the ball. That's acceptable in soccer, but in basketball it's cheating.

Other activities have other sets of rules they must be played by. If you're playing chess, you don't use the rules for dominoes. If you're writing a sonnet, you don't use the rules for writing a haiku. If you're doing traditional Irish step dancing, you don't shimmy your hips. If you're hammering something into two pieces of wood, you don't use a screw. If you're making chocolate fudge, you don't throw in a head of garlic.

And if you're teaching the scientific method, you don't throw in an untestable hypothesis and call it a "theory".

By themselves, there is nothing inherently wrong with any of these actions. But put into the wrong context, they become cheating.

There is nothing inherently wrong with the idea that an "Intelligent Designer" created the universe. Personally I believe it myself. But that idea can never be a scientific theory. An idea becomes a scientific theory by being tested using the scientific method to prove or disprove it. There is no way to scientifically prove or disprove the existence or nonexistence of an "Intelligent Designer", and without that there is no way "Intelligent Design" can ever be a scientific theory.

At this moment there are various attempts being made to inject "Intelligent Design" into science while bypassing the scientific method. Instead, legal and political methods that are used in civil rights cases are being used. There's nothing wrong with using these tactics in civil rights cases. But science isn't a civil rights issue. Science is a different game played by different rules. If you try to inject an idea that hasn't been tested scientifically into science, that's cheating. And if you succeed, the result you get will no longer be science at all. It'll be a whole other ball game.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Review: The Miracle of Life

Brighteyes is a biology nut. I thought she and her sister might be ready for this DVD, so I pulled it out. She's always been curious about babies, and I have always answered her questions until they reach the point of describing intercourse. (She usually only asks one or two at a time, and has only twice gone to that point. Fetal and infant development is just so much more interesting.) I remember watching it in grade school, and finding the presentation both tasteful and enthralling.

Brighteyes found the evolutionary talk at the beginning interesting, the middle boring, and the ending riveting. "Ooh, babies!"

Sunshine lacks her sister's intense interest in babies, so I thought she would be bored. Instead she stuck with it all the way. She grinned and said, "Sperm chased egg, and egg runned away!" I think she thought it was a Loony Tunes cartoon.

I was so young the last time I watched this film I missed the incredible snark potential in what I now call the Great Sperm Chase. There were times when my husband and I could scarcely keep a straight face, and Goddess forbid we should look at each other.

Narrator: Some sperm don't wait until they reach the egg, but try to impregnate the first round object they see, such as this ordinary body cell.

Mom: <Choke!>

Still, if the girls were old enough to see this they were old enough to get some version of "The Talk", even if it was only a watered-down version. "Now remember!" I said. "Having a baby is at least an 18-year commitment! Don't even think of starting one until you have a partner lined up to help you; and the time, money, and resources to commit to bringing up a child."

Brighteyes stared at me and said, "But Mommy, you won't tell me what I need to know!"

My heart jumped. Was I about to have to give the full-blown "Talk"? "Of course I will, honey. I'll answer any question you ask."

"No you won't!"

"Yes I will. I promise."

"No you won't!"

"I promise. What's your question?"

"You won't tell me how much it cost to have a baby!"

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Christmas Crud

This year marks the return of our semi-annual custom of catching a severe stomach virus at Christmas time. A few years ago a rotavirus (so named because it cuts through you like a Roto-rooter) killed our other custom of giving kitchenware as Christmas presents. There's nothing like giving someone a beautiful cake pan for Christmas and watching them turn green.

So far it's just Sunshine and my husband who are sick. Fortunately Brighteyes and I haven't caught anything yet, and we're praying we don't.

At least it should be over before Christmas gets here. And for these blessings we give thanks.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

New for Winter

We've updated our jewelry site. Check out the latest pieces and the lesson on soapstone casting.

There's also triple moon bracelet with a Goddess on one side and a God on the other. We'll put it up later.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Whose Morals?


  1. Of or concerned with the judgment of the goodness or badness of human action and character: moral scrutiny; a moral quandary.
  2. Teaching or exhibiting goodness or correctness of character and behavior: a moral lesson.
  3. Conforming to standards of what is right or just in behavior; virtuous: a moral life.
    Arising from conscience or the sense of right and wrong: a moral obligation
      Amanda Blake is an 18 year old homeschooler. She did not date at all while she was a teenage minor, but waited until she was an adult to start thinking about turning any of her friendships into romances. Her decision exhibits "goodness", "correct behavior", "virtue" and plain old common sense. I don't know of anyone who would disagree with me on calling it a moral choice.

      After her 18th birthday, she thought she might be ready to start thinking about dating. She didn't have any boy in mind, but she thought is was time to start getting prepared for the day when the right boy did come along.

      Even though she was now an adult, she still discussed the matter over with her father, who is her legal guardian. She listened to his advice and got his blessing to get on birth control pills. As an adult she did not need his permission, but as his daughter she valued his counsel and his approval. With his blessing she made an appointment with a local medical clinic for November 21.

      Miss Blake was seen by Dr. Delbert Huelskoetter. When she told him why she had come, she said the doctor "asked me if I was sexually active, and I said, " no," she said. "He then asked me if I planned on getting married, and I said "no" again. He asked me why I needed the birth control pills, and I said I wanted to be prepared. I'd rather not screw up and end up pregnant. I thought I was being responsible. He then gave me a speech about how it was better to wait for marriage with all the diseases out there, but I said "I don't have to." Amanda said the doctor asked about her religious beliefs and whether she went to church. When she said she was Wiccan or pagan, she said the doctor looked "shocked and affronted." He went on to ask her about her career plans, urged her to see a Christian counselor, and finally denied her request for a prescription for birth control pills, she said.

      "I actually started crying," she said. "The way he was saying it, he acted like I was doing something criminal. I felt humiliated and put on the spot. After about 20 minutes he said he wasn't going to give me a prescription. I said if I understood the law correctly, he had to. He said he had taken an oath to do what he knows is right and not what he thinks or believes is right. I said that a lot of people think they know what is right but it's really their personal opinion."

      The clinic charged Mis Blake $68 for the visit, which she paid. As she recieved no exam she has asked for her money back. The clinic refused.

      According to the clinic administrator Warren White, the clinic is a Christian organization, although you would have to go to their website to find that out. Mr. White also said there were other physicians present who would prescribe birth control pills. Miss Blake was not told about them or directed to them.

      Who behaved morally in this story?

      To my mind, Miss Blake is a very moral woman. She waited until she was an adult to date. In this day and age, that's so old-fashioned it's practically Victorian! She is an adult who doesn't plan to become sexually active anytime soon, but considers it prudent to obtain birth control pills just in case. After all, so many things can happen when you start dating, up to and including rape. I commend Ms. Blake for making informed, well reasoned, responsible choices.

      As far as Dr. Huelskoetter is concerned, Miss Blake is immoral. She thinks about sex outside of marriage. She is not a Christian. He doesn't care what reasoning led her to those choices. The choices are wrong, so she is wrong.

      To my mind, Dr. Huelskoetter is immoral. He was asked to perform a service for the good of his patient and the good of the public health. He refused to perform that service, and browbeat his patient instead. He then turned around and charged her for the sevice he did not perform.

      As far as Dr. Huelskoetter is concerned, he is moral. He discouraged a young woman from having premarital sex and counseled her to find Jesus.

      That's a huge perception gap. What's going on here?

      According to Doug Muder the differences in how Americans view morality come down to differences in how we view family. In his essay Red Family, Blue Family: Making sense of the values issue Muder makes the point that Conservatives tend to view our culture though a lens that sees family as an "Inherited Obligation". You were born with a certain set of obligations that arise from your relationships in regard to other people. As long as you live up to those obligations everything is fine, but you can't ask questions.

      This model has it's good points. You don't have to worry about any existential questions. You know who you are, where you fit in society, and most importantly you know there is theoretically a large network of people you can call upon for help -- as long as you stay in your assigned role and don't question your hereditary obligations. Once people start to question their obligations even if they choose to keep them the whole world will crumble to pieces. In that moment of hesitation, that blink, that soft "why?", Ragnarok begins.

      Social Liberals tend to view the world through the lens of a "Negotiated Commitment" family. You as an adult choose which voluntary commitments you make. You negotiate with the other adults around you how those commitments will be expressed.

      This model gives you a great deal of freedom to decide how you and the adults around you wish to treat each other. The downside is that negotiating those commitments with everyone you meet can be a neverending drain on your time, and you end up with a much smaller network of people you can call personally upon for help.

      Like all dichotomies this example is exagerrated. Still, it's the best model I've seen yet for the current perception gap.

      Such different world-views present a tremendous communication challenge. How do we get both sides understand each other? Unsolvable as the problem seems, people are working on it. Muder addresses the question of how Social Liberals can talk to Social Conservatives about patriotism. Bill Moyers is trying to do the same thing with environmentalism. Now how do we go about bridging the perception gap in speaking about morality in the case above?

      Quote of the Day

      I'm trolling Amazon for Pagan children's books when I stumble on to a Fundamentalist Christian young adult series called "Forbidden Doors". It looks like stereotypical scaremongering, but I found this revealing passage on the customer reviews of the 10th and 11th books. Keep in mind that by now Our Fair Heroes are supposed to have been Battling Wickedness for quite a while:

      "Wouldn't you think missionary-kids be more focused on the Bible and spreading the word, not being so forgiving like they are. They seem TOO LIBERAL. Becka seems to have too much self-esteem. She used to be real and dooubt herself. Now she's changed, it seems."

      Adolescent feminine self-esteem = TOO LIBERAL?

      Adolescent feminine self-esteem = not a believable Christian?

      I'm speachless.

      Friday, December 09, 2005

      Expiration dates

      The school nurse at the high school where my husband teaches is never available. My husband is the science teacher, and many of the students come to him for health advice. He wasn't surprised when a junior girl wanted to ask him a question.

      She held a condom packet in her hand. Although she doesn't date, her mother gave it to her "just in case". She put it in her purse and forgot about it. Recently she noticed that the date on the package had passed, and she wanted to know what to do about it.

      My husband thought for a moment, mulling over several possible answers. Finally he said, "The best thing you can do with that is give it back to your Momma and tell her why."

      The girl looked puzzled for a moment, then broke into a big grin. "Oh! You're right!"

      Thursday, December 08, 2005

      If You Can't Beat Them, Beat Them Up

      Paul Mirecki, who was planning to teach a course on "Intelligent Design, Creationism and Other Religious Mythologies" at Kansas University, "was treated at a Lawrence hospital for head injuries after he said he was beaten by two men on a country road. He said the men referred to the creationism course. Law enforcement officials were investigating." He later resigned as Chairman of the Department of Religious studies.

      Somebody explain to me, real slowly and real carefully, how this is not like the sort of "incidences" that happened so often in Nazi Germany before World War II. It looks an awful lot like that kind of duck to me.

      Tuesday, December 06, 2005

      Wiccan Homeschooler Denied Medical Care by Christian Doctor

      A prudent young homeschooled woman who had just turned 18 and started dating went to a doctor to get birth control pills. She had no intention to lose her virginity, but didn't want to take unnecessary chances. He refused her a prescription and gave her a 20 minute lecture on why she should choose Jesus instead. He did charge her the full price for the visit though.

      This is outrageous. Excuse me, but isn't an 18 year old an adult? And any young person who waits until he or she turns 18 to start dating is not exactly a libertine. Nor is it a sign of immorality to be prepared for all contingencies, up to and including rape. That's what they used to call a responsible person.

      Sunday, December 04, 2005

      The annual Holiday visit to see Mom just came and went. We had to be in Jackson yesterday to check out the Chimneyville Crafts Festival. Mom was on her way back from a senior trip. We got to her house Friday evening and cooked supper. She got in Friday night and ate it. The next morning she left to pick up her dog for the vet and we left to see Jackson. No one said anything impolitic. I didn't yell, scream or demand to be let off the position of counterweight on her seesaw relationship with my sister. I went down there with the intention of snatching my pictures off the wall and taking them home. I left them. Mom pulled out a box of my old keepsakes that I thought had been lost years ago and pressed it on me. I only took home one. Why did I do that? I don't understand why I'm so reluctant to cut the ties. Our relationship deteriorated into a facade years ago. Why don't I take the steps to end it cleanly? I guess I've just never been a good housekeeper.

      Then again, if I were the only one having Lake Wobegone Days that show wouldn't still be on the air.

      Anyway. In the past week we got in the Minimus student's guide. Brighteyes loves it. She insisted on taking it on the trip. Mom didn't know what to think of it. I only hope Brighteyes will enjoy it as much after we start working with the program.

      Chimneyville was a learning experience. The first thing we learned was that we couldn't navigate Jackson anymore, what with all the new building that has taken place. The second thing we learned is that Chimneyville is so much fun we should have gone years ago. We'll definitely have to work on the logistics of childcare-during-exhibitions, because we need to start doing exhibits again.

      Thursday, December 01, 2005

      HR 1815 the Homeschooling McGuffin Act

      The conservative Home School Legal Defense Association is pushing a bill through Congress to provide a legal definition of homeschoolers. Why? We've managed perfectly well with just a dictionary definition. We no more need a legal definition of "homeschooler" than we need a legal definition of "cook".

      The argument is that this will enable the military to accept homeschoolers, which they have trouble doing under their current guidelines. Since when does it take a federal law to change military guidelines? That's like hunting roaches with a bazooka.

      Remember desegregation? When the military desegregated, they did it with a Presidential Directive. It didn't take a federal law. Getting homeschoolers in the military is a minor issue compared to that. So why does it require a federal law? It doesn't. Federal laws are for things that affect the whole country, not just the military.

      In the immortal words of Jeff Smith, "Never play an Ace when a Two will do." A Federal law to let homeschooled adults in the military is superfluous.

      Then there's the political question. Why is an organization that identifies itself with Conservatives, courts Conservatives, and endorses Conservative candidates campaigning for a superfluous federal law? I thought Conservatives were all about eliminating superfluous legislation, not about adding more.

      What is the real purpose for this bill and why isn't the HSLDA being up front about it?

      Commentary on HONDA (the bill):

      Debate on HONDA: