Tuesday, July 31, 2007

August is Upon Us! Plans in Progress

The monsoon has blossomed!

Every afternoon, the clouds build up over the mountains. Every evening, we get rain showers.
Friday = 0.12 in.
Saturday = 0.59 in.
Sunday = 0.36 in.
Monday = 0. 15 in.

At about 10 PM, the moon comes out to light the drip-drops from the eaves.

August is upon us, and in the burgeoning door garden, the butterflies are busy in lilacs.

It is time to complete the last of the Summer Field Studies Curriculum, and begin to look forward toward the fall.

The last of the three part Field Studies begins in about ten days. We will be taking N. out to the Bay Area, where he will participate in a Children of the Earth Teen Experience, called Coyote Tracks. Children of the Earth Foundation was set up by Tom Brown, Jr. (The Tracker), for the purpose of providing children with a taste of the wilderness experiences he writes about in his books.

N.'s learning will begin as he plans the drive out to California with us. We will be using highway maps and guidebooks to plan the trip to and from the camp. We will calculate milage, figure out how long we will be driving and where we'll need to stop for the night. At the camp, N. will learn " wilderness survival, nature awareness, tracking, and outdoor environmental education" with other teens.

As August comes in, the monsoon cools down the days by providing us with cloud cover in the afternoons and rain in the evening.

We are spending this week outdoors as much as possible, enjoying the garden and the forest. And we are talking about our fall plans.

We have decided to start some of our formal schooling work the week of August 27. We will get back from California around the 20th, and my UNM classes will start on the 21st. N. will have a week to hang out after camp, and then we'll start.

We have decided that Monday,Wednesday, and Friday, we'll do the more formal work for Math, History and Science. On Tuesday and Thursday, N. will work on Kemana II, read and reflect. Writing, formal and informal will be incorporated into all of the work.

The bees are busy in the sage as I write! And we will have a busy year. But we have made some changes from last year's schooling.

I got a catalogue from The Teaching Company, and N. and I decided that some video courses would be a good way to go this year. N. likes to watch parts of videos over again, in order to really get the scene or the film. And he wants to get his math skills to a place where he can be ready for Algebra I by next spring or summer. So we ordered Basic Math from the Great Courses at the Learning Company. Since they are having a sale on their High School Courses, we have also gone ahead and ordered the Algebra I course.We also chose the Joy of Science course, because it gives an overview of the big ideas in science. This week, I will order whatever support materials are needed to go with the courses.

For history, we are going ahead with our timeline approach. We will continue to use Jewish history, with it's shifting centers, as a lens to through which to view world history. This year, we will be starting with the Common Era: the rise of Christianity, the Roman Empire, and the barbarian invasions, and the beginnings of nations in Europe. We should be able to discuss the rise of Islam in the Middle East, the Mound Builders, the Mayans, the Aztecs, and the Anazazi in the Americas, and, at the end of the year, the Crusades back in the old world. That's a pretty full year of history.

When N. begins a full-blown high school curriculum next year, we may decide to begin again with the classics and go through world history over 4 years at a higher level. He'll have a lot to say about that, of course!

What I am really fascinated with is how much N. has had to do with the planning. No longer a little boy, he has decided what his goals will be for math and science, and he has chosen the methods by which he will learn. He even planned for the M,W,F formal studies and T,TH informal studies. I will be doing some direct teaching, since that is the fastest way to learn certain content, but I will share the job with the video courses. But I can see that I will be doing more facilitating and discussion.

N. is growing up and taking charge of his education. He is setting goals. He is blossoming just like the monsoon, the door garden, and the grasses and flowers in the fields and forest!

August is upon us. And I am beginning to get excited about our homeschooling adventure!

Open Up and Say "AH": Carnival of Homeschooling # 83

Tomorrow is the beginning of August, and many of us are thinking about the year in learning ahead. Over at Mom is Teaching, Summer has put to together a Doctor's Visit edition of the Carnival of Homeschooling to help us do a review of systems for the coming year of homeschooling.

It's hard to believe that we are more than half-way through summer! We have begun our planning and I will be posting about that soon!

Monday, July 30, 2007

Moral Courage and the Flawed Human Being

As I mentioned last week, one of the excellent keynotes at the New Mexico Summer Institute on Gifted Education, was the very last one: Elizabeth Nielsen and her husband, Dennis Higgins, who gave the presentation on Moral Courage.

Elizabeth is a professor of Special Education at UNM. She is my 'doc' advisor. Dennis is an adjunct professor at UNM, as well as the teacher of a twice-exceptional (gifted/with a disability) program in the Albuquerque Public Schools. They are both national speakers and experts on gifted education. Elizabeth coined the term "twice-exceptional" or 2X, as it is called around here. (My research interest for this doctorate in Special Ed/ Neurospychology is in the area of the neurospychology of visual-perceptual differences in gifted people and gifted people with Autism Spectrum Disorders).

As I said in my post Catching Up!, I saw the Moral Courage keynote before-- last year at the 2006 ALPS conference. But this is one of those rare presentations that is worth seeing several times because the issues it addresses are profound ones for those of us involved in any way with the education of children. At a time when moral relativism has become the norm in the secular education of children, Elizabeth Neilsen's insistence on the importance of teaching moral courage--what it is, how it is made manifest, and the cost to the individual--is an important contribution that, in itself, is a demonstration of moral courage. And more, it is a challenge to us, not only as educators of all sorts, but as human beings, to examine the example we set for each other and for children in our professional, social and personal lives.

The presentation itself consists of three parts:
  • an analysis of morally courageous action based on the work of business ethicist, Dr. Rushworth Kidder (Wikipedia article here).
  • methodologies for teaching moral courage through books, film and music
  • live demonstrations of some of these lessons

But the power of the presentation is really the music and slide shows that are used throughout to engage the audience through real-life examples of moral courage. This is teaching that engages the intellect and the heart and (dare I say?) the soul.

Part of the power of this presentation for me is that it caused me to begin the examination of my own ethical behavior. According to Dr. Kidder, there are five universal core moral principles. They are:

  • honesty (a.k.a. truthfulness, integrity)
  • fairness (a.k.a. justice)
  • respect (tolerance and respect for self, family, others, and respect for life itself)
  • responsibility (a.k.a. self-discipline)
  • compassion (a.k.a empathy, mercy, love, generosity)

In order to behave ethically, a person must demonstrate all five of these. If even one value is not being practiced, a person cannot be said to be ethical in practice. This certainly gives me room for pause. If even one of these is absent? Whoa! I can see that there is definitely room for continual self-examination. Complacency and moral courage appear to be mutually exclusive. And I expect I have some work to do within myself as the Jewish world enters into the month of Elul, a time for reflection and repentance.

Further, to demonstrate morally courageous action, a person must uphold these principles by taking action in the face of significant personal risk. Actions of moral courage, then, are not for the faint of heart. In fact, the very word "courage" comes from the French word "cour" which means "heart" and implies strength of heart.

As I was watching the presentation and thinking about the examples provided, I noticed that one discussion of importance was not made, using the very human examples provided. That discussion was that no person is perfectly ethical all the time. We are, all of us, flawed human beings. In the context of the presentation, this is understandable because the aim of the talk was to present the definition of moral courage most straight-forwardly and in a small period of time, and then to present ways to begin a discussion with children.

But, but, but...!

Popular culture has a really superficial way of dealing with moral absolutes. In the time of my public education, it had become fashionable to dismiss the moral dimension in the historical analysis of individual action because each exemplar was flawed in some way. In plain English, we were not allowed to have heroes. For example, if a student expressed admiration of Abraham Lincoln as 'the Great Emancipator', s/he was told that Lincoln expressed ambivalence about freeing the slaves. That Lincoln was actually discussing his primary responsibility as president to protect and preserve the Union was dismissed as too subtle for us. Or maybe it was too straight-forward?

We see the same kind of refusal to see moral exemplars anywhere in the way people are treated in the press. There seems to be an urge to bring a person down at any cost, almost as if to say that since every person is flawed, there can be no action at a higher moral level. In this way, we can evade our own moral responsibilities. This way of thinking brings the idea of moral relativism to an absolute low. (Sorry, I could not resist the oxymoron).

It is precisely because of this penchant that we should talk about the fact that flawed human beings can, with great effort and at great cost to themselves, face their flaws and become determined to act on their moral principles anyway in a situation in which they face considerable risk. In fact, one of these risks is of exposure of one's personal flaws by people who wish to discredit the act of moral courage. It seems to me that a significant part of moral courage is the ability to see oneself as flawed, the examination of one's own moral weaknesses, and the personal resolve to take a stand despite it all.

Certainly, when educating young children about moral courage, we must allow the children to have heroes. And we are likely to present the moral actor in a more unidimensional way e.g. Martin Luther King was a hero because he spoke up for justice in the face of oppression. Period. (He was a hero. He did stand up). But when we are educating older children, we can and should present exemplars with more complexity. This can be done using biography and literature both. For example, Oscar Schindler, who saved lives during the Shoah, had many flaws. He was a shady dealer in business, he was a womanizer, etc. And yet, he stood for the value of life itself at a time when many people who were less obviously flawed remained silent.

By having these kinds of discussions, we innoculate our children against the terrible cynicism out there. The cynicism that tells us not to stand out, not to act, because we are not perfect ourselves. And they give us a sense of hope that, despite our flaws--maybe even because of them--if we have the courage to face our own weaknesses, we can do something important in the world.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

The New Camera

Most of the pictures I have been posting here on my blog in the past three and a half weeks have been taken on my new camera.

The whole process of actually getting the camera has been quite an adventure. I started on May 25th, believe it or not. I was looking for a Kodak Easy Share Camera with a 12X zoom. I found one for a good price ar Dell and ordered it. I thought it would come in 10 days.

By the end of June, it had been backordered 10X and I was becoming a disillusioned customer, especially after they cancelled the order finally, without one e-mail to let me know what was going on. Then there was the process of phoning them up! I had to talk to India. After several misunderstandings and getting hung-up on (accidentally? on purposely?), I finally talked to a real life person who seemed to understand what was going on.

Well, talked is not the word. I was so frustrated that I am afraid I screamed at "Patrick" (the name is in quotes because if he was Irish, I am from Mars). I threatened to never, ever do business with Dell again unless a camera was in my hands in 48 hours. So Patrick arranged to sell me a Sony Cyber-shot with a Zeiss lens and 15X zoom at a considerable discount and send it to me by overnight shipping for free. I took the deal. Then he even called to make sure I got the camera on time. I did. So here a some of the wonderful pictures I have been taking as I have played with the features of the new camera:

This was taken from the top of Via Sedillo, looking down into the Sedillo Spur development.
The horses in the foreground were at least a mile away.
I was playing with my new, powerful zoom!

This one was also taken from the top of Via Sedillo.

I was trying to catch the white and purple clouds, as well as the shadow in valley in the foreground and sunlight beyond. The shadow is of the very hill I was standing on.

There is a small "ghost" from a rain-drop on the bottom left, but otherwise, a nice picture. You can almost see the needles on the pinyon pine in the foreground.

This picture is of a very large butterfly that was feeding on the New Mexico Lilac in the door garden. I used the zoom to get up close and personal.

I was crouched down under the branch, aiming up to get the beautiful outstrethed wings.

This one is of misty sunlight in the meadow on the first morning I had the camera. You can see the mist hugging the Sandias in the background and there is also just a hint of mist over the trees across the meadow on the right side of the picture.

Finally, a sunset.
I was playing with the twilight feature on this new camera, and took a number of pictures of a spectacular sunset earlier this month.
I like the trees and hills sillouetted in the foreground, with the slightly lighter Sandia Mountains in the background, and the goldn, pink and purple clouds in the sky.
I guess it was worth the wait. And talking to India. It is a fine camera. And I will enjoy it more and more as I learn how to use all of its various and sundry features.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Catching Up! Gifted Institute and Floor Work

I spent the past three days at the New Mexico Summer Institute on Gifted Education. This was a Jacob Javitz Grant conference, sponsored by the fledgling New Mexico Association for the Gifted.

I was very fortunate to be asked to be a speaker for a break-out session about the Social and Emotional Needs of Gifted Kids with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs). It was a great experience to give a presentation and I was honored to do so, being a fairly new 'Doc' student. And on top of it, they gave me free admission to the conference. What a deal!

I gave two talks yesterday afternoon: The first was called Do You Have Spock in Your Classroom? Gifted Kids with Asperger Syndrome and Other ASDs: Characteristics and Theory. The second talk was called: Mr. Spock Goes to School: Dealing with the Social and Emotional Needs of Gifted Kids with AS. I was amazed at the attendance at my session because I was up against some other really good talks. But a lot of people came--mostly teachers, but some parents as well, which meant that I got to advocate for kids like N. who are in the school system. There were a lot of excellent questions and I could tell that a lot of people want to make a difference for these kids in school. We had a particularly good discussion about how certain AS characteristics can look like oppositionality when they are really about being overwhelmed, and how to help the general education teachers see the difference. We also had a great discussion about homework. I got a really good quote from one of the parents there. He said: "Homework for AS kids is cruel and unusual punishment for their parents." In the days to come I will discuss some of these issues more fully here, so stay tuned.

One of the benefits of being honored with an invitation to present, was that I got to hear three keynote presentations from nationally known leaders in our field. Joyce Van Tassel-Baska, who is well known for her Javitz Grant work on Curriculum. She spearheaded the development of the William and Mary Curricula for High-Ability Learners. She spoke about how the curriculum was developed. The William and Mary Curricula are integrated, thematic units that use concept development as the core of each unit. I have successfully used them in my elementary gifted classrooms and I liked them very much. Isn't she a warm looking woman? And she has an incredible intellect! Her keynote really had me thinking again about the William and Mary Curricula. The educational theory behind every element of these units is well thought out and its efficacy is documented by research. I am seriously thinking about how to adapt a social studies unit to N.'s homeschool curriculum this year.

Another keynoter, was Michael Clay Thompson, well known for his work on English Language and Literature for kids. He is known for his publications through Royal Fireworks Press. His work includes the Grammar Island, the Word Within a Word series, and (my favorite title) The Sesquipedalian Neologist's Lexicon. Anyone who can come up with a title like that is definitely a kindred spirit! He gave an absolutely riveting talk about Concept Development. I had done one of my Comprehensive Exam questions on this topic, where I discussed the work of Hilda Taba on concept development. I was absolutely delighted to be thinking about it again. Thompson discussed concerns he has about how concept development is used in the classroom. Unless it is thought out, there is a danger that the work of developing concepts could happen in the teacher's head rather than the student's. This means the student is not doing the learning and the teacher is getting all the fun. It was another one of those talks that makes one want more and more and more! The book pictured above is on my absolutely must have list!

The conference ended today with a keynote and keynoters near and dear to my heart. UNM's own Elizabeth Neilsen and Dennis Higgins. They did their wonderful presentation on moral courage. I have heard it before, but it is one of those that needs to be heard several times, I think, to sink in. My thoughts on this presentation, which brought me to tears for a second time, deserve and will get an entry of their own here in the very near future.

While I was away conferencing, N. was home. It seemed kind of strange. He got home on Tuesday and then I was gone all day Wednesday and Thursday and much of today! So we went to see Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix for the second time on Wednesday night. Last night, Bruce came to the NMAG reception at the conference, so we ended up staying until about 9 PM, talking with an old friend of mine from the MA program, and her new husband. I had not met him, and my friend and her husband had not met Bruce. They all hit it off famously, and we talked and talked and talked. It was a warm summer evening in the courtyard of the hotel. A good way to spend some time. I always forget how mu

ch being within the gifted community feels like coming home for me.

And of course, while I was conferencing, Bruce and N. worked on gluing down segments of the floor today.
N. watched for a while, I am told, and then jumped in to help. He was very interested in what the glue was (better living through chemistry) and how the glue worked. He was meticulous in the work--Bruce is his teacher, after all!--and Bruce says that the work went twice as fast, which is a cool thing.

When they were done, though, Bruce would not let N. use the chemical wipes to take the residual glue off the boards. That stuff is "too much better living through chemistry." So N. washed his hands off in mineral oil, and then supervised Bruce on the job.

They are both quite proud of their handiwork for the day!

Tomorrow afternoon, Bruce and N. will cut and lay new boards which they hope to glue down just as fast, and finish the hallway.

Last night, as we were talking at the hotel courtyard, we were lamenting the fact that many young people, even the really smart ones, don't know old aphorisms and figures of speech. We opined that maybe it's because they do not spend much time doing things with parents. So today we taught N. an aphorism from my midwestern childhood:

Many hands make light work.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Updates: 'Da Floorz' and 'Da Boyz'

Update: 'Da Floorz'
Bruce did work on putting in the wood floors again over the weekend. Although he had great intentions, he did not work on them in the evenings last week.
Monday he took a vacation day to work on the floors, so the week nights consisted of Tuesday through Thursday. Tuesday he was very tired from working late into the evening on Monday. Wednesday he had an astronomy phone/internet conference. Thursday...I can't remember why not on Thursday. And, of course, Friday was Shabbat.
Then came Saturday. He went into town with MLC and I in the morning. It's amazing how often you have to run to the hardware store when you are doing a major project. We dropped him off there on the way to pick up our Harry Potter pre-orders. Then he had to eat lunch. By then he was tired from the morning and took a nap, so he didn't really get started until about 3:30 in the afternoon.
I would have been getting upset--just a little, mind you--but I was deep into Harry Potter by then. Still, he got some of the pieces cut for dealing with doorways.
Sunday morning, Bruce was cutting and laying out pieces by 7:30 AM. But the doorway problem was taking a lot of time. Along the 51 foot hallway that runs across the house, there are five doorways. And for each one, the boards have to be cut so that theyfit under the doorframes. Also, the hallway expands to form a half-hexagon at the bedroom end. It something similar but wider where the living room meets the entryway. This means that boards must be cut at a 45 degree angle to fit the space.

The picture at the top shows how the boards had to be cut to form a point at the end of the hallway between the master bedroom door and my office door. From there, they run straight back for 51 feet to the guest bedroom door, just off the dining room. There are 4 boards, each 3 inches wide. That's about 64 square feet of floor laid.

The second picture is of the boards laid out into the area where the hall expands out toward the entryway. The first 5 boards from the left are continuous with the 5 shown in the first picture. The rest had to be cut at an angle to fit the expansion. The tools are laying right in front of Bruce's office door.

The third and last floor picture shows Lily standing right where the hall starts to expand to the left toward the entryway. I took the picture from Bruce's office door. Bruce is working at the bedroom end. All this work around the doors and in the half-hexagonal areas is taking longer than Bruce anticipated. But it is looking good!

Can you see the dust tracks? I can see I will have to use the dust mop frequently.

Update: 'Da Boyz'

N. called this evening and my sister 'Madge' sent me the last Illinois update yesterday. N. will be arriving home tomorrow around noon.

This past week has been very full. On Sunday, he went to Allerton Park. On Monday, it was Lincoln's home and the Illinois State Museum in Springfield. Tuesday it was the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago. Wednesday, the Field Museum. They took Thursday off, but on Friday that went to Starved Rock and Buffalo Rock State Parks on the Illinois River. Saturday, they went fishing at Dawson Lake. Finally, yesterday and today, they did some "hanging out" which included a lot of skateboarding outside Madge's house in Bloomington.

An 'Aspie" moment occured when I asked N. if he was ready to come home. By tone, I implied 'ready' as in emotionally ready. But he did not hear that:

N: "Almost, but Aunt Madge is still washing some of my clothes."
Me: "But are you really ready for your trip to end?"
N: "Well. And I have to wait until I brush my teeth before I can pack my toothbrush."
Me: "But are you --you know--ready to come home. You know, get into the routine again."
N: "Almost. But I still have to put my little bottles into the zip-lock baggies."
Me: "Okay. Do you feel like you want to come home now?"
N: "Oh! That. Yeah. I want to see my room and my dog and hang out with you now."
Me: "So in that way you are ready to come home, then."
N: "Oh, YEAH! And I took lots of pictures. I even took one of us brushing our teeth. Aunt Madge is gonna burn 'em on a cd for you 'cause there's too many to e-mail. I even got a picture of Tyrannosaurus Sue! And of the U-boat at Science and Industry. And Lake Michigan, too! You'll like all the pictures I took."

Well that's the longest sentence he's said on the phone to me in the past three weeks.
I didn't tell him that Madge had sent a few pictures by e-mail. A very few.

I can hardly wait to pick him up tomorrow.
People said that I'd really enjoy the time alone. And I did. But there was an empty spot at the table.

And in my heart.

He's still my baby boy!

Sunday, July 22, 2007

My Lips Are Sealed

I finished the book. I will not reveal the ending.

We did not end up going to the midnight release EVENT for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. MLC and I decided that we would have a nice quiet Shabbat dinner with Bruce and then retire early so that we could pick up the books in the morning for a full day of reading pleasure.

Above: D., T., and N. picking up their books at a bookstore in Illinois. The three cousins caused no mayhem yesterday. They were too busy reading.
We got our books about 9:30 AM MDT and were ensconced in "comfy" chairs near the Seattle's Best counter with lattes in hand by 10 AM. I even had them put carmel in my latte. We were making our own morning release party. We had dropped Bruce off at the Hardware store, so we figured we had about an hour's reading pleasure. I got four chapters read before Bruce called.

We came home, had some lunch, and I settled in my red leather chair in the sitting room with some chocolate and tea and propped my feet up on the hassock. And I did not move again for about four hours. By then I was half-way through the book. I knew I was not following my plan to read a few chapters at a time, but I could not help myself. I could not put the book down! It had a spell on me!

After a short break to walk the dogs, I was back in my chair and I finished the book at about 10 PM. And then I read the first chapter aloud to Bruce. It was that good!

Today I have been wandering about in that post-book mixture of euphoria and sadness. You know the feeling--you've been in an alternate reality, a different world and you have grown to know and love the characters. They have become real. And now you have to re-enter your own world. So you are stuck between worlds for a while. A really good book just does that to me. This morning I re-read different parts, looking closely for the foreshadowing and literary allusions that will allow me to discuss the book. But not here. Not yet. My lips are sealed.

I think I will go back and re-read this book. Soon. That is how powerful it is.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Tradition: Dithering Over the Midnight Hour

I refuse to read the pre-release reviews. But I am still on tenterhooks. How can one even think that Harry Potter might die? It destroys the whole hero's journey! But...I'm worried.

And I am dithering about tonight.

Months ago, I reserved three copies at a well known bookstore.
One for N. One for MLC. And one for me.

The plan was to go to the midnight release EVENT as we have since Goblet of Fire came out. I think that was the first release party--at least in our part of the world.
But then we made summer plans and now N. is going to the midnight EVENT at a different well known bookstore in Illinois. I arranged for his "Aunt Madge" (not her real name but everybody in the family calls her that) to pre-order a copy there for him.

So why go to the midnight party? As I told Bruce, who listened patiently and wisely did not tell me what to do, I would have to drive into town at about 9 PM. I'd have to sit around the bookstore until midnight. I would have to wait in line to get my copy. Then I'd have to drive home, arriving around 2 to 3 in the morning, depending on the lines. And by then, it is unlikely that I'd even be able to keep my eyes open to read the first chapter.

So it's probably more sensible to wait until 9 AM tomorrow morning and arrive at the bookstore and get my copy. It's only 6 or 7 hours later and then I'll be fresh for reading. They have coffee at the bookstore or I can go to our local coffee shop to read. Sounds like a plan.

BUT...we have not missed one of the parties. And this is the LAST one! You know what Garrison Keilor says: If you do it certain way twice, it becomes a TRADITION. And I love tradition.

Tradition. Tradition. Tra-DIT-ion! (Humming Fiddler on the Roof. Da-da-da-da! Da-da-DAH!).

"Why without our tradition, our lives would be..."

A lot less tiring.

Whatever I decide, I will not turn to the last chapter first. I would NEVER do that.
And I will not be on the internet again until I have finished the book.
I do not want my pleasure spoiled.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Update Illinois and Thoughts on Gifted/Twice-exceptional Children

Supposedly, N. has been taking a lot of pictures while he is in Illinois, but he has not downloaded very many to send to me so that I can vicariously enjoy his trip.

In fact, he doesn't seem to think about me much at all! Hummmmp!

I have been getting updates about once or twice a week from my sister, however. And he has called a few times, too. On Friday 6 July, I called him. He had not called before that, so I got the ball rolling and wished him Shabbat Shalom via message machine. On Sunday 8 July, I got this e-mail from my younger sister:

Hey Big Sis,
I could tell you were a wee bit worried about your boy when you called this afternoon. Some "mother's intuition" must have been working it's mojo on you because we got your message at the exact moment that N. most needed to hear your comforting voice. If you had seen the way he hovered over the answering machine listening to your message you'd never doubt for the rest of your life that your baby boy loves his mama!
You know that anyway, of course, but sometimes the teenaged versions of our beloved sons go ten miles beyond sunset out of their way to avoid letting us know they still need us.
They say things like, "YEAH, whatever!" and "Mom, I KNOW, okay?!"
They roll their eyes and shrug helplessly at each other, as if having a MOTHER is a unique scourge visited upon their generation as a sort of unavoidable social disease.

Well. They do become an alien species on the way to manhood.

And my sister has some interesting observations about "da boyz" as she calls them. She wrote:

N. and D. were approaching a potential fight about a stupid BB gun they'd basically stuffed up with spit-wads when you called. D. didn't care about it at all anymore, but N. was obsessed and would not let go of the thing, the project, whatever it had become in his mind. N. was all about getting back the glorious joy of shooting NOTHING BUT AIR out of that pump-action toy gun. D. was sick of the whole thing, and probably jealous of N.'s devotion to what he (D) saw as a stupid broken air gun that he'd discarded as no longer useful years ago. It was sort of interesting watching them work this thing out between themselves, these two mildly autistic boys.

D was far less obsessive than N about the BB gun, but he seemed to intuitively understand N's compulsion. D was WAY more patient about it than my 14 year old self would have been in a million years. D sat watching and offering assistance for HOURS while N worked on the useless BB gun. N was obviously aware of D's irritation and he felt guilty about it but couldn't help himself. At one point I heard N say to D, "Hey, you don't have to sit here forever." D replied, "No, that's okay, I gotcha."

My sister caught a difference between the two boys right away. They are both on the Autism Spectrum. And she is right that N.'s obsessiveness can be partly explained by that. But there is another valid explanation as well. N. is twice-exceptional. His intellectual potential is very high, which also can explain his hyper-focus. Despite what some well-meaning people say, this kind of giftedness is not "as common as dirt." And it is a mixed-bag. N. does not have the kind of intellectual giftedness combined with proclivities and talents that would make him the "A" student in school. In fact, D. is probably the better student in the classroom, even with his mild autism. He is more patient and more willing to "go with the flow." N. is not. He thinks visually, and gets from A to Z so fast that the rest of us are often only at B,C, or D. But to translate his process into words is so difficult for him that he generally just gives up. Like Moses, he is "slow of speech." He makes profound associations but gets frustrated to the point of melt-down or shut-down when he tries to communicate them. He has an astonishing visual memory coupled with extreme sensitivites to sensory input. Imagine the difficulties for him and his teachers in a classroom!

A truth about profound intellectual giftedness is this: The majority of profoundly gifted people are not the world's most successful people. They are unlikely to become presidents or prime ministers, or even famous research scientists. They are outliers. And the world of schools, universities and corporations was not set up with them in mind. They are more likely to have learning disabilities*, social difficulties, extreme sensitivities and psychological illnesses. To put it plainly, their nervous systems function differently. The field of the neurosciences is just beginning to investigate these differences and we do not really understand them. But we know they are there. These kids are truly the square peg in the round hole.

*A word on learning disabilities in the gifted: The higher someone scores on the IQ curve, the more likely they will have what we call "learning disabilites." And yet, these kids learn very well-- in the right environment. But that environment is not the public school general education classroom for most of them. Are these kids really learning disabled? Well that depends, I suspect, on how you define your terms. Maybe they are. And maybe our increasingly cookie-cutter standards and curriculum make them appear so. And maybe its a little bit of both. I don't know.

And for N., Asperger's Syndrome complicates matters further. Or maybe it's part and parcel of his profound giftedness. We don't know that, either. What we do know is that N. has an unusual cognitive phenotype. He is an outlier. He has a million-dollar brain. And yet, if most of us could go to the brain shop and if we had a million dollars to spend, we would not choose to buy a brain like his. It is too different. Too difficult. So maybe "gifted" is not the right word. But we have to call it something. The phenomenon of giftedness is real. Intelligence is a continuous trait in human beings. Like height. And weight. Most of us are somewhere in the middle. Some of us fall below average. And some of us above. Some are far below. And some are far above.

For those whose intelligence falls either far below or far above the average, there will be different educational needs. We recognize and provide for this for children with low cognitive abilities. But for many reasons, we often balk at the thought for children who are outliers at the other end of the curve. For a profoundly twice-exceptional child like N., the need for a qualitatively different education is even more pressing. And if the majority of children, those whose intelligence is somewhere near average, are having difficulties with our current educational practice, then gifted and twice-exceptional children certainly will.

Despite all of the talk about "diversity," the public schools have by-and-large abandoned the concept of individualizing educational practices to meet the needs of all of their students. No Child Left Behind has, in practice, been developed as a system of lock-step standards and goals that demand that all children demonstrate the exact same skills at the exact same age in the exact same way. There are many political and ideological "reasons" for this; but reason itself plays almost no role at all in this educational debacle.

So we opted out. By bringing N. home we can deliver to him an education that is truly individual. We can change strategies as we go, keeping what works, getting rid of what doesn't, and developing innovative techniques to meet his needs. We do not have to wait for somebody somewhere to notice that N.'s needs are not being met. We do not have to lose opportunities because "programs don't exist" for a child like N. At home, we can give him what he needs as the needs become apparent.

At home, N. does not cease to be profoundly gifted. He does not cease to have AS. He is still a twice-exceptional child. But he also gets to be something at least as important. Just a Kid. He gets to ponder and look for shapes in the clouds. He gets to tie knots and he gets to go from A to Z without words. At least sometimes. He gets to do what needs doing at his own pace and in his own time. He doesn't have to worry too much about how he differs from the other kids. We don't need to make comparisons on achievement and growth. We are not in competition with anyone. We are simply meeting the unique needs of of one kid. We didn't start out planning to do it this way. We started homeschooling in order to solve a problem. In N.'s case, we couldn't fix the public education system in order to make it work for us. So we had to solve the problem by doing something different. And we discovered that it is also lots of fun!

When we bring twice-exceptional kids home for school, this does not mean that "giftedness" and all that it entails disappears from the earth. The "label" is still useful and the differences are still real. Homeschooling is simply an unconventional way to meet the needs of the gifted or twice-exceptional child. And for us, it has been highly effective.

And what happened with the problem of the useless B.B. gun? "Da boyz," with a little help from my phone call and Aunt Madge, figured it out.

They had just about had it with the whole BB gun thing when we got your message. Luckily I found a bow and arrow set in the garage that caught their fancy and got them focused on something different. After talking to you N was in a much better humor and they both seemed to relax into their evening. They ran around the neighborhood making fools of themselves pretending to be savages and they loved it. They tried to "stalk" me and would have succeeded easily except that I happened to walk past them on my way from the patio...

Sometimes solving a problem takes you in a completely different direction than you planned. The solution sneaks up on you. And you end up having lots of fun.

(The pictures in this post are the few I have received from Illinois. One is from Allerton Park and Mansion. One is from the Prarieland Aviation Museum. The maps and the New Salem picture are from the Illinois Department of Tourism).

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Drat! Missed the Deadline...Again: COH 81

The latest Carnival of Homeschooling, The Teacher In-Service Edition is up over at Principled Discovery. There are 55 articles presented this week but mine is not one of them. I missed the deadline.

Well...I have had other things on my mind. But when I need a break, I'll have some good reading ahead.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Stand by Your Geek: Laying the First Planks

It took until this afternoon for Bruce to lay the first planks and glue them down.

Yesterday morning, he finished filing the doorframes so that the floor would fit underneath them. Carpet has some give in it, but the wood floor will not. And Bruce would rather have the floor fit under the doorframes than around the edges. Since wood expands and contracts with changes in humidity, space has to be left between the wood and the wall for that to happen and Bruce'd rather have that space hidden by the doorframe.

While he was at it, Bruce found imperfections in how the contractors put up the doorframes. They are not noticable with the casual glance but he fixed them anyway. "I'll know they're there and it will bother me." Yep. Geek to the core.

Yesterday afternoon, Bruce pieced out the first two rows that extend the length of the hallway. This involved some cutting at an angle because at the end of the hallway where I was standing to take the picture, the hallway expands outward to make a half-hexagon on the side where Zoey is standing. This accomodates N.'s bedroom door (pictured), the bathroom door and my office door. The corner between my office door and the master bedroom comprises an angle the straight line of the planks hit.

In this picture, we are looking down the hallway from the master bedroom door, through the living room and at the 2nd master suite at the end of the hall. It is quite long.

One reason that beginning to lay out the planks took so long was that the pieces in the boxes of wood are of different sizes, so Bruce counted out the number of each size in order to make sure not to come to a point where all he'd have left are small pieces.

I think it would have worked just as well to lay them out randomly. I suspect that is what most people do. But Bruce said: "I don't want to box myself into a corner." Figuratively, of course. He doesn't like surprises!

This morning Bruce did more cutting and piecing, so that he could lay out about 5 rows of the planks straight across the entire hallway from master suite to second master suite.

The glue is spread out using a large trowel with darts cut out on the edges, so that the glue is spread as stripes. These stripes match notches on the bottom of the planks. This provides a better "grab" between the glue and the plank, so that the boards will not shift.

Blue painter's tape is used to tape the planks together while the glue dries. The floor can have "light use" after a few hours, but it will be 24 hours before furniture can be put on it and normal use can resume.

In this picture you can the flooring that has been set on the glue to the right, and the pieces, together like those of a puzzle that are still to be put on the glue to the left.

I have not been much help in this process.

Bruce is in "quality control" mode, and he does not really want anyone else to touch the work, because he knows what he is doing.

So I have been working on my power-point presentation for the New Mexico State Gifted Conference. Lily has been sleeping on the daybed in my office while lending her moral support. Every now and then, she and Zoey will rouse themselves and check out the work Bruce is doing. Then they return to keep me company.

It is frustrating that I can do so little to help. But Bruce's perfectionism will not allow it. And although I am also frustrated by the intensity of some of his methods, I breathe through it--as much as the glue smells allow!

The perfectionism may take a little longer, the results will have a quality that no contractor can duplicate.

You can see the concentration, here.

Look at the intensity of effort!

He is so focused. So intent on getting it absolutely right!

I gotta love my Geek!

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Make a Little Blessing, the Monsoon has Come!

It's official!

The afternoon clouds and evening thunderstorms we have been getting are due to "strong daytime heating, monsoonal moisture and orographic uplift" over the southern and central mountain chains. (From Weatherbug Meteorologist Adam Bell). "Orographic uplift" is earth science speak for the heated mountains lofting up the moist monsoonal flow from the south.

The monsoons are here. This is good news because, although our moist spring and early summer dampened the fire season earlier in the summer, our fire danger had been very high lately.

We are not out of the woods, yet, however, as the thunderstorms do produce lighting, which can start fires unless the rain follows. So far, we have been getting local thundershowers with reasonable rain under them, rather than the frontal monsoons we got last year. However, last year was a record monsoon--the most moisture since records have been kept. We cannot expect that again.

What we are hoping to see, though, is a normal monsoon, which will deepen into August, with local thundershowers bringing moisture every few days to an area.

Last week, when MLC and I took the dogs for their evening walk, we were happy to see the clouds gathering over Shadow Mountain Valley. It felt kind of "sticky"--although nothing like what they get in the midwest--and so the breeze on top of Via Sedillo ridge felt really good.
We were sweating as we descended into the Valley, and when we climbed back up, we were rewarded with a little shower right over the ridge. It felt cool and refreshing!

We even saw a rainbow--though I didn't have a got shot for a picture!

As I sang the rainbow blessing, I was struck by the thought that the blessing, which reminds us that the Eternal is faithful to the covenant with all the earth, is as much about not destroying the earth by drought (lack of water) as it is by deluge.

At least, that is how it seems to me, living, as I do, in desert mountains.

In English, the blessing goes something like this:
"Blessed are you, Eternal, our G-d, ruler of the universe,
who remembers the covenant and is faithful to the covenant and keeps his word (with all the living)."

The monsoons also provide a wonderful show in the sky. The clouds formed by the "orographic lifting" of moisture, tend to form in the afternoon. So the sunsets become spectactular, golden, red and orange light on purple and pink and gold clouds.

How pleasant it is to go out on the porch during the long summer twilight, and cooled by the breezes produced by the monsoonal flow, enjoy the beautiful sunsets.

Each part of the season has it's own particular beauty. In June, I enjoy the cool mornings.
In July, I enjoy the evenings, brought to us in technicolor by the North American monsoon.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Geeking Out, R3D3, & Why Prep Takes So Long

Some people geek out on Star Trek, Star Wars, or computers. Some geek-out on Harry Potter, science fiction, or even subway schedules.

But my beloved husband gets the geek-gleam in his eye over tools and DIY equipment.
And he has to have just the right thing to do the right job--perfectly.

Which is why, six days past FLOORING--THE BEGINNING, we are still in the preparation stage. I took the above pictue last night. You can see that in the dining room, the carpet is finally out, and the carpet is rolled up under the window. And why did it take from Sunday until yesterday to get this far? Bruce needed just the right tool to get up the carpet tack-strips. And he was just waiting until he could get to Harbor Freight.


But as you can see in the picture to the left, the carpet is completely out of the hallways as of today. It's amazing what a geek can do with the perfect tool.

Yesterday, I finally moved the dining chairs that were stacked on top of each other from the living room. I also removed the basedboards that had been removed. They were marked with mysterious marking on the back in indelible ink. Markings like: "OFF 2 W" (office, 2 west) and "LR 3 NE." I put them in the garage, in one stack, on the other side of the table in the middle. The one we use to hold all sorts of stuff that would probably be rejected by Good Will. Then I straightened up the living room and vacuumed the only carpeting left in the main areas of the house (other than bedrooms).

I just wanted to have one place to sit where things looked (relatively) normal.

When Bruce got home from work and looked at the living room, a worried furrow appeared in his brow. "Where's the baseboard?"

"I put it in the garage," I said. "Zoey nearly punctured her paw when she stepped on one."

"H-h-how'd you move them?" He asked.
Me: "I carried them into the garage one at a time."
Bruce: "But did you vacuum them first?"
Me: "Huh?"
Bruce, starting to breath rapidly: "Well..where'd you put them?"
Me: "By the table."
Bruce, hyperventilating: "But did you use my system?"
Me, with weary patience: "What system, honey?"
Bruce: "D-d-d-did you stack them according to room and direction and number?"
Me; "Huh?"

You get the picture.

So today I went to town to go to the bakery for Challah--it's too hot to bake. I even had a breakfast burrito for lunch, giving Bruce and much time alone with the prep as possible.

When I got home, Bruce had re-stacked the flooring boxes and removed the carpet in the hallways.

While I put the Challah and groceries away, Bruce swept the halls--twice. Then he re-swept the dining room. With a broom!

While I vacuumed the kitchen and dining room, he re-swept the halls.
I thought I'd be helpful and vacuumed the dining room edges. You know, where the baseboards and floor meet, if the baseboards are on. Which they are not. I looked up to see Bruce looking at me, brow furrowed again.

Bruce: I'll just get R3D3."
Me: "Huh?"
Bruce: "You should use R3D3 to get the job done right."
Me: "Is R3D3 related to R2D2?"
Bruce, pulling the gynormous shop-vac into the house: "...Come on, R3..."

Of course, he re-did the dining room with R3D3.
He is now getting R3D3 to help out with the hallways.

I thought they looked pretty spiffy in the picture above.
But apparently not spiffy enough.

The Beam Central Vac is not the right tool for the job.
To get it perfectly spiffy you need...

[Dum, dum, dum-de da-dum da-dum (Star Wars theme)]


I'll let him get it perfect for at least 30 more minutes. Then I'll tell Bruce "Skywalker" that it's time to have a bath for Shabbat.
Han Solo is coming to dinner. With the Wookie.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

High Inquisitor Umbridge: The Cloying Sweetness of Evil

Warning:This is a post that discusses the new Harry Potter movie. If you have read the book, then the post will not spoil the movie. But it might if you haven't.

I saw Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix last night. I did not go to the 12:01 AM showing on Tuesday night-Wednesday morning because I just hate to pay 10 bucks for a movie that I will fall asleep at.
These days I can sleep through the most exciting movies if I am tired enough and if they are late enough.

So Bruce and I went to a reasonably (for us) timed showing at 6:30 PM. That way, I met him near Sandia, we ate and drove to the theater together, and still arrived home by about 10 PM when all was said and done.

The movie was exciting, and I enjoyed it, although I stand by my prejudice that almost no movie can do justice to the written work. Of course, if I were the queen of movie adaptations, there were things that I would have included or made clearer, but IMHO Roger Ebert's review was really off the mark this time. My guess is that he has not read the book and has some clear misunderstandings about the Harry Potter world.

As when I read the book, I was fascinated anew by the character of Dolores Umbridge (played skillfully by Imelda Stauton). J.K. Rowling is very good at introducing us to types of people that are almost archetypes. Dolores Umbridge, the Hogwarts' High Inquisitor, is such a character. As the story opens, she is placed at Hogwarts School for Wizardry and Magic by Cornelius Fudge, the Minister of Magic, in order to reform (Hermione uses the words "interfere with") the curriculum at the school. As the story unfolds, she finds so much to reform that she succeeds in becoming High Inquisitor, with the power to fire staff and torture students, and finally, temporarily, headmistress.

In her role as an agent for the Ministry of Magic's desire to suppress the reality of approaching evil in the form of the return of the dark wizard, Voldemort, Umbridge manages to disrupt the curriculum that would teach students to defend themselves against the "Dark Arts." It is only through the subterfuge of the students themselves that real lessons in fighting the approaching evil threatened by Voldemort go on.

But the evil represented by Dolores Umbridge is not the dark and powerful evil of Voldemort. It is not bold and immediately frightening. In fact, it is not even immediately apparent. No. The evil that Umbridge represents is that of a mid-level bureaucrat who in her self-righteousness, makes small, incremental choices to do unrighteous acts. Early in the movie, she justifies torturing Harry by saying sweetly, "You know that you really do deserve to be punished," thereby placing responsibility for her evil act on the victim of it. Later, she will justify her attempt to use the illegal and horrible cruciatus curse, by saying that the extraordinary circumstances she is in require it (the ends justify the means), and that she is doing it because she is loyal to the ministry of magic (a deflection of responsibility), and that the powers that be need never know (anything is legal as long as you don't get caught).

Dolores Umbridge's character serves also as a contrast to the developing strength of Harry Potter's character. By his 5th year at Hogwarts, Harry is deep in the existential angst of adolescence. And because he is a deeply moral person, he struggles with his connection with the evil Voldemort, and he worries that he might be evil himself through that connection. As he wrestles with this possibilty, he is counseled by his godfather, Sirius Black, and later by Dumbledore, that this is the lot of all of us, that we all have the inclination toward good and the inclination toward evil within us, and that is our choices that ultimately determine our destiny.

But what differentiates Harry's character from that of Dolores Umbridge is that he knows that he has within him the possibility to do evil and that he must make choices and take responsibility for them. Dolores Umbridge, on the other hand sees herself as the epitome of sweetness and light. She is sure of her own righteousness, and therefore puts the responsibility for her evil acts on others. This "cloying sweetness" is made plain by her dress and her manner and the way she drinks her tea--with 3 heaping teaspoons full of sugar. Her character is a demonstration of the difference between "goodness" and "niceness." We tend to equate the two but they aren't necessarily the same.

At the end of the movie, Harry has the opportunity to inflict the forbidden cruciatus curse on a witch who has just murdered his godfather. And he is tempted to use it by Voldemort. But in the end he chooses not to do so. And in making the choice, he takes responsibility for what he does, which the opposite of what Umbridge does when the opportunity presented itself to her.

