Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Homeschooling Badly: The Other Socialization Issue

Socialization issues come in two varieties.

The first socialization issue is how home schooled students who have been greatly restricted in choice of friends while having the amount of time around non-family peers slashed struggle to make friends when exposed to the larger community. This topic has been covered well by bloggers inside and outside of the homeschooling community.

The second issue is an outgrowth of the first; home-schooled students lose access to many, many professional contacts by being removed from a school system.

In my elementary school, I graduated with 34 students and I am in contact with about 20 of those classmates.  My high school graduating class had 206 students and I am in contact with ~100 of those classmates.  I have contacts in medicine, K-12 education, law, finance, marketing, sales, STEM research and applied arts.  I have contacts in metal working, tool-and-die making, woodworking, logging, agriculture and home-based care.

Why does this matter?

In life, having contacts - or networking - greatly increases the likelihood of landing a coveted job or creating a business that lasts.

I taught for eight years in Michigan.  When I was looking for my first teaching job, the market for teachers was super-saturated.  For high school science jobs, districts would receive 50-100 applications.  For elementary school jobs in a desirable (read: middle or upper class) district, schools received as many as 4,000 applications!

How did I land a job within a month of getting my teaching license?  I worked my connections.
I landed my first job in part because a classmate's uncle worked as a personnel director in a local district. Sarah introduced me to Paul at a local community gathering when we were in high school.  Paul was an interesting guy who sold his district well so I kept in contact with him over the next few years.  His district needed substitute teachers who could fill in at the last minute so he signed me up as a substitute teacher within his district as soon as I finished student teaching.

I used that time prudently; I subbed repeated in a early intervention pre-school classroom for kids with language delays and mild autistic spectrum disorders and had a blast.

This caught the attention of the principal at the school.  Apparently, they've never had a sub request to be in that class before - and never had one return repeatedly.  He found out from the para-pro I worked with that I was a secondary science certified teacher and recommended me to the alternative education high school principal when he had a long-term sub position open.  I took that job and when it was made into a permanent position the next year I was hired as an internal applicant.

Yes, I had the skills needed for the job - but my job search was shortened to less than a month because of the people I knew.

This topic caught my attention when I was looking into the Maxwell Family who have a tidy income from books promoting homeschooling and educating sons to be single-income breadwinners for a family. They promote having sons leave high school early (age 15-16) and use that time on career training - but not any training that would expose them to bad influences like working in an industry or going to college.  Needless to say, the Maxwell Family LOVES any certification that can be earned through self-study.  Since four of their sons are income-earning age,  I thought I'd see what everyone is doing.  

Honestly, everyone is working in one family business or another.  Most of the family works at Swift Otter building websites using Magneto - but I found that site by following an earlier, but still operational site called Communication Concepts, Inc.  That's where I noticed that one of the sons - John - has a company called Maxwell Irrigation. That intrigued me; my husband farms and I was curious how he got a foothold in irrigation work.

John's business plan is odd.  He offers to create irrigation design plans for fields.  This is thoroughly strange because companies that build irrigation systems will create design plans as a matter of course when installing an irrigation system.

Why wouldn't farmers want an independent contractor to make a design for them?  After all, wouldn't that be a good way to prevent being taken advantage of by Big Irrigation?

No.  Farmers have a tried-and-true method of finding companies that work and shunning companies that do bad work.  They do this by relying on contacts they've made in life - contacts that do not include John Maxwell if all of his education has been done through self-study.

Who would we rely on if we needed irrigation?  Here are some options:

  • Local companies run by families my husband met in K-12 education including after-school activities like 4-H and FFA
  • Local and regional companies that employ people my husband met while he getting his college agriculture degree
  • Local companies recommended by the Extension Bureau - which rely on contacts made at the land-grant college by students and faculty
  • Family ties.  Agriculture is one of a few career choices that marrying into the system is an accepted way of joining.  (I see the flaws inherent in the system especially towards minorities - but the system exists and should be mentioned.)  We are probably shirttail cousins of someone who does agricultural irrigation.  At the very least, the introduction between my husband and the company representative will end with them realizing that our third cousin twice removed was at MSU in the Farmhouse Fraternity two years before the company representative. See, we're like family!
John Maxwell was homeschooled for all of his levels of education, has not listed a college on his Linked In page, was raised in a family where his dad worked as an electrical engineer for an aerospace company, and is single.  The larger agricultural community in Kansas doesn't know he exists because he's never connected with the normal contact points.

The fix for this is quite simple; Kansas State University has a horticulture degree that would give John plenty of contact time with professors and students who are in the agricultural system.  By choosing his electives sensibly, he would have an even stronger basis for being hired into an irrigation company as a designer.   Best of all, someone would explain to him why his business plan won't work.

Because - when push comes to shove - a farmer needs someone who can install an irrigation system. Those professionals will design an irrigation system for the field as the first step; they need a plan that their installers can use and that they know is adequate based on experience.  A reputable company will not take a design created by a person they've never heard of - let alone worked with - and install a system based on that.   Having Maxwell create a $2,700 plan for our 180 acre field would be $2,700 wasted.

I wish I had a magic answer to the problem of losing potential contacts for homeschooled kids - but there's no quick answer if the purpose of homeschooling is to minimize contact with the outside world.  For parents who are homeschooling for academic purposes, making sure their kids are active in their neighborhood, a few community activities like sports or scouting, and a church or civic organization that has multiple generations participating should do the trick of making contacts similar to classmates.  

For kids for whom homeschooling is used as a form of isolation, I can't see how to make up the difference in contacts - and that's an issue that has ramifications for years.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Homeschooling Badly: Kids Just Need to Know How To Learn!

As a licensed teacher, the thought of personally homeschooling my kids - or anyone's kids - is frankly terrifying.  I could probably make a high school science curriculum that was solid and possibly a forgivable junior high science curriculum - but I have no idea what an appropriate curriculum for third-grade math looks like or fifth-grade language arts.  What if my kid wants to learn Swahili?  Oh, God - what if my kid has a talent for two-dimensional art?  I'm so bad at that!

I'm honestly sweating bullets right now at the thought of trying to teach drawing at home.

This is partially why I find homeschooling parents' answers to how they are going to teach advanced subjects fascinating.  Each option is my summary of the blog post attached.

Option One: "I'm going to graduate my 16-year old from high school having completed badly flawed 10th grade Biology and 9th/10th grade Geometry using Khan Academy.  Education isn't about getting a job, after all."

Thanks to Amy from Raising Arrows for this plan.
  • Her son was completing Biology using Apologia Science.  I bought a copy of Apologia's Biology textbook; the material is horrible. 
    • The "evolution" section is a joke, but I expected that.  I didn't expect the genetics section to be convoluted to the point of being incoherent. (The study of Mendelian genetics somehow fails to label the "Law of Independent Assortment" and "Law of Segregation" with those terms.  That was surreal.)  
    • I didn't expect the entire field of ecology to be ignored outside of biogeochemical cycles (and, no, that term was never used to describe those cycles). 
    •  Honestly, most of the book is a study of animal and plant taxonomy without evolutionary grounding which is roughly 60 years outdated.
  • In Michigan, a student is expected to have covered either physics or chemistry before leaving high school.  I wouldn't be opposed to a student doing some in-depth biological or earth science topic (think botany (with field section), astronomy, geology, etc.) in lieu of physics or chemistry - but doing two years of high school science is not considered adequate for a high school diploma.
  • In Michigan, the minimum high school graduation requirement in math is Algebra II.  Most students take Algebra I in eighth grade or ninth grade.  Geometry is the next class in the most common math sequence so most kids would take it between 9-10th grade.  It's not considered a math capstone class.
  • I like Khan Academy as a resource for students who learn well from videos and I linked some of the videos on my old classroom website for students to use during and outside of class if they wanted.  Having said that, I have deep concerns about using it as a stand-alone curriculum.
    • All of the problems given by Khan Academy must be rapidly graded by a computer algorithm.   This limits the types of questions that can be asked severely.
    • I've been working through Algebra II, Trigonometry and Precalculus on Khan Academy for mental exercise.  So far, all problems that have addressed theoretical concepts have been marked as 'challenge' problems that required to reach mastery. 
    • Khan Academy doesn't provide either cumulative tests or projects to be completed.  I accept a wide variety of ways for students to demonstrate mastery - but they've gotta do it at some point.
    • I have no idea how a home-schooling parent would convert information from Khan Academy to a 4.0 point GPA.  Is completion worth an A?  
  • Education is not about getting a job - but education is required to get certain jobs.  A weak STEM background in high school is expensive to remedy.  Remember, public schools cover whatever classes a student can take in K-12 for free.  Taking remedial classes or college classes that count for credit, but do not count for a major (which I had several friends who needed to do to reach the requirements for General Inorganic Chemistry) is more expensive.

Option Two: If we can't teach it, the subject must not be that important.
This pearl of wisdom comes from Kimberly at Raising Olives.  The only redeeming value is that she seems not to have enforced that idea on her offspring.

She lists a series of "other" options instead having a parent actively teach their kids advanced subjects.
  • Pick a good curriculum and a teenager who knows how to learn should be able to teach themselves!. 
    •  I know how to pick out a good curriculum in high school science courses because I have enough college level classes in science to do that.  I would struggle to do that in History or music or a foreign language; I just don't have the background to figure out if a given curriculum covers US government or Economics well.
    • How much time is it worth to have a student struggle on a concept within a good curriculum that could be cleared up by a trained teacher in the area in 5-10 minutes?  I get the benefit of wrestling with a hard concept - but often a student isn't wrestling with a hard concept; they are spinning their wheels because of a minor misunderstanding.  Other times, students need more scaffolding (education jargon for "break it into smaller steps") than the text provides.  Some people advocate simply sending the student off to find different resources until they learn it, but that has its own issues.
      • KimC at InAShoe wrote a blog post about how she used progressively finding different textbooks to teach herself math up and including calculus.  That's genuinely impressive and deserves kudos.  The part that broke my heart: she remembers crying over functions before she got how to do them.  For people who aren't math geeks - functions shouldn't be hard for a kid with as much raw talent as KimC had.  I suspect she got stuck on the notations of functions which a teacher would have straightened out for her in....oh.... 30 seconds maximum.
  • Have a sibling who is talented in that subject help them out!
    • That's not much help for the first kid to cover the subject, is it now?
    • Ever notice how worked up homeschool bloggers get over the theoretical idea that advanced public school kids will be expected to help other students instead of getting more advanced work?  Ironically, that indignation completely evaporates when siblings are involved.  I find that irritating since I worked hard at making advanced materials for my students who needed a challenge and I never pretended that all advanced students made good tutors.  
  • Take high level subjects from subject area experts in your church without passing off educating your kids to them!
    • There is some weird, hair-splitting, angels-dancing-on-a-pin semantics going on in that section.  I doubt God's going to smite a family who chooses to let a subject-area expert teach an advanced class because the parents have abdicated their duty to educate their children.  On the other hand, I did teach in the public system so I might be terminally warped.
    • There is a very important reason that I didn't assume that advanced students made good tutors: a sizable subset are horrible at teaching.  Being good at a topic does not mean you can teach a topic well.  I have an overwhelming sense of pity for the scientist at a CP/QF church who went into research because he still has nightmares about being a TA while getting his Ph.D.  Being told he has a moral duty to teach the congregation's teenagers chemistry and physics is going to suck for him.
    • I can't imagine that every homeschool friendly church has a math and science career guy who is willing and able to teach physics, chemistry and all math above geometry while supporting his massive family.  Oddly enough, the subject of paying for his time is completely ignored because he's a church member. I guess that's an issue for men as well as women! 
  • We've never used them, but online options and co-ops exist!
    • See all of my earlier objections for picking subject area texts for online options.  When does a homeschooling mom have time to look at the major online options for Calculus?
    • I refer to co-ops as "unregulated private schools who hire unlicensed teachers".   There are some excellent parent-teachers in the world and there are some really bad ones. 
      • How does a co-op deal with a well-meaning parent-teacher who is a weak teacher?  In school systems, new teachers get a mentor teacher plus the help of plenty of other experienced teachers in their building and system. Can a co-op do that?  
      •  How about a parent-teacher who is well-liked by the students, but creates classes that are academically below expectations?  Would anyone ever know?  (That second question caused me to break out in a cold sweat.)
      • Can a co-op remove a parent-teacher without causing the entire co-op to shatter into factions?  Is it worth the risk of shutting down a co-op to remove a subpar teacher?  Who makes those kinds of decisions?  
Well, this post has gotten long and I'm sweating bullets at the thought of kids being taught chemistry badly by a dad who was guilt-tripped into teaching by his local congregation because he's an agricultural engineer.  *shudders*

Please teach your kids.  If you pull them out of a school system, you take on the responsibility of their academic future. If doing that gets to be too much, put them back in the system.  

