Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Homeschooling Badly: Kid Prefers Public School

I found this gem on Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers.

Kris is homeschooling her two kids.  Her daughter told her that she wanted to go back to public school a few weeks into the first year of homeschooling:

"My oldest went to public school for two years. She was totally onboard with homeschooling when we began, but it wasn’t long before I was hearing, “I want to go back.” What was she missing?

Well, friends are pretty much a given (and usually a hard answer for a mama’s heart to hear), but then there were the other things — the big playground, class parties, and, of all the crazy things, square pizza. These things weren’t deal-breakers to me, but they were very important in the mind of a seven-year-old.
  • I need to give Kris kudos for taking the time to listen to her child.  A lot of CP/QF homeschool bloggers pay lip service to listening to their children but spend far more time discussing how best to convince the kids that what the kid really believes and wants aligns with the parent's desires.
  • Kris shouldn't have been surprised - even if she didn't want to hear it - that kids LIKE the socialization they get at school.  Kids enjoy being around people their age to learn and play with.  Bluntly, there is no way to replicate the variety, amount and freedom in socialization that occurs in a school in a homeschool.
    • I know that limiting free socialization time is a feature of why CP/QF families homeschool, not a bug - but they should at least own that.  They are choosing to severely restrict their kids' chances to make friends and learn social skills.
  • Notice how the secretly parent-centric view of homeschooling sneaks in.  Kris doesn't see her daughter's objections to homeschooling as deal-breakers. Making that statement subtly devalues her daughter's wishes, wants and desires after Kris asked for her daughter's feedback.
Kris tries to help her daughter by having playdates with friends from school and getting involved in a homeschooling group.  When Christmas rolls around and her daughter still wants to return to public school, Kris decides to take a more active approach to problem-solving.

" I sat down with Brianna and we made two pros and cons lists — one for homeschool and one for public school. I even added some of my own pros and cons to each to get the ball rolling.

It’s been seven years now, so I know I don’t remember everything (oh, how I wish I’d saved that paper), but I remember there being things like getting to sleep late and not having to stay after school on the pros list for homeschooling. There were things like big playground, square pizza, and seeing friends on the pros list for school.

The cons for homeschooling included not having parties and not having as much free time during the day. (That last one was mine! {grin}) For school, the cons included getting up early and not having time to eat lunch. How sad is that? Still, seven years later, Brianna often tells me that one of the best things about homeschooling is having time to eat lunch.

Edited to add: Brianna maintained the “time to eat” pro for homeschooling all the way through graduation."
  • The parent-centric homeschool view screams from this paragraph.  The pro and con lists are not created by Brianna alone, but by Brianna and Kris.   Kris wants praise for sneaking a con in about having less free time during homeschooling than public schooling - but if that was true, why didn't her daughter think of that herself?
  • I am not good at comparing lists of items in sentence form so I created two tables based on the paragraphs before.  I left Kris' idea off the "homeschool con" list.
Once I wrote these out, I noticed a few issues.  Some issues like wake-up time in the morning show up on both lists while others like school parties show up only on one list.  To make it more coherent, I simplified the two lists into a single list of the pro and con for public schools:
Based on the combined list, I can see why Brianna wants to go back to school.  Assuming she doesn't stay at school every day, she gains friends and playing on a big playground every day in exchange for not sleeping in and having a short period to eat lunch.  On a longer time scale, she trades staying after school for "square pizza" and classroom parties.
  • If I were a homeschool parent, I would not be proud or excited that my child routinely listed "I have enough time to each lunch" as a reason she liked homeschooling.  Not when my kid was 7-9 years old and certainly not when my kid was 14-16 years old.
"After Brianna and I were satisfied that we’d thought of all we wanted to include, we began talking about what we could do about the items on the list. For example, there was absolutely nothing we could do about public school starting at 8:00, but we could change the fact that homeschool didn’t have square pizza. Um, yeah, I was totally up to making pizza in a rectangular pan if that’s what it took to make this homeschooling thing work.

What about the fact that public schools get to have parties? Well, homeschoolers can have parties, too! Our annual Valentine’s party was born that night. The first year, we had about 12 guests. Last year, we had around 75. And, that big playground? Well, the one at the local park is pretty darn big.

  • An important lesson in Kris' homeschool is learned helplessness, apparently.  Public school schedules are not set in stone.  Getting the start time of the elementary school changed would be difficult - but it's not impossible by any standard.  Instead of demonstrating the steps needed to deal with an unpleasant bureaucratic issue, Kris decides to teach her kid that she's helpless to change the status quo except by leaving the system.  That's not going to serve her well later in life when she has to face issues in a marriage or a career.
  • I wonder if the daughter wanted pizza that was square or if she liked the mass-produced frozen pizza served at every school.  Personally, I loved school pizza as a student and as a teacher as well.  It's not haute cuisine, but it's a tasty, filling comfort food.  If it's just the square shape, Kris could have saved time and cut a frozen pizza into squares instead.  If it's mainly the flavor, she might be able to get the same pizza from a local distributor.   Either way, it's an important piece of information to elicit from her daughter.
  • The original post has a link to how to throw a Valentine's Day party for homeschooled students.  I'm stymied on which is most depressing:
    • Parents who are homeschooling need help planning a party for a small to medium sized group of kids
    • The kids will be most excited about games that they can't play often since they aren't around gangs of kids at once like "Red Rover"
    • The kids should address their Valentines as "To My Friend" instead of using the actual names of the kids at the party rather than having to do all of the work of creating pesky lists of names to address the Valentines with.
  • We have three large, fun playscapes in local parks to take my son to when he gets bigger.  None of them will be as much fun as playing with his friends at school - regardless of the size of the playscape. 
By the time we’d finished discussing the list, we both agreed that homeschooling was the better deal.
A lot of parents may not agree with this, but that first year was a trial run for us, so I let her make the call and she agreed that there was definitely more we could do to positively influence our homeschool experience."

I doubt Brianna had a whole lot of choice in the matter.  This whole blog post is an exercise in how to "gently" manipulate your child to give up requesting to go back to public schools.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Charlie Gard: What the Spin Misses

I don't want to write this post.  At all.  Not now, not ever.  But I think I need to.

Charlie Gard's story has ripped my heart into tiny bits.

Charlie and my son are medically mirror opposites.  My son Jack was born critically ill from extreme prematurity but has been slowly getting healthier and  healthier.  Charlie was born a big healthy term baby boy and slowly got more and more ill until he died.

Under the surface, though, the similarities are creepy.  Charlie and Jack didn't have medical conditions that could be treated.  All doctors and nurses could do was to use technology to support their bodies while the disease processes worked themselves out.

What killed me, though, was the pictures of Charlie.

I can ID all of the lines attached to his face - ventilator inflow, ventilator outflow, NG or NJ 8 or 10 French tube.  The way the teddy bears or blankets cover PICC lines or IVs.

Let me tell you what the nurses and doctors can't tell you: the technology keeping a child alive involves pain.

Ventilator tubes and nasogatric tubes rub at the nasal passage, mouth, and throat.  Doctors expect to see irritation similar to an active cold when examining a intubated child.  This is the reason children who have needed breathing support or nutritional support are at high risk of developing oral aversions; they've learned that having objects in their mouth causes pain, not pleasure.  We've been lucky because Jack would suck on his ventilator and oral-gastric tubes like a pacifier and has no signs of an oral aversion.

Ventilator tubes move slightly in the trachea while they work.  I don't know how well Charlie's tubes fit his trachea; Jack's was a horrible fit.  His ventilator leaked all the time which is a fancy way of saying that air escaped up his trachea instead of leaving through the tubes.  This increased the amount of gas in his stomach giving him gas pains most of the time.  The doctors had some options, but none of the options were great.  A larger tube would probably rub against his trachea more and make his thoat more sore; it also increased the risk of scar tissue forming that would require surgery to replace his trachea before he could get off a ventilator.

Which reminds me of the third ventilator problem: mucus.  Humans produce a lot of mucus in their lungs to protect against bacteria and fungal infections.  When a person is healthy enough to cough forcefully on their own, the mucus is expelled into the pharynx and swallowed.  Ventilated babies don't cough so the mucus can build up and block the ventilator tube.   Every few hours, Jack's nurse would have to suction his lungs and mouth to remove mucus.  Once he was old enough, he cried because it hurt.  Before he could cry, his blood oxygen would tank and his heart would race.

Twice, my son managed to move his ventilator tube.  If the tube isn't in the right spot, the ventilator can't inflate the lungs and blocks the airway instead.  Jack had normal muscle tone so we had to keep him swaddled into a ball with his head mostly immobilized so that he didn't thrash himself free of the ventilator.   I don't think Charlie had that problem; his limbs are too limp.  In fact, I only saw Jack that limp once - the first time he moved his ventilator tube which caused him to turn maroon, purple, blue-purple then gray as he passed out from lack of oxygen.

We were lucky in one respect- Jack didn't need many IV's or PICC lines.  The problem with any line that goes through the skin is that it increases the chances of an infection exponentially.  Jack's one PICC line lasted less than a week before it got infected.  The doctors removed the line and gave him a week's course of antibiotics.  Going through a course of antibiotics is never fun; Jack was a cranky baby.. He needed four blood transfusions which took a good sized IV in his leg.

They never mention the game of electrode roulette.  Jack's oxygen sensor on his foot always burnt little blisters into his toes. We change the position daily and try to find less sensitive areas but all we've really ended up doing is giving him several deep calluses.  As he moves more, he's ripped the skin around his toe with the sensor on it when he kicked with enough force to make the edge of the sensor act like a knife blade.  He cries.  I cry, too, because I can't stop it from happening.

All of these things involve tape on infant skin.  There are lots of ways to try and minimize the damage to the skin - but removing the tape always irritates my son's skin.  On the other hand, leaving the tape in one place increases the risk of developing an allergic reaction and an itchy rash.  So far, his face tape seems to be in the sweet spot of not ripping his skin and not having an allergic reaction.  Too bad he's allergic to his chest electrodes.  

Jack and Charlie both had their bodies growing while kept in unnatural positions.  Jack spent 3 months exposed to gravity and able to fully extend his muscles that he was supposed to be smushed into a ball.  Charlie hasn't been able to contract his skeletal muscles to move and put tension on his bones like a 3-11 month old baby is supposed to do.  There are very talented physical therapists who worked with Jack - and I assumed worked with Charlie - to mitigate the effects, but there's only so much a PT can do with a kid on a ventilator.

I can talk about the medical issues all day.

What I can't describe is the level of denial a parent needs to survive.  I knew about all of these issues while Jack was in the NICU; I also refused to think about them.  I couldn't.  Jack's chance of survival were around 90% - but the doctors and nurses had to do painful things to keep him alive.  If I let myself feel - really feel - the sadness, fear and helplessness that were always lapping at the edges of my consciousness, I'd collapse.    I'd follow my instinct to grab my son and run away from the NICU.  I'd stay at home instead of holding him for 2-4 hours a day while those damn alarms kept going off.

I couldn't accept that my son's lungs were severely damaged from his birth for the first three months in the NICU.  Just plain couldn't deal with that idea.  I heard what I wanted to hear - he was a difficult case, he was showing improvement, he did things on his own timeline.   I somehow managed to not hear that being on oxygen after 36 weeks gestation = severe BPD.   I was willing to have a long NICU slog - but the thought of a ongoing medically complicated baby with oxygen and feeding tubes at home was a place I could not go.  So....I didn't.

I nursed that dream as long as I could.  I think I made it to about 38 weeks before I had to admit what was really clear; the doctors and nurses were figuring out how to send Jack home on oxygen.

My denial was over a fairly simple medical issue - Jack's on the most simple style of oxygen support and needed a NG feeding tube to give him calories when he was too exhausted from the work of breathing to eat enough.

How much worse is coming to terms with the fact that Charlie was dying?  That his body was starving at the cellular level?  That his body was sacrificing high energy demand tissues that weren't critical for life - like his skeletal muscles and eventually his brain - in a desperate attempt to keep his heart, lungs and digestive system going?

And then - a ray of hope appeared.  A doctor has a possible treatment for mitochondrial disease.

How could his parents rationally and dispassionately assess the claims of the doctor?  I'm not Charlie's parents, but I suspect the words "possible treatment" drowned out any other words - and I can't blame them for that.  In an emergency, any possible salvation will do.

Charlie's doctors, though, could assess the treatment and its risks.

The first red flag was that the doctor did not have an open clinical trial running on the treatment.  I do human research on educational topics.  To do any human research, scientists have to show that the subjects of the research can be informed of the benefits and risks of the trial.  Here's the problem:  I can't imagine that a research protection committee would have allowed a consent form for Charlie's parents that had any potential benefits to Charlie listed.  Charlie was more physically depleted and had a more severe form of disease than any of the previous patients.  If Charlie's parents believed there was a benefit to Charlie from the experimental treatment, informed consent could not be given because the parents had an unreasonable expectation of benefit to Charlie.

The second red flag is the term "clinical improvement" instead of "therapeutic improvement".   Clinical improvement is worthless from the standpoint of patient well-being; it means that a test shows either a slowed progression of the disease or an improvement of a single marker.  Therapeutic improvement means the patient is improving medically.

Let me give an example: My first blood test when I was diagnosed with HELLP showed I had a platelet count of 44,000 when a normal range is between 400,000 to 120,0000.  If my platelets increased to 48,000, I would have a clinical improvement because a test showed that my platelet count went up.  That increase would not be a therapeutic improvement because I would still be at too high of a bleeding risk for low risk anesthesia during surgery.    When my platelets went up to 100,000 before surgery, I had a clinical and therapeutic improvement; I could receive epidural anesthetic which was safer for me and my son than general anesthetic.

According to the doctor who offered the experimental treatment, Charlie had between a 10-56% chance of a clinical improvement.  That's underwhelming to start with.  Add in the potential increased discomfort and increased risk of a chaotic death during cross Atlantic transfer of a comatose, severely compromised infant - and the argument for the experimental treatment being attempted falls apart.

Babies like Charlie Gard are born and die every day in every community.  The only difference is that Charlie's parents stayed in a state of denial longer than other parents of dying infants and children generally do.  

No one is served by pretending that doctors, nurses, the UK justice system and the EU Court of Human Rights are evil while Charlie's parents are saints.

The truth is more simple and more sad.  Charlie's parents loved their son and didn't want him to die.  Charlie's medical professionals loved their patient and didn't want him to be in pain while his body broke down.   People can love the same person deeply and disagree on what the kindest action is.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Before You Meet Prince Charming: Chapter Nine - Part Four

We have reached the climax anecdote for the chapter entitled "Dreams Must Die".  I think the point that Ms. Mally has been trying to make is that Christians must be willing to sacrifice all of their wishes, wants and desires to follow Christ.  Due to her choice of stories, the point she has made so far is that if Christians offer to sacrifice their dreams to Jesus, their dreams will come true in ways that are superior to what they hope for.

Let's see what lessons await in the last story of the chapter.

Shattered Dreams

A confused 21 year old girl thought frequently about the man she loved. But did he love her? They dated for three years. He asked her to marry him. She had joyfully agreed. The wedding date was set -- and then -- her dreams were shattered. He had changed his mind. Or at least he had changed his mind for the time being. He said that he still loved her, but he wasn't ready to get married. He postponed the wedding. Worst of all, he postponed it indefinitely! She had no idea when he would actually decide --if ever! She might be waiting for the rest of her life. (pg. 175)
  • In my family, this girl would be viewed as having received a "get out of jail free!" card.  Having an engagement broken off is heart-breaking in the short term, but marrying someone who is that immature, unstable and/or callous towards their responsibilities is far worse.  The man in this relationship leaves the woman he supposedly loved with having to rescind all of the wedding plans completed so far plus deal with the social ramifications.  
  • From my view, the most problematic portion of this story is that the relationship has been thrown into a nebulous state where the guy has all the power.  The guy decides when and if they get married.  There is no discussion of what obligations that the man needs to honor. Is he paying for deposits that have been made already?  Does he need to explain that he called off the wedding to their friends?  Does the guy care about the emotional turmoil he's caused in his fiancee's life because he didn't have his shit in order before getting engaged?  Is he seeking counseling?
  • The woman is setting up a horrible precedent for her life.  Actions have consequences and breaking off an engagement should have immediate consequences in a relationship.  I suspect that the guy broke off the engagement at least in part because he knew he could without any personal consequences.   After all, the woman is apparently willing to wait forever for him to be ready after he ruptured their relationship soon after promising to make the relationship permanent!  I don't know if I would ever be willing to restart a relationship after such an embarrassing and hurtful event - but I know that I would refuse to have any relationship with the guy for at least a year and would require extensive individual and couple counseling before moving forward in the relationship again.
  • The only person who can make the woman wait for the rest of her life is herself.  Even if they were married, she's the only person who can force herself to endure the status quo indefinitely.
With embarrassment, this young woman called off her wedding plans. Then she wondered what she should do next. She couldn't just sit around waiting for him to decide, so she took a job teaching at a Christian school. She left him in Indiana, took off her engagement ring, and moved to Florida. As the months went by, the waiting got harder. She was still in love, but was her love returned? She wasn't sure.

As she continued to struggle, she finally realized that she couldn't go through the rest of her life like this --just waiting, wondering, and worrying. One evening she got down on her knees and began to pray. With tears she surrendered her dreams, her future, and this young man to the Lord. She purposed to trust the Lord's plan no matter what and to say, " not my will, but Thine be done. " (pg. 175)
  • Getting a job is a good starting point for getting over a guy.  Long-distance moving isn't a requirement, but moving that far from her family is pretty radical in CP/QF life so good for her.  Meeting new people and exploring a new state can help her get a fresh perspective on her relationship and what she wants out of life.
  • Keeping a candle burning for her former fiance isn't a good idea.  The reality is that when she trusted him he hurt her badly for some unspecified reason.  Feelings of attachment or love to another person is a horrible way to determine if a relationship should continue when the other person has proven untrustworthy.  As the vast majority of adults can attest, deep feelings of attachment or love can continue after a relationship has been irrevocably broken.  
  • This is a good example of a dream that should die.  She had dreams of a life with him; no matter what happens next, those dreams should not happen unless both he and she are willing to do a lot of emotional work.  The most healthy outcome would be to mourn the loss of her dreams about life with him and move on to the next adventure in life.
  • This is also a great example of enabler mentality.  Exactly how much time and energy has she been using in Florida on helping her ex-fiance?  Are they talking regularly?  Is she trying to help him fix himself?  Is she merely dreaming about him and his future all the time?  It has been months!
She stood up and just a few minutes later the phone rang. It was him!!! He decided to get married at last. The plans were made. The wedding day arrived. They said, " I do." Eventually they had a baby -- ME! It wasn't until my mother surrendered to the Lord her desire to marry that he answered her prayers and gave her the godly husband she had longed for. (pgs. 175-176)
  • Ms. Mally expects us to be heartened by the end of the story - but I feel sick.  There is nothing in this relationship that seems healthy.
  • CP/QF culture hates adolescence and has attempted to argue that teenage rebellion is a recent cultural invention.  Teenage rebellion serves many purposes including realizing that parents are flawed, imperfect human beings just like everyone else.  Sarah's Mally's retelling of this story shows that she has never accepted the humanity of her parents.  Her father acts like a selfish, impulsive and hurtful jackass in this story.  Her mother allows his actions without enforcing any consequences.  Instead of reflecting on the reality that everyone has flaws, she repackages the story as a divine blessing in response to a ritualistic prayer of her mother's. 
  • A divine blessing from a mean, mean God, actually.  Let's run through this alleged divine blessing step-by-step to watch God mess with Rebekah for no real reason.
    • Harold Mally and Rebekah Maiden_Name fall in love, date for three years and get engaged.
    • God decides that Rebekah's dreams for the future with Harold are problematic - in spite of the fact that she's got a public declaration of his intent to marry her and a date for the wedding set.
    • God causes Harold to panic and change his mind about getting married.  Harold breaks of the engagement while keeping the door open to get married at some point in the future...under divine inspiration, I guess.  
    • Rebekah goes through the process of canceling their wedding, gets a job out-of-state and teaches there for multiple months while Harold.....does something....but not communicating with Rebekah.
    • Months later, Rebekah gives up her dreams involving Harold.  God is pleased with this development and decides to reward Rebekah.  God gathers up Harold who is....doing something somewhere ... and convinces him to marry Rebekah.   Since God works instantly, Harold calls Rebekah and lets her know the marriage is back on!
  • Sarah needs to have a sit-down, adult talk with her father because there are some serious questions this engagement story that deserve answers.  Why did her father break off his engagement?  After all, Harold Mally asked Rebekah to marry him.  She didn't chase him; he chased her.  How does he justify the public embarrassment he exposed her to by breaking an engagement that had a set wedding date?  What right did he have to ask her to marry him again?  This would be a good discussion in most families, but takes on greater importance in her family: Harold Mally is supposed to be the wise man who will prevent Sarah's heart from being broken by a jerk.   How much of his "Emo-Pure" crap that he's raised Sarah in is an attempt to hide his own faults?  
I taught high school in part because I found the hero worship of younger children for teachers to be disconcerting.  Teenagers would put me through my paces before trusting me - and I was willing to take the time to prove that I was trustworthy.  Seeing your children question your integrity and beliefs is hard - but real parents know that without that painful time their relationship will never grow into an adult relationship.  I hope most parents in CP/QF are merely trying to avoid that pain; it's foolish and harmful but understandable.  I worry, though, that some parents want to keep their children in that state of innocence because the parents know that their actions will not stand up to adult criticism.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Homeschooling Badly: Twenty minutes of Homeschool is like an Hour of Public Schooling.

Truthfully, I have no idea who started this theme, but nearly every homeschool blogger has a post dedicated to why 20 minutes of homeschool is the equivalent of 60 minutes in a public school.

For today's post, I'm numbering homeschooling blogs that I've linked to.  (1) is Guilt Free  Homeschooling, (2) is Raising Arrows, (3) is Raising Olives, (4) is In A Shoe, (5) is Smockity Frocks and (6) is Large Families on Purpose.  Guilt Free Homeschooling isn't specifically CP/QF; the remainder are.

The rationale has two assumptions - one stated and the other unstated.

Stated Assumption: Public schools are filled with inefficiencies that reduce the amount of time my homeschooled kid would be learning.
  • Homeschooled kids can move on as soon as they understand a concept and don't need to do repetitive practices.  (1)
    • There is benefit to practicing a new skill to increase retention, speed and depth of knowledge.  The trick homeschooling bloggers use to make this idea seem acceptable is they use an example where the expected depth of knowledge of a skill is shallow.  
      • Carolyn at Guilt Free Homeschooling uses the example of not drilling capitalization of sentences and ending sentences with periods once a student knows how to use this.  First, I don't remember doing endless worksheets on that topic.  I think I remember doing a worksheet in about 2nd or 3rd grade and then being expected to capitalize and punctuate correctly on writing assignments.  Second, more advanced math and science topics often start with very simple examples to teach the basic process then move to more complicated problems.  When I teach students to balance chemical equations, I start with simple equations where each element shows up in one molecule on each side of the equation like  Ca + O --> CaO before giving them something with elements showing up multiple times on each side like C6H12O6 + O2 --> CO2 + H2O.  Once they had mastered that, I started adding polyatomic ions.   When the required depth of knowledge is less shallow, levels of repetition are required to reach the final standard.
  • Sorting recycling is as much of an educational practice as waiting in line for the drinking fountain (2).
    • Or sharpening pencils or waiting for the teacher to help other students or going to and from lunch.  You get the idea.   I'll fully admit to having some inefficiencies in my day when I was teaching in public schools.  
      • My high schoolers had 18 minutes of passing time total among 6 hours of the day.
      • Sometimes, I would be using specifically colored markers to illustrate anatomical diagrams or how a cellular process worked and a marker would die.  The students would lose as much as 15 seconds as I replaced that marker from my stockpile in my desk.  
      • Twice, I had my projector that I was going to use for a Powerpoint lecture die and I took a full minute to grab a paper copy of the notes for the Powerpoint and a marker to work on the board instead.
      • Sometimes I had three or four students who needed help at once.  Those poor souls had to wait as long as 5 minutes to get my attention!  A few never got my attention because they asked the kid next to them who showed them what to do.
      • And now, the greatest horror.  Some students finished early!  Being the lackadaisical teacher I was,  I only had a few options available to the kids.  They could work on missing work for my class that was less than one week old.  They could do work for another class.  Or - gasp - I did let them do nothing sometimes for as long as 10 minutes near the end of class!  *hangs head in shame* 
    • Reality check: I had bright, inventive, non-conformist teenagers who needed to get caught up academically.  I scheduled every damn minute I had to have those kids working on something so that I could spend my time poking and prodding the two or three kids who were refusing to do anything.  
    • Reality check two: I'm not unusual in that respect. 
  • I was the best teacher ever when I taught in a public school and I couldn't do anything for my advanced students so obviously no one can. (5a, 5b)
    • Digging around on her blog, Connie taught 4th grade in public schools.  This means that somewhere in her district - and possibly in the same building as she was - there was a 5th grade teacher.  She didn't need to recreate the wheel or write an entire new curriculum for the precocious kid; she just needed to borrow from the next grade.  If she didn't want to do that, she could have asked the 5th grade teacher the following question "What's the one (book or subject area) that you would LOVE to teach the students but don't have time to do?"  Get a copy of the book - or a copy of an age-appropriate book on the topic - and give it to the student to work on.
    • Ironically, I also taught for 8 years.  I put together my first advanced subject for a student when I was at year 0.5.  I had a student who was strongly interested in medicine and wanted an anatomy physiology class.  I found a high-school level anatomy/physiology book in the book room.  I assigned her the chapter and chapter end questions (which I hated doing, but I didn't have time to make a great curriculum from scratch) and added a "real-life" topic project at the end of each chapter. (One was to pick a community health issue like diabetes and create a pamphlet that could be distributed at a local business like a barbershop.)  I wrote traditional tests for her based on the chapter material and weighted the project and tests together for her assessment grade.  By the end of year three, I had two zoology credits, two botany credits, and a credit of physics ready and waiting for advanced students.
    • Reality check: I'm not unusual in that respect.  I was a gifted kid.  My first-grade teacher gave me chapter books with different worksheets.  In second-fourth grade, we had encyclopedias in the classroom so I would help myself to one when I had finished whatever assignment and would read up on human anatomy.  By fifth grade, I just brought library books on whatever my personal topic of interest was to do while other kids were finishing up.  By 6th grade, I was placed in advanced leveled math that kept me busy enough between other subjects I didn't need to bring anything extra.
Unstated Assumption: My homeschooling system is so efficient that my kids don't need to spend nearly as much time a day in academic learning as a public school kid does!
  • Raising Arrows' kids get < 2 hours a day in K-4th grade, 2-4 hours a day in 5-6th grade and >4 in 7th-12th grade.
  • Raising Olives' kids between 4-12 years got a maximum of 3 hours of schooling a day while the 13-15 year olds got 3.5 hours a day - but that requires accepting 1 hour of Bible reading as an academic subject.
  • In A Shoe starts school some time after 10am and seems to plan that the younger kids will be finished by 2pm and the older kids be done by 3pm or they will miss out on free time which is the chunk of time remaining after using the kids for manual yard labor but before dinner.  Assuming lunch is prepared by Mom and eaten while studying, this could be as long as 4 hours for little kids and 5 hours for older kids - but I don't know how late school day can start, either.
  • Smockity Frocks kids get 1.5 hours of schoolwork in the morning and 2 hours in the afternoon for 3.5 hours a day.  (She never shows her entire schedule on any post labeled as homeschooling, but I watched her video on chores and counted the blocks labeled for school subjects.).
  • The absolute absurd award, however, goes to Large Families on Purpose!  When her oldest girls were 8 & 9 years old respectively, they were scheduled for 4 hours of homeschooling a day.  Two years later, the same two girls had dropped to 3 hours of homeschooling a day. By age 12, the eldest daughter was teaching herself four 7th grade subjects in 2 hours a day while spending 3 hours a day feeding babies under two and preparing breakfast and lunch.  Her 11 year old sister got 3 hours for teaching herself 7th grade while having as many as 5 hours a day for chores.  
We all have our priorities; mine was making sure my students learned academic material.  Blogs like these show how quickly the same parents who rail about academic failings in public schools ignore their failures to educate their own kids.

Monday, July 31, 2017

Before You Meet Prince Charming: Chapter Nine - Part Three

After an allegory packed with dead plant allusions, Ms. Mally decides to use more of her personal life experiences to demonstrate how dreams must die.

She starts with a story of when she was around 20 and her brother Steven was 14.  He was discussing how much  he wanted a laptop and said that he wanted one badly but would be shocked if he ever got one - like how his sister views marriage.  When Sarah asks him how he would feel about getting married, he says that that would be like Sarah getting a laptop instead of getting married.

Sarah uses this to spring-board into the idea that all young women want to be married, but I'm stuck on how obvious and all-consuming her desire to be married must be to make such an impact on her teenage brother.   My brother and I have about the same age difference - he's 4 and a half years younger than me - and he's never commented on my desire to be married.  He met my boyfriends and had pretty good relationships with most.  He offered to beat up (mostly jokingly) one boyfriend who dumped me in a particularly callous manner; I declined, but appreciated the offer and the kindness that it came from.  Sarah's hunger to be married must burn in her to be that obvious.

Sarah Mally trots out a standard chestnut of hers by talking about how a nine year-old friend of hers wanted a boyfriend more than anything else in the world.  Now, Sarah was 11 and in the process of starting to witness to her friend so her friend may have decided to nip that conversation in the bud.  I live in an area where enthusiastic attempts at conversion are taught at a strangely young age.  I don't remember anyone trying to convert me, but my brother had a friend who tried about every 18 months or so.  Well, he did until my brother chased him down the street waving a rosary at him and throwing "holy water" at him.  My only question was where my brother got the holy water; we received cheap plastic rosaries at school every so often so I knew he could find one or more in our junk drawer but we're not the kind of people to keep holy water at home.  My ten year old brother looked at me and replied "Yeah, well, he doesn't know that, does he?"  That was the last time I worried about my brother.  Any ten year old who can improv his way out of conversions using a cup of tap water and a junk rosary is going to do fine in life.....

Next, Ms. Mally describes a point in her Bright Lights ministry.  She started Bright Lights when she was 17 and had mentored three groups that formed in her area by the time she was 21.  After presenting Bright Lights at a conference, she found that there was a lot of interest from other girls and mothers for her ministry.  Understandably excited about expanding her ministry, she realized that Bright Lights was going to need materials for groups to use, training for future leaders and outreach at mother-daughter conferences to raise awareness of their ministry.

I see nothing wrong or misplaced about her excitement or planning.  She had a workable ministry model that she had ironed the kinks out of locally.  Mally connected with a larger audience - presumably at an ATI/ATIA/IBLP conference - and found that her model was wanted across a larger geographic area.   I don't like her ministry - but she's following a tried and true method for ministry expansion.

Then comes the self-doubt:
" As the weeks went by, I began to realize that some of my ideas were rather unrealistic and that many obstacles had to be overcome. I began to wonder whether all these ideas were really from the Lord or just my own dreams. I began to search my heart and evaluate whether my motive was to truly reach young ladies or to gain something for myself. I desperately wanted to want only what the Lord wanted, but I was confused. My dream seemed to be from the Lord - yet I also knew how easily prideful and selfish motives could creep in. (pg. 173)
  • Based on what she wrote in the book, none of her goals were unrealistic.  
    • Writing lesson guides would be time-consuming, but she's already taught three groups her curriculum.  
    • In terms of gaining wider attention, she JUST finished presenting at a conference.  Getting accepted to other conferences shouldn't be too hard and she'd have material to give to attendees (e.g., a sample lesson plan she created earlier).  
    • Leading training conferences for leaders (teenage girls) would take a longer time-span to accomplish because she'd need a certain mass of publicity and momentum before she'd have enough interested candidates to pay for the conference - but "long-term goal" is not a synonym for "unrealistic".
  • Sarah Mally and I would not get along well in real life.  If someone tells me that they're worried that their small, local ministry for pre-teen girls is a manifestation of their "prideful and selfish motives", I don't know if I'd laugh or cry.  This might be a sensible reaction, though, to being a follower of Gothard her whole life.  Her subconscious might have been picking up on the dangerous vibes that he puts off.
  • This is a handy way to prevent people from being ambitious at all.  Sarah Mally is freaking out at enlarging her ministry from small/local to medium/regional.  Imagine how much more panicky she'd be if she wanted to do something that was a bit more taboo like getting a college degree in nursing, teaching, social work or business. 
" I distinctly remember one day just a few weeks later when I got on my knees and made a list of all my ideas and dreams for Bright Lights -- every little desire and every big dream. I put them all on my list. Then, one by one, I surrendered them to the Lord, asking that He would purify my heart and use me to accomplish His purposes, not my own. Finally, I ripped up the paper and asked the Lord to exchange my dreams for His will --whatever it might be. I still had a strong desire to minister to young ladies, and I still felt that the Lord was leading me to pursue the vision He had given, but I also knew if the Lord's plans were different than mine, He could be trusted. Even if none of my ideas came to pass, I was resolved to put my whole heart into His assignments and follow His leading." (pgs. 173-174)
  • I was moving along pretty well with Ms. Mally until she started ripping up the paper that she outlined her plans for Bright Lights.   I visualized God/Jesus watching her and saying "Wait? What are you doing?  Those were the plans!"
  • This is a strangely detailed ritual to get rid of Ms. Mally's guilt or unease about being an active participant in her own life.  After all, nothing she's alluded to about her ministry is sinful.  It's a pretty mundane form of proselytizing.  After the ritual, she's on the same path she was before with the same feelings of excitement and drive and a bit farther along in planning. 
"Several years later it suddenly dawned on me that every single one of those dreams had to come to pass. And even more exciting to me was the fact that dozens of other ministry opportunities that had never even crossed my mind had also been part of the Lord's bigger plan. Waiting was involved, and God's timing was definitely different than mine. In fact, some of the things that I hoped would happen immediately took nearly five years, but in hindsight it is clear that God sees the whole picture and writes the last chapter." (pg. 174)
  • This is the bit where the wheels fall off.  The net outcome of Ms. Mally letting her dreams for Bright Lights Ministry die is that all of her dreams come true.  This is a slightly watered down version of the Prosperity Gospel.  Gothard's ATI/ATIA/IBLP is a pro-natal, anti-education version of the Prosperity Gospel where if a person follows Jesus, Jesus will give them everything they want.  Sarah Mally makes the deal even sweeter by claiming that she's received even more possibilities than she had ever dreamed of.
Immediately after this, Ms. Mally explains that she went through the same ritual for her dreams of building her own family.  When the book was written, she hadn't married and discloses that obviously that set of dreams have not come true - but that she believes that God has a plan for her life.  

I wonder if she's truly resigned to "following the Lord's assignments" for her personal life.  The Princess and Sarah describe wanting romance with a man they love and wanting to be a mother.  Romance and getting married do not come with an end date - but bearing biological children gets much harder as women age.  Ms. Mally wrote this book at 25-26 years of age when she had at least 15 years of potential childbearing ahead of her.  She's now 37 years old; women can have first babies in their late thirties, but the success rate drops markedly every year.  The successful pregnancy rate drops more rapidly for women who have never had a child than women who have had a previous pregnancy and scientists aren't entirely sure why that happens.  Ms. Mally's situation is complicated by her alliance with Gothard's cult.  Members of ATI do not use birth control, do not use assisted reproductive technologies and do not adopt children.

How many of the various girls that Ms. Mally has bashed as boy-crazy are now married mothers? I'm willing to bet that around 80% of them have been married at least once and most have had one or more child.  That's the strange irony of parent-led courtship: for a culture that idolizes marriage and parenthood, they are failing miserably at getting their kids married and reproducing.
  • The Botkin Family has married off 3 sons out of 7 kids for a 43% marriage rate.  
  • The Maxwell family has married 3 out of 8 for 37.5% success rate.  
  • The Duggars have 11 kids over the age of 18 with 4 marriages and one engagement for a 45% marriage rate.  
  • The Bates Family has married 4 out of 9 over the ages of 18 for a 44% marriage rate.  They win a consolation prize for not having an unmarried child over the age of 25.
  • I can't find any information on Sarah Mally's brother - which I hope means he ran away from the cult - but their family has either a 0% or 33% success rate.
Next up: Sarah Mally's scariest family story yet....