Saturday, February 27, 2010

Beautiful Turnips for a Beautiful Baby

I went to the Farmers' Market this morning after dropping the Lone Star Girl off at rehearsal.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

When Well-Intentioned Parents Murder Their Children Because Their Church Taught Them To

I read this article from Lynne Harris on today.  

I am glad that at least some members of the religious right are realizing now what dangerous, wacky un-Christian folks the Pearls and their ilk are and that they have a responsibility not to start movements teaching loving, religious parents to abuse and kill their children just because some whack jobs call it Christian. I have written articles on these scary so-called Christian disciplinarians before, but I, of course, am flawed, being only a member of the religious left, and a pacifist besides.  Maybe now that some members of the religious right are actually speaking out, some churches and people will actually listen.

I wish it hadn't cost children their lives for this lesson to start being learned.

God help us.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Scared About Paying For College - Really Scared

Lone Star Pa and I are, financially, what actually qualifies as middle class in the United States (which of course is crazy-wealthy by the standards of the great majority of humanity, I'm aware).  We often encounter lawyer/doctor types who truly think of themselves as middle class, but they are not.  No matter what they think - they're not.  We are (middle class, that is - we're not poor like the rich people who think they are middle class think we are).  Two teachers.  That's so very middle class.  We are way better off than working class and way not approaching that place where the President starts raising the taxes.  We're good.  We're no money in the bank to speak of, no investments, yes have to worry about things like braces and car trouble and schools but living quