Thursday, May 31, 2007

Songs for "Helicopter" Parents

Lenore Skenazy of the New York Sun recently lamented that Sesame Street had Cookie Monster sing "A Cookie is a Sometimes Food". She wrote a bunch of new songs that would fit right in with the whole "helicopter" parenting mentality. Living in a suburb near Silicon Valley, I can assure you that Ms. Skenazy hit a bullseye with several of them! Here are my favorites:

"Hush Little Healthy Eating Baby":
Hush little baby, don't say a word
Mama's gonna buy you organic bean curd
And if that bean curd makes you stressed,
Mama's gonna take you for an allergy test
And if that allergy test says you're okay,
Mama's gonna lay off lactose anyway
And if that lactose-free diet leaves you hungry
Mama's gonna supplement with locally produced honey
And if that local honey gives you diabetes
Mama's gonna buy you a bowl of Wheaties
And if that bowl of Wheaties tastes dry
Mama's gonna give you some soy milk to try
And if that soy milk makes you hurl
You'll still be the cutest lactose-free, locally grown,
wholly organic, borderline diabetic baby in the world.

"Take Me Out to the New, Noncompetitive Ballgame":
Take me out to the ballgame
For cooperative fun!
Buy me some sunscreen so I won't burn
I just hope that we all get a turn!
For it's root, root, root for the two teams
Whoever wins it's the same – all the same
'Cause we Don't! Keep! Score! anymore
At the new ball game.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Update on the Boulder High School Assembly Promoting Sex & Drug Use

The Boulder Valley School District has made a complete transcript available of the controversial Conference of World Affairs assembly. Be forewarned that it contains mature subject matter often described in graphic language. If it were a movie, it would be rated a strong "R"- something that is very interesting since minors are not permitted to watch R-rated movies unless accompanied by a parent!

Unfortunately, school board president Helayne Jones has recanted her previous statement that the CWA assembly was a "huge mistake" and went on to bash what she termed "a vocal minority with a political or religious agenda" for allegedly "misrepresenting what is happening in our schools". Superintendent George Garcia further insisted that "overall, the panel was appropriate for presentation to high school students.”

After reading the full transcript, I stand by my previous assertion that this assembly was inappropriate for a high school audience with children as young as age 14. Had this talk been given to college students, I still would've disagreed with much of what the speakers said, but the explicitness of the discussion would not have been an issue.

I have to concede that the speakers did make a handful of good points about the potential backfiring of drug-testing all students who participate in afterschool activities, the societal problems caused by certain legal substances such as cigarettes and prescription medications, and the overdiagnosis of ADD/ADHD. There was also some discussion of the negative consequences of sex & drugs including HIV and other STD's, unwanted pregnancy and abortion, drug overdoses, poor grades, and even a suicide.

I have to point out that the most controversial of the 4 speakers, Professor Joel Becker of UCLA, was very dismissive of the physical and emotional risks not just of pot and heterosexual sex but also of gay sex, ecstasy, mescaline, and LSD!

The attitude of the speakers was definitely one of "sex and drugs are great if you do them 'responsibly' and we know you aren't going to listen to those silly old-fashioned taboos anyways."

First of all, the majority of U.S. teenagers are NOT sexually active and are NOT using illegal drugs. Importantly, teens whose parents express strong disapproval of adolescent sex are especially likely to abstain. Similarly, teens who believe their parents would be "extremely" upset if they tried marijuana are significantly less likely to use the drug than teens who believe their parents would only be "a little" upset. Therefore, it is not at all "inevitable" that teens will experiment with sex and drugs regardless of what message they hear from the adults in their lives.

The issue here is not sex or drug use by adults but by children. Liberals and conservatives alike can agree that this type of behavior is extremely risky for teens, who are not exactly known for their responsibility and careful consideration of potential long-term consequences.

Can you imagine the outrage if a student assembly speaker made a statement along the lines of "Drag-racing is illegal, but it can be fun and we know you're going to do it anyways- so make sure you buckle your seat belt"???????

We as parents would have no problem telling our kids unequivocally that drag-racing is dangerous and illegal and they absolutely, positively, 100% should NOT engage in it. Yes, there still will be some kids who will do it anyways but that wouldn't prevent us from making our disapproval known.

I just don't understand what is wrong with people like Joel Becker, Helayne Jones, and George Garcia that they can't understand why encouraging children to engage in very risky behavior is a bad idea!

Note: a further update on the situation can be found here.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

No Achievement Gap for Minority Kids from Intact, Religious Families

A recent study sponsored by the Baylor University Institute for Religion and published in the Interdisciplinary Journal of Research on Religion has found that when highly religious African-American and Latino students from intact families are compared with white students, the achievement gap disappears. Dr. William Jeynes of CSU-Long Beach examined the data from more than 20,000 African-American and Latino 12th graders included in the National Education Longitudinal Study (NELS). The study found that:

Highly religious African American and Latino 12th-grade students from intact families, when controlling for socioeconomic status (SES), scored as well as their white counterparts on the Social Studies test, the Test Composite, and scored virtually the same as white students on the Math and Reading tests. Highly religious African American and Latino students from intact families were also slightly more likely to advance a grade with their class than white students, and were more likely to take the basic core set of courses recommended for college preparation by the National Assessment for Educational Progress.

A student was considered "highly religious" by the researchers when the following three conditions were met: (1) attendance at worship services at least 4 times per month (2) active involvement in a religious youth group (3) self description as "very religious".

Dr. Jeynes also examined the NELS data to compare students attending public schools with those attending religious-affiliated schools. While students in religious schools on average outperformed their counterparts in public schools, poor and minority children were the greatest beneficiaries.

Dr. Jeynes' research found that the factors contributing to the religious schools' success with minority children include strong parental participation, the encouragement of religious faith, a higher level of racial harmony, and considerably fewer problems with drugs and alcohol.

One quote from the study I found particularly interesting as a homeschooling mom was the following:

the orientation of the public schools is one that sees schools as society’s instrument for releasing a child from the blinders imposed by accident of birth into this family or that family. Schools have been designed to open broad horizons to the child, transcending the limitations of the parents. By contrast, the religious school orientation sees a school as the extension of the family, reinforcing the family’s values
Dr. Jeynes argues that the religious school orientation promotes social capital and in that way contributes to the child's success.

(HT: DallasNews Religion)

High School Bans Teacher from Using Novels in Her "College Prep" English Class!

The LA Times recently had a very depressing op-ed called "Test-Takers, Not Students" written by Janet Ewell, an English teacher at an Orange County high school. This past fall, the adminstration banned the teaching of novels in "college prep" English classes! The principal insisted on strict adherence to a textbook that is a collection of mere excerpts because it "is aligned to the California content standards."

How exactly does this strategy prepare students for college-level work? The humanities courses I took in college expected students to read & analyze literature as a whole. A student who had never gone through the exercise in high school of reading & discussing a full book would be woefully unprepared for this type of college class.

The good news is that the district finally allowed Ms. Ewell to teach Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird. The bad news is they restricted her to only 7 hours' worth of class time and required her to not "teach it cover to cover".

I loved reading To Kill a Mockingbird in my high school English class. I don't recall how long we spent on it, but I'm certain it was more than 7 hours and my teacher definitely taught it "cover to cover."

Reading classic literature did not in any way prevent me from doing well on standardized tests including a top score of 5 on the Advanced Placement English Literature exam. It definitely helped prepare me for the humanities classes I took in college.

Charlotte Mason, Mortimer J. Adler, Dorothy Sayers, et al. must be rolling in their graves at the thought of school administrators banning English teachers from teaching full literary works. I know it sure reinforces my decision to homeschool!

Monday, May 28, 2007

Freedom Isn't Free

On this Memorial Day, let us take a few moments to honor the noble sacrifice of all the brave servicemen and women who have given their lives for our country. Whether on a beach in Normandy, an island in the Pacific, a hill in Pennsylvania, the Lexington green, or so many other places, they died so that the rest of us could live in freedom. May God have mercy on their souls and may we Americans truly appreciate their sacrifice.

No, Freedom Isn't Free
by Cdr. Kelly Strong, USCG (Ret.)
I watched the flag pass by one day.
It fluttered in the breeze.
A young Marine saluted it,
And then he stood at ease.
I looked at him in uniform
So young, so tall, so proud,
With hair cut square and eyes alert
He'd stand out in any crowd.
I thought how many men like him
Had fallen through the years.
How many died on foreign soil?
How many mothers' tears?
How many pilots' planes shot down?
How many died at sea?
How many foxholes were soldiers' graves?
No, freedom isn't free.

I heard the sound of taps one night,
When everything was still
I listened to the bugler play
And felt a sudden chill.
I wondered just how many times
That taps had meant "Amen,"
When a flag had draped a coffin
Of a brother or a friend.
I thought of all the children,
Of the mothers and the wives,
Of fathers, sons and husbands
With interrupted lives.
I thought about a graveyard
At the bottom of the sea
Of unmarked graves in Arlington.
No, freedom isn't free.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Have a Blessed Pentecost!

Tony Mantoan from Benedictus Deus shared a great idea for helping to explain Pentecost to kids over at

Cut twelve doves out of construction paper. On each dove write one of the twelve fruits of the Holy Spirit. Alternatively, you could do the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit. Hide the twelve doves around the house or yard and have a dove hunt. After all the doves are found discuss the twelve fruits with your children, or if they have already learned about them ask them to explain the ones they found. Hopefully this activity will remind them of Easter egg hunts and help them draw the connection between Easter and Pentecost.

For those of us in need of a refresher on the 12 fruits of the Holy Spirit (guilty as charged), they are: Charity, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Generosity, Gentleness, Faithfulness, Modesty, Self-control, Chastity. The 7 gifts of the Holy Spirit are: Wisdom, Understanding, Counsel, Fortitude, Knowledge, Piety and Fear of the Lord.

Come, Holy Spirit, Creator blest, and in our souls take up Thy rest; come with Thy grace and heavenly aid to fill the hearts which Thou hast made.

O comforter, to Thee we cry, O heavenly gift of God Most High, O fount of life and fire of love, and sweet anointing from above.

Thou in Thy sevenfold gifts are known; Thou, finger of God's hand we own; Thou, promise of the Father, Thou Who dost the tongue with power imbue.

Kindle our sense from above, and make our hearts o'erflow with love; with patience firm and virtue high the weakness of our flesh supply.

Far from us drive the foe we dread, and grant us Thy peace instead; so shall we not, with Thee for guide, turn from the path of life aside.

Oh, may Thy grace on us bestow the Father and the Son to know; and Thee, through endless times confessed, of both the eternal Spirit blest.

Now to the Father and the Son, Who rose from death, be glory given, with Thou, O Holy Comforter, henceforth by all in earth and heaven.


Saturday, May 26, 2007

Harvard Astrophysics Professor on Why Christianity and Science are Compatible

In light of the whole ugly battle between proponents of atheistic Darwinism and proponents of "Young Earth" literal reading of Genesis 1 creationists (which recently caused a bit of a ruckus over at PZ Myers' blog Pharyngula), it's refreshing when eminent scientists who are also devout Christians speak out about the compatibility of science and belief.

Dr. Owen Gingerich, Professor Emeritus of Astronomy and History of Science at Harvard University, has written a book entitled God's Universe. It is based on a series of lectures he gave in 2005 on religion and science. He notes Aristotle's distinction between "efficient" causes (a description of how something happens) and "final" ones (a description of why something happens). The former is about mechanism, the latter about purpose. Dr. Gingerich makes the case that science explores efficient causes and should be neutral about final ones while the converse should be true for religion.

Dr. Gingerich, a Mennonite, argues that evolution as a mechanism is fully compatible with a belief in divine purpose. He writes: "One can believe that some of the evolutionary pathways are so intricate and so complex as to be hopelessly improbable by the rules of random chance. But if you do not believe in divine action, then you will simply have to say that random chance was extremely lucky, because the outcome is there to see. Either way, the scientist with theistic metaphysics will approach laboratory problems in much the same way as his atheistic colleague across the hall."

Dr. Sarah Coakley of Harvard Divinity School writes in her review of God's Universe that Dr. Gingerich demonstrates theistic scientists flout "no actual epistemic duties in holding scientific and theological beliefs alongside one another". Like St. Thomas Aquinas so eloquently asserted in Summa Theologica, Reason and Faith are complementary ways of knowing.

Dr. Gingerich contends: “We cannot conclude either that God is absent or that God does not act in the universe....We can hope that our increased scientific understanding will eventually reveal more to us about God the Creator and Sustainer of the cosmos."

I highly recommend anyone interested in the topic of science & religion read God's Universe!

Friday, May 25, 2007

Why I'm NOT Participating in the BlogCatalog Bloggers for Good Fundraising Challenge

So in my Gmail account today I receive a message from BlogCatalog promoting something called the "BlogCatalog Bloggers for Good Fundraising Challenge":

Dear Crimson Wife,
This Monday, May 28th, join thousands of bloggers and use your blog to benefit, a non-profit Web site that brings teachers and donors together to fund specific student projects that range from "Magical Math Centers" to "Cooking Across the Curriculum".

BlogCatalog would like to challenge you to join the blogging community and use your blog to draw attention to and raise funds for this underserved non-profit organization that does so much good for our children and our schools.

The goal is to raise $25,000 for schools around the country, many of which are in New Orleans. Our hope is that we will blow this goal away and raise far more money. If we do we will have set a precedent that will enable the blogging community to do a bunch of good for other causes in the future.

We truly hope you will join us and use your blog as a tool for good and set an example for others of the the real value of online social communities.

Sounds interesting so I click over to the website to learn more about the organization. Under the FAQ is the question:

What kinds of schools does DonorsChoose support?
DonorsChoose supports all public schools in Alabama, Chicago, Indiana, Los Angeles, Louisiana, Mississippi, New York, North Carolina, the San Francisco Bay Area (Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Napa, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Solano and Sonoma counties), South Carolina, and Texas. We do not serve private or parochial schools. For a detailed explanation of eligibility, please click here.

So I click on the eligibility details and up pops:

Traditional public schools Private schools or parochial schools
Public charter schools Home school
etc., etc.

So much for "donor choice"!!!!!!!!!!!

If the mission of is to allow potential philanthropists to find worthy projects that will benefit the education of needy students, why do they discriminate against students enrolled in non-government schools?

Are they suggesting that all private, parochial, and home schooled students are affluent and therefore not in need of the type of assistance provided by

Nothing could be further from the truth as private, parochial, and home schools serve children from all walks of life.

Or are they trying to make some sort of political statement against true educational choice for students???????

I think it's time they revise their slogan from "Teachers Ask. You Choose. They Learn" to "Teachers (in Schools We Support) Ask. You Choose (from Among the Options We Deem Worthy). They Learn (We Hope)."

Good News Regarding my Cousin's Baby Girl

My mom just told me that the doctors have been able to drain the excess fluid from my cousin's daughter. She is also now breathing on her own, praise the Lord!

My cousin and his wife have decided to name her Haley Josephine.

I pray that baby Haley's condition will continue to improve. I know that God won't give my cousin and his wife anything they cannot handle but I pray that it is His will for little Haley to live :-)

"We're Filling Up Our Minds With Garbage"

In honor of Gary Rosen's passing, I put on a copy of my old Rosenshontz CD Share It. It's got one of my absolute favorite Rosenshontz songs, "Garbage". As I was listening to it, I realized what a powerful critique it is not just of the wastefulness of modern American society but also of its mindlessness. Here's the 3rd verse:

Getting home and taking off his shoes
He settles down with the evening news
While the kids do homework with the TV
In one ear
While Superman for the thousandth time
Sells sexy dolls and conquers crime
They dutifully learn the date of
Birth of Paul Revere
In the paper there's a piece about the
Mayor's middle name
And he gets it read in time to watch
The All-Star bingo game

Garbage, garbage, garbage, garbage
Garbage, garbage, garbage, garbage
We're filling up our minds with
Garbage, garbage, garbage, garbage
Garbage, garbage, garbage, garbage
Garbage, garbage, GARBAGE!
What will we do when there's
Nothing left to hear
To read
To wear
To need
To talk about
To walk upon
To care about
To do
To see
To be
But garbage?

Keep in mind this song was written around 1980. The media has gotten much worse in the past 27 years! Just think of all the press devoted to "celebutantes" like Paris Hilton, Nicole Richie, Ally Hilfiger, Kimberly Stewart, etc. who became famous for being heiresses not for any talents of their own. Plus all the starlets whose partying far overshadows their actual dramatic achievements: Anna Nicole Smith, Britney Spears, Lindsay Lohan, Jessica Simpson, etc. These are the role models for the current generation of young women?????

I hope that homeschooling will allow us to counteract the climate of consumerism, sexualization of young girls, and anti-intellectualism so prevalent in modern society. I'd like my DD to look up to true role models such as Blessed Mother Theresa, St. Therese of Lisieux, St. Jeanne D'Arc, St. Catherine of Sienna, St. Clare of Assisi, St. Theresa of Avila, and of course the Holy Mother.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Title Blending Meme

Nick over at Literary Compass has created a new meme. How it works is you take two books that contain the same word in their titles and blend them together to create a new title.

For example, Canterbury Tales + Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing = Canterbury Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing.

Here are mine:

  • Princess Brideshead Revisited by William Waugh
  • Lord of the Rings of the Master by J.R.R. Chalker
  • A Midsummer's Night Dream Fighter by William L'Amour
  • St. George and the Dragon and the Unicorn by Geraldine Attanasio
  • Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day of the Butterfly by Judith Lofts
  • Goodnight Moon by Night by Margaret Wise L'Engle
  • A Wrinkle in Time Traveler's Wife by Madeleine Niffenegger
  • Roll of Thunder Hear my Cry, the Beloved Country by Mildred Paton
  • Fox and the Grapes of Wrath by Aesop Steinbeck
  • The Lovely Bones Gather No Moss by Alice Sherwood
Consider yourself tagged!

Novena to St. Jude Day 9

O holy Saint Jude, apostle and martyr, grant that we may so dispose our lives that we may always be pleasing to God. In working out our salvation in this life we have many needs and necessities.Today we turn to you, asking you to intercede for us and obtain for us the favors we ask of God. Especially do we petition for:

The health of my cousin's baby

May we not so much seek temporal good but rather what will avail our souls, knowing that it will profit us nothing if we gain the whole world yet suffer the loss of our soul.Therefore, may we incline ourselves toward the divine will, seeing God’s good and gracious purpose in all our trials.


St. Jude, pray for us!

My Jesus, mercy!

R.I.P. Gary Rosen of "Rosenshontz"

Gary Rosen, half of the legendary children's music duo "Rosenshontz", died April 14th at age 73 of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, better known as Lou Gherig's disease.

I grew up listening to Rosenshontz- they had such nice harmonies and a folk-like sound reminiscent of Simon & Garfunkel.

He will be missed!

Atheist Donates $22.5M to Send Needy Kids to Catholic Schools

Retired hedge fund manager Robert Wilson yesterday donated $22.5 million to the Archdiocese of New York's Cardinal's Scholarship program. The gift is the largest in the Archdiocese's history. About 44,000 of the 107,000 students in the Archdiocese's schools come from families below the poverty line. The Cardinal's Scholarship program offers needy students full or partial scholarships and families do not need to be Catholic to apply. Mr. Wilson's gift will fund 3,000 scholarships, nearly double the current number served by the program.

Although Mr. Wilson is an atheist, he says that he has no problem donating money to Catholic schools: "Let's face it, without the Roman Catholic Church, there would be no Western civilization. Shunning religious organizations would be abhorrent....It was a chance for a very modest amount of money to get kids out of a lousy school system and into a good school system."

Cardinal Egan praised Mr. Wilson for his "historic and farsighted support" and Archdiocese spokesman Joe Zwilling thanked him for helping provide poor children with "a Catholic school education that gives [them] the tools for a better life."

In 2006, Mr. Wilson was the 12th most generous U.S. philanthropist, donating $147.2 million to charities.

With all the publicity given to mean-spirited demagogues such as Christopher Hitchens, Richard Dawkins, and Sam Harris, it is truly refreshing to see someone like Robert Wilson. If atheists want to show the world that ethics do not necessarily need to be grounded in religious faith, they ought to follow Mr. Wilson's example. He is able to acknowledge the good work that the Catholic Church does while still maintaining his own personal worldview.

Do I share Mr. Wilson's worldview? Of course not. But that does not stop me from acknowledging the good work that he is doing. I am able to separate my disagreement with his atheism from my admiration of his philanthropy.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Novena to St. Jude Day 8

I talked briefly with my cousin this morning. His wife should be able to come home on Friday. The baby has been going through a series of health crises but they've been getting progressively less serious and farther apart. She's still got a long way to go before she's out of the woods even if she does end up surviving.

O holy Saint Jude, apostle of Christ, pray that we may ever imitate the Divine Master and live according to His will. May we cooperate with the grace of God and ever remain pleasing in His sight. Especially do we ask you to plead for us and obtain whatsoever is necessary for our salvation. Forget not our special petitions:

The health of my cousin's daughter

May we always be thankful to God for the blessings we have received in the past. Whatsoever we ask for the present or future, we submit to the divine will, realizing that God knows best what is good for us. We know He will respond to our prayers and petitions in one way or another.


St. Jude, pray for us!
My Jesus, mercy!

Doing Better for the Next Generation of Catholics Pt. II

A couple weeks ago, I blogged about how my parents basically left teaching my siblings and I about Catholicism (as opposed to general Christianity) to our weekly CCD class. I talked about how my inadequate understanding of the Faith led me to question the Church and spend a number of years spiritually adrift. Now that I have embraced the Faith anew, I am strongly motivated to do a better job at raising my children as Catholics. I worry, however, about whether I will be capable of properly teaching the Faith to them when I'm still working on understanding it myself.

Denise Hunnell of "Catholic Matriarch in my Domestic Church" has written a couple of excellent posts about her experience teaching CCD. In one called "Reflections of a 7th Grade Catechist" on her personal blog, she talks about the frustration she feels when all her efforts do not seem to matter to her students' faith development. She writes about the 3 types of students she has in her class: those from strong Catholic homes for whom CCD merely reinforces the lessons they learn from their families; "Sunday" Catholics who listen politely but do not find it relevant to their daily lives; and those who view RE as "an onerous obligation with no real benefit other than keeping Grandmother happy".

In an article for Catholic entitled "Outsourcing Religious Education", Denise puts forth the provocative idea of replacing traditional CCD for children with a program that supports family Faith formation. She writes: "Parents drop their children off at CCD and pick them up an hour later assuming their little brains have been adequately filled with religious knowledge. Parents abdicate their role in faith formation. They outsource it." When parents are not committed to teaching the Faith by example, it is little wonder that the children cannot learn it in a one hour per week class. Denise compares it to the parable of the farmer sowing seeds in Matthew 13: "If faith is not being lived at home, all our efforts in the CCD class are like the seed that fell on the pathway or the rocky soil. They are never watered and nurtured. They never take root."

Denise suggests parishes offer a family catechesis program, where parents and children would come together with other families once per month. They would study lessons based on that month's theme and then take those lessons home to incorporate into family life. Denise writes: "For example, if the lesson of the month is on the Eucharist, families may try to attend at least one Daily Mass together or go to Eucharistic Adoration together."

This is an excellent idea and something that I would love my parish to implement. Many (if not most) of today's Gen X & Gen Y parents are like me in that they lack any firsthand experience with family Faith formation. We may have very good intentions about wanting to do better for the next generation of Catholics but it can be hard to put it into practice. Sure, there are books, magazine articles, and websites dedicated to helping us in this task. These are useful but don't provide the community that a program such as Denise's suggested one would.

It's not easy to go against the prevailing culture that pays lip service to spirituality on the Sabbath but ignores it the other 6 days of the week. It would be so great to have a group of other like-minded families in our parish to provide fellowship and support in this struggle!

SAT Scores Predicted by Finger Length?

A new study led by Dr. Mark Brosnan of the University of Bath to be published in The British Journal of Psychology has found a link between the relative lengths of a child's index & ring fingers and performance on standardized tests.

In boys, a longer ring finger than index finger was associated with scoring higher on the math portion of the SAT than the verbal portion. In girls, a shorter ring finger than index finger was associated with scoring higher on the verbal portion of the SAT than the math portion.

The researchers believe that differing levels of prenatal testosterone and estrogen affect both fetal brain development and finger length. Dr. Brosnan says, "Testosterone has been argued to promote development of the areas of the brain which are often associated with spatial and mathematical skills. Estrogen is thought to do the same in the areas of the brain which are often associated with verbal ability. We can use measurements of these fingers as a way of gauging the relative exposure to these two hormones in the womb and as we have shown through this study, we can also use them to predict ability in the key areas of numeracy and literacy."

Interesting theory but what may be true on the average for a group predicts absolutely nothing for any given individual. I've always scored significantly higher on the verbal portion of standardized tests than the math portion. Reading and writing have always come easily for me but math has not- particularly geometry & trigonometry, which were a real struggle.

Dr. Brosnan's research would predict that I should have a shorter ring than index finger; however, my ring finger is significantly longer than my index finger.

Guess we can't scrap the SAT in favor of finger length measurements any time soon...

(HT: the Daily Mail via

Brains & Brawn or How I Fell for DH

So, the theme of this week's Crazy Hip Blog Mama carnival #32 is "How You Met Your Spouse/Partner". Problem is, I don't have a cute "girl meets boy" story.

I met DH during college orientation week at a Jell-O shot party hosted by his fraternity. Not exactly the most auspicious venue for meeting one's future spouse! DH asked me to dance, we hung out at the party (no, I did NOT "hook up" with him afterwards!) & he invited me to the campus coffee house the next evening. We've been together ever since- 8 1/2 years married and 12 years total come September.

Headmistress over at "The Common Room" had an interesting post in this week's edition of the Carnival of Homeschooling called "People, Events, or Ideas". In it, she compares the interests of her oldest DD's college classmates with those of their homeschooled friends. "College was a bit of culture shock [to her DD] because so much of it was so shallow" she writes. "Far from being exposed to a new and wider range of interesting ideas and conversations, she learned that most of her classmates typically preferred to hold discussions centering around

  • Who is cute
  • Clothes
  • Who is really cute
  • Sports
  • Who is cuter
  • Rock groups, especially who is the cutest member of the band
  • Country music (different set of friends), especially who is the cutest
  • Movies, primarily regarding who is the best looking actor in the movie
  • Shopping at the mall, especially cool if you see somebody cute
  • Television shows, especially who is really cute

Don't get me wrong, I have nothing against sports or Country music (I'm a big fan of both). There's nothing wrong with a bit of entertainment in one's life, so long as it's reasonably wholesome. The problem comes when the person is solely interested in trivial things and lacks depth.

One of the things that attracted me to DH was that he wasn't afraid to discuss meaningful issues including "hot button" political & theological ones on our first date. Too many of our peers, even at the "elite" university we attended, were mainly interested in superficial stuff such as drinking, drug-taking (which neither of us did), casual sex (ditto), and material success. I liked having somebody to talk to about more important topics even if we did not always see eye-to-eye. I also appreciated that he wanted a thinking woman and was not intimidated by my brains & strong opinions.

Of course, I also appreciated the fact that he's really cute and has a passing resemblance to Matt Damon (hey, I'm a red-blooded heterosexual female!)

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Homeschool Meme

HT to "Mom to an Angel" for this Homeschool Meme:

1. ONE HOMESCHOOL BOOK YOU HAVE ENJOYED: Homeschooling: Take a Deep Breath, You Can Do This! by Terrie Lynn Bittner

2. ONE RESOURCE YOU WOULDN'T BE WITHOUT: A well-stocked library with inter-library loan program.

3. ONE RESOURCE YOU WISH YOU HAD NEVER BOUGHT: Boggle Jr. because it was too easy by the time I got it for my DD.

4. ONE RESOURCE YOU ENJOYED LAST (This) YEAR: I didn't really "enjoy" but found very useful Romalda Spalding's "The Writing Road to Reading".


6. ONE RESOURCE YOU WOULD LIKE TO BUY: I've got WAAAYYY too much stuff on my wish list but I'd really like to get Catholic Heritage Curricula's "A Year with God: Celebrating the Liturgical Year"

7. ONE RESOURCE YOU WISH EXISTED: I've yet to find a science curriculum I really like.




Novena to St. Jude Day 7

O holy apostle Saint Jude, in whose honor we are gathered today, may we never forget that our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ chose you to be one of twelve apostles. Because of this and of the martyrdom you suffered for the Faith, we know you are a close friend of Almighty God. Therefore we do not hesitate to petition you in our necessities, especially:

that the doctors can find out what is wrong with my cousin's little girl and treat it successfully

We humbly submit ourselves to the will of God, knowing full well that no sincere prayer is ever left unanswered. May we see God’s good and gracious purpose working in all our trials.


St. Jude, pray for us!

My Jesus, mercy!

Public High School Assembly Speaker Promotes Sex & Illegal Drug Use to Teens!

Yet another outrageous but true incident of government schools infringing on parental rights and promoting irresponsible behavior to young impressionable minds:

Boulder High School in Boulder, CO recently held a mandatory student assembly sponsored by the University of Colorado's "Conference for World Affairs". The CWA sounds like it ought to be a forum for discussing international events and public policy similar to Harvard's JFK Jr. Forum. Instead, this panel was called "STDs: Sex, Teens and Drugs". Students as young as 14 were required to attend and listen to Professor Joel Becker of UCLA make the outrageous comment: "I am going to encourage you to have sex and encourage you to use drugs appropriately....I want to encourage you to all have healthy, sexual behavior. Men with men, women and women, whatever combination you would like."

When Boulder High School sophomore Daphne White and her mom Priscilla complained to the school board, the board president Helayne Jones told Mrs. Jones to stop reading excerpts from the assembly because Ms. Jones deemed the language "inappropriate." This is the same language that Boulder High School administrators allowed students to hear during the assembly!

The CWA has issued a statement, signed by conference director Jim Palmer and others, saying the panel members talked "candidly and sensibly to the high school audience, providing cautionary information about alcohol consumption, drugs, sexual issues and teens."

It certainly doesn't sound to me like the speaker was trying to caution students about the risks of sexual behavior and/or illegal drug use!

The Whites dismissed the CWA's CYA attempt, saying: "The panel discussion was a completely irresponsible and dangerous invitation to Boulder High students to have sex and take drugs. Teenage abstinence was dismissed as an unwise choice and indicative of religious hang-ups."

Whatever one's views about the morality of *ADULTS* using illegal drugs and/or having sex outside of marriage, almost everyone can agree that those behaviors are very risky for children and not something that ought to be encouraged. 50% of all unplanned pregnancies are due to contraceptive failure and girls under 19 are especially at risk for contraceptive failure. 31% of U.S. women will become pregnant by age 20, and 80% of those pregnancies are unplanned (many as a result of contraceptive failure). Contraceptives and the new HPV vaccine provide only limited protection against STD's and 15-19 year olds have the highest STD rate of any age group. Half of all sexually active young people will contract an STD by age 25. Clearly, for teenagers there is no such thing as "safe sex" and too many teens in this country find out the hard way about this!

Abstinence is the only 100% effective method to protect teens from pregnancy and STD's and is the healthy thing for teens even without taking into consideration the whole morality aspect. That's the message teens should be hearing not a dangerous encouragement of risky behavior!

NOTE: Update including full transcript from the assembly can be found here.

A second update on the situation can be found here.

Urgent Prayer Request for My Cousin's Baby

I got a call this morning that my cousin's wife went into labor last night. The doctors delivered the baby via emergency c-section. The good news is that the baby does NOT have Trisomy 13 and that she has survived the night! The doctors still do not know what was causing all the excess fluid but they are somewhat more optimistic than they had been. The baby is in the neonatal ICU and the situation is still very grave.

My cousin and his wife have not yet named the baby & I'm not sure anyone has broached the subject of baptism with them.

Please keep the baby in your prayers!

I found a nice "Prayer for a Premature Baby" at the Our Kids website:

God bless the little child behind the plastic wall
For all she knows is the ringing of the bells and the blurred images around her.
She has been taken from the womb without warning and I long to hold her in my arms.

Lord, I ask in your name that this child be healed.
I am willing to accept your decision no matter what it will be.
I am willing to take on the responsibilities for caring for this child.
I am willing to give this child love and understanding no matter the cost.

Please Lord help me to accept reality and what has happened without explanation or warning. Help me face the fact that this is no one's fault and that I was given a special task to complete here on Earth.
God give this child the strength to make it through another second, minute, hour and day as each moment is a blessing and a triumph from Heaven.

God, may you give the strength and compassion to the caregivers and nurses that take care of this child.
May you keep this child protected and free from all injury and pain.

As you see dear Lord, I am at your mercy for the life of this child.
Please leave her here on Earth and know that I will provide all the love and understanding that this child needs.
I accept the challenge and will be your humble servant dear Lord.

Carnival of Homeschooling #73 is Up!

Melissa Wiley over at "The Lilting House" is hosting the 73rd edition of the Carnival of Homeschooling called "Enthusiasm Abounds".

There looks like an interesting and diverse bunch of posts this week, can't wait to read them!

Monday, May 21, 2007

Novena to St. Jude Day 6

I have still not heard anything about the amnio results and am praying that no news = good news.

St. Jude, apostle of Christ and helper in despairing cases, hear the prayers and petitions of those who are gathered together in your honor. In all our needs and desires may we only seek what is pleasing to God and what is best for our salvation. These, our petitions:

For the health of my cousin's baby and wife

We submit to you, asking you to obtain them for us, if they are for the good of our souls. We are resigned to God’s Holy will in all things, knowing that He will leave no sincere prayer unanswered in some way though it may be in a way unexpected by us.


St. Jude, pray for us!

My Jesus, mercy!

Does Jesus Want Academic Mediocrity?

A cliche among a certain subset of the Christian homeschooling community is the saying "I'd rather my child get into Heaven than Harvard" as if the two were mutually exclusive destinations. A recent Christian Broadcasting Network news article comparing socialization in traditional schools vs. homeschools and a post on an email list to which I belong got me thinking about this type of anti-intellectual bias.

In a discussion of Dr. Michael Mitchell of Oral Roberts University's research, the CBN article contrasts the aims of traditional schools with that of Christian homeschools as "selfish ambition and self-aggrandizement" and a drive "to achieve high marks in order to attain lucrative and prestigious jobs" vs. "integrity, responsibility, respect for others, trust in God, biblical soundness and an amiable disposition." Academic excellence is set in direct opposition to Christian ethics.

I wrote the following in response to a fellow Christian homeschooling parent who felt frustration about the perceived lack of interest in the pursuit of academic excellence in the Christian homeschooling community:

"As a Christian who strongly believes that individuals have a duty to maximize their God-given talents, this attitude really bothers me. Yes, Christ preached humility and cautioned against materialism, but I certainly don't think He intended his followers to underachieve. Matthew 5:14-16 calls Christians to be a 'light unto the world' and to not 'hide it under a bushel basket' but to 'shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Heavenly Father'. How exactly does wasting one's potential glorify God?

Of course I want my children to build character and become good disciples of Christ. That is the central mission of my homeschool. However, I also want to provide them with a strong academic foundation that will allow both my son(s) and daughter(s) to serve God in whatever vocations He chooses for them. Currently, my DD says she wants to be a physician for the poor when she grows up. That is a very noble calling, and one that requires a high level of academic preparation. I'm committed to doing my best to provide that for her."

Faith and Reason are complementary ways of knowing as St. Thomas Aquinas famously discussed in his Summa Theologica. Academic excellence is perfectly compatible with Christian ethics and both should be important parts of a Christian homeschool.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Public School Requires Scientology-based Course

In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the Prescott Middle School of Baton Rouge, LA has mandated all 8th graders take a "study skills" course written by Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard and taught by a practicing Scientologist. Prescott serves poor, predominantly African-American students including many evacuees from parts of southeastern Louisiana devastated by Katrina.

The actor John Travolta, a Scientologist, provided much of the money for the $20,000 program.

The program has been harshly criticized by Professor Dave Touretsky of Carnegie Mellon, an expert on Scientology. He calls it "covert religious instruction" and therefore unconstitutional to teach in public schools: "Scientologists will use the program at Prescott to sell the program to other struggling communities and to promote the image of Scientology. The idea is probably not to convert people directly, but rather to establish Scientologists as 'do-gooders' and then to slip in more Scientology down the road."

Apparently, that's how Tom Cruise (raised Catholic and who at one time considered entering the seminary) discovered Scientology. The actor has claimed Hubbard's study program helped him overcome dyslexia and piqued his interest in Scientology.

Were the parents of the Prescott schoolchildren even made aware of the program's links to Scientology? Is there an "opt-out" provision for those who do not want their children exposed to the pseudoscience and the problematic from a Judeo-Christian standpoint spiritual beliefs of Scientology?

Scientology has been widely criticized as a cult and a fraud. L. Ron Hubbard was a science fiction writer who in the late 1940's told a writer's convention: "You don't get rich writing science fiction. If you want to get rich, you start a religion." A few years later he published the book Dianetics and Scientology was born.

I find it extremely troubling that Scientology has been allowed to gain a foothold in public education. The ACLU just filed a lawsuit in Texas last week over an elective "Bible in History and Literature" high school course- why are they silent about this required middle school Scientology one?????

Novena to St. Jude Day 5

O holy St. Jude, apostle and companion of Christ Jesus, you have shown us by example how to lead a life of zeal and devotion. We humbly entreat you today to hear our prayers and petitions. Especially do we ask you to obtain for us the following favor:

the health of my cousin's wife and baby

Grant that in praying for present and future favors we may not forget the innumerable ones granted in the past but often return to give thanks. Humbly we resign ourselves to God’s holy will, knowing that he alone knows what is best for us especially in our present needs and necessities.


St. Jude, pray for us!

My Jesus, mercy!

R.I.P. Emilio Gonzales

Emilio Gonzales died in his mother Catarina's arms yesterday evening. May God have mercy on his soul and may He bring comfort to those who mourn.

The silver lining of this whole tragedy is that it has brought renewed attention to the Texas "futile care" law. The Texas state senate has passed legislation to give families more time to find an alternate facility willing to accept the patient.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Novena to St. Jude Day 4

DD is such a sweet and sensitive little girl. She told me that she had a dream God sent down angels from Heaven to bring a medicine to heal my cousin's baby. I certainly wish there was such a medicine!

Saint blessed Jude, you were called to be one of Christ’s chosen apostles and labored to bring men to a knowledge and love of God; listen with compassion to those gathered together to honor you and ask; your intercession. In this troubled world of ours we have many trials, difficulties, and temptations. Plead for us in the heavenly court, asking that our petitions may be answered, especially the particular one we have in mind at this moment:

the health of my cousin's wife and baby

May it please God to answer our prayers in the way that he knows best, giving us grace to see his purpose in all things.


St. Jude, pray for us!

My Jesus, mercy!

Friday, May 18, 2007

Novena to St. Jude Day 3

No results yet from the amnio my cousin's wife had done on Tuesday. It'll be Monday at the earliest before they hear anything. We're all just praying that no news = good news....

O holy St. Jude, apostle of Jesus Christ,you who have so faithfully and devotedly helped to spread his Gospel of Light, we who are gathered together today in your honor, ask and petition you to remember us and our needs. Especially do we pray for:

the health of my cousin's baby and wife

May it also please our Lord to lend an ear to your supplications in our behalf. Grant that we may ever pray with fervor and devotion, resigning ourselves humbly to the divine will, seeing God’s purpose in all our trials and knowing that he will leave no sincere prayer unanswered in some way.


St. Jude, pray for us!

My Jesus, mercy!

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Prayer and the Myers-Briggs Personality Types

I studied psychology and human biology in college so I'm pretty familiar with the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI). There are 4 components to an individual's personality type under the MBTI. The first is Extraversion vs. Introversion. Does the person feel energized or drained by being around other people? The second is Sensing vs. Intuition. How does the person take in information- by paying attention to the facts & details collected by the 5 senses or the "big picture" through a "hunch" or "sixth sense"? The third dimension is Thinking vs. Feeling. How does the person make a decision- objectively through logic and rigidly applying rules or subjectively by taking into consideration how others will be affected by it? The thinker cares most about "justice" while the feeler cares most about "harmony". The final dimension is Judging vs. Perceiving. Does the person prefer organization and structure or flexibility and spontaneity?

Although there are 16 possible different MBTI types, a combination of 2 dimensions play the predominant role in how we relate to the world. They are NT (Rational), NF (Idealist), SJ (Guardian), and SP (Artisan). I came across a very interesting Canadian website that discusses how the MBTI influences our preferred form of prayer.

NT's are introspective and pragmatic, seeking mastery of knowledge through logical investigation. They prefer Thomistic Prayer, where they use reasoning and the syllogisms of formal logic to pursue the "transcendental" values of goodness, beauty, unity, love, life and spirit.

NF's are introspective and cooperative, seeking meaning and significance through diplomacy and unifying people. They prefer Augustinian prayer, focusing on a personal relationship with God. The 4 steps of the Lectio divina can help: reading between the lines of scripture to find the deeper meaning; reflecting prayerfully to try to apply it one's own life; responding to God's word with personal feelings; and quiet contemplation to be open to new insights.

SJ's are observant and pragmatic, seeking belonging through organizing and logistics. They prefer Ignatian Prayer, imagining oneself as part of a scene in order to draw some practical fruit from it for today.

SP's are observant and cooperative, seeking technical competence through performance. They prefer Franciscan Prayer, flexible and free-flowing and totally open to the presence and voice of the Holy Spirit present in each one of us. Often it involves acts of service or appreciation of the wonder of God's creation.

According to a 1996 article in U.S. Catholic, 12% of Catholics prefer Thomistic Prayer, 12% Augustinian, 38% Franciscan, and the remainder Ignatian. That very nearly corresponds with the distribution of the 4 temperaments in the U.S. population: 10% NT, 16% NF, 27% SP, and 47% SJ.

I have always found myself drawn to the Augustinian form of prayer, even during the period of my life when I had drifted away from formally practicing Catholicism. I'd always believed it was due to my mom's influence as she is Protestant, given all the importance Protestantism places on having a personal relationship with Jesus. Undoubtedly that did play a role, but I do also have the "Idealist" NF type. According to the book Nurture by Nature by Paul & Barbara Tieger: "Idealists value relationships above all else and tend to be the most empathetic and philosophical of the 4 temperaments....They begin in childhood what is often a lifelong search for meaning...and their place in the greater scheme of things." That is exactly what Augustinian prayer is all about and why it appeals to me over the other prayer traditions.

P.S. I am aware that some Christian theologians have concerns about the influence of Carl Jung's neo-Gnostic spirituality on the MBTI. I certainly reject Jung's view that the good and evil sides of human nature ought to be integrated in an equal and balanced way into a single overarching wholeness (like the Chinese Taoist concepts of yin and yang) and his belief in "psychological bisexuality" of the animus & anima archetypes. However, we as Christians can separate the wheat from the chaff and use the MBTI as a tool to help better understand personality traits while still rejecting Jung's philosophy.

Novena to St. Jude Day 2

I talked to my aunt earlier today and the situation with my cousin's baby has gotten even graver. The doctors did an ultrasound and have discovered a risk of placenta abruptio, which can be life-threatening to both the baby and mother. They expect to hear the preliminary results of the amnio tomorrow but even if it turns out normal, the chances that the baby will survive to 37 weeks are slim.

Please join me in praying to St. Jude, the patron saint of seemingly hopeless causes, for a miracle for my cousin's family!

O blessed apostle Jude, who has been instrumental in gathering us here together this day, grant that we may always serve Jesus Christ as he deserves to be served, giving of our best efforts in living as he wishes us to live. May we dispose our hearts and minds that God will always be inclined to listen to our prayers and petitions, especially those petitions which we entrust to your care and for which we as you to plead for us:

for the health of my cousin's baby and wife

Grant that we may be enlightened as to what is best for us, in the present and future, not forgetting the blessings we have received in the past.


