Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Homeschooling Badly: Why Math-phobic Homeschooling Parents Frustrate Me

Howdy, folks!

I never cease to be amazed by the sheer repetition of articles on homeschooling mom blogs that claim that parents who are really bad at math personally can totally homeschool math through high school through a few easy tips.   I mean, you'd think I get some kind of callus after a while, but I'm still horrified each time.  Amy at Raising Arrows wrote a post to advertise "Teaching Textbooks" that lead off with this admission:
It’s not a story I like to tell…

The one about how it took me 3 tries to pass the test to get into College Algebra.

Or the one about how my math score on the ACT brought down my entire score.

Or the one about how I would have had a 4.0 if it hadn’t been for…you guessed it…MATH.

So, when it came to homeschooling, math was the ONLY thing I was worried about. Sure, I could add and subtract, multiply and divide (as long as you didn’t throw a lot of extra stuff in there!), I could use fractions and decimals well enough to bake a cake or figure a tip, but higher level mathematical concepts made my eyes cross and run for the nearest calculator – even though I had no idea how to make the calculator do what I needed it to do to solve the problem.

Allow me to translate this into what it would sound like if she was admitting a similar level of unease with written English:

"It took me three tries to get into English 101 - General Composition.  Thank goodness!  Anything lower is considered remedial classes that don't count towards graduation credit.

My Language Arts score brought down my whole ACT test score! (ok, that statement might explain why it was so hard for the author to get into College algebra, actually, since she doesn't understand how averages work.)

I would have had a 4.0 (at some unstated educational level) if I didn't have to take English!

English was the only thing I was worried about when homeschooling.  It's not like you need writing in any other subject areas!  I can conjugate most tenses, use punctuation pretty well, write a 5-sentence paragraph, and spell most words (as long as you don't throw a lot of extra stuff in there!).  I can write a note to my spouse or my boss in a pinch, but higher level writing concepts make my eyes cross and run for the nearest dictionary - even though I had no idea how to make the dictionary write that college paper for me."

Let me explain how I created that paragraph.  Addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, fraction and decimals are covered in 5th grade or below.  I looked up the Common Core standards for 5th grade writing and inserted those into Amy's introduction along with the correct college course equivalent for College Algebra  which is generally the lowest entry-level math class that can count for graduation credits.

Can you imagine the level of outrage homeschool parents would have if a public school math teacher admitted that they were just barely functional at 5th grade math while teaching 5th-12th grade?  Oh, wait.  That can't happen in schools with certified teachers!  The minimum course of study in my state to teach secondary school math is a college minor in math which means the teacher would have to have passed calculus I and II plus college statistics.  Instead, homeschool parents console each other with the idea that no one is really good at math and since no one is good at math the parents have no responsibility to raise their personal math skills before teaching their kids.

Her first tip is to focus on the basics because basic math skills like addition and subtraction are the basis of all higher math.    That idea is true - but terribly misleading.   There are large conceptual jumps between basic addition, addition including "lots of extra stuff", adding like terms and adding two equations.   To use a history analogy, she's telling parents to just focus on dates of events because dates of events are the basis of history.  For English buffs, she's telling people to just hammer home vocabulary because words are the basis of reading and writing.

She leads off the basics section with the same hoary chestnut of comfort that all homeschool math deniers drag out at some point:
There’s no escaping the fact that it actually is true that only a select group of people will go on to use the concepts and equations taught in higher level math classes.

Yup.  The first group is people who want to pass out of College Algebra - which is a pretty huge swath of people in collegiate programs. 

 The second group would be all people in college degree level jobs in medicine, science, engineering, mathematics, statistics, agriculture, computer science, data analysis and education along with specialized careers in law, art restoration, archeology, and business off the top of my head.

I speak English, conversational ASL and broken Spanish.  My kid is very young, but I do not comfort myself with my lack of linguistic prowess by saying, "Well, not many people really use proficiency in a second language on a daily basis".   After all, he may well make a good living as a translator or an analyst if he learns more languages from the skilled teachers he will meet in school. 

I don't - but apparently homeschooling parents who are afraid of math are willing to close off entire career paths rather than learn some more math on their own.

Her next two points are a digression about using manipulatives followed by the idea that parents shouldn't move on in math before their kid is ready.  I like manipulatives.  I thought the basic benefit
of homeschooling was that the pace of the class could be tailored perfectly to the student; guess I was wrong about that!

Her fourth point is that math-phobic parent-teachers just need to find a program that teaches their kid instead of the parent.   She lays out the ideal program (e.g. Teaching Textbooks) for us:
You need a math program that is self-paced and doesn’t require a lot from you. Even better, it should grade itself and offer a multi-faceted approach to teaching math. We use Teaching Textbooks for this very reason! I needed a curriculum that my kids liked, was easy to use, and gave me time to focus on other subjects with other children.

That sounds like a lovely program for the parent-teacher and a potential nightmare for the student.  A lot of traditional schools use computer-based math programs for students in junior high now.  Those programs are self-paced, feature computer-based instruction and automatically grade classwork and homework assignments.  The main difference is that there is a certified teacher in the room who can individually help students who are lost after the instruction section.   What happens when a kid has the same problem at home - and the parent is dropped in to the middle of a math topic? 

My favorite bit, though, is the fact that she claims Teaching Textbooks is a multifaceted program.  I went to the website to check the program out; it's simplistic in the extreme.  Students read the textbook, watch the instructional media then complete self-grading problems and tests.  The term "independent learner" is used so many times that I feel like the sellers of the curriculum want to be clear that failure is due to the student's lack of independence rather than poor curriculum  or the lack of a teacher.

I cannot find a document for any of the levels in Teaching Textbooks that explains the layout of the curriculum for a level or the entire series.   I am always suspicious of any curriculum that fails to include a scope-and-sequence document (also known as benchmarks or learning standards or any one of a dozen other educational jargon).  These documents show exactly what topics are to be covered in each class, what level of mastery is expected and what order topics should be introduced if topics build on each other.  This sounds complicated but the actual document could be as simple as these examples:
  • A kindergarten student will be able to correctly identify diagrams of squares, rectangles, rhombuses (diamonds), triangles, circles, hexagons and octagons.  They should be able to draw squares, rectangles, triangles, and circles accurately.  
  • A second-grader will be able to add two two-digit numbers.
  • Third graders will memorize the multiplication tables between 1 and 12.  Students will begin multiplying two digit numbers by a single digit number after multiplication facts are memorized.
  • Chemistry students will be able to determine the number of protons, neutrons and electrons for neutral atoms based on the periodic table.  Once the previous skill is mastered, chemistry students will use charges to determine the number of electrons in ions while recognizing that the number of protons and neutrons remain unchanged.
I dislike Apologia Science intensely - but they do include scope-and-sequence documents for their curriculum while Teaching Textbooks cannot be bothered to write up the end goals for their curriculum which I find distasteful.

Next up, Amy sets the minimum high school requirements in the state as the bar to aim for when educating kids in math and then touts consumer math.   I like consumer math as an option for high school students especially those who are not planning to move directly to college or post-secondary training - but her idea of consumer math worries me:

Can they figure a tip? Can they figure tax? Can they quadruple a recipe? Can they measure a room? Can they figure a dilution rate or divide up a paycheck. These and other math life skills will most likely be more important than any Algebra they learn. In fact, many states allow Consumer Math as a high school math credit. I honestly believe this ought to be a requirement in all states.

Psst!  Let me give you a hint.  The reason Consumer Math is not a mandated graduation requirement is that those of us who passed Algebra I and II - also known as College Algebra - already knew how to do all of those things prior to high school.   I remember taking the PSAT as a junior in high school and being bored during the math portion because the math was so basic.  The hardest problem was solving the square footage of tile needed around the outside of a pool which requires using the quadratic equation to solve.  That took me about 5 minutes because I took the time to check my answers.  Like all the other math examples included so  far, she's trying to pass off 5th grade math as high school level work.      Really, Amy's examples are only interesting if you start to stack them together.  For example, measure the square footage of a series of rooms that are made of irregular polygons with bay windows and determine the overall cost of flooring for three different options including sales tax.    Next, determine the cost per bimonthly paycheck if the flooring is financed over 12, 24 and 36 months at three different interest rates.. Finally, determine the cost of installation based on a table of wages per worker given by the teacher.  That's high school level Consumer Math.

When I was reading her post and writing, I realized that Amy's kids really might be better off with an outside math teacher since she labeled the next point as "4 - Find a math resource for when your child is stuck".   The advice for finding someone who gets math to explain it to your kid in a pinch (and presumably for free) is decent.  The issue is that there are no points labeled 1-3 anywhere...and the one labeled 4 is the sixth point.   Granted, it's probably just poor proofreading, but I'm a bit freaked out now.

The seventh point (labeled 5) recommends using popular media involving math like "Numb3rs" or "Odd Squad" to motivate kids.  I think that's a good idea; my husband and I grew up on PBS' "Square One" show which was an amazingly nerdy attempt to make math fun and accessible.  Every few years, I dress up as Kate Monday from "Mathnet" for Halloween.

The eighth/sixth point is that students really like being able to teach their parents' math!  It's great for the kid and the parent! 

I'm doubtful that this is a universally positive experience for the student.

 For me, I found it rough once my parents weren't able to help me in math any more when I was an upperclassman in high school.  I'm sure I could have taught them some math - but why?  I appreciated their moral support and knew that I'd get whatever problem I had straightened out the next day by my teacher who was excellent at that level of math.   In a similar vein, I appreciated when my students taught me some colloquial Spanish, kept me up-to-date in various music genre, or brought me various science issues to solve - but I never expected them to teach me how to balance an equation.   After all, I was responsible for being able to teach them the curriculum, not the other way around.

We agree on her last point: don't let your dislike of math poison your kid's math experience.  For parent-teachers who can do that, more power to them!  Personally, I'd like my son to have the same chance I did to learn math from people who find math to be gloriously fun rather than a tolerable part of life.   I think students deserve to be exposed to teachers who live, breathe and think in their subject of choice.  Not every teacher is like that - but I found that I was touched with how excited various teachers would get about art, music, languages, math, science, history, theology or language arts.    I'm never going to be a great 2D artist - but I loved seeing professors show students how to improve their works.  I'm not much into poetry - but reading the works of my teachers blew my mind.  Or the time one of my theology professors went on a tangent about the nature of the Trinity that made me realize that there were entire areas of theology that were beyond my understanding.  Listening to math teachers discuss how to solve math problems that I couldn't conceptualize let alone solve was amazing.  And I wanted to have the experiences that the science teachers gained through labs, field studies and academic research.

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Why the Second Generation Drops the Ball: Isaac Botkin's Reflections on Boston Trip - Part Two


I've been struggling with tiredness bordering on exhaustion for a few months now.  I figured it was mainly stress from the increase in the number of appointments for my son, starting new jobs for me and my husband, and dealing with emotions from my son's premature birth.  To be on the safe side, though, I had my doctor run some blood tests just to be sure there wasn't a biochemical basis.

Turns out my thyroid isn't functioning particularly well.

I'm starting to feel like my entire body is falling apart all at once - and at a time that I really don't have a whole of time available to schedule anything. 

After a couple of rounds of blood tests, my doctor doesn't think I have Hashimoto's disease which is the most common cause of hypothyroidism for women my age and an ultrasound of my thyroid looked like the structure of the thyroid is normal.  My doctor has referred me to an endocrinologist because she wants to be certain that the thyroid is the issue and not something that includes the adrenal glands.

I'm glad she's being cautious - it's one of the many reasons I like her as my primary care doctor - but I'm tired of feeling tired.  I know that it'll take a while for the thyroxine replacement to work and possibly longer if I need to try a few different dosages - and I'm frustrated that each test has lead to a week or longer wait for a new test that I need before I can start treatment.

I miss having more than about 9 hours of the day that I can use for active activities like working, exuberantly playing with my son, shuttling of my son to doctor's appointments, exercising or doing outdoor chores.   I'm doing my best to stay active while being thoughtful about planning rest periods throughout the day - but I miss not being wiped out at the end of a day of subbing or working at my retail job.

Of course, there are compensations.  Because I was in the house much more than I usually am, a pair of robins built a nest on one of our dining room windows and laid three eggs before we noticed.  This has given us a close-up view of the birds brooding their eggs much to Spawn's delight - and I'm enjoying how much he enjoys the birds.

Unfortunately, there are not nearly as many compensations for trying to make sense of the podcast "Why the Second Generation Drops the Ball" by Geoffrey, Isaac, Anna Sofia, Elizabeth, Ben and David Botkin.   In the first post of the series, we learned that Isaac made a hot mess of the Emerson family history...although I have to admit I find his statement that we have Ralph Waldo Emerson to blame for Thoreau to be giggle-inducing for me.

Unfortunately, Isaac Botkin didn't stop with the Emersons.  Next up, he gives a fascinatingly foggy example of a lack of intergenerational faithfulness.  For those who are new to the concept of intergenerational faithfulness, it's a CP/QF concept that teaches that once a patriarch has found the True Christian Faith (TM) all of his descendents are morally obligated to follow the plan the patriarch has laid out for his family.   Let's see how Isaac Botkin tries to make this work in the family of Nathan Hale, Revolutionary War hero:
There are a lot of stories like this in Massachusetts where you see great men and then their children begin to fall away and their grandchildren are really the enemies of the grandfathers. Nathan Hale is someone that we all know of. He's a very heroic figure during the Revolutionary War. As he was being hung as a spy, he said, "I regret that I have only one life to lose for my country." His great nephew Edward Everett Hale was also a Unitarian pastor and author who really did a lot to undermine the things his ancestors had done. And statues of these two men are very close together in Boston. You can walk between the two and when we stood under the statue of Edward Everett Hale. And there are many examples of this in Boston.

Nathan Hale was a brave young man who volunteered to spy for the Continental Army in New York City.  George Washington badly need to know the placement of British troops before launching a force to attempt to recapture Long Island and regain control of New York.   This mission was exceptionally dangerous.  While Americans tend to treat the Revolutionary War as being the fledgling US country against England, a large number of Americans supported British control of the colonies known as the Loyalists.  There was a substantial risk that any person sent over to spy would be recognized by the Loyalists as an unlawful enemy combatant and killed.   Nathan Hale was the only person who volunteered for the mission.   He was recognized as a patriot, apprehended and hung for spying when he was 21 years old.

I can see why Isaac Botkin chose Nathan Hale to start an intergenerational faithfulness chain....kind of.  On the pro side, he's the manly man who fought against a tyrannical government and paid for his beliefs with his life.  Since the Botkin Family is still waiting for the violent fall of Western Civilization, Nathan Hale's life may well act as a model for CP/QF children when the evil government comes for them.   The problem that I see is that Nathan Hale died so young that we don't have any real support for his Calvinist credentials.  He went to Yale.  While Yale was founded to train ministers, the curriculum had expanded to include humanities and some basic sciences.  We know that Hale chose not to train as a minister because he worked as a teacher prior to joining the military.

There is one more reason Isaac Botkin chose to start the chain with Nathan Hale.  The other spot to start the chain would be with Nathan Hale's great-grandfather John Hale.  We know that John Hale was a staunch Calvinist who was a minister to boot.  The downside with John Hale is that history remembers him for his involvement in the Salem witch trials.  For fans of "The Crucible",  Rev. John Hale is portrayed as a well-intentioned young minister who is unable to stop the trials that he believes have gotten out of control.  The real life Rev. John Hale was in his mid-fifties during the trials and supported the trials until his second wife was accused of being a witch.  That type of human frailty is objectionable to the Botkin Alternate History so the Hale Family starts with the hero who died young enough to avoid the mistakes and stains we all accumulate in life.

At least Nathan Hale is a direct descendent of John Hale.  Edward Everett Hale is the grandson of Nathan Hale's sister.  I could see being obsessed with Edward Everett Hale if he was the sole surviving member of the Hale Family - but he's not.  Nathan Hale was one of twelve children, at least nine of whom survived to adulthood according to Find A Grave.  His eight siblings who married produced at least 20 nieces and nephews -so I think we can safely say that Edward Everett Hale had at least some other people equally related to Nathan Hale as he was. 

There's plenty of reasons for Geoffrey Botkin to dislike Edward Everett Hale.  Hale was a proponent of religious tolerance which Geoffrey Botkin is against on general principles.  Hale was also an ardent abolitionist.  Based on Botkin's history of wanting to bring back the death penalty for adultery and fornication, I'm confident he's ok with slavery on a Biblical basis.  (Although - I do wonder how that meshes with his daughters' friendship with Jasmine Baucham.)  And of course, Hale is a Unitarian.  The Botkin Family seems to see no irony in decrying the persecution of Calvinists by the Catholic Church while despising the Unitarians who broke away from the Congregationalist (Calvinist) Church in the US. 

Oh, well.  The next post will look at Isaac Botkin's unique views on why Calvinism failed in the US.

Sunday, April 21, 2019

Maxwell Mania: Good Wives Ignore Husband's Flaws while Praying for Change....

He is risen!  Alleluia! Alleluia!

I recently began a part-time job at a home-improvement chain store in the paint department.  Since my son is too young to understand anything about Easter, I volunteered to work a shift on Easter.  The staff at the store is very friendly, very knowledgeable and delightfully nerdy so I had a great time.  Added bonus: management brought a great spread of sandwiches and sides for lunch to go with the associates' dessert contest! 

I'm pretty sure I gained a pound or two in spite of being on my feet and spending an hour working on double-digging a garden bed in our front yard.  I know that various people have strong feelings about double-digging and how it can destroy soil structure - but this bed is located in a highly compacted area of nearly pure clay.  The soil isn't pure clay because of a smattering of rocks; there's no sand or silt. The soil is so clayish that I'm building the retaining walls of the raised beds out of the soil.  All I need to do is use one foot as a guide and stomp with the other foot and we've got a retaining wall.  By the end of the seasonal drought combined with hot temperature in late June through fall, it'll be nearly indestructible.   For amendment, I'm simply working in a generous amount of Canadian peat moss.  I plan to mulch heavily with straw chaff from the barn on our property, grass clippings and dead leaves so hopefully we'll get a better soil type naturally over the next decade or so.

My husband and I have been married for six years now - seven in June.  Our marriage has been a wild ride of external stressors combined with the normal rubs of two people living together.  Communicating about what needs to change has been hard.  My issue is that I don't like bringing up problems that me.  My natural response is to dig in and try to make do - while getting frustrated or angry until I explode. 

That method has some obvious flaws - namely that my husband was generally oblivious to the situation that I was fuming over until I start ranting.  There was never any sensible build-up to my rants so my husband would think everything was fine and then I'd be infuriated over his failure to fold my permanent press clothing when he emptied the dryer and my subsequent need to iron before work....at like 11:30PM at night.

My husband is an easy-going nice guy and he makes a solid effort to mitigate issues I bring up so I decided that I should be more proactive in discussing what I need instead of waiting for him to read my mind.  That's worked well for both of us except perhaps for the second trimester of my pregnancy with Spawn when I went completely bonkers over the fact that my husband ate the last of the Wheat Thins AND didn't throw the box out.   My husband's still a bit  traumatized over that one because I went from rage to sobbing in like 30 seconds; all I remember is that I was still struggling with morning sickness 24-7 and Wheat Thins were the only thing that didn't make me feel nauseous and not having them available for dinner felt like the end of the world.

I bring this up because Teri Maxwell has published a new book titled "My Delight: Loving My Husband" which I have no interest in reading - but the existence of this book did cause me to start looking at articles tagged with "When a Wife Disagrees with Her Husband" because I'm a masochist like that.

Mrs. Maxwell wrote a series of six posts on the topic - but the main gist can be boiled down to "1 Peter 3 says women shouldn't disagree with their husbands, but should keep silent and pray."

I...find that assertion to be palpably absurd even based on a literalistic reading of KJV.

Mrs. Maxwell's claim mostly hinges on 1 Peter 3:1 which states "Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands; that, if any obey not the word, they also may without the word be won by the conversation of their wives" in KJV.    The problem is that she treats the phrase "without the word" to be identical in meaning to "without a word".   But that interpretation makes no sense because the previous clause is clearly identifying husbands who are not followers of the Word - in other words, not Christian believers.  That antecedent clause means that the phrase "without the word" means that the husband's views on Christianity can be improved without his wife pressuring him to convert.

She also ignores the fact that the husbands are won over by the conversation of their wives.  Using context clues, the meaning of conversation is closer to "behavior" than "talking"...but the only way her argument about "without the word" works is by ignoring all context clues.  Therefore, 1 Peter 3 implores women to talk to their husbands!  It's Biblical!

Maxwell next attempts to explain why disagreeing with a husband will end badly either way by using....it's not logic....um.....by hoping the readers have no life experience, I guess.

Teri Maxwell's reduction of the two outcomes of wives disagreeing with their husbands is strangely skewed.   She assumes that in a disagreement that one person is right and the other person is wrong.  I find that assumption to be simplistic since most disagreements have a wide range of "kind of right" or "sort of wrong" positions.  From her assumption, she lays out the predetermined outcomes:

Situation One-Wife is right; husband is wrong.
  • Wife explains her disagreement with her husband.
  • Husband doesn't change behavior.
  • This cycles repeatedly over years.
  • The couple is distressed because the wife brought up the problem when she should have been quiet.
Here's the odd thing.  At no time in this situation does the husband DO anything.  He never speaks.  He never yells.  He doesn't explain his position.  He doesn't change his behavior. Hell, in the post, the husband doesn't do the behavior either.  He simply exists and his actions are implied because the situation remains static.  This husband is a silent, unchanging member of the marriage who is less able to communicate than my two-year-old....but the problem is that the wife talks.

Situation Two - Husband is right; wife is wrong.
  • If the wife had said something, the husband would have done something Scripturally wrong!
Mmm-kay.  Instead, we've got a wife who is watching her husband do something she thinks is a Scripturally wrong and staying mum.   CP/QF folks including the Maxwells harp on about how important correcting any perceived flaws in other people are - but apparently men have to spend their adult lives winging it at home without any support or advice from their wives.  Seriously, these people pull out that verse from Proverbs about "Iron sharpening iron" as an excuse for all sorts of intrusive behavior; why are adult men completely immune to that?

Next irony: in the sixth post, Mrs. Maxwell declares that her posts do not apply to women with women who have abusive husbands.   Normally, I'd give her some kind of brownie points - but most domestic abuse experts counsel women to avoid confrontations with an abusive spouse and focus on putting together a plan to get out of safely.  So....and the irony is killing me....women with abusive husbands are probably better off being silent until they can escape.

Irony part two: I'm not a Biblical literalist - but the Maxwells unabashedly are.  In that light,  1 Peter 2:18-22 tells Christian slaves to obey their masters even when the slaves are unjustly beaten because it's good PR for the Christian religion.   So....and the irony is killing me...I really doubt the author of 1 Peter would agree to women leaving abusive husbands so Mrs. Maxwell's caveat excluding abused women is non-Scriptural by her lights.  (By my lights, victims of abuse should get out - and religions should support that unquestioningly.)

Mrs. Maxwell's statement that abused wives should do something....albeit without any actual advice...is the high point of the series.   It's followed immediately by a women writing in about her husband who 1) teases his kids until their feelings are hurt and 2) complains and criticizes his boss.  The wife doesn't think either of these things is right, but is unsure if she should speak to him privately about the issues.

Teri Maxwell's reply can be summarized as "No."  

Here's her longer response:
I would suggest that this mom not speak to her husband, even privately, when he has hurt the children’s feelings by teasing—unless he has asked her to point such things out to him. The husband is probably already aware of the children’s reaction to his teasing. If he won’t stop his teasing when he observes his children’s hurt feelings, I would be surprised if he would respond well to his wife bringing it up. However, when he has a good conversation with them, the wife could praise and encourage him in what a great father he is and how he is building relationships with his children.

It is true that we want to teach a child not to criticize his father. If the child is being critical, we can help him to think about the positive aspects of his daddy and being grateful for those, even using Scripture. The wife wouldn’t bring up that the child’s father has a critical spirit toward others. When Dad is criticizing his boss, that is a time for Mom to be quiet. She might be able to help alleviate those critical feelings her husband is experiencing by telling him she wants to make him his favorite dessert because of what a hard day he has had or rubbing his neck while expressing her gratitude for his diligent work in a difficult situation. Those expressions of love and tenderness by the wife will be as strong an example to the children as the father’s negative example.

I have a question....or a few questions, actually.    What if the husband is NOT aware of how his teasing hurts his kids' feelings?  Men are often steered away from learning how to read other people's emotions especially in the hyper-masculine confines of CP/QF society.   A well-meaning father who works a lot of hours to support his family may be at a disadvantage when reading his kids' body language especially kids who are more introverted or not very demonstrative. 

What if the husband IS aware - but doesn't realize how petty his behavior seems to other adults like his wife?  CP/QF society tends to expect believers to form social clumps that bleed into other venues of life.   In tight communities like that, it's much more likely that a possible business contact or potential client will see how the husband interacts with his kids and decide against working with him.  Does he really want to risk income for the cheap thrill of bothering his kids?  Equally important, does he want to risk his marriage?  CP/QF communities abhor divorce - but that hasn't prevented the divorce rate from being equal to or higher than the US mainstream.

I just realized that Teri Maxwell's method for managing a husband is a positive behavioral intervention system designed by someone who has minimal understanding of human motivation!
Positive behavioral intervention systems (often called PBIS) used frequently in elementary schools to encourage prosocial behaviors instead of solely focusing on negative behaviors .  For readers unfamiliar with PBIS, this method assumes that positive behavior has to be actively taught, that positive behaviors should be identified in real-time with rewards, that negative behaviors should be redirected into positive behaviors. 

Here's what it looks like in a classroom of high school students with moderate cognitive issues.  Everyone starts the day at "Ready to learn" in the middle of a chart.  When students do positive behaviors like doing their classwork, listening to another student's story, or using their words instead of screaming when frustrated (all of which have been taught previously), the teachers congratulate them on their good choice and move the clip upward towards rewards.   When a student has a string of negative behaviors - like when Annie spent 90 minutes refusing to work and complaining loudly that she didn't want to be there - teachers attempt to redirect the student back on task, but if the student refuses repeatedly, the clip moves down.    Later in the day, Annie participated well in gym  which is a class she often balks at.  The teacher praised her for doing good work in gym and moved the clip upward.

These systems work pretty well because teachers define positive behaviors, teach the behaviors to the students and focus on giving positive feedback instead of only commenting on negative behavior. 

Teri Maxwell recommends giving positive feedback - but she messes us the whole process by recommending that the wife also give the husband positive feedback in terms of desserts or a neck rub when he's complaining about his boss.  Hint: this husband is likely to complain more about his boss because he gets nice treats from his wife when he does!  The killer is that it's not like the husband will think "Hey, I should complain about my boss; I'll get cookies!"; it's more likely that he'll do it all unconsciously....as his wife gets more and more exasperated about his complaining about his boss while baking tiramisu for the 6th time that week. 

Look....it's not that hard.  Talk to your  husband.  Rather than assuming he's a jerk, assume that he's unaware of his behaviors and that he'll respond well to the feedback because he's an adult and he's hurting the people he loves.   If the behavior is harmful like teasing the kids, hold your ground.  If the behavior is just annoying like dissecting his boss' flaws, maybe you can reach a middle ground of not complaining in front of the kids or limiting the amount of time on the topic. 

Give your husband a chance to act before condemning him as immoveable on a topic; that's polite.

Happy Easter!

Monday, April 15, 2019

Joyfully At Home: Chapter Four - Part Two

Whoo-hoo!  The radiologist was able to get a good look at the lumps in my breast using a standard mammography and a slightly modified one to flatten the lumps more and gave me a firm diagnosis of fat necrosis.  That's a benign condition where some fat cells break and the body's attempts to deal with the aftermath create a lump in a variety of shapes, firmness and mobility.

Personally, I had very little discomfort during the mammogram.  I had no pain in most of my breast and only mild discomfort in the area closest to my chest wall - like a two out of ten.  Actually, the most uncomfortable bit for me was that I had to press my armpit firmly into the corner of x-ray plate to get the right angle for my breast on the plate.  I kept laughing while the technician was positioning my breast because the entire process was rather ridiculous.  The hardest part for me is that I could never pace my breathing correctly because I needed to hold my breath while the mammogram was being taken to cut down on blurriness.  This sounds straightforward - but I swear I had always just finished exhaling when I needed to hold my breath....which made me giggle more my inability to time anything correctly.

I actually felt more anxious when I got a good test result; I had coped by simply not thinking about the lump at all - and all of the stress hit me once I realized that everything turned out alright.

My husband has been great during the stress of the last two and a half years including supporting me during this health scare..  We've been through all of the stress of Spawn's birth and resulting medical problems.  During the same time, my husband decided to leave his partnership in his family farm due to a combination of intractable interpersonal issues and catastrophically low milk and commodities prices.  We had all the crazy-making of dealing with that plus my husband trying to find a new career while we've transitioned from medical issues with Spawn to developmental issues.  That lead to me returning to work (which has been pleasant for me) and my husband taking on more of Spawn's therapy needs.

I bring this up because marriage is a lot of work during stressful times.  Both partners need to be self-aware of their needs, mindful of their partner's needs and able to communicate clearly.  The partners also need to be able to compromise and brainstorm new solutions when older methods stop working for their families.

In that framework, nineteen-year old Jasmine Baucham's assertion in "Joyfully At Home" that young women can learn to be submissive to their future husband through being correctly submissive towards their brothers:

But, as a man, my brother - and your brother - is fighting against a culture that wants to emasculate him. [..]

So the last thing we need to do as a sister is belittle and invalidate them.

It can be difficult. I am 3 years older than my brother, and that, coupled with the fact that girls mature faster than boys, and the fact that I am just plain bossy, has shown me that the brother - sister relationship is such a huge part of the sanctification process! I have to bite my tongue when I want to nag him about chores; I need to let him lead when Mama and Daddy are gone and there are decisions that need to be made; I need to encourage him when I see glimpses of that mighty man of God that I know he'll become.


Building up our brothers doesn't just help them become better men, or give them a place of respite from the battle of the world, but it helps us become better women. My dad often reminds me that few things can prepare a young woman to submit to her husband better that a teenage girl practicing deference to her teenage brother. No, he is not perfect, but your husband will not be perfect either! Learning to relate to your incredibly flood brother with gentleness and kindness will instill in you a personality trait that will be invaluable in a marriage. (pg. 58)

I apologize for blaming Jasmine Baucham for this; her father who should know better encourages this crazy shit.

The entire subject of masculinity in CP/QF culture deserves an entire blog.  Personally, I feel CP/QF culture does more to harass and minimize men than the worst of mainstream culture.  CP/QF bloggers will reference "dopey dads" and feminism for the downtrodden state of men - but are men so well-off in CP/QF's alternate universe?

  1. Men are trained since childhood to be the sole income earner of a family of double-digit dependents.  That would be a hard enough task, but the men are also discouraged from either going to college, discouraged from getting advanced training outside of self-study, and encouraged to start their own businesses.  Now, there are always people who manage to support their families in the absence of post-secondary training and some of them do it by starting a business.  Small-businesses have around a 50% failure rate per year of operation - and not everyone has the personality or comfort with the risk involved in a self-owned business. Really, that's an ok thing.  Looking at the wider employment picture shows that most people will work for someone else and that people with post-secondary training are unemployed at lower rates than people with secondary education as their terminal degree.   Long story short: men are expected to achieve a middle-class living while being denied the skills most middle-class families use to have enough income.
  2. Second generation CP/QF men are likely married to women who have few, if any, career skills.  Ironically, Jasmine (Baucham) Holmes is a rare gem who has a college degree and teaching experience.   When her spouse's income declines, she's got previous career experience that she can translate into part-time or full-time job.  Compare that to any of the Maxwell, Duggar or Botkin daughters who have no job references outside of immediate family members.   As someone who just went through a hiring process for an entry-level job, I promise that a 37 year old woman reentering the workforce after being a caregiver for a child or parent made complete sense to the interviewer and in this case made me a safe bet for a customer-facing job - but someone of the same age with no work experience would be a very poor bet.  This increases the pressure on the husband to earn income for the family since there is literally no one else who can.  
  3. Like women, men are confined to a strict set of gender expectations.  Men are supposed to be tough and a bit defiant of authority figures.  Men are expected to be hands-off with kids until they are older toddlers.  Men are supposed to do manly jobs like computers, sales, or manual labor not womanly jobs like teaching, cooking or caregiving.  On top of providing for the family, men are supposed to be the main decision-makers AND the spiritual leaders of the home.  That's confining and exhausting enough for a man who naturally fits the role - but for a man who is more gentle or retiring by nature?  Hellish.

The rest of the quote has two glaring problems.  Jasmine was not the head woman in her home and Trey was not her husband.

I'm by nature an egalitarian partner.  Life is busy and hectic at the best of times so we may as well divvy up things that need to be done by who is best at the duty - or divvy it up so both people have roughly even workloads.  In the Baucham household, it may be that Bridget and Voddie work best when Bridget takes a subsidiary role in decision making and a main role in assigning chores.  The arrangement of the parents hardly means that the household functions best when Jasmine and Trey are placed into those roles.   More broadly, it's bad form to assume that "the man of the house" should always make decisions for the family.  In the last post, Jasmine wrote about taking her four youngest siblings to the rodeo.  Let's use that as the start for a thought experiment.  I suspect Jasmine knows more about the routines of her little brothers than Trey due to gender role expectations - so what if Trey wants to do a "family" outing that Jasmine thinks will end in lots of upset toddlers?  Why should Trey's make gender trump Jasmine's knowledge?

Here's the other problem: the one advantage to a spousal relationship is that the two partners chose each other.   You don't pick your siblings.  My husband and I are not perfect people - but I chose his imperfections as well as what I liked about him.  I love my brother - but I wouldn't thrive in a marriage with someone with a similar personality.  We are both intense and like to be right...a lot.  My husband's more laid-back personality soothes the sting of being wrong for me and so we don't get in cycles of arguing about who is right.

I do believe that people can learn skills that will help in a marriage within their family of origin assuming that their family is functional.  Learning to communicate is important.  Being patient, caring and supportive are important as is being assertive and setting boundaries.

Have fun!  I'll be toting a teething toddler - did I mention his last second molar is coming in? - to and from doctor's offices this week so I'll be having a blast😎

Saturday, April 13, 2019

Temporary Blog Pause!

Good morning!

We have a tsunami of Spawn-related appointments this month.  He's currently in the middle of being transitioned from Early On (which is an early-intervention program for kids at risk of developmental delays) to Special Education.  Normally, this would be accomplished in a few minutes because most counties have the same group of early childhood therapists who do both Early On and home-based Special Education prior to age 3 by signing a few papers.

Not for us!

