Sunday, December 28, 2008

I've Been Married a Decade Today...

DH and I are celebrating our 10th wedding anniversary today. Boy, does that make me feel OLD!

I know that rationally I shouldn't feel that way because we were practically babies by today's standards when we took the plunge (I was a month shy of my 22nd birthday and DH had just turned 23). But 10 years still seems like a fairly long time to be married!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas!

In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that the whole world should be enrolled.
This was the first enrollment, when Quirinius was governor of Syria.
So all went to be enrolled, each to his own town.
And Joseph too went up from Galilee from the town of Nazareth to Judea, to the city of David that is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David,
to be enrolled with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child.
While they were there, the time came for her to have her child,
and she gave birth to her firstborn son. She wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.
Now there were shepherds in that region living in the fields and keeping the night watch over their flock.
The angel of the Lord appeared to them and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were struck with great fear.
The angel said to them, "Do not be afraid; for behold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.
For today in the city of David a savior has been born for you who is Messiah and Lord.
And this will be a sign for you: you will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger."
And suddenly there was a multitude of the heavenly host with the angel, praising God and saying:
Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.
When the angels went away from them to heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Let us go, then, to Bethlehem to see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us."
So they went in haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the infant lying in the manger. When they saw this, they made known the message that had been told them about this child.
All who heard it were amazed by what had been told them by the shepherds.
And Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart.
Then the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, just as it had been told to them.
From the humblest of births, the world was saved. Alleluia! Gloria in excelsis Deo!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Memo to Facebook: Moms Nursing Their Babies are Not "Obscene"

I'm a fairly modest person and when I'm nursing a baby, I personally prefer to look for a place where I can have some privacy if we're away from home. But I strongly support the right of other moms to nurse in public if they so desire. God designed a woman's body to feed her child, and it's not at all obscene for her to do so. Just because I personally feel more comfortable with a higher degree of privacy when I'm nursing does not mean that other women should be required to do the same.

I was therefore appalled to discover via Lisa Belkin's "Motherlode" blog on the New York Times that Facebook considers pictures of moms nursing their babies to be "obscene". Several moms have apparently had the site censor photos of them nursing.

A spokesman for Facebook told Ms. Belkin:
"[Nursing] is a natural and beautiful act and we’re very glad to know that it is so important to some mothers to share this experience with others on Facebook. We take no action on the vast majority of [nursing] photos because they follow the site’s Terms of Use. Photos containing a fully exposed [bosom] do violate those Terms and may be removed. These policies are designed to ensure Facebook remains a safe, secure and trusted environment for all users, including the many children (over the age of 13) who use the site. The photos we act upon are almost exclusively brought to our attention by other users who complain."

Facebook allows all kinds of highly provocative photos that I find distasteful and not particularly appropriate for minors. But a mother feeding her child? That's not obscenity, people!

On December 27th, there's going to be a virtual "nurse-in" on Facebook to protest the policy. Anyone can participate, whether they're a nursing mom or not. All supporters have to do is to change their profile photo to a picture of a nursing mom and to and to change their status to the sentence, “Hey Facebook, breastfeeding is not obscene!”

I don't have any photos of me nursing, and wouldn't really feel comfortable posting them to Facebook if I did, so I'm thinking of using Our Lady of La Leche. And nobody could reasonably complain that that is "obscene"...

Friday, December 5, 2008

Does the "80% Commandment" Hold True in a Homeschool Setting?

Insomnia again, sigh. The silver lining is that I've got the chance to catch up on interesting posts from around the blogosphere.

One of these was on the "Kitchen Table Math" blog entitled "The 80% Commandment". It discusses a quote from a 1999 book by Elaine McEwan-Adkins and Mary Damer called Managing Unmanageable Students: Practical Solutions for Administrators. The quote is this:
"The relationship between students’ accuracy with schoolwork and their subsequent behavior is described by the 80% Commandment: 'Thou shall not expect a student to do a learning task when he or she does not have the skills to complete the task with 80% success. Otherwise, that student will either act out or tune out.' Today’s frustrated students who lack basic skills most often respond by acting out."
The author of the KTM post, Catherine Johnson, agrees wholeheartedly with McEwan-Adkins & Damer about the 80% Commandment and believes it's the reason why her students are struggling.

I tend to agree with this statement as it applies to a traditional classroom setting with 20-30+ students. But I wonder how applicable it is in a homeschool, where the child spends much of his/her time working one-on-one with the teacher.

I have definitely noticed that my DD will become frustrated if the task she's being asked to do is way over her head. At the same time, however, I want her to be challenged by her schoolwork and to stretch herself beyond her comfort level. That's the only way she'll grow in what she's capable of doing.

I'm not convinced that 80% is the optimal challenge level in a homeschool setting. If she's getting 4 out of 5 of them right all on her own, that seems to me like the task is too easy. I'd say that the challenge level I'm aiming for is more in the 1/2 to 2/3 range. Hard but not so difficult that she just gives up in frustration. Then I provide the "scaffolding" (to use the term associated with Vygotsky's work) that enables her to get to the point where she can complete the task herself with 80-90% accuracy. Once she can do that, I increase the challenge level again and the process repeats itself.

Because I'm only working with a single student, I'm able to do a lot more in the way of scaffolding than a traditional classroom teacher could. I can also devote as much time to a particular topic as she needs before we move on.

Last year we spent almost an entire month on one math topic that the curriculum we use is designed to cover in a few days (telling time to the nearest 5 minutes). She was having difficulty with the concept that each of the twelve numbers on the clock represents a different number (i.e. 5 representing 25 past the hour). That requires some pretty advanced thinking for a then-5 year old. But I kept working on it with her, and eventually the light bulb went on in her head.

I guess it's not so much the general principle of the 80% Commandment that I question, just the specific challenge level that was chosen. I'm curious to hear what other homeschoolers think- what do you consider as the optimal challenge level for your student? For those of you are homeschooling multiple children, do you find it varies from child to child?

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Parenting a Girl Isn't All Sugar & Spice

There's an interesting guest post on the New York Times' "Motherlode" blog today from a mom of 3 sons mourning the loss of what she imagines parenting a daughter to be like:

"My future daughter had a lot of Anne of Green Gables and Ramona Quimby to look forward to, as well as French braids and tutus and Mary Janes and apron dresses. She was going to watch 'Felicity' marathons with me and ogle the new J. Crew catalog and have annual viewings of 'It’s a Wonderful Life' with me under a blanket with hot chocolate and lots of whipped cream....

My worst nightmare, back then, was that I would end up being a Mom of Boys, one of those women with a 'practical' haircut and flat shoes who spent her afternoons at the baseball field and washed a lot of sweaty athletic clothes. A Mom of Boys bought a lot of boring clothes for her children — polo shirts and khaki shorts and Nike trainers. She was looked on with pity by the Moms of Girls, who color-coordinated with their daughters and took them on trips to the American Girl store and 'The Nutcracker' and who had princess birthdays and tea parties with their mommy friends."

I just had to laugh at this. Parenting my little girl isn't 100% pink ribbons and taffeta. She's just as likely to be in jeans and sneakers kicking around a soccer ball as she is to be in a tutu twirling around to Tchaikovsky. Last weekend she had a blast playing engineer with her little brother and a virtually all-boy crowd at the Nevada State Railroad Museum. Her tea set gets more use digging in the dirt in the backyard than it does with her dolls.

I'm not sure if a ponytail or a French Twist counts as a "practical" hairstyle, but that's how I wear my hair much of the time. I did use to color-coordinate my outfits with DD but that went out as soon as I had a 2nd kid (now I just settle for everybody wearing clean clothes, LOL!)

From what I remember of Ramona Quimby, she wasn't exactly a girlie-girl either :-)

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

And Always it Comes Back to the "S" Word...

There's an interesting post on BlogHer today from a mom who's considering homeschooling her DD next year for kindergarten and then enrolling her in a traditional school the following year for first grade. Overall, it's a fairly positive post and she makes a lot of good arguments for HS. However, I'm concerned about one particular statement she made (emphasis mine):
"I researched and I found myself becoming more and more interested in homeschooling, thinking it might actually be a great thing for us. That was until I ended up on National Home Education Network's site, reading their list of 55 Reasons to Homeschool. While I understood why majority of the list would appeal to many, I felt that they were indicative of taking away valuable life experience for children that would help mold them into well rounded people."
Oh, brother. Why do we always keep having to refute the mistaken belief that traditional schooling is necessary for proper socialization?

I suggested that the author read Rachel Gathercole's excellent book The Well-Adjusted Child: The Social Benefits of Homeschooling.

Some other excellent blog posts on the topic include:
The "S" Word from Heather over at "My Supernatural World"
Homeschoolers Miss Out from Tammy over at "Just Enough and Nothing More"
So, How Do I Plan to Socialize My Children? from Dana over at "Principled Discovery"
"What About Socialization?" from Jen at "Bourgeois Baby"
The Socialization Question from Jena over at "Yarns of the Heart"
Monday's Musings: Socialization from Prairie Chick over at "Prairie Prologue"

I'm sure that there are tons more wonderfully written posts out there from my fellow homeschoolers so please don't be offended if I did not include yours in the above list. I just need to wrap this up so that we can go to our town's Christmas tree lighting :-)

Does Curvy = Traditional When it Comes to Women?

When I'm not pregnant, I've got very much of an hourglass figure. My weight has fluctuated somewhat as an adult, but I seem to gain & lose pretty evenly all over. I might be a 38D-25-38 size 8 or a 34C-22-34 size 4 or something in between but my waist-hip ratio (WHR) stays fairly constant (in the 0.64-0.66 range). If a pair of pants or a skirt fits me in the hips, it almost certainly is going to need to be taken in at the waist.

So I found it very interesting to read about a new study in the December issue of the journal Current Anthropology done by Dr. Elizabeth Cashdan of the University of Utah. Previous work has established that a WHR of 0.7 or lower in women is associated with higher fertility and lower rates of chronic disease. Studies have also shown that men prefer a WHR of 0.7 or lower when looking for a mate, which makes sense from an evolutionary psychology standpoint. Dr. Cashdan noted, however, that the average WHR for women in 37 societies around the world she examined was >0.8.
"If 0.7 is the magic number both in terms of health and male mate choice, why are most women significantly higher? That's where the hormones come in.

Androgens, a class of hormones that includes testosterone, increase waist-to-hip ratios in women by increasing visceral fat, which is carried around the waist. But on the upside, increased androgen levels are also associated with increased strength, stamina, and competitiveness. Cortisol, a hormone that helps the body deal with stressful situations, also increases fat carried around the waist.

'The hormonal profile associated with high WHR (waist-to-hip ratio) … may favor success in resource competition, particularly under stressful circumstances,' writes Cashdan. 'The androgenic effects - stamina, initiative, risk-proneness, assertiveness, dominance - should be particularly useful where a woman must depend on her own resources to support herself and her family.'"

In societies where women tend to be less economically independent, the typical female WHR is lower than in societies where women bear more responsibility for providing for themselves and their families.

The question Dr. Cashman's research raises in my own mind is this: given that I'm both curvy and prefer a more traditional gender role, which is the direction of the causality? Am I curvy because I'm more traditional or am I more traditional because I'm curvy?

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Monday, December 1, 2008

Are Homeschoolers Motivated by Racism/Ethnophobia?

According to Dr. Gene V. Glass of Arizona State University, homeschoolers:
"appear to be motivated by a fear of mixing with the opposite class or race."
Pretty strong statement, no? One that a reasonable individual would want to see backed up with some compelling evidence when put forth in a scholarly work such as Dr. Glass' recent book Fertilizers, Pills, and Magnetic Strips: The Fate of Public Education in America, wouldn't you agree?

The only thing Dr. Glass uses to support his claim is the 1998 study of homeschooling done by Dr. Lawrence Rudner. There are several problems with using Dr. Rudner's study. The first is that it was done a full decade before the publication of Fertilizers, Pills, and Magnetic Strips. The second was that it was a self-selected sample of fewer than 12,000 families recruited from among the membership of the Home School Legal Defense Association. Dr. Glass may not be familiar with HSLDA, but those of us within the homeschooling community know that the membership of that organization is not particularly representative of all homeschoolers. It'd be akin to polling the membership of some suburban PTA and using that to generalize about all government-run school families.

In 2003, the National Center for Educational Statistics did a survey of homeschoolers that came up with a quite different demographic makeup than the earlier Rudner study. The percentage of non-Hispanic whites in the NCES study was 77% vs. 94% in the Rudner study. The percentage of blacks was 9% vs. only 1%, and the percentage of Hispanics was 5% vs. <1%. The makeup of the overall school-age population in 2003 was 61% non-Hispanic white, 14% black, and 17% Hispanic. Blacks and Hispanics are therefore somewhat underrepresented among homeschoolers, but it's not nearly by as much as Dr. Glass would have his readers believe.

Furthermore, I'm not convinced that the fact that non-Hispanic whites are somewhat overrepresented among homeschoolers is proof by itself of racism/ethnophobia. Is there any evidence that homeschoolers are disproportionately likely to reject integrated schools? I'm not aware of any research on the topic, but anecdotally it doesn't hold true for the homeschoolers I know personally.

For example, the school my children are zoned to attend is only 2.8% Hispanic and a mere 1.8% black. Low-income students of any race/ethnicity make up only 3.2% of the school's enrollment. So obviously my decision to homeschool is not due to a "fear of mixing with the opposite race or class" because there are hardly any black, Hispanic, or poor kids at our neighborhood school. In fact, I'm pretty sure the percentage of black and Hispanic kids in our homeschool support group actually exceeds the percentage at the school (it's certainly not less).

Out of all the homeschooling families I know personally, only one lives in a neighborhood where their kids would be zoned to attend a school with a significant Hispanic population. And they are strongly Fundamentalist Protestant and therefore wouldn't send their kids to the "Godless" government-run schools in any case. All the rest live in neighborhoods similar to mine.

Dr. Glass has a highly annoying tendency throughout Fertilizers, Pills, and Magnetic Strips to claim racism/ethnophobia as a motivation without providing much in the way of objective evidence to support his assertion. He even admits as much in the appendix, noting that his personal preference is:
"for psychoanalysis to explain many of the most important aspects of human behavior...I do see something akin to the 'defense mechanism' at work in intellectualizing of motives of both experts and ordinary people around questions of racial and ethnic segregation in public education. No one likes to be accused of being prejudiced, but most of us are."
Such conjectures have no place in a scholarly work. Stick to the facts, please! If I want psychobabble, I'll turn on Dr. Phil.