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Before You Meet Prince Charming: Chapter 10 - Part 1

In exciting news, we are rapidly approaching the end of this book!  We are on chapter 10 of a 13 chapter book.  I plan on skipping Chapter 11 entirely; the chapter revolves around the Princess rejoicing in her newfound relationship with Christ and Sarah Mally's ideas on how we can find Christ.

Chapter Ten is titled "Reserved For One".  This is the chapter that Ms. Mally decides to explain what Emo-Pure means.  Like most of the previous chapters, this one begins with the Princess having conversation with the Alligator.  Forgive me if I've brought this up before, but the Princess always rises to the bait of arguing with the Alligator.  The fact that she's got no skills at walking away from an annoying peer is really sad.  The Alligator's theme - as always - is that the Princess is throwing her life away by sitting alone in a castle waiting for someone to come and marry her.

The Alligator's first attack is on how the Princess will be perceived by her future suitor:

"(...)the alligator continued: "When your non-existent hero does show up, he will think that because you have never been kissed, have never been loved, have never been swept off your feet, that apparently you are not worth the effort. No one has sought after you before --so why should he? Thou wilt be looked upon as a second-class, unwanted maiden. "

"As far as I am concerned, any fellow who thinks that way may just as well go after some other maiden who is more lovable, more popular, more easily caught --and who has already given her heart to a dozen other Prince Charmings, " she said, stroking Victory's mane." (pg. 180)
  • The Alligator's argument is a rare insight into how people within CP/QF think people outside of CP/QF think.   Apparently, men who date weigh the opinions of other men (e.g., "How many men have dated this girl before?") as more important than their own feelings (e.g., "I find the Princess attractive").   
  • On the flip side, there is truth - based on my observations as an outsider - that women have a harder time finding suitable partners in CP/QF/courtship culture than in the wider US culture especially as they reach their mid-to-late twenties and beyond.  
    • In the broader US culture, many people are unmarried in their late twenties and thirties.  No one needs to explain why a guy or girl hasn't married at 32; they were building a career, still growing up or hadn't met the right person yet.  Since the vast majority of adults in the US work for wages while single, couples who meet and marry later often have more secure financial footing than younger couples.  
    • Compare that with CP/QF single women.  Their education is often severely curtailed. Working outside the home is allowed, but can't be a sign of starting a career.  These two things limit their income by limiting their jobs to retail, housekeeping, or a home business.  I suspect most of the woman's income is appropriated by her parents to raise the mob of younger kids still at home. 
      • The main difference between an unmarried 20 year-old woman and an unmarried 30 year-old woman is that the 30-year-old woman has lost 10 years of reproductive capacity which gives a finished family size of 3-8 fewer children than the 20-year-old.  Unfortunately, that's not as attractive to an unmarried CP/QF man as it probably should be....
  • The Princess describes women who date as being "more loveable" than herself.  I wonder if that was a Freudian slip.  I personally think that Emo-Pure extracts a heavy toll on its followers and creates people who are afraid to love and be loved; I'm surprised that Ms. Mally has the same thought and is willing to admit it.
  • I wish the authors of Emo-Pure books like Ms. Mally and the Mss. Botkin could hear how catty/bitchy they sound to outsiders when they slut-shame unnamed women who date.  It's not attractive - not to other women and sure as hell not to men.   
The Alligator's second attack is on the likelihood that Prince Charming has not been emotionally pure:

"Listen to me for once," said the alligator in the more serious tone. "You say you will be pure --and perhaps you will be, living in this sheltered little prison. But, I tell you, your dreams will be shattered when you learn that your magnificent knight hath not done the same. Do you not see? You live in a changing world; there is not even one man alive who has saved himself for you. Search the whole world and I guarantee it, you will not find a single one."

" Even if you prove to be right, even if no true gentleman yet exist, I still choose the way of purity. It is not an earthly knight for whom I ultimately save myself, but a heavenly One. " (pg. 180)
  • The earth-shaking problem with falling in love with a man who isn't Emo-Pure is that the Princess would be forced to examine her ideas in depth.  Heck, we can do some softball questions here:
    • What happens if the Princess falls in love with a young Emo-Pure widower?  They've both played the romantic game by the "right" rules - but he's given a chunk of his heart to another woman who is dead.  Is the Princess supposed to be eaten alive with jealousy of a woman who died young?  
    • What happens if the Princess falls in love with someone who doesn't care about Emo-Pure?  (I suspect that happens a lot in the real world; Emo-Pure is a niche belief, after all.)  
      • Can the Princess deal with the fact that her "best gifts" of a heart that's never loved someone romantically and being a virgin mean absolutely nothing to most people
      • What if the man loves her for her good qualities - her spunkiness, her dedication to her family, her ability to earn guild memberships like levels in a game - while having no strong feelings about an untouched heart and body?  
      • Would she have a Shoshanna Pearl - like breakdown if he replied "That's great that you followed Christ in the way you thought you should!  Good on you!  That may bring great spiritual rewards; I just don't think it matters towards having a good marriage."
  • An ongoing problem for me is that the protestations of female Emo-Pure writers that they are saving themselves for Christ ring hollow to me.  I think I know why now.  I am Catholic so I've known plenty of women who have chosen to save themselves for Christ alone.  These women didn't just pay lip-service to this ideal relationship with Christ; they became sisters or nuns. They made a public commitment starting a year at a time and ending at a life-long commitment to live their lives for Christ alone - off the marriage market and subject to following the orders of other women in their community.  To me, CP/QF writers using that same idea feels like someone who apes being in the military without ever joining up -  a shallow, self-centered shadow of the real level of commitment. 
After this, the Princess is verbally dismissive of the Alligator and the Alligator swims off.  Since this book is formulaic as hell, take a wild guess what the next portion of the chapter is.  Yes, the Princess ends up sulking - or pondering her life choices - in a sumptuously furnished area of the castle.  (I don't remember where this time and it's not worth the effort of getting the book from across the room.) After a while, she decides she should talk to her parents about her feelings.  She transverses the castle to her parents' area of the castle while the omnipotent narrator notes the gorgeous furnishings.  Oddly missing are the masses of attendants that would have accompanied her, her governess or main lady in waiting, and - oh, yeah - the ENTIRE QUEEN'S LIVING QUARTERS!  (Sorry.  I know I promised I'd try to let the anachronisms go, but Jesus H. Christ, read a single book on the time period before writing a novel set at that time.)

For the first time in the book, her parents attempt to comfort her.  I like the change of pace, but after nine chapters of emotionally absent, gas-lighting parents,  I doubt this is a permanent change.

"Do not be discouraged by all the imperfect young men, dear," her mother comforted her. "After all, it only takes one to get married."

"But is it true what the alligator says, that men will look upon those who are pure as unwanted and therefore less valuable? " the princess asked.

"Less valuable? Why, even common sense tells you what you have waited for the longest you value the most, " said the king. " A true gentleman wants to win your heart. He does not want you to come running up to him and pour it out freely. He wants to earn your respect and admiration, but you must give him a chance to try." (pg 182)
  • The bromide that "you only need one guy to get married" drove me nuts when I was single.  We live on a planet with 4 billion men.  The problem for me was sifting through guys who were not right for me - and in some cases just plain wrong for anyone - to find a right guy.  Plus, I was frustrated enough as an adult woman in a metropolitan area of the Great Lakes who was allowed to date.  I am dumbfounded that any members of CP/QF manage to marry between the restrictions on interactions between genders and the massive heap of theological issues that have to be in alignment.
  • In excellent form, the King manages to not answer the Princess' question again.  She asks "What if following Emo-Pure makes me less attractive to men?" while the King answers the question "How does the amount of time someone wants a certain object affect how much they value that object once obtained?"  I suspect the true answer of "Well, following Emo-Pure is a wash in terms of how attractive a man finds you, but it sure does make it harder to meet anyone of interest" wouldn't go over so well.
  • The king's spiel on what a gentleman wants in a courtship baffles me.  A guy doesn't want a girl to give him her heart too easily - but don't make it too hard either.  I don't get how walking in a nearly undefined area between "too easy" and "too hard" is better than dating.  It's like trading walking on a wobbly log over a creek where you'll probably fall off once or twice but there's no permanent harm done for walking a tightrope 20 feet in the air above the same creek.  You will fall off - and you will get hurt when you fall.  The surreal part is that parents ascribe to this philosophy because it will avoid heartache for their kids - but the cost is horrific.
Let's see.  Next post might be triggering for people who don't like food-based purity metaphors - but it triggered peals of laughter in me.  

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.