“Goodists […]…

November 28, 2012

“Goodists […] put a higher premium on their moral intentions than the efficacy of their actions . . . . Above all, the Goodists are people who like to be seen to be good.”

–Bret Stephens on the dangers of blending politics and morality

When I was a kid, we used to sing this song in VBS:

Don’t build your house on the sandy land,
Don’t build it too near the shore.
It might look kind of nice but you’ll have to build it twice
Oh, you’ll have to build your house once more, more, more
You better build your house on a rock,
Make a good foundation on a solid spot.
Then the storms may come and go, but the Peace of God you will show

I always thought it was a dumb song because it’s moral was so obvious. I had never been to an ocean beach, but I imagined a group about as smart as the three little pigs, building a house of sticks on the shores of Lake Michigan. Of course it would wash away. Who is that stupid?

I now know that Americans in general are collectively that stupid. I love it, however, when my fiscally conservative side and my environmentally conscious side converge on an issue such as this.

This morning I read the following article in the “Going Green” section of the Times:

After Sandy: Why We Can’t Keep Rebuilding on the Water’s Edge

Months… maybe even years ago, I read this article from John Stossel and it’s always stuck in my head:

Taxpayers Get Soaked by Government’s Flood Insurance

Finally! Something we can agree on! I hate to even say this phrase, but this sort of thing is why our country is heading towards a fiscal cliff. Government flood insurance is bad fiscal policy. It’s bad environmental policy. Yet all anyone has to do is show some pictures of a destitute family at a temporary FEMA shelter and we are all convinced of the necessity of government safety nets and intervention for natural disaster. How can the common man be expected to stand up to an act of God after all?!

Well he can’t. And it’s about time we owned up to the fact that maybe he shouldn’t. These are the only two articles I have ever read that bother to point out that government policies such as this actually encourage people to put themselves in harm’s way. And then we get to pay to do it all again when the storm eventually strikes. When will we learn?

Parent Teacher Conference

November 19, 2012

So the husband and I went to a P/T conference for the middle child, B. That’s not just a moniker for the sake of anonymity. We really do call him “B”. Anyway, we refer to B as our bi-polar child. His mood swings are…

Barney Stinson "Legen -- wait for it -- dary"

But his teacher reported no such thing. She said he is smart with a dry wit (for a 5 year old). She also said he is pretty easy going and even-tempered. What?! We kept waiting for the “But…” but it never came.

B has a way with people. He charms strangers immediately. He is the favorite among grandparents, cousins, aunts and uncles. His parental unit clingy stage was so short the relatives have blocked it from their collective memories. Not only does he win people over with his hugs and kisses he has been blessed with perfect features. His hair is white-blond and downy soft. His cheeks are smooth and kissable. He has eye-lashes to die for and I swear when he runs around in his bathing suit, I can see the beginnings of a six-pack.

Yet for his parents, he turns from angel to demon in the blink of an eye. I daily struggle with this mental game. What decisions will result in the greatest probability that I will avoid a B-breakdown. Quickly followed by, is it fair to the brothers that I spend so much time and effort catering to one willful child? Some things now come naturally. Only B can claim the the green cup. His pancakes can be but into strips or cubes, but only with his prior consent. Though many rules of these arbitrary rules are now second nature, everyday, some new outburst takes me by surprise.

I sometimes think his dad and I are extra hard on him to make up for… I don’t know… his charmed life? I fear he will end up a bully. Or an evil genius. Or Peter Wiggin. But maybe he is really just a good kid who gets tired and cranky sometimes.

Undecided Voters

October 19, 2012

While link surfing this morning I came across some thought-provoking comments in response to this quote: “Arps told The Daily he doesn’t know yet who he’ll vote for. He said he’s ‘not too hip to elections and stuff.‘”*Undecided Voter Poster

One of the commenters mused: “What fascinates me now is the issue of late season undecided voters: what is going on in their minds? Surely there’s no dearth of information for them to consider and process. Is undecided a generous euphemism for flippantly indifferent?”

I would actually like to answer that because I can relate to the undecided voter. It’s not that we can’t decide which promises we prefer. It’s that we just don’t believe in anyone’s promises anymore. A lot of the “decided” voters I know are single-issue voters. Nothing is more important to certain people than saving unborn babies, marrying whomever they choose, protecting the environment, or perhaps balancing the budget. Republicans are known to be champions of certain issues, and Dems others. But what if you feel very strongly that we need to balance the budget and save the planet?

