Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Babbling Botkin: What If My Husband Dies? Part Sixteen

 Hello, dear friends! 

I received the Janssen one-dose COVID-19 vaccine on Friday!   

I hadn't expected to be called up for vaccination until sometime between April and May of this year, but Michigan opened vaccination to parents and in-home caregivers of children with special needs on March 8th.     Even then, I didn't think I'd qualify because I assumed that the target group was kids with medical needs rather than developmental needs.   Thankfully, my son's PT told me that any child who needed in-person therapies at school or outpatient rehab was in the group the health board was targeting.    The rationale was simple: my son isn't at high risk - but he goes to school and PT with kids who are very high risk so vaccinating his parents expands the zone of safety around those kids.

I received a updated questionnaire on Friday, March 19 and completed it the same day.   On Wednesday, March 24 I received a email telling me to choose an appointment time and place for Friday, March 26.   The closest location only had times in the evening that conflicted with my work schedule but the second closest location had appointments available all day.     Because that vaccine is stable under the same conditions as the influenza vaccine,  a local grocery store with pharmacy was running appointments out of their pharmacy.   

For me, it was easier than getting my yearly influenza shot because the pharmacy had pre-completed all of the paperwork before my appointment.   

In terms of side-effects, I had more side-effects than most flu shots but much less than I got from the tetanus-diphtheria-pertussis vaccine earlier this year.    I started running a fever within two hours of the shot which is pretty standard for me.   Unlike the flu vaccine, I couldn't get the fever to break using NSAIDs.    I was fatigued and feverish for most of Friday and most of Saturday - but not so sick that I couldn't take care of my kid for the basics when my husband was at work. I stayed home from work Friday and Saturday.  The fever broke around 7pm on Saturday night.   I'm a bit tired - but I'm also fighting off the same cold that my son has so who knows?   My right arm where I got the shot is decidedly sore; I can use it, but rolling over onto it at night is painful.   By comparison, I was still running a fever, all of my muscles were aching and I had a 2inch by 2inch welt where I got my tetanus shot.

On that note, let us finish up with Geoffrey Botkin's video advice column "What If My Husband Dies?"   With my dark sense of humor, the title makes me want to reply "Well, clearly, you're screwed."

I digress.    

After 16 minutes of listening to a rambling monologue about re-written history and the idyllic glories of a family business, someone is clearly signaling to Botkin that he needs to stop.    A father who has set himself up as the master and commander of his family-based cult can lecture his offspring for as long as he wants.   You-Tube viewers, on the other hand, are not going to watch a 45 minute video with less than three minutes of unique content.   

Let us enjoy his attempts at finishing up a question about what a woman should do if her husband dies:
[00:16:01] Young boys, yeah, they should know about things like COPD which can kill, you know, good, strong men.  So, all boys, and I'll try to wrap this up now, should be preparing to launch themselves into responsible manhood at the earliest possible age.   You know, and what is that? I.... you know,,,,centuries ago, the typical date that was in the minds of parents and children and young boys as they were being trained at 13 you become a man.  At thirteen, you get to step into the real world.  At thirteen, you get to carry your arms if you are responsible and this is how people thought back then and we've really destroyed that idea now but there's no reason why we so misunder...muh....underestimate the ability of children to really grow up and take on really huge responsibilities.  Understand things.  Be able to learn things at young ages.  Much younger than we typically feed it to them in today's society. 
Back in Vision Forum's heyday of the early 2000's, Botkin could spin his dream of CP/QF families raising sons and daughters to maturity by age 13 without any discordant notes.   His children were either young teens or elementary school aged kids - so of course Botkin was going to be able to launch his kids perfectly at a Biblical mandated age!    Plus, an unforeseen benefit of extensively sheltering your kids is that parents don't have to compare their kids to anyone else's kids.     Anna Sofia and Elizabeth Botkin's ability to write a full-length non-fiction book in their teens looks spectacular at a glance.  The fact that the book is a series of poorly researched essays that pad the length with multi-page quotes from published authors knocks the shine off the accomplishment.   

Actually, I can't imagine turning in an essay with a multiple page quote from another author.   In secondary school, I'd have been given a very poor grade for padding the assignment.  By college, I understood that if the topic I was writing on was so well encapsulated by someone else's writings, I should pick a different topic. 

I digress.

Hearing the same song-and-dance about how to correctly raise children from Botkin in 2020 is darkly amusing.    For a CP/QF son, full adulthood is reached when the son is able to marry and support his wife and children; the fact that he'll remain in CP/QF is assumed.    For Botkin's first two sons, the plan got them married and producing a few kids.   They work in the family business and seem to be onboard with CP/QF life.    The third son is married, has kids, and is the only member who is employed outside of the family business - but his family seems to have left CP/QF behind.  His wife posts pro-LGBT and pro-BLM posts on her Facebook feed - which must make family gatherings with Geoffrey Botkin a hoot.   The two youngest sons are unmarried in their twenties.   One of the single sons founded T.Rex Arms - the paramilitary business that supports his oldest two brothers and (I assume) the rest of this family of origin besides Ben.    The youngest son seems to be killing time  keeping up the family websites which is arduous in the extreme since most of them are defunct.  

So....he's launched two sons out of five to be married, employed CP/QF husbands and fathers.   That's not great odds considering the amount of effort the Botkins put into sheltering them.

His odds with his daughters are worse.   The Biblical admonition for daughters was really simple: marry them to men in the faith so they can raise families of believers.   Both of his daughters have been marriageable for 15 years - and neither of them are wives and mothers.    

He's got seven adult children - and a whopping two of the seven have reached adult status under the restoration Biblical rules that Botkin loves.    No wonder he's joined QAnon as a new cult rather than admit the miserable wreck he's done at raising his kids to the standards he espoused just a few years ago.

Minor production note: I'm a firm believer in doing a practice run prior to taping anything.   Botkin's understandable whiff when he substitutes "COPD" for "COVID-19" is the kind of unforced error that a practice run can eliminate. 
 [00:17:02] And so..... (jump cut) Boys should not be planning to be dependent on anybody.  So what is their plan on growing up?  Now, this is good thing to talk about.  "Boys, what are you thinking about? How are you going to step into manhood?  How are you going to launch yourselves into manhood?  We've provided these things for you; now what are you going to do to really make that a powerful fuel to launch yourselves into adulthood.  So work this out now with them and your husband as a family.  And the family can rely on this strength no matter what happens.     Thank you for writing to me.
I keep feeling like some bone-headed preteen is going to build a cannon out of a felled tree and black powder in his backyard if Botkin keeps harping on about "launching" kids into adulthood.

Look, most of us don't get launched into adulthood.   

We push off from shore like a canoe entering a lake from shore.     

The first bit is wobbly and uncertain because the same shallow waters that keep us safe if we fall make it harder to pick up steam.   For most young adults who circle between independent living and moving back with parents, the relative uncertainties of the labor market, little personal assets and no adult partner to increase household income, make it hard to pick up steam.   

On the flip side, those same drawback allow young adults to pursue more career options in wider locals than settled adults.   

Over time and with more experience, we move deeper and deeper into adulthood and away from the shores of childhood.   By that point, we've picked up the skills in managing our boat that we can handle stronger currents and waves without capsizing instantly.   

In spite of our skills, sometimes we capsize.   

We lose a job,  people divorce, a family member needs extensive care.   An adult - and an experienced canoeist -  knows that capsizes happens - and all we can do is get the canoe turned over, the people back in the canoe and head to a safe location to drain the water.

Being able to care for others, develop a plan to mitigate an unfortunate series of events, and the ability to recognize that this too will pass - that's the mark of adulthood.    

Not the ability to carry a gun.   Not the ability to snare a husband.  Not the ability to bear a child.   

Boys are not men at 13 - and that's ok.   Girls are certainly not women at age 12 - and that's ok, too.

For the original LW, I hope you and your family are in good health. By the time you wrote Botkin in July was over, the most dangerous part of the pandemic was over.   We handled it poorly in the US - but by July - we knew how to remain safer.   Stay home.  If you cannot stay home, stay 6 feet apart while wearing a mask.  Wash your hands before removing your mask and before eating.

I hope you listened to your husband's pulmonologist and followed the guidelines they set out for him.  

If your husband did catch COVID, I hope he had an uncomplicated illness with a quick recovery.

If he passed away, you have my deepest condolences.    

Please - don't ask Botkin for advice.    

Monday, March 22, 2021

Babbling Botkin: "What if My Husband Dies" - Part Fifteen


I'm sorry I disappeared for a week and a half.   I had an unexpected outbreak of atopic dermatitis and needed to go on prednisone.   Normally, prednisone doesn't bother me much - but I was nauseous, jumpy and an insomniac this time through.     I mostly feel like myself again finally.

During the same time, Spawn's had another big jump forward in his confidence in walking by himself.   Like a lot of kids, he doesn't like to try a skill in a new place or in front of people until he's comfortable - and he's started walking short distances in new places.   At the local restaurant he waved my hands away when I reached out with the statement "Leave it alone.  Maybe do it later!" as he started walking towards the exit.   The regulars were so excited for him - and so was I.  

Thankfully, we are close to the end of Geoffrey Botkin's video titled "What if My Husband Dies?"   He's spent a lot of time rambling about how important he thinks a family-based business is and how important it is for a father to plan out exactly how he wants the kids raised - but none of that's particularly useful for keeping a roof over the heads of a family if the business is not profitable.

He's just finished encouraging women to figure out how much more money they could make in a family business rather than in low-wage jobs - of which I am skeptical - when he launches into this major subject change without any transition:
[00:15:02]  Part of life is protecting life the best you can and sometimes.....sometimes men....sometimes men are required to go off to war to protect homes and families and nations.   During those time periods, everyone knows they can die and maybe never come back.  And small boys know this.  It's a reality that they face, they talk about, they kiss their daddies goodbye at the train station when their dads are going off to war.  They know about this.  There's no reason why young boys shouldn't know about this kind of probability right now and talk about it.
Wait - are we talking about family businesses, foreign wars, or risks of death during a pandemic?   

I'm assuming this is an attempt to bring back the idea of the letter writer and her husband talking to their sons about their father's COPD and the increased risk level he has if he gets COVID - but what a strange way to re-introduce the topic.   CP/QF families are so staunchly individualistic that they don't join organizations where someone else would be able to give them commands like the military or a police department which makes Botkin's willingness to trot out military families ironic.

I think being open with the boys as far as their age allows about their father's higher risk of death due to COVID is a good idea.   I would also talk about what the entire family is going to do to help keep Dad safer like wearing masks, social distancing and washing hands.

I think it would also be a good idea for the sons to be aware of how much their life will likely change if their dad dies as well.  I don't see a way for a family with many small children with presumably limited assets to have a mother who is a full-time stay-at-home mom who homeschools especially once the youngest child is old enough for full-time public schooling.

[00:15:40]   I mean , these are the truths and realities of real life.  Life is short.  Life is fleeting.  We may not be around tomorrow.   If, if, if Dad's gone tomorrow, what would life look like?  Boys, would you be able to take care of your mom? Would you know what to do to take care of your mother.?"
Throughout this video, I've often felt enraged on behalf of Victoria Botkin. 

Like a lot of CP/QF moms, she's done the heavy work in her family for decades. 

She's given birth to seven children.  When she was hemorrhaging after having a home birth with Anna Sofia,  Geoffrey's response was to pray over the ovaries of her newborn daughter.   Geoffrey's told that story so many times publicly that  it's the opening vignette of Joyce's book on Quiverfull.   

She homeschooled her large family while Geoffrey was busy playing religious leader, lobbyist, media mogul, religious leader and pretend advisor to the president.   She's created plenty of media about homeschooling and worked the homeschooling conference circuit for decades.   I'm sure the income that she's brought in has equaled or exceeded the amount that Geoffrey brought in in certain years.    

And yet, when a question comes in about how a woman could support a smaller family after her husband's death,  Geoffrey never bothers to loop his wife in.   

Would Victoria Botkin be devastated if her husband died?  Of course she would.   

Would she have been able to take care of her family?   I believe she would.   She was already pulling more than her fair share of the responsibilities in the family between child-rearing, homeschooling, keeping up a home and running a small business while  Geoffrey dabbled in whatever new brilliant plan this year brought.

Would she need her sons' help?   I think that depends entirely on how many small children were in the house more than anything else.    Her oldest sons' ability to work part-time jobs as teenagers would have been a large help when there were still elementary school aged kids to be supported.    In one of those ironies that point out the flaws in the idea of "every man should own his own business" the son whose business is supporting most of his family members is the second youngest kid in the family.   To my way of thinking, that would mean that most of the family would have needed to get jobs as teenagers to help keep enough income coming into the family.    Geoffrey Botkin would be horrified at the idea of his precious, super-sheltered children mixing with the common riff-raff - but the kids would have likely benefited from that exposure.   

If nothing else, the Botkin offspring would have picked up that the family's habits of photographing the unmarried daughters and sons cuddled up together accidently sends a message in the US that those people are a romantic couple rather than available adults to be courted.    Different families are comfortable with different forms of affection - and that's great - but the conventions of formal family photographs in the US are that single adults stand without anyone's arms wrapped around them.  Married and committed couples stand together and are usually either turned towards each other or have some visible contact.    When Anna Sofia and Elizabeth sent an overwrought letter to Cindy K. years ago bemoaning how many romantic relationships never happened in their family due to her blog, I remember thinking that the family had probably had more damage done from friends of friends seeing the family Christmas picture and thinking "Oh, how nice that all of the Botkin kids are married now!" instead of "Huh, that cute Botkin girl or boy is still single.  I should mention that to so-and-so."

Such is life - and I've digressed a bit.

We are almost at the end of this series and I've not heard from the one person who could probably give actual advice - Victoria Botkin.

Maybe ask her for advice next time?

Friday, March 12, 2021

Joyfully At Home: Chapter 15 - Part Two

Good morning!
Spring has finally returned to Michigan.   I saw daffodils plants peeking out of a southern-facing slope.  My lilac bush has had enough snow melt around it that I can continue taking down most of the woody stems.  It's more like a small lilac tree - and that's not healthy since a lot of the stems are cracking under their own weight at the ground.   My parents have received their first doses of a COVID vaccine.  My twin is fully vaccinated.  My younger brother and I are in a friendly race to see which of us can get vaccinated first since we are both essential workers.

My mood has greatly improved since I can get outside for walks every day again.  Armed with a new cheery mood, let's dive into the fifteenth chapter of "Joyfully At Home" by Jasmine Baucham.  In the first post on this chapter, we saw that Jasmine's definition of a novel, ground-breaking home-based education was confined by the dictate that students learn to support the exact same ideas as their parents.  In this next quote, Jasmine gives us a glimpse into the educational method of her family's school while reminding us that the educational goal of total agreement with her parents' views worked in her case.

When we graduated from high school, therefore ( in 2007, and my brother this past year), we knew about evolution; we'd read Darwin's magnum opus! But the difference between our education and the schooling other than our generation were receiving was that we learned about evolution from a Christian worldview. When we graduated high school, we knew about Marx socialism; we'd read Marx and Engels for ourselves! But the difference between our education in the schooling of others in our generation with what we learned about socialism from a Christian worldview. (pg. 177)
Page 177 is a long, call-and-response style recitation of what Ms. Baucham learned - and how different it was because it was taught from her family's exact Christian world view.  

I was struck by how Ms. Baucham's education in science and economics mimicked the Christian Patriarchy/ Quiverful slap-dash method of Biblical studies. 

In traditional, mainline Christian churches, studying the Bible seriously demands more effort than cracking open the Bible and reading it.  Serious scholars discuss the methods used by the person or people who wrote a section of the Bible to reach their target audience.  That audience came with cultural and experiential expectations that were both universal - like how a mother comforts a child - and very alien - like how to morally act as a slave owner.  Armed with information about the culture of the writer and important current events at their time, we can begin to suss out the difference between temporal matters that bleed in and larger theological truths.

In CP/QF land, on the other hand, no one needs external context for anything.   Anyone can crack open the Bible, read a verse or two, and expound on that verse without providing any context.   

The Bauchams educated their children in the same manner.   Jasmine believed that she completely understood evolution at age 19 because she read "On the Origin of Species" by Charles Darwin.  She believes that she completely understood communism because she read the Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx and Fredrick Engels.   

Now, I don't have much experience in economics - but I have a ton of experience in evolutionary biology.   Darwin's "On the Origin of Species" is not required reading for evolutionary biologists at any academic level.   It was a seminal book in the history of evolutionary science - but it was published in 1859 so there is 162 years of experimenting, refining and change since then!   I have read "On the Origin of Species" because the history of science fascinates me.  The book was an interesting read - but Darwin had many, many unanswered questions at the end of the book.   And - to be fair to Darwin - the chances of him intuiting mendelian genetics, the structure of DNA and the genetic code from what was able to be observed in 1830-1858 was zero. 

I realized mid-sentence that I was forgetting that Ms. Baucham's biggest objection to Darwin wasn't that he couldn't explain the finer details of how island finches developed different beaks.  Her objection is that evolution didn't directly support the timeline of creation lined in the Bible.     From that perspective, her critical reading of Darwin is spotty and underwhelming.   "Yup, Darwin certainly deviates from Genesis 1 therefore his entire hypothesis is invalid" is a poor effort on all fronts.

I was - and still am - a voracious reader.   My mom attempted for a while to pre-read most of our books just to be sure we weren't venturing into nightmare territory - but between my twin sister and I trying to read our way though the library in elementary school she had to settle for asking us about what we were reading and discussing any themes that might be more adult than the average elementary school kid ran into.   

That's my life experience so this next quote is baffling to me:
As an important no, there were things we didn't read, not because our parents were afraid we jump ship if we were exposed to opposing viewpoints, but because there was a much more edifying way to garner the information my parents wanted to teach me. Thus, I took a pass on Madame Bovary. Also, as an aside, my parents didn't just send us to wade through secular humanist texts without first discipling us every step of the way, or, without first - before the texts were even presented to us - know (sic) that we were mature enough to handle what we were learning without becoming confounded or confused. They were very discerning about our level of discernment. (pg. 177)
Yeah, Mom probably would have had me avoid "Madame Bovary" in elementary school - but as a teenager?   As a young adult?  Oh, hell no.   

If CP/QF adherents are supposed to convert the world, they need to be mentally strong enough to hold a belief in the face of strong opposition.   I, for example, am quite vocal about how harmful many of their beliefs are to the development of their children. 

That's the level of disagreement they need to handle in life - but Ms. Baucham is saying that her parents didn't trust that she could handle mild cognitive dissonance as a teenager.   After all, reading a book from a different century in a different culture - which is essentially what she's doing by reading Darwin and Marx rather than Dawkins and Davis - is about the least threatening form of exposure to an idea that I can think of.   

I know that Ms. Baucham is trying to present her education as broad-reaching, modern and inspiring to other Christians, but I feel like she was raised in a glass cloche instead of a field.   Cloches, cold frames and greenhouses are great at protecting young plants when they are small and the weather is extreme - but if used too long, the plant develops a weaker central stem and poorer roots due to the lack of exposure to wind and periodic drought.   Yup, the growth of a plant seems to slow down for a week or two during the hardening off process when the cloche is removed and the plant starts to solidify their stem and expends more energy on root growth - but that time of slowness is needed for healthy mature plants.   

Raising kids is the same thing.  I shelter my son a lot right now because he's 4.   Explaining the details of why we wear a mask in public to avoid COVID-19 would be truly disturbing to him - so I fudge the details.   On the other hand, I shelter him much less than I did when he was a small infant.  I let him run around with kids his age.  I send him to school with adults who are not his parents.  There are moments that he is sad or uncomfortable for short periods of time - but that's part of the process of growing up.   

Better to start hardening your kids off a bit at a time during childhood than launching them into the world without a strong core.

Monday, March 8, 2021

Babbling Botkin: What if My Husband Dies? - Part Fourteen

 Hello, friends!

After a few days where the temperatures never dipped below freezing, the snow has melted back far enough that I can go for walks again.   When I came back from my first walk, I realized that part of why I was so agitated by being stuck at home was because it was reminding me of how trapped I felt after my son was born.   I was so sick after Spawn was born that I needed a wheelchair to get around the hospital where I was staying and to navigate the unit where Spawn was at for the first week after he was born.  In the second week, I could make shift to walk around my house and Spawn's unit but I  needed a wheelchair to get to and from the parking ramp.   I could walk slowly from a car to the unit by the third week although I usually flopped into a chair and caught my breath as soon as I could.    The day before Spawn was born I walked two miles in spite of being a bit winded and having a sore hip.   I was able to walk that far eight weeks after Spawn was born.  

The cycle of restrictions continued after I recovered.  The four months Spawn was in the hospital was fairly simple; I was pumping every few hours, but I got good at packing a pump with me.   When Spawn came home, I couldn't leave the house with him alone until he had good head control.   Before that, I needed one hand to hold his body, one hand to hold his head, one hand to carry his oxygen tank and oxygen monitor and one hand to open doors.    This wasn't the end of the world since we were social distancing a few years before we had a term for it - but I did get sick of having to make lists of things I needed to do as soon as someone could watch Spawn at home.

We got a bit of a break the summer after he came home.  He was off-oxygen for long periods of time and was robust enough that I could take him places where he wasn't going to be around children.   He was also small enough that I could carry him easily and he fit well in a stroller.   Now, according to Spawn, I was kidnapping him illegally outside of the house against the rules lined out by the Baby Geneva Convention.   He'd glower at me whenever I looked at him in the stroller.

When winter came, we went back into isolation to avoid RSV.    By the spring, Spawn was big enough that he was out of the danger zone for RSV - but he was also getting big enough that carrying him long distances was harder and harder for me.     I've only really appreciated how much work that was now that Spawn is able to walk up to a mile with two handed support.   I no longer have to pre-plan outings to make sure I can move him by stroller and carrying on my hip to playgrounds - and that feels awesome!

Random subject change - Geoffrey Botkin's "What if My Husband Dies?" has been heavy on the importance of a family starting a business from scratch and very, very light on the details of how to financially support a family of 5 if the only breadwinner dies.    Next, he tosses out this sop of comfort that this not-yet-formed family business could be the financial savior of the family:
[00:14:31] Families which can lever their respective talents into a family business can often earn far more together working together than they could if they split up to find lots of different low-paying jobs.   And you can just run the numbers on that.   Do the math on that and you can find out that that's really true.  The combined effort of working together in a business can be way more powerful than splitting up and getting lots lots and lots of different jobs.  
Yup, the listeners should totally do the math instead of Botkin!   After all, we have no idea the age of the four boys, the career history of the letter writer, or the part of the country they live in.   It's like a family with sons who are 14, 15, 16, and 17 born to a mom with lots of connections in a rural farming area will have the exact same outcome as a newly arrived family with sons aged 4, 3, 2 and infant in the same community.   

Nevertheless, let me make a whack at it.   With a family of five, the federal poverty level is $31,040.   That's not going to be nearly enough for a middle-class living - but it's a number to work with.   

Out where I live, many people have side businesses like raising livestock, seasonal you-pick crops,  farm stands, or custom crafting. When I lived in the city, I knew a lot of people who did gig work (the city version of a side business), nannying, house cleaning or specialized in refurbishing home goods collected at a low cost. 

I don't know any people with small, home-based businesses that clear $31,040 a year after expenses and taxes, though.    

For one adult working 40 hours a week as an employee somewhere, the lowest wage that will work for that is $15.52.    

Is the mom going to earn that her first year?   That really depends on her work history.   If she's got specialized trade knowledge, a client base of house cleaning, a college degree with some work history, or great connections, she might make that.    If she's Botkin's idealized SAHD who married young without any advanced education....that's very unlikely.

I work a pretty basic retail job at an employer who hires lots of people with little or no work history.   Thanks to the pandemic, my employer realized bargain-basement wages normalized in the South was not working for a company that is spanning the US.   We got a good pay jump and I now make a whopping $13.50 per hour.   I'm assuming that most people are hired in at around $13.00 per hour.   Without overtime and no vacation, the mom would take home $27,040 a year - which is still more than she'd make at an imaginary home-based business.  

Other ways to make the numbers work - hope a son is old enough to work part-time or use government benefits.

If she's got a son who is 16 or 17, he can find a job at most fast-food restaurants for $12-14 dollars an hour.    My state has pretty strict laws on how much a kid who is still in school can work - but if he graduated from homeschooling at 16 - which a weirdly high percentage of CP/QF kids do - he could work 40+ hours a week since completing high school or a GED allows a person to circumvent the labor laws around hours.   

If he's still in school, he will probably be able to work 12 hours a week.   At $12.00 an hour for 50 weeks of work a year, he makes $7,200 dollars a year - which brings his family to $34,240 per year.  For a family at the poverty level, that's a make or break amount of money.   That's the reason I had many, many, many teenage students who were working one legal job reported to the IRS and a half-a-dozen under-the-table jobs; their income was literally critical to feeding and housing their younger siblings.

What if none of the kids are old enough to work?   That's where the skimpy safety net for poverty prevention in the USA comes in.    It's not enough by a long shot - but it's something that can make a difference in poor working homes. 

The first one is the public school system AND its free and reduced meal program.  Yeah, yeah, I know that homeschooling is the only way to raise a proper Godly(TM) child.   Think of that as an aspirational goal for when you have enough income of some kind and as your kids get older and need less direct supervision.   If you've got a kid aged 5 or over, you are all set.  Call the nearest elementary school from your house and tell them you have a kid who needs to be enrolled in school.   The secretary will set up a meeting time and tell you what to bring.   A birth certificate, immunization records and something that demonstrates you live in the district like a driver's license or a utility payment will be on the list.   Many districts automatically have parents apply for free or reduced lunch during the enrollment process.   The income limits for getting free or reduced breakfasts and lunches are generous; in my state, the program reaches to 185% of the poverty level.     

Why am I starting by putting your kids back in school first?   Well, public schools are an easy way to access government services.  They also provide excellent education for 6-7 hours a day while feeding your kids two meals.    Accessing this form of governmental childcare with free food is a major support of families living in poverty.

While you are there, inform the secretary that your family is dealing with the recent death of your husband which is causing severe financial hardship and you need to speak to the district social worker.  (Ideally, I'd prefer you put the kids in school ASAP so they've had some transition time in case your husband does die - but I'm also assuming that if you are writing Botkin for help, you are going to avoid that option until the last moment.)    Every school I've worked in has had either a social worker on staff or has a social worker on call through the county.   This social worker can smooth your application for other government services.  

What other services?   Well, that depends a lot on the makeup of your family and how many assets you have.   

If you have less than $15,000 in assets, limited income and children under 18, you may qualify for Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) - also known as welfare.  You'll receive a small cash payment to cover non-food essentials.  You'll also be under a lot of pressure to get a job and get off of TANF.   Don't blame me; I'm a gleefully tax-and-spend liberal and have been for decades.  No, the same politicians who are pro-life are also extremely pro-work - to the point that one serious worry of Sen. Romney's (a Republican from Utah) proposed monthly payment to families of children is that the payment might cause single mothers to work fewer hours.   You know - single mothers like a widowed former homeschooling mom with four kids.   God forbid they spend some time at home.

If you have less than $15,000 in assets - but your home is excluded if it is your primary residence - and meet income requirements, you'll receive Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Payments - known as food stamps or SNAP.   You receive around $1 per meal per day per person - but scale tends to work in the favor of larger families rather than single adults.   For example, I attempted to live on $86 dollars per months of food items for half a year when I was a single adult to raise awareness about our crap-tastic benefits.   I did it - but my meals were very monotonous because I had to make the same bulk buys stretch.   For a family of five, the benefit would be around $430 dollars - and the mom would have ten meals per kid covered by school lunches.   My $86 dollars had to cover 90 meals or $0.96 cents a meal.  For the LW's family, the $430 dollars would need to cover $400 meals which is $1.08 per person per meal - which means a food budget of $5.40 per meal.   

If you have a kid under five, you will qualify for the Women, Infant and Children's Supplemental Nutrition program known as WIC.    I'm very fond of WIC.  We've qualified for WIC since Spawn was born because he's covered by Medicaid since he's got some fantastic medical diagnoses and enrollment in Medicaid automatically qualifies a child, pregnant woman, or postpartum woman for WIC.   WIC covered all of Spawn's expensive pre-digested formula as a baby and nutritional high-calorie drinks as a tot.   That was around $100 - $150 dollars in food for him per month covered.  On top of that, some counties allow children to receive formula and food at the same time - especially after age 2 if they have special needs.   We receive around $125 dollars in healthy foods each month for Spawn.  What does that look like?   There are booklets that describe what brands and sizes of food you can get but here's what we get in an average month: 3 gallons of 2% milk, 2 18oz boxes of Cheerios, a pound of mild cheddar, two pounds of whole-wheat spaghetti, 2 64oz bottles of juice, four cans of beans (or one jar of peanut butter), a dozen eggs and $9.00 worth of frozen veggies - which is around 9 4 serving bags.    It's a huge amount of food for our one, slightly-built child - and would make SNAP stretch even farther. 

You'll qualify for CHIP - free or very-low cost health insurance for your kids - and Medicaid or highly subsidized marketplace health insurance for you.   The hardest part for some people is finding doctors who take it; where I live, that's not so hard because the local Catholic hospital system takes all Medicaid options.  My doctor is in that system; my family started at a practice that helped an area with very high poverty and homeless rates because the practice was taking clients when they moved.   We've stayed because the staff is caring and highly competent.   When I've had private insurance, I go there because I know the higher reimbursement rates will help subsidize care for others; when I was on Medicaid, I had the exact same excellent medical care as I got in private insurance.  

I digress.   

Are there other benefits out there?  Yup - but a lot of the benefits are scattered and patchy so that's why I'm trying to attach you to a school social worker who can get your family into the Medicaid/CHIP program ASAP.   In that program, you'll be assigned a government social worker who can help navigate that system.  

Look, I know you've been told that putting your kids in public school, working outside the home, and depending on the government for welfare is a sign of being an anti-Christian communist who hates babies.

You've been lied to.   Sorry - there's no easy way to say what is true - Botkin and his buddies have been selling lies to other people to put off actually working for their own living.   

Most Christian kids go to public schools - and plenty of them "keep the faith".

Most moms work part or full-time outside of the home - and their kids do fine.

Many, many, many people need government benefits for some period of their lives.   That's why they are there - to support you and your family in a time of extensive need.   It's not a sign of weakness; it's a sign that life is fucking shitty from time to time and no one can do it all alone.

Hang in there.  You'll do fine in the long run - but please - don't ask Botkin for advice.

Friday, March 5, 2021

Joyfully At Home: Chapter 15 - Part One

 Jasmine Baucham's fifteenth chapter in "Joyfully At Home" is Jasmine's reasonably sensible plan to deal with a problem she sees among extensively sheltered homeschooled daughters.    Jasmine wrote that chapter to help the readers of her book spend some time learning a deeper explanation of why the family homeschools, runs their own business, keeps their daughters at home etc. than "That's what my family does" or "Because my parents want it that way."

I don't have a wide enough base of experience with Christian Patriarchy/Quiverfull families who shelter their kids by homeschooling to have a feeling if this is a widespread problem - but I trust that if a young woman in that society thinks the problem exists, it exists.

In some respects, the need to justify a family's religious practices is a relic of Protestant Christianity's formation.   For many religions, the actions of worshipping matter far more than the believer's ability to understand or explain exactly why they worship in the way they do.   I am Roman Catholic and the Church thinks the discipline of attending Mass on Sunday and receiving the Eucharist matters far more than a person's ability to explain consubstantiation or why we worship on Sunday instead of Saturday.   For many religions formed prior to the Enlightenment Period, this focus on right action rather than right thought still exists.    

The net outcome of this is that many believers of a variety of religion are rather bewildered by the aggressive questioning of 'why?' a religion does what it does.   When your religious belief is based on faith in the actions of worshipping God, dealing with someone who expects you to justify every action from a scripture feels bizarre.   Why do we do that?  Because that's how we worship God.   If you want to know if it works, do the action; don't expect me to rummage around in my Bible for a verse to justify it.

That's a bit of a digression - but Jasmine's attempts to explain how her family taught her shows a frequent paradox found in CP/QF homeschool discussions.    Ms. Baucham attempts to hold two contradictory ideas at the same time.   The first idea is that CP/QF methods of homeschooling create students who are more creative, better at flexible thinking and more articulate than public schooling.  The second idea is that homeschooling allows parents to raise children whose beliefs and thought processes are in perfect alignment with the Christian ideal.  

And there's the problem in a nutshell.   You can't raise a child to be the perfect defender of CP/QF - or Catholicism or atheism or any other religion, philosophy, or belief system - without suppressing some critical thinking skills.     

I know this from personal experience.  I did K-12 schooling in a Catholic school system and received an excellent academic education.   Because I received an excellent academic education, however, I rejected quite a few social teachings of the Church.   Thanks to a strong background in academic reading comprehension, Biology and statistics, I recognized that natural family planning (NFP) is a ticket to a very large family for most adult women.   Thanks to the wide amount of reading required and a high school morality class that pushed critical thinking over indoctrination, I recognized that the Church's view on LGBT issues was harmful and obsession with clerical chastity strange.  

Was this the end of my faith.  No.  For better or worse, I am Catholic.  I see the world through a certain series of lenses involving human rights and dignity that I learned from the Church.  I order my year around a Liturgical Calendar that is as ingrained for me as the seasons.  I find attending Mass to be comforting and invigorating and I hope to pass on similar experiences to my son.

But I digress.  I'm a 39-year old woman raised by parents who wanted me to own my life and religion.  This section of "Joyfully At Home" was written by a 19-year old woman whose father prioritized formation of ideal Christians - and this is what you get:

My parents knew this.  In growing up – in the safety of my home - was a perfect place for me to search the scriptures for myself, to learn to come to my own conclusions... under the watchful guidance of my parents ( Ephesians 6:4).  I'm always learning something – from  my parents, from my research, from my Bible study, from family worship, from  conversation and I'm always questioning would have learned. I've also learned how to phrase my questions a little differently: instead of, " Daddy, is Obamacare a good thing?" It's " Daddy, I was reading The Communist Manifesto and came across a passage that had to do with this healthcare issue; I was searching God's Word, and needed some guidance about how to defend my position on healthcare, which is -" ( okay, so perhaps I'm not that eloquent, but I think you get the gist of it). Then, we can talk, and our conversation is fruitful. (pg. 174)
The italics are original to the book - and the italics drive home the Bauchams' expectation of right thought over critical thinking.   Young Jasmine was allowed to research and defend ideas vigorously as long as the ideas were pre-judged to be correct by her parents.      That's normal when dealing with kids who are in early elementary school - you don't want to encourage kids to adopt negative moral ideas while they are too immature to understand all of the facets of morality - but Jasmine is plenty old to start wrestling with more complicated issues and disagree with her parents.

The example she choose is telling.   Because CP/QF Christianity is militantly devoted to the Republican Party, every reader of Ms. Baucham's book in the US would instantly recognize that the Baucham's answer to "Is Obamacare a good thing?" would be a resounding "no!".   A deep aversion to any form of government regulation or safety net over rugged individualism is a key plank of the Republican Party.   

It's important to the pro-business Republican Party - and the interests of various insurance companies and for-profit medical businesses - but does that mean that resistance to a single-payer governmental medical insurance program is Biblical?   

Not really; the Bible is so broad with so many different times and genres represented that people can make Biblically based arguments for both private medical insurance, public medical insurance, mutual aid societies like Samaritan....pretty much every method of paying for medical care I can find.

Why doesn't Jasmine know this at age 19?  Because her homeschool experience prioritized right doctrinal thinking over critical thinking.   

When I taught high school, I encouraged my students to write one opinion paper a year (out of several) that contradicted their personal belief systems.   For example, write a paper against nuclear energy if you were in favor of it or a paper about why steroids should be legal  for professional athletes if you believed should be illegal.  I got a whole heap of papers about outlawing marijuana each year :-). 

Why did I do this?   Well, I'm sure the Bauchams' or Maxwells or Duggars or Botkins would tell you I was a godless teacher trying to corrupt their kids - but I had no interest in changing the viewpoints of students.   

No, I wanted my students to take the time to assess what the major points that motivated people who disagreed with them.   Unless you can see the major motivation points of another person, you can't really understand their viewpoint.    By teaching young adults to assess a different viewpoint - then support that point using real data points - I was attempting to show why well-meaning, educated people who care can reach radically different views on the same subject.   

That would also help students see that people on the opposite side of an issue weren't evil or stupid; they were usually just putting different weights on certain values.   That viewpoint is a bit more compassionate and gives a starting point for working together.

As I type that, though, I realize that teaching the Botkin kids that "liberals are people, too!" or "that person who wants to reform drug laws might be doing it out of care for others!" is a form of corruption of their worldviews.    Whoops - but I was teaching kids to become citizens of the current USA - not a theological  autocratic regime run by their father.
Now, I want to add that, whenever my parents sent me off to find answers to my own questions, there was always a time when I came back to share my findings, and a discussion about what I learned.  Because my father is the head of my home (Ephesians 5) and because it is the job of both my parents to impress the law of the Lord on my heart (Deuteronomy 6), they have always guided me in my study. However, they also impressed on me the importance of being able to articulate our beliefs - my beliefs - for myself.(pg. 175)
What would have happened if young Jasmine came back with a handful of Bible quotes that supported Obamacare based on the shared responsibility of Christians to support each other, Jesus's statement about giving to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and multiple passages about healing the sick?

Where I went to school, that'd be an A paper - but would it be in the Baucham house?

What if Jasmine read the Communist Manifesto - *rolls eyes* - and declared that it reminded her so much of the portions of the New Testament where the local community supported each other by sharing what everyone had to fulfil what everyone needed?

I think we can safely assume that Jasmine would be sent back to collect the right ideas - but I'm more concerned about the fact that Jasmine has been so sheltered that she seems oblivious to the idea of how her beliefs could morph over time.    

The good news is that twenty-something Jasmine has been vocal about how her personal beliefs have changed markedly from her father.

I rolled my eyes about reading "The Communist Manifesto" because CP/QF homeschoolers seem to have an obsession with reading out-of-date materials as a sign of academic prowess.  We'll see that more in the next post in this section.

Monday, March 1, 2021

Babbling Botkin: What if My Husband Dies? - Part Thirteen

Hello, friends!

I don't believe I've ever been happier to see the snow melt than I have this year.   I usually like deep snow because I can ski and enjoy a few days or weeks of being a couch potato in the house.    Thanks to the pandemic, I've greatly improved my couch potato performance rating this year and even a few glorious days of skiing could not outweigh my feelings of being trapped.   

I've been working a few more hours a week at my job recently - and that's causing me to be a bit frazzled.   Case in point: I kept my kid at home on a Tuesday for a Thursday virtual doctor's appointment to get his referrals for PT and speech renewed for another year.    I didn't realize my mistake until it was far too late for me to take my son to school - so I loaded him up with his facemask and we went to a local botanical garden.    I used to volunteer there for years before I moved out to the country and I remembered that the indoor garden had plenty of butterflies in the month prior to their spring "Butterflies are Blooming!" event.   Personally, I found the amount of butterflies released during the event proper to be too much; there were so many butterflies that the butterflies would form swarms.   
I enjoyed the butterflies; Spawn adored the many, many pieces of heavy equipment present for the ever ongoing construction.     He even found a 2 foot gap caused by a snow bank in the construction fence and was dead set of going to join the "stuction workers and firemen".    I told him no because he would need a hard hat, safety goggles, a hi-vis vest and steel-toed boots - and they do not make steel toed boots in little kid size 9.    

Spawn's fairly calm acceptance of a mild disappointment and chipper greeting of construction workers - "Hi, stuction workers!  Good job!  Do great job!" - makes me feel like I'm raising my child in accordance with our worldviews.   We don't always get what we want in life - but try to enjoy what we have.   Be respectful of others and give plenty of praise to people.    

Meanwhile, I'm slogging through Geoffrey Botkin's rambling monologue on how to raise children in "What If My Husband Dies?" and wondering what planet he lives on.   For example, he seems to steal Steven Maxwell's spiel about departing from the dangers of corporate life, then makes it better by doing when his sons were young:
[00:13:20]  That's, you know, I personally quit a corporate related job when my two oldest sons were still fairly young and start a business where I could be working, working with them in.  And even working with my daughters in.  And it was...and I never have regretted that decision ever.  There were sacrifices to be made, uh, financially and professionally, but I have never regretted it.  It's it's always been the very best decision.
Honestly, I have no idea how Botkin has earned enough money to raise a large family - but I've never seen or heard anything that he's connected with that sounds remotely like a for-profit large business.   He's always been attached to cultic ministries like The Great Commission or Vision Forum.    My assumption was that he was erudite enough to earn a stipend or a salary for his writings and speeches and that Victoria picked up the slack by drumming up a very loyal following for her homeschooling materials.

Assuming that Vision Forum was at least part of the business that he's talking about, I find his total lack of regret ironic.   He sold the rights to his daughters' more popular book "So Much More" to Vision Forum which means Anna Sofia and Elizabeth lost both the revenue stream available to most self-published stay-at-home daughters through book sales.    At the same time, Vision Forum was being run by Doug Phillips who was accused of molesting the teenage nanny his family used.   Even if Anna Sofia and Elizabeth were not directly hurt by Doug Phillips, having a friend be sexually assaulted by your dad's boss is traumatic.  

It's also exceptionally unusual to be that screwed over by an employer - so maybe think about getting a corporate job rather than joining cult.
[00:13:51]  Ok.  Now, the right apprentice-like relationship, let me say something about that.  Between boys and businessmen can be positively life-changing if you are careful about who you choose and you do have to be careful about that. 
Yup - because most extremely sheltered homeschooling families found in Christian Patriarchy/Quiverful (CP/QF) are going to just give their son over to the first adult male who offers to teach him something.....

Actually, I take that back.   CP/QF society seems to attract a disturbingly high number of control freaks who use the mantle of male headship to disguise abusive behaviors towards family members or members of their community while benefiting from the community's refusal to think bad of their own.   

Check out any potential apprentice masters carefully.   Ask to speak to some former employees or apprentices.   Ask around to make sure they have a good name in the community.  I can think of a few people in my community who run very successful businesses but who have used business practices that I find sketchy; I'd not want my son working with them until he was a legal adult and showed he had a good head on his shoulders.

[00:14:04] Now, let's talk about the third one - business.  If there's a business your sons can be doing with their parents now that truly is the most practical way that they will pick up the work ethic and other character traits they will need as men in the real world.   
Every time Botkin says the word "business", I hear Sam Eagle's character from "Muppet Treasure Island" lecturing young Scrooge about being a man of "BUSINESS!"   Literally every time.

Look, most kids are raised by parents who are employees or business owners who don't need their kids underfoot at their job.    Those kids still pick up work ethic and values because little humans pick up plenty of lessons from day-to-day life.   Does a family value hard work?  Do they reward their kids when their kids work hard?  Odds are that the kids will learn to work hard - even if they learn it by volunteering with a secular group to clean up a woodland.   

Then - without any transition - Botkin drops this whopper on us:
[00:14:21] If you do lose your husband,  the business you can start together with them right now may prove to be the answer to the breadwinning challenge that you'll have. 

Describe, in as much detail as possible, the business you started when your sons were small, Botkin. 

How many hours a week did you work at that alleged self-employment and how much income did you earn weekly, monthly, and yearly?   

Next, explain in as much detail as possible, how your wife Victoria would have been able to take up working that many hours a week while still providing care and homeschooling for your seven minor children.   

How much extra money would she have to expend in increased clothing needs for her, processed food in lieu of cooking from scratch and childcare costs in the first year after your death?

How would the business support those costs in the immediate aftermath when the owner of the business up-and-died?


At least Botkin was honest enough to use the conditional tense of "may prove".  He knows well enough that most family businesses don't clear expenses let alone provide enough income for the family - but that's not the line that he wants to sell.

Don't ask Botkin for advice.