I believe that it is this quality of the mythic hero's journey that makes the story of Harry Potter so compelling to so many of us. We can look at the world situation around us and see all of the elements of the story in our reality. We, too, know that there is evil approaching. And we have some leaders who would like to deny that. And we, too, are reluctant to use that label--evil--because we know that we have the same capacity within ourselves.

It's all there. But what really got my attention was how well Rowling understands that most of us confuse "nice" with "good." And so the overdone "sweetness" of Dolores Umbridge is funny and scary at the same time. It is so unexpected. But it shouldn't be.

And then there is our expectation that a "good" woman should be "nice"...but that's a different blog entry.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Rejecting "Pomo": Another Reason to Homeschool

My post-secondary education has been mostly in the sciences. I hold degrees in Geology, Biology, and now, I am studying in the neurosciences.

Now, some of you--the ones who spent your mornings in English Literature classes and your afternoons playing Frisbee on the Quad while we poor science geeks were in physics labs quantifying the forces on said toy (you know who you are)--might say: "I'm sorry. You missed a lot."

And it is true. I missed the phenomenon called postmodernism--called "pomo" for short, according to Wickepedia. I did not learn it. I do not understand it. I cannot "grok" it. I try not to even think about it.

I know that's an evasion--but we all have our weaknesses.

But yesterday a set of books from Amazon--ordered a week ago by 2-day delivery (don't ask)--arrived. (If you insist on asking, the books were originally dispatched from Coffeyville, KS). One of the books was Who Killed Homer? (WHK) And that is the one that I started to read with my lunch yesterday.

Wow! I almost didn't get my afternoon work done. In fact, I admit that I took some shortcuts.
The book is about the rapid disappearance of an understanding of our culture's classical roots in American education. Publisher's Weekly puts it this way:

"...classicists Victor Davis Hanson and John Heath explain what has been killed, who did it, and why. They rescue the Greeks from postmodernist scholars who disparage the thought and art of these 'dead white European males'..." (paperback back cover).

I haven't finished the book yet, so I don't know if they actually "rescue the Greeks,"* but I did spend some reading time grappling with the problems presented by postmodernism. And now I am actually thinking about it. You know how it is: if you ignore entropy, it only gets worse. But at the same time that I was pretending that postmodernism would go away, or that, at least it did not affect me when I was teaching at the college, high school and elementary level, of course it was. Affecting me--that is.

From my reading about the term postmodernism--admittedly limited--and from the discussion of it in WKH, I will reduce it's complex and (according to Wickepedia) somewhat fluid definition to the essential idea that reality is socially constructed. All of it. In other words, the postmodernists think that Aristotle had it wrong: reality isn't really real. A is not A.

So that's what the classicists, philosophy majors and creative writing afficianados where discussing on the Quad while I was laboring to isolate my unknown by titration in Quantitative Analysis. Damn! I wish I'd have know that someone had revoked reality. I wouldn't have wasted my time determining the unknown amount down to the nearest picoliter. Who cares? It's not real anyway! Let's go play frisbee! Oops. But what if Newton's laws of motion aren't real, either? Better just have a beer.

OK, for you chemists out there, I exagerate. Our titrator was not that precise. In fact it had the disconcerting habit of letting loose more than one drop of reagent at the critical moment, turning the solution pink before we could count the actual drops. Meaning that we had to redo the experiment. From the beginning. And buy the TA the supper he missed because the Dining Hall closed at 7:15 PM. For the non-geeks reading this, that's called "burning the midnight oil." Drat that 1970's technology!

But I digress. Sort of. Because the point I am trying to make here is that a scientist cannot accept this premise of postmodernism. I mean, if reality is socially constructed--which I take to mean that it is agreed upon by a culture--then the Earth ceased rotating around the sun during medieval European times. But only for the Europeans. And only until Galileo. But of course, at the archives of the Roman Catholic church, the earth did not start revolving around the sun until 1993, when church officials remembered that they'd condemned Galileo of heresy all those years ago and cleared him. Maybe they were eager to have seasons again?

I admit that this is a ridiculous argument that takes the "pomo" stance way too far. I got carried away. I'm sorry.

My actual point stands though: a scientist cannot accept that reality is socially constructed.
The job of a scientist is to use experimental and empirical methods to determine how the universe functions. In order to do this, the scientist must start with the idea that the universe operates in a predictable way following universally (get it?) applicable laws. If a scientist wishes to do her job with integrity, she cannot decide to throw out evidence because it does not agree with her (socially constructed) ideas about the world.

I'm sure that a "pomo" advocate would interject here that science is, itself, a socially constructed pursuit with socially constructed rules. And that integrity really doesn't exist. (Or is this last nihilism? Amoralism? Damn--wish I'd have taken that modern philosoply course. But I didn't have time. I was spending hours mucking about with reality in science labs). At the least, the "pomo" would say that integrity is whatever we say it is.

And that brings me to the issue of postmodernism and education. Because, if we say that reality is whatever we agree it is, then nothing is absolute. Not the laws of nature. Not the values of western culture. Justice? Forget it. Right action? It's whatever we say it is.

Talk about the tyranny of the majority!

Those people, those heroes, who stood up against injustice, must have been delusional--after all, they did not accept the socially approved reality. Martin Luther King? He was just wasting his time. With pomo, society needs no heroes.

These ideas--although generally not this blatant (no good pomo-ist would say that about MLK)--are pervasive in our educational system. And the effect on our children is that it teaches them to never stand out in a crowd. Never stand alone. Although our children are taught all about multiculturalism on MLK day, they are implicitly taught never to do what MLK did. He stood up for an absolutist principle. The one we call justice.

And if our children do not learn that there are values worth standing up for, they become sheep for the sheering. Not taught to think independently, they become servants of the state rather than free citizens. That's not the purpose of eduation in a republic.

And that is another reason why I homeschool my son. I am not interesting in raising cannon-fodder.

"Am I buggin' ya? Didn't mean to bug ya. Edge, play the blues." --Heard on "The Joshua Tree" released by U2.

Well. I wonder what diatribe Chapter 4 of Who Killed Homer will provoke?

*I have a hard time thinking of Agamemnon and Achilles as needing rescuing. Oh, all right, I admit that they were probably oppressors of women and war-mongers, but they were authentic HEROES. And heroes can take care of themselves. Or at least discuss what their tragic flaw was when they met as shades in Hades.