Saturday, September 27, 2008

More homeschooling validation

Someone asked why I am not blogging much anymore. Ever since we had the boy tested for learning disabilities things have been a little crazy around here. Neurofeedback twice a week. Occupational Therapy twice a week. Piano once a week. Then there' s the regular homeschooling to be done, and the scouts and his sister's soccer (let's not forget the other child here), and...

There is also more testing. He had a visual perceptual exam the other day. That is not a "regular" vision exam where one finds out if glasses are necessary. This has to do with visual processing. And we learned that this boy has a whole slew of left/right issues that are related to his sports difficulties, handwriting problems, reading problems, and potentially (!!) driving problems. The doc said that he would suggest occupational therapy if we were not already doing it.

I didn't go to this appointment but heard the report from the seminarian. The question I hate to ask was on the tip of my tongue: "was any of this the result of things we did or didn't do?"

No. When asked what caused this, the doc shrugged and said "we don't know." But he went on to confirm that homeschooling is the best possible situation. The flexibility and ability to tailor the education make a huge difference.

So here we are.

Ever hear of ACORN?

Follow these links. And somebody, anybody please send me something substantive that refutes this. I bet you can't.

Dems Want to Reward Scandal-Tarnished "Community Organizing" Group in Economic Rescue Bill

Re-Seeding the Housing Mess

Yes, I know there are not that many people reading this, but at least a few of you are not McCain supporters. So, come on, send me links that show these articles are wrong.

Update: I can't get that one headline any smaller, no matter what I do. I don't really care, just thought I'd say that in case anyone's wondering why it's so big.

Who caused the financial crisis?

Somebody, anybody, send me something substantive to refute this. I don't think you can...

Found this here, via... who knows where. Lots of blogs have it. Great soundtrack too. Oh, because I'm old, I had a hard time keeping up, but you other oldsters can pause it.

Why do people fear Republicans when it comes to free speech?

I never heard of any Republican candidate doing this:

"The Barack Obama campaign is asking Missouri law enforcement to target anyone who lies or runs a misleading TV ad during the presidential campaign."

Really, this should make everyone angry, Democrat or Republican. I find this frightening.

UPDATE: Governor of MO issues statement condemning this. But why aren't these people fired right now? They are supposed to be upholding the law, not acting as Democrat KGB. Would that be a free speech issue? I don't think so.

And somebody, anybody, send me something showing Republican candidates doing this kind of thing.

Via Gateway Pundit.

UPDATE: Here is a story from the NYT about Obama's misleading ads.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Get off the computer and go to the library.

For some reason today I am thinking about public libraries and how so many people have no idea what they are missing out on by not going there.

Why, there are books of all sorts, both in book form and on CD (and even cassette, for crying out loud!) and some on pre-loaded ipod-like devices. There are music CDs and movies. Magazines. Old newspapers. Reference materials so you can look stuff up.

Yes, there is a lot of stuff available on the internet (and you can use the internet at the library) but how can anyone not like strolling along the aisles, browsing those stacks of books/racks of CDs/cases of DVDs? And it's all free; you can load up a huge bag of stuff to haul home (we do every time) and not feel guilty at all. You also don't have to feel guilty if you end up not reading the book, watching the movie, listening... you get the idea. Unless, of course, you get those unused items back late and have to pay a fine. (In our spending tracking system, we have a category called "stupid" for those fines, among other things.)

Go on now, support your local library.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Volunteer deadbeats

The soccer saga continues...

The trick this soccer league uses to get parents to volunteer to work is to put a dollar value on it: you can volunteer, or you can pay $20 more to play. This seems like a fair exchange to me. Organizations like this run on volunteer help, and it seems reasonable to require a premium to get out of the work.

But I learned that in reality, only half the people who say they will volunteer actually end up doing any work. When asked to pick dates to serve, people just blow it off. It's easy to ignore email, and people have probably figured out that there' s no time or manpower to make them fulfill the obligations they agreed to.

In the snack bar Saturday we talked about that a little bit. I suggested that they charge everyone the full price and give a refund when the service has been completed. One woman said that instead of a refund, they should apply the $20 to next year's registration. But not everyone is going to go back next year. I suppose they could get a credit card number to charge at the end of the season, but that seems like a logistical nightmare.

Later, I realized what the perfect solution is: shame. Now shame is kind of out of style, and it's hard to shame people anymore. But the trick would be to shame them in front of their children.

The coaches should have a list of parents, the jobs they have volunteered for, and whether or not they have done their work, or at least have set a date for it. At the end of the soccer game each week, the coaches should call the players and their parent(s) together and go over the list:

"Mrs. Reed, thanks for working the snack bar last week. Mr. Brady, you signed up for setup duty next week, great, see you at 7. Mrs. McGillicuddy and Mr. Clampett, you said you'd work 'where needed' but have not signed up for anything yet. Did you not get those emails with the available dates? Let's see, how does the 8:30 - 10:30 snack bar shift next Saturday sound to you?"

The important part is that the kids are there, hearing that their parents are deadbeats. Seeing the coach chastise their folks not not fulfilling the obligations to which they agreed at the beginning of the season even though they had no intention of coming through with the work, to save 20 bucks. The parents will be embarrassed. They will realize they are being poor role models for their children and will repent and sign up.

They really will, won't they?

Saturday, September 13, 2008

My snack bar shift

Our soccer league has an interesting way of drumming up volunteers: upon registering, the parent can choose to volunteer to help in some way, or pay an extra $20 fee. This kind of brings up the image of "mandatory volunteerism" which we might talk about some more later. But, it seems like a good method. Except it doesn't work. I learned today that only about half of the people who volunteer to work actually do anything.

I had signed up to work in the snack bar rather than help with field setup and takedown, since setup happens about 7 am. I can handle the stress of selling candy and pop. (Side note: I was asked today if I was from Pittsburgh because I said "pop" instead of soda. I said no, but that I was born in Buffalo. People always nod knowingly when I say that. Since I haven't been to Buffalo since 1982 I am not sure what that means.) The first week of the season I received email asking all the people who'd volunteered for snack bar duty to sign up for their choice of days and times. The time commitment is a 2-hour shift, just one. Not bad for saving $20. No discounts or freebies at the snack bar, though.

'Tis a good thing I am not in charge of running the snack bar; it seems impossible to me how anyone can predict how many hot dogs to put on the roller-cooker-thing, or how many of each color of Gatorade to put in the fridge. This snack bar did have one up on the Little League's; at least here only one person handles unwrapped food, and that person does not handle money! And, there is no icky pot of orange cheeze substance for nachos. I suspected that the crockpot of orange cheeze just gets refilled when it runs low, but never actually emptied... but I digress. All in all, this was a clean snack bar.

But, I am a big policy-and-procedure geek from way back, and I just cannot help but think about writing policies and procedures for any organization that I observe. It's a sickness. So if I ruled the snack bar world... my rules (beyond having separate money- and food-handlers) would be.

1. No children under 10 (maybe 12) in the snack bar.

2. No balls in the snack bar.

3. No cell phone chatting.

4. Employees/volunteers who want to carry on extended chats with customers need to ask them to step aside and stop blocking the entire counter area from the customers behind them.

5. The snack bar is not the place to teach your children how to make change, particularly if they have to be told that "the quarter is the big one." (See number 1.)

Really, the place was crawling with children kicking soccer balls around. OK, just 2, but in a tiny space when one has to dodge soccer balls while adding up the cost of 2 Gatorades, 3 hot dogs and 4 hot pretzels, oh and how much are the red skittles and are the blue ones cheaper... it seems like more.

One of the kids was 7, didn't know the different coins, and couldn't reach the counter, but her mother decided she could help anyway. Her 10-12ish year old brother was "helping" too. Mostly these two helped by kicking and tossing the soccer ball around, nagging mom for sweets and fighting over whose turn it was to get a drink out of the fridge for the customer that someone other than their mom was helping. She rarely actually helped anyone but spent most of her time talking on her cellphone while sitting on the cooler, making it difficult to get at the extra bottles of purple Gatorade, which was apparently the color du jour, based on the requests. AND PLUS (I am trying to get my sister the grammar nazi to read and comment here) she was talking on the cell phone in a foreign language and laughing... so I know she was talking about all of us schmucks who were actually doing some snack bar-related work while she chatted and made pedicure appointments (I'm just speculating on the pedicure part).

Well, my two-hour shift dragged by and I was free. Now I have the rest of the season to enjoy my girl's games and avoid the snack bar. Oh, I do have team snack duty later this month. (Yes, not only do kids have the opportunity to buy snacks, but they get a free snack as well!) I hope I can come up with a snack to outdo this week's: Dunkin' Donuts for all!

Next: deadbeat parents who don't fulfill their volunteer obligations and what do to about them.

Reading comprehension and "reply all"

Yesterday I received email from my daughter's soccer coach about today's game and planned picture day. It said, in part:

Our picture day is NOT tomorrow as orginally scheduled.

There have been a lot of schedule changes this year.

We are now scheduled for pictures on Sat. Sept. 20th at (yikes!) 7:50 AM.

However, our game is scheduled for 9:30 AM .

I've attached the final, final schedule.

See everyone tomorrow at 9:15 AM, suited and ready to play.

I edited a few unnecessary things out of there. From this message, I got the point that picture day had been postponed, our game time for today had changed from 8:30 to 9:30, and there was a new schedule of future games. The schedule was indeed attached! Very clear, very organized, and accurate!

So I was surprised when the replies started coming in... comments like "I thought the game was at 8:30." "I thought pictures were tomorrow." And this morning: "We went to the field at 8:30 thinking there was a game. Hope there is a game at 9:30."

Of course the only reason I saw all these replies was because these people used "reply all" instead of just replying to the sender.

I felt like doing my own reply all and saying "Thanks, Coach, for the clear email instructions and new schedule." But, you know, my kid and I are outcasts enough: She is the only first-year player, having been deprived of soccer till age 9, which is apparently ancient in soccer years; and because I homeschool her. So I didn't want to be the known as the rude snarky mom too. Also I shouldn't be trying to embarrass people. Even though I really, really felt like it.

Later: my shift in the snack bar!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

This should make you sick

A doctor in Canada is worried that abortions might decline because of Sarah Palin. Worried. That women will not abort their babies because they are not perfect.

Dr. Andre Lalonde, executive vice president of the Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists in Ottawa, worries that Palin's now renowned decision may cause abortions in Canada to decline as other women there and elsewhere opt to follow suit.


Lalonde says his primary concern is that women have the....

...choice of abortion and that greater public awareness of women making choices like Palin to complete a pregnancy and give birth to their genetically-abnormal baby could be detrimental and confusing to the women and their families.

"The worry is that this will have an implication for abortion issues in Canada," Lalonde tells the Globe and Mail.

This is very worrying to me too. Because I wonder how far the idea of choice in terminating pregnancies in the quest for perfect babies will go.

I was way old when I had my kids. My chart (when I was pg with the first) said "elderly prima gravida" which means... way old to be having a first baby. I did have genetic testing (amniocentesis), because I don't like surprises. If I was going to have a baby with some genetic problems I wanted to know about it first. To research, you know? Prepare. Get ready. As if anyone is ever truly ready for a baby to drop into their lives, even a perfect one.

Then this year the one kid went through the neuropsychological testing and we found a boatload of "issues" that have had and will have an effect on his academic abilities. Like, mastering long division. And I'm reading up on all these learning disabilities (I'm sorry, differences, I keep forgetting) and I'm told I should go ahead and mourn for the perfect child that I wanted but don't have. And I'm thinking... mourn? I am rejoicing because "working memory deficiencies" are easier to think about than "bad at math." Specific problems with fine motor skills can be addressed, "hates to write" is a little tougher. Now we understand our boy. And some things we can fix, maybe.

But this is where we're at now. People are supposed to mourn their kid's AD/HD diagnosis. So what's up on the prenatal testing horizon? Once "they" eliminate all the Down Syndrome babies, who will be next? In 15 years, when my boy's as-yet-hypothetical wife is pregnant, will she be advised to abort the learning disabled child she's carrying?

Oh, I came across that article at Rachel Lucas, who is a super blogger - because I agree with her opinions and she's got some very cool dogs. But if you are offended by profanity, don't go there. (Though the linked post is remarkably profanity-free.) She's probably the most casually profane person I've ever "met." (Well, outside that one family member who shall remain nameless.)

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Would you sign your kids up for this writing class?

The announcement began:

"Myself and Mrs. X* are starting..."

a writing class for homeschooled kids.

We won't be signing up.

*Name changed to protect the grammatically-challenged one's accomplice. And now that I've said that, someone's going to find a grammar error in this post. Where's my sister? She'd catch it.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Things that keep people from blogging

Floods in the laundry room and the garage, caused by storms.

Figuring out packed lunches for the seminarian who is back in school now.

Soccer games and practices.

Appointments, lots of appointments for the child with the learning "differences" (we aren't supposed to say disabilities even if the child is getting "therapy" for the "differences").

Piano lessons and practices.

Looking for lost library books and dvds.


Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Accomplished, smart, beautiful, happy... what's not to dislike?

Like so many others, I am spellbound by the Sarah Palin story. Sounds like an '80s mini-series starring Farrah Fawcett, doesn't it?

Anyway, I've been reading around the blogs and reading women's reactions to Sarah Palin as VP. Now I don't know much about Governor Palin, obviously, but it's been fun reading and hearing what some women have to say about her. Meow.

Let me just stop a second to point out that I have not always been a sheltered parasitic housewife. I worked for 20 years. And I worked around a lot of women: married, single, with and without kids. Even in my current nonworking state I come into contact with loads of women at the homeschool group, the soccer field, the library... and I am one of those people that women seem to want to spill their guts (and their opinions) to. I don't know why but it has always been thus. And I have always known a lot of bitter women. Women who can't stand, just cannot stand to see another woman who has something she does not have, but wants.

So I think I know some of the reason there is a negative reaction from women - not just feminist pro-choice women but women in general: jealousy and insecurity.

Governor Palin is a dream: she's smart, accomplished, tough, beautiful, and apparently happy. And happily married, at that. She's got a handsome husband. She is also supremely attractive to men because of the aforementioned attributes but also because of the things she does: she hunts! She fishes! She plays sports! She also has a real life and real problems that come with it, and it appears she handles them with grace (we'll see as time goes on). She seems to be comfortable with her faith and her ethics and values.

So you can see why women have to harp on her hairdo.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Evangelical take on the Palin teen pregnancy

Focus on the Family is not an organization about which I have much to say. I don't hang on Dr. Dobson's words as some folks do - as a lot of folks do. Like it or not, he is an influential voice for many people.

So I was so pleasantly surprised at his response to the Palin pregnancy news.

We have always encouraged the parents to love and support their children and always advised the girls to see their pregnancies through, even though there will of course be challenges along the way. That is what the Palins are doing, and they should be commended once again for not just talking about their pro-life and pro-family values, but living them out even in the midst of trying circumstances.

This is the way it's supposed to be. This is what Christianity is supposed to look like. That it doesn't always is maddening. I am sure that the charge of hypocrisy will come up in all this. Not sure from whence, but it will and may well be true. Would the reaction have been different if it was a Democrat's daughter who was announcing a pre-marriage pregnancy? My cynical side says such a thing would never happen, because the problem (baby, oh sorry, foetus) would be disappeared quietly before news got out. I said it was my cynical side.

I have seen Christian hypocrisy up close. Once upon a time I was a volunteer for Planned Parenthood. One night I worked "clinic defense" - escorting women from car to door to protect them from the pro-life "rescuers." Honestly, the rescuers disgusted me. They were vile people, yelling horrid things at these young women. They didn't offer help, or love - if they had, they might have saved a baby. Instead they waved signs and yelled ugliness and let their own little kids run around, ignored, on a busy street corner.

But, you know, there are extremes on both sides. Not all who call themselves Christians are. Not all liberals who praise tolerance practice it.

Next I think I'll explore women's hatred of Sarah Palin. Jealousy, anyone?