We happen to live in a quirky spot where we live in one county for human services like Early On - but the public school district is a part of another county.   This means that Spawn has to transfer from one county to another which means that the receiving county needs to evaluate Spawn for speech, cognitive, gross and fine motor skills prior to having another meeting to discuss which services he needs and then starting up services.   Spawn is an awesome kid - but he's still a two-year old so he can only handle one of these tests per day since each requires 45 minutes to 90 minutes of cooperation from a toddler.  That's four appointments in a month.

To make things more crazy, his yearly IEP - which is called something else for the under-3 year crowd - is due in the middle of all of this so we have one more meeting to sign paperwork that will be substantially revised within two weeks.   For anyone who has not worked in public education, human services or government, you are probably wondering if we can push the IEP off.  The long and short answer is no.  That's a fifth appointment.

Months ago, we scheduled a neurodevelopment appointment that lined up with one of his PT appointments since they are in the same building.  That's a sixth appointment.

Spawn has four PT appointments a month which takes us to ten appointments this month. 

But wait!  We're not done!

Spawn has been highly compliant with his glasses.  He loves them; he'd grumble and try to sign "glasses" if we forgot to put them back on in the morning or after a nap.   Suddenly, he started taking them off.  When we put them on, he'd wiggle them around like he was trying to get them in the right spot to focus, then take them off.  Eventually, he started trying to hide the glasses - and I don't want to play "where's Spawn's glasses?" with a toddler who doesn't want to wear them.  His opthamologist agreed that Spawn's eyes have probably changed enough after his surgery that he needs a new prescription for his glasses.   Thankfully, they fit him into their schedule in two weeks.  So that's eleven appointments.

Oh, then the night before my yearly physical, I found a lump in my breast.  My doctor is pretty confident that the lump is benign since it is located under a healing bruise from an injury.  The Spawn was using me to climb onto the couch when he set his knee on my breast, shifted his weight onto that knee then pivoted which ground his knee into my breast.  Wow, did that hurt!  I grabbed his hips and tossed him over my shoulder onto the couch; he thought that was great!   I had a huge swollen knot there by my evening shower followed by a black-blue bruise that is still healing a month later.  To be on the safe side, I've got a diagnostic mammogram scheduled for Monday.  I also got blood work done this morning.  Which takes us to fourteen appointments that I remember.

Oh, wait!  There was a fifthteenth!  I have a conditional job offer from a big-box home improvement store to work in their paint department (assuming I passed a drug screen and a background check😀).  I love subbing - but it is a job that overlaps with the times that Spawn's appointments are.  Working evenings and weekends will hopefully make my life a little easier.  And honestly, subbing pays the same (or less) an hour so I may well end up ahead financially.

We've also had a lot of wind.  This broke the nearest tower for our internet provider which means we have intermittent service at best and no service for up to 24 hours at a time.  That's making composing posts tricky since everything I do is cloud-based. 

I apologize that my posting schedule is going to be wonky.  I will be back soon - and with some fun posts on "Joyfully At Home", Maxwellian crazy, and Babblings of the Botkin!

Saturday, April 6, 2019

Why the Second-Generation Loses Its Way:Isaac Botkin's Reflections on Boston's History - Part One


I'm about halfway through transcribing the free podcast titled "Why The Second Generation Drops The Ball" by Geoffrey, Isaac, Anna Sofia, Elizabeth, David and Benjamin Botkin. 

 The podcast was recorded sometime during the second week of July 2009 at what I am assuming is a Vision Forum conference based on the background noise of small children and crying infants.

Between July 1st-4th 2009, Vision Forum held a large celebration of John Calvin's 500th birthday that wrapped up the stars of the Reformation and the divine blessing of the USA into one big party. 

The Botkin Family spent at least those four days in Boston with Anna Sofia and Elizabeth getting to be historical reenactors of Jeanne D'Albret - queen regnant of Navarre who has solid Calvinist credentials - and Anne Boleyn - whose history is rewritten to make her the driving force behind the split between the Roman Catholic Church and the Anglican Church as well as a martyr.   I have a great deal of sympathy for all six wives of Henry VIII, but more impartial historians agree that Anne Boleyn's influence was mainly because of her potential to give Henry one or more healthy sons.  She was executed on trumped-up charges of adultery after she gave birth to one healthy daughter, one stillborn son and two miscarriages.  If her daughter Elizabeth had been a son who survived infancy, she would have been as safe and honored as Jane Seymour regardless of her Protestant credentials.

I digress.

Because the trip to Boston was so recent and the celebration was likely attended or at least known about by many of the people in the audience, the lecture given by the Botkin Family feels like a strange travelogue during the first section.  Geoffrey and Isaac in particular seem enamored on the Calvinist glories the Puritan period and disdainful of any changes by any following generations.

In Isaac's first topic, he bemoans the fact that modern Massachusetts laws do not require Bible verses in support unlike in the early days of the colony where two Bible verses were required for each law.   In the overarching theme for this post, a cursory read of history would show Isaac the issues with his simplistic reduction.   Yes, the Puritans used the Old Testament legal code to codify their laws - but the Old Testament had punishments were exceptionally harsh like capital punishment for adultery and dishonoring parents.  Rather than executing adulterers and obnoxious teenagers, the Puritans created a whole raft of lesser offenses with lesser punishments that people accused of adultery and dishonoring parents were tried under instead like "lasciviousness", "uncleanliness" or "disruptive behavior". 

Equally ironically, neither Geoffrey nor Isaac Botkin seem to have thought through how much protection the non-Biblically based ideas of freedom of religion, freedom of association and freedom of speech give them to ramble on about their personal take on history without having to worry about being tried for blasphemy, sedition, or treason.

As a high school and college student I had to give speeches and presentations on a regular basis.  I hate using note cards during a speech - but the second topic of Isaac Botkin shows what happens when a speaker has to wing a person's biography rather than writing out the details:
One of the heroes of Massachusetts was Reverend William Emerson. He was the chaplain of the Massachusetts Provincial Congress and the chaplain of the Continental Army and I believe that he might have died on Concord Ridge; he definitely stood on Concord Ridge with the Minutemen and defended Massachusetts against the British. But his son was a Unitarian and his grandson was Ralph Waldo Emerson who invented...well, he didn't really invent but...he was a transcendentalist. He denied Jesus as God. He started a bunch of weird socalistic utopian communes around Massachusetts. He was a very strange fellow. We can also blame him for Thoreau.

There are so many inaccuracies in this paragraph that I can only assume Isaac got flustered and had to try and ad-lib his way through the three generations of the Emerson family. 

Let's look at the problems per person. 

Isaac's hero is Reverend William Emerson Sr who was the chaplain of the Massachusetts Provincial Congress - or at least I cannot find anything to refute that claim.  The senior Rev. Emerson was certainly a chaplain in the Continental Army - but saying that he was 'the' chaplain accidently ignores all the other chaplains in the Continental Army.   

This next bit is where the note card would have come in handy.  The Battle of Lexington and Concord happened on April 19, 1775.  The Continental Army was founded on June 14, 1775.  Since Rev. Emerson Sr. was a chaplain in the Continental Army, he could not have died on Concord Ridge. 

Actually, I question if Isaac did much research on the Battle of Lexington and Concord at all because Concord Ridge is where the militia and minutemen fell back to observe the movements of the British troops in and around Concord.  The fighting between the troops occurred down at the North Bridge followed by on the retreat of the British troops back to Lexington.  I can't find any reports of anyone dying on Concord Ridge and I can only find one problematic report of Rev. Emerson being present to support troops.  Having said that, Rev. Emerson was a vocal supporter of armed rebellion against Great Britain and his home was close to the North Bridge.  With those two facts, I believe it is likely that he was present during the Battle of Concord.  He may or may not have fought - but providing moral support along with information about anything he saw or heard about the British troops is important, too.

Reverend William Emerson Sr. died on October 20th, 1776 of camp fever or dysentery contracted while serving as the chaplain of Fort Ticonderoga.    He was 33 years old.  He left behind his wife, four daughters and one son.   This son Reverend William Emerson Jr went to Harvard and was ordained as a Congregational minister in 1792.  In 1799, he became the minister of the First Church of Boston which transitioned to a Unitarian church by the mid-1800s.  I'm sure the Botkin could have hammered Rev. Emerson Jr.'s betrayal of his father's faith harder - but the younger Rev. Emerson was seven when his father died.  That's awfully young to be fully grown in a religious tradition.

Slightly off-topic - but at this point I realized there was a subtle irony in Botkin's decisions about when rebellion was good and when it was bad.  Calvinists who rebelled against the Catholic Church were good - in spite of the fact that they often were rejecting the faith of their parents.  Unitarians who split off from the Calvinist tradition, on the other hand, deserve scathing scorn and blame for the collapse of Western society - because they were rejecting the faith of their parents...or grandparents.... or in one case in the next post..... the faith of his great granduncle.   I guess once someone in your family has become a strict Calvinist no one is allowed to leave.

Ralph Waldo Emerson was Reverend William Emerson Jr.'s son.  Ralph Waldo Emerson lost his father when he was seven which makes Isaac Botkin's harping on his rejection of his male ancestor's religion feel both trite and cruel since the men in this line have lost their fathers' terribly young. 

It's pretty uncontroversial to describe Ralph Waldo Emerson as a leader in the Transcendentalist movement.  This Emerson caught understandable flack by denying the divinity of Jesus at the graduation address of Harvard Divinity School - but he's hardly the only person in the US who was moving toward the unitarian belief in Jesus as a great man rather than God incarnate. 

Blaming Emerson for any of the utopian communal living groups that started during the Second Great Awaking feels unfair.  The only communal living group he was involved with was the ill-fated Fruitlands commune started by Bronson Alcott, the father of Louisa May Alcott - and his most important role was purchasing a farm once Fruitlands collapsed to house the Alcotts.   Emerson was worried that Fruitlands was doomed to failure - and I can see his point.  They were espousing a vegan diet that also forbid root vegetables because potatoes, carrots and beets grew downward instead of upward and were banned for spiritual reasons.  Needless to say, food shortages were a major cause of Fruitlands' collapse.  Outside of Fruitlands, all sorts of people were starting utopian communal living groups in New England and Europe.  It was kind of a faddish thing to do - and we really can't blame Emerson for those.

Strangely enough, I'd probably agree with Isaac Botkin that Ralph Waldo Emerson was weird if I had met Emerson in real life.  This is as much a reflection on the fact that I tend to be highly pragmatic and find romantic ideals - including Transcendentalism - to be extremely weird.   Having said that, I'm sure Emerson would have plenty to say about my materialistic and low-brow tendencies as well :-)

Finally, blaming Emerson for Thoreau feels misplaced.  The main people to blame for the existence of Thoreau are his parents John Thoreau and his wife Cynthia Dunbar.  Thoreau's disdain for authority would have been welcomed by his maternal grandfather who lead a student rebellion at Harvard in 1766 - but the Botkin's ignore that little factoid of descendents honoring their ancestors..  Emerson certainly provided support for Thoreau - but based on the sheer number of Transcendentalists running around in New England and Europe at the time - I feel safe asserting that Thoreau would have ended up in the same circles eventually.

After this 30-second taste of the 45-minute podcast, I suspect you better understand why these podcasts take me forever to transcribe.  I get dragged down rabbit holes like 'Wait, which William Emerson is Isaac talking about?" or "Did he just blame Emerson for Thoreau? So weird..." or "Where is Concord Ridge compared to the North Bridge?".  The next thing I know, I have 10 tabs open on my computer and have spent way too much time researching the history of the U.S. Army......and it's midnight.

Next up in this series: Edward Everett Hale's alleged betrayal of his great-uncle Nathan Hale.  Did you know Nathan Hale was a great Calvinist martyr?  I sure didn't - and I'm not sure that Nathan Hale did either.....