Two-party politics are not serving the people’s best interests anymore. The polarization has become too extreme. Too few can compromise. That is one reason I am writing… I want to find the middle ground and put it on “paper”. Is that even possible? Can the people once again find the solution to the problems created by government? Can we do it this time without a revolutionary war?

*I know you are supposed to write [sic] if quoting a misspelling, but what do you do when quoting bad grammar like missing end quotes? Yes, I actually think about these things.

Another Narcissist

October 13, 2012

It’s been said that social media and blogs are terribly narcissistic. I tend to agree. I don’t want to be that way, but putting thoughts out into the ether is a temptation I can’t seem to resist. This time I am trying anonymous on for size. I am not going to put links on the Facebook, or pretend I am imparting wisdom to far off strangers. At least I am going to try. But I do tend to get pedantic and preachy so I am sure I will slip-up sometimes; it’s such a habit.

I am also going to try and keep in mind that no one is reading this. And probably never will! That’s okay. I am just tired of having all these thoughts spin around in my brain… around and around. I want to write them down. Give them shape and clarity. Yes, my ideas would most likely end hunger, war, and poverty, but the world is just not ready yet.

History

October 13, 2012

Sometimes I wonder if I would be a different person if I had learned history as a child. At least a little more open-minded, aware, sensitive… something. I still can’t get over the fact that I managed to graduate #1 in a class of 300 and I have no understanding of history.

book cover: Who Was Albert Einstein?I just learned today that Einstein helped raise funds and gather support for the creation of the state of Israel. He was even asked to be their second president! I read this by reading my eldest boy’s* library book, “Who Was Albert Einstein?” by Jeff Brallier. (The whole Who Was? series seems quite good and I highly recommend them for 1st-3rd graders.)

Anyway, the fact that I am constantly shocked by the things I don’t know gives me another reason to appreciate custom schooling. (I think I am going to call it “custom-schooling” for awhile. Because homeschooling is not inherently superior to any other education if it is done in the same assembly-line, one-size-fits-all way as government schooling.)

I recall that I did not care one bit about history while I was in school. Although the binders full of notes copied from Mr. Hayhurst’s overheads are still packed away in my basement, that is all I did with this information. I transferred it straight from the teacher to my notebooks and safely tucked it away for posterity. None of it escaped from the page into my brain. If only I could have learned history through literature.

Last month, I shared some new knowledge with my husband and he replied, “Sometimes I am amazed at the things you don’t know.” I wasn’t offended. It’s true… for a smart person, I am often terribly ignorant.

All I know is that if I ever catch little Prince Charles reading Les Miserables while I am trying to discuss economic systems, I hope my response will not be to scold him and move on. Imagine if someone had take an interest in 14 year old me and talked to me about the French Revolution because I was reading Les Mis.

So I am making up for lost time by reading children’s biographies, and talking to #1 about his Magic Treehouse books. I am sad for what I have missed, but glad that little Poseidon is getting a 29 year head start.

*Bloggers often give their loved ones cool nicknames like Zeus, Munchkin#2, or Hellraiser to protect their anonymity and innocence. Sometimes I find them cute; sometimes I find them slightly patronizing. I will probably give my own spawn pseudonyms at some point as well, but I am not ready to commit to that yet. It’s a big decision. Maybe I will name them after the Royal family… yeah. I like that. Subtle, but memorable. Let me think on that one for a bit.

Politics

October 12, 2012

Image

It’s October of an election year! Politics are in the air. Sometimes I wonder if every generation feels like the country is actually on the brink of destruction. My parents lived through the Cold War, their parents lived through the Korean War and WWII but did any of them actually think the country would self-destruct?

It’s one thing to be afraid of a known enemy. We seem to come together in times of actual war. But to unite the political divide at this point in time seems impossible and hopeless.

I will admit that I can’t stand our president. I am not a Republican, but I hate that he swooped in with his message of “hope and change” and then proceeded to polarize white against black, rich against poor, businessman against consumer. I have always been rather partial to McCain. I like the maverick. I like the idea of libertarianism. I am a veteran, so a POW will always have my respect. But back in ’08, I realized John’s ship had sailed and he didn’t stand a chance. So I figured, “Hey, at least we will either have the first woman president or the first black president and that’s all good.”