St. Jude, pray for us!

My Jesus, mercy!

Blogging "Birds of a Feather"?

I discovered a neat website called that has a premise similar to the "customers who bought this title also bought ... " feature on It asks individuals to rate a given blog on a number of different dimensions and then lists similarly rated blogs. Out of curiosity, I rated my own blog.

Interestingly, a number of the highest matches are fellow homeschoolers:

Some of the others, however, I don't know how the algorithm came up with since they don't appear to have much in common with my blog at all! Perhaps in the sense of marching to the beat of one's own drummer and not being shy about speaking one's mind...

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Novena to St. Jude Day 1

St. Jude, glorious apostle, faithful servant and friend of Jesus,the name of the traitor has caused you to be forgotten by many. But the Church honors and invokes you universally as the patron of hopeless cases, and of things despaired of. Pray for me who am so distressed. Make use, I implore you, of that particular privilege accorded you to bring visible and speedy help where help was almost despaired of. Come to my assistance in this great need that I may receive the consolation and succor of Heaven in all my necessities,tribulations and sufferings, particularly:

the health of my cousin's unborn baby girl

and that I may bless God with you and all the elect throughout eternity. St. Jude, apostle, martyr, and relative of our Lord Jesus Christ, of Mary, and of Joseph, intercede for us!

O blessed apostle St. Jude, who labored zealously among the Gentiles in many lands, and performed numerous miracles in needy and despairing cases, we invoke you to take special interest in us and our needs. We feel that you understand us in a particular way. Hear our prayers and our petitions and plead for us in all our necessities. May we be patient in learning God’s holy will and courageous in carrying it out.


St. Jude, pray for us!

My Jesus, mercy!

74% of High School Students Taking "College Prep" Curriculum Unprepared for College

A new study of 1.2 million high school seniors across the U.S. who took the ACT, a college admissions test similar to the SAT, found that only 26% of those who completed a "college prep" curriculum were actually prepared for college-level work in all 4 core areas (mathematics, English, science, and social studies). Nearly 1 in 5 were unprepared in every single area.

The president of the ACT, Cynthia Schmeiser, was stunned by the findings: "What’s shocking about this, is that since ‘A Nation at Risk,’ [the 1983 report of the Federal Commission on Excellence in Education] we have been encouraging students to take this core curriculum with the unspoken promise that when they do, they will be college ready. What we have found now, is that when they do, only one in four is ready for college-level work.”

Students who plan to attend college need rigorous high school courses that will adequately prepare them for the demands they will face at college. Unfortunately, in too many of America's high schools, "college prep" are just words on a transcript. A 2003 study done by the RAND corporation and the Brookings Institution found that 2/3 of 17 year olds spend less than an hour per day on homework. In 2002, the Concord Review surveyed 400 public high school teachers nationwide. 62% of them never assigned a paper of 3,000-5,000 words (around 9-15 pages double-spaced) and 81% never assigned a paper of more than 5,000 words. Term papers have significant weight in the grading of many university courses, often 50% or more of the final grade. Students who have not practiced writing these types of term papers in high school are at a significant disadvantage.

Critics of homeschooling often question whether a parent can adequately prepare their high school aged child for college. It is clear, however, that many traditional schools are not adequately preparing students for college. Numerous studies have shown that homeschooled students score well above the national average on standardized tests. Test scores aren't everything, of course, but they do provide an objective assessment of the child's knowledge in tested areas and they do show moderately strong correlation with college grades (around 0.5 for the SAT). These statistics go to show that people need to worry less about inadequately prepared homeschoolers and more about inadequately prepared traditionally schooled students!

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Hip in a "Crunchy Con" Sort of Way

So I'm out there cruising the blogosphere and I keep noticing the "Crazy Hip Blog Mama" webring button on many of the interesting "mommy" blogs. I click over to check out their homepage and I'm impressed with the dynamic group of women & their non-"sugar-coated" view of mamahood. Still, I resist joining at first because of the adolescent-like insecurity that I'm not "hip" enough to call myself a CHBM.

I've never fit in with the "popular" crowd. Too brainy, not interested in the whole binge drinking/drug-taking/casual sex scene, prefer to live frugally rather than get caught up in the rampant materialism of our culture- in short I prefer to be an iconoclast with a few true friends than a conformist with many superficial "friends". Even when I was in a sorority in college, I chose the one that had the most interesting and diverse group of women over the one which everyone told me that I "looked like".

On the other hand, I've also never fit in with the artsy "alternative" crowd either. The vegan "riot grrrls" publishing 'zines, dabbling in alternative lifestyles, getting piercings and tattoos, espousing radical feminism, exploring "New Age" or Eastern spirituality or "freethinking", and whatnot. It's their prerogative of course to choose how they live their lives and I respect their right to do so regardless of how I might personally feel about certain of those choices. I'm only going to be held accountable for my own actions, a major part of which is doing unto others as I would have them do unto me. "Judge not" and all that jazz!

Anyways, I'd been having my own mini-"pity party" about feeling unhip when I recalled Rod Dreher's book Crunchy Cons. That's me: the devoutly Catholic, "whole food" eating, nature-loving, anti-materialist, pro-family, homeschooling mama! Hey, if a best-selling book calls us "hip", then surely that qualifies me to join CHBM.

P.S. I *am* aware that Rod Dreher became disillusioned with the Church hierarchy's response to the whole sex scandal and has joined an Eastern Orthodox parish :-( I can sympathize with his feelings of betrayal and his frustration with the actions of certain bishops and cardinals (I grew up in the Boston area after all!) I disagree with his decision but Catholicism and Orthodoxy are one Church just tragically divided. I pray they will be reunited and there are promising signs that the nearly thousand year split may be nearing an end :-)

British School Bars Christian from Wearing Chastity Ring but Allows Muslim Headscarves

On the heels of the British Airways banning one of its employees from wearing a small cross necklace while allowing Muslim employees to wear headscarves, a British girls' high school has banned a minister's daughter from wearing a silver chastity ring inscribed with a Bible verse. The same school allows Muslim and Sikh students to wear religious adornments such as headscarves and kara bracelets.

16 year old Lydia Playfoot is now challenging the school's ban in court on the basis of religious discrimination. According to her mother, Heather, "We have only ever asked of the school that there is a level playing field for children from all faiths and to treat Christians with respect."

Under the student uniform guidelines issued by the British Department for Education and Skills, schools "should act reasonably in accommodating religious requirements," under human rights legislation unless there is a health or safety reason for the restriction.

I fail to see how allowing Lydia to wear her chastity ring during normal classes poses a health or safety risk to anyone. I could certainly understand a shop class banning jewelery out of a concern that they could get caught in the machine tools. The complete ban, however, does strike me as an infringement upon Lydia's right to practice her faith. The fact that the school permits students of other faiths to wear much more visible (and therefore potentially disruptive) religious adornments is unfair and religious discrimination.

I hope that Lydia's legal challenge to her school's discriminatory ban is successful. Students should be free to wear religious jewelery such as a chastity ring, cross, Star of David, or patron Saint medal, and religious clothing such as a headscarf, yarmulke, or turban so long as it does not pose a health or safety risk to anyone.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Are Moms "Opting Out" of Careers or are They Pushed Out?

Professor Pamela Stone of Hunter College has written a provocative new book called Opting Out? Why Women Really Leave Careers and Head Home. In it, she explores the reasons why more and more educated women are leaving their high-powered careers after having children to become full-time homemakers.

While articles in the popular media typically present the trend as being a backlash against feminism and all about women freely choosing home over work, Dr. Stone found that most of the time leaving was primarily due to work not family considerations. "I really expected that I was going to hear them telling me all about family and all about the pulls of family. But instead what I found is they were talking a lot about work, and it was the conditions of their jobs that were really forcing them out, forcing them into making a decision."

Stone's research showed that women "encounter obstacles of all sorts, that the workplace can be hostile and chilly to mothers, despite family-friendly rhetoric to the contrary.... Married to fellow professionals, who face the same pressures at work that they do, women are home alone and go home because they have been unsuccessful in their efforts to obtain flexibility or, for those who were able to, because they found themselves marginalized and stigmatized, negatively reinforced for trying to hold on their careers after becoming mothers. These women had alternative visions of how to work and be a mother, yet their attempts to maintain their careers on terms other than full-time plus were penalized, not applauded."

E.J. Graff of Brandeis University was on NPR this past weekend with a truly depressing statistic for moms: part-time workers are paid a whopping 21% less on an hourly basis than if they were doing the same job full-time. That's even without taking into consideration employee benefits, which often do not cover part-time positions. Plus the fact that employers often discriminate against those on the "mommy track" when it comes to promotions.

Feminism was supposed to be about opening up choices for us women but four decades later it seems that we are left to choose between either the traditional female role of full-time homemaker or the traditional male role of a high-powered full-time career. That's fine for those women who wish to pursue those, but what about all of us who would prefer something in-between? Why are there not more options for part-time, flex-time, telecommuting, job sharing, and the like? Why is there such widespread discrimination against workers (primarily moms) who choose to take advantage of these types of arrangements?

I've requested Professor Stone's book from the inter-library loan and am very much looking forward to reading it. I certainly hope that the business climate improves in terms of work/life balance by the time my DD's generation start their careers. I'd hate to see them forced to choose between motherhood and career the way that my generation has :-(

Thoughts on "Child-Led" Learning

Tertium Quid over at "From Burke to Kirk and Beyond" has a very interesting post called "Maria Montessori, Misunderstood Genius". In it, he discusses how many of today's secular Montessori schools have incorrectly implemented Dr. Montessori's method.

He writes: "Ultimately, the Montessori method is about the nurturing of the human soul under a Catholic vision of sin and grace. Without the latter, the Montessori method, despite its origins in Christian humanism, will likely affirm the Id along with our narcissism, solipsism, neoterism, meliorism, and misguided faith in preserving human innocence. If innocence is preserved through the manipulation of a sheltered environment and no divine graces are presented, the child is more likely to slide towards suicide than humanitarianism."

I am not very familiar with Dr. Montessori's work (though I do have some of her books in my "to read" queue) so I can't really comment on that aspect of his post. What did get me thinking, was his discussion of how the view of human nature impacts educational philosophy: "As a Catholic, [Dr. Montessori] was keenly aware that children are drawn to sin. She never believed that humankind is basically good and only corrupted by parents, society, and culture. Although she understood the value and importance of letting the child pursue his own education, she never forgot that the Latin root of 'education' is to lead. She led her students vigorously, if indirectly and subtly."

This is exactly my main problem with the idea of "child-led" learning. It stems from a Roussauian view of the child as inherently good until corrupted by social institutions. From the writings of the most prominent advocate of "unschooling", the humanist John Holt: "Children do not need to be made to learn to be better, told what to do or shown how. If they are given access to enough of the world, they will see clearly enough what things are truly important to themselves and to others, and they will make for themselves a better path into that world then anyone else could make for them." (from How Children Fail).

As a Catholic, I do not share such an optimistic view of human nature. Because of Original Sin, each of us has the potential for evil should we give in to temptation. We need God's guidance to help us in our struggle against Sin. Parents and teachers have the responsibility to "train up a child in the way he should go so that even when he is old, he will not swerve from it." (Proverbs 22:6)

"Child-led" learning turns the teacher-student relationship on its head. St. Paul recognized that adults have wisdom that children lack:"when I was a child, I used to talk as a child, think as a child, reason as a child; when I became a man, I put aside childish things" (1 Corinthians 13:11). Modern neuroscience has found that the part of the brain responsible for considering the long-term consequences of one's action, the medial prefrontal cortex, does not mature until around age 20. Children therefore lack the maturity to persevere in tasks that are unpleasant in the short-term but beneficial to them in the long run. This is where adults have the responsibility to step in and guide them.

As parents, we do not allow our children free reign in choosing their diet. Few (if any) children would choose tofu and broccoli over french fries and ice cream. Instead, we ensure that their diet meets their basic nutritional needs. Most of us do take our children's preferences into consideration when planning meals and allow a certain amount of choice. However, we set the general parameters and limit the choices to approved options.

This philosophy of taking the child's preferences into consideration while setting the general parameters to ensure basic needs are met applies to education as well as nutrition. There needs to be a balance between "child-led" and teacher-guided activities.

Prayer Request Update

I got an update from my aunt yesterday about my cousin's baby and tragically the news is not good. The excess amniotic fluid is now on the baby's brain and there is little hope of survival. The doctors suspect that it's due to a chromosomal defect called Trisomy 13 & they are going to do an amniocentesis today to confirm. Although a small percentage of children born with Trisomy 13 do survive, in this case the defects are so extensive that they are almost certainly incompatible with life. If the amnio confirms the suspected diagnosis, the doctors are planning to deliver the baby on Thursday. The hospital would provide palliative care to make her as comfortable as possible during her brief time here on Earth (most likely a matter of minutes) but would not take any aggressive measures to prolong her life.

Please keep my cousin, his wife, and their baby girl in your prayers during this very difficult time!

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Happy Mother's Day and Urgent Prayer Request

Happy Mother's Day to all the moms, grandmoms, and great-grandmoms out there! Motherhood is challenging and not very glamorous but few vocations have so great an impact on others. May God bless all the women out there who have accepted His call to become mothers!

On a sad note, I learned yesterday that my cousin's wife was rushed to the hospital on Thursday. She is expecting her second daughter in July and the doctors have discovered abnormal fluid in the baby's lungs :-( According to my dad, they aren't sure yet what is causing the fluid on the lungs but there's high probability it will result in severe complications or even death. It's too early for the doctors to induce labor but trying to treat it in utero is risky too. There's only a 1% chance that the baby will be born healthy.

I can't even begin to imagine what my cousin and his wife must be going through right now! Their oldest is nineteen months and my uncle by marriage (my cousin's stepdad) has been going through chemotherapy for stomach cancer so they had a lot on their plates to deal with even before this latest crisis.

Please say a prayer to St. Bernardine of Siena, the patron saint of lungs/respiratory issues, for his intercession upon the behalf of my cousin's baby. May God watch over her and may He help my cousin and his wife cope with the challenges they face.

I found a nice prayer for healing on the "Our Catholic Faith" website: Lord, You invite all who are burdened to come to You. Allow your healing hand to heal "Baby D". Touch her soul with Your compassion for others. Touch her heart with Your courage and infinite love for all. Touch her mind with Your wisdom, that her mouth may always proclaim Your praise. Teach her to reach out to You in her need, and help her to lead others to You by her example. Most loving Heart of Jesus, bring her health in body and spirit that she may serve You with all her strength. Touch gently this life which You have created, now and forever. Amen.