But it’s not “all good”. Not good at all.

I am not going to leave it at that though. Well, today I might, but not forever. I want to actually talk about why this administration has hurt the country. And if anyone ever does stumble across this blog, I welcome thoughtful debate. I am tired of conversations between the left and the right consisting of stereotypical accusations.

Anyway, I just attempted to do what I promised myself I wouldn’t do… waste time trying to find examples of the above statement in order to defend my position before anyone ever even reads my position or cares. Which leads to a bunny trail of web-surfing and a plethora of unfinished posts. I think I have more partial posts in my drafts folder then actual posts on all my old blogs!

Anyway… next time I see a vile comment, I will post it then. I am sure it won’t be long.

For now schoolwork and messy fingers need my attention!

A Fresh Start

October 12, 2012

Fresh Start Exit SignI will admit… I like to start things. I sometimes finish things. But it’s the starting that gets me all fired up. This is blog #3. Maybe #4. I was doing pretty good with the last one. I had at least 20 posts a month for 3 or 5 months or so. It went downhill when I invited my sister to join. Not that I don’t still like my sister… I do. But somehow I had to write with intent. I had to keep to our goals. I wanted to slip some political discourse into the mix but was always afraid of writing stuff that didn’t represent the vision.

Anyway… I want to ramble less. I want to spend less time explaining the thoughts and experiences of the past that brought me to what I want to say in the present. I want to write as if the past is known and understood, because let’s face it… this blog is for me. And if anyone else ever reads it… they can just ask. Why write for a huge audience that is only in my head?

So for now, I am declaring that my audience is me. I am writing this blog to myself. Sometimes I have ideas that just run around in my head for weeks that won’t give up real estate in my brain until I write them down. Here is where I will do it. The blog will be open to the world because I love intelligent conversation and can’t seem to find it in my everyday life. I will engage anyone, anywhere who has something meaningful they would like to discuss. That would be fun for me. But since I can only dump so much on my dear husband at any one time, I will dump the rest here.

Kirk out.

Update: I imported my posts from previous blogs for posterity. That’s why even though this blog officially started today, there are several months of older posts.

Ultra-Minimalism

May 3, 2012

I am finding the idea of this lifestyle very alluring. It’s exactly what it sounds like. Live life with less. Much less. And like it. Some people go all out and even ditch their houses. I would be happy to just clear out our drawers and the crawl space.

It’s not like we’re hoarders though. We do a hefty purge about twice a year. But we’ve gone through five or six of these cleanses since living in this house, and I am starting to wonder how we still manage to get rid of so much every few months. Where does it all come from? Do the boys get that many Christmas presents?

I take some perverse comfort in peering into my neighbors’ garage and seeing clutter and children’s toys piled up to the ceiling. But somehow feeling superior to someone else =/= happiness. Weird, I know!

So I am going to put some new goals out there and we’ll see what happens. Now I am not shooting for living out of a backpack, but I must admit I am envious of a girl who can jump on a plane and travel the globe without a care in the world.

Unless you want ideas for doing this sort of thing yourself, you can probably safely stop reading now. (I never do when anyone tells me that… but I still appreciate the thought). So let’s go room by room, shall we:

I think Minimalist design is a pretense
to prepare us for living on spaceships.

Kitchen:

  • Get rid of obscure kitchen appliances (replace with ones we actually want to use with our new cooking habits)

Family Room:

  • Clear all the crappy, cheap McD’s toys from the toy box (replace with Imaginext or Playmobil sets?)
  • Bring down books and children’s games so they actually get used
  • Get rid of all the DVDs
  • Set up an art station to use up the building piles of markes, crayons, and play-doh
Living Room/Dining Room:
  • Hang the clock (stupid, I know, but this antique clock has been sitting on the floor behind the couch for months because I am afraid it will fall off the wall if I hang it!)
Basement:
  • Finish selling the obscure crap in the spare room
  • Sell/donate the HUGE bins of toys that we never drag out because we don’t want to deal with the mess
Boys’ Bedroom:
  • Pare down the boys’ clothes to 8 outfits each (plus dress clothes)
  • Bring down some games and books to store in the Family Room
Lego Room:
  • Sell off all the sets that are put up and away for “what the boys MIGHT be into someday” (pirates, castles, Batman, etc.)
  • Bring out, donate, or reduce the Playmobil sets
Master Bedroom:
  • Pare down to 8 outfits as well?? Put together dress outfits, buy items to match unused skirts/slacks or get rid of them
Garage:
  • Set up pool; move pool supplies out to the shed (get all that equipment out of the garage)
  • Get countertop for base cabinets and set up power tools

I wonder if all these lifestyle choices naturally flow from each other. Once you start thinking about one choice, you can’t help but think about others. It’s been an interesting process.

Okay, I’m lying. I do mean to.

I don’t brag on my son much, because I know no one besides family really cares that much or wants to hear it. Plus there’s this parent paranoia that manifests whenever someone else talks about their kids. It’s like any deviation is a personal attack on how they are raising their own kids. I know I feel that way anyway… is it just me?

Well, if you tend to feel that way, skip this post (or brag on your own kid in the comments… I don’t mind).

I am just in awe of how much my son is responding to homeschooling. We went to the library today and we picked 13 books. About half of them 2nd & 3rd grade level chapter books, the other half various non-fiction books that caught his eye. He read a book on voting in the car on the way home and is right now reading 13 Buildings Children Should Know.

This is a benefit to homeschooling that I hadn’t anticipated, but I really appreciate. Nathan isn’t leaning that non-fiction books are boring like textbooks always were to me. I don’t even bother with textbooks. We have a couple reference books that we loosely follow when we need some direction, but then we go to the library for more information that is age appropriate. Nathan can pick whatever interests him from a variety of choices. He is way more likely to read something that he helped choose, and I can’t help but think he is more likely to remember ideas he is interested in rather than concepts being forced on him.

So here’s my big brag just to get it all out there:

In the last month or so Nathan has read almost 20 chapter books of at least 75 pages. (He also reads his 400 page children’s Bible from cover to cover about every other week.) He is over 90% finished with 2nd grade math and he keeps sneaking in “levels” from 3rd grade math because he is interested in the new topics. He often reads from our science encyclopedias to his brothers and they ask to try out the experiments. Also, because he is home with me all day, he helps with laundry, dishes, vacuuming, and general clean-up. His hobbies include programming using Scratch, keeping a blog, and writing comic books.

If it’s a nice day, he runs outside and jumps on his bike. He is allowed a break to run around and work off some energy between every task. He is healthy and fit and never has to eat crappy school lunches. He “sneaks” carrots and apples from the fridge before heading back to his lessons. Some days he dawdles over his schoolwork until 3 or 4. Most days he is done by noon and can spend the afternoon engaged in tinkering or imaginative play.

I found this comment from an article about the importance of play very telling:

As a public school teacher of 18 years I have been dismayed at the reduction of recess time and by the pushing down of inappropriate curriculum into kindergarten and 1st grade. In a 6 hour full-time kindergarten day, they get a total of 40 minutes of unstructured play. Gone are most the kindergarten “house” corners where kids “pretended”. You won’t find a block corner in many classrooms either. I believe strongly in public education…but couldn’t bare to put my daughter in that setting. She is now in a Waldorf school, where play in nurtured, and childhood is protected.

I haven’t thought about that in years, but she’s right. We did have a play house when I went to Kindergarten. At my local school, every minute of the day is structured for Kindergartners. This is not actually good for kids. Parents demand it, however, because they are under the misguided impression that education is in decline because kids aren’t being taught enough, soon enough.

I am here to say, please look at my son! Kids don’t need to be taught hardly at all! They just need to be exposed to wonderful resources. They want to learn. Nathan loves to learn and I hardly teach him a thing. He reads and we talk. It’s beautiful. I often overhear him sharing what he’s learned with his little brothers. This thing I have stumbled onto is amazing and I just wish we could take this little microcosm of learning that is my household and transport into the classrooms.

Okay mom brag over. I will probably post updates on his progress again though. I do believe this style of education could be a vast improvement for so many children. I would love to somehow be a part of the discussion for school reform to integrate what is being learned by me and over a million like me who perform this homeschooling experiment. I don’t think Nathan is gifted or particularly exceptional; he is just being given better tools. I want to shout our success from the rooftops without calling down judgement on parents who choose public schooling. Is that possible? How can I get these results out of my living room and into the classrooms for all children to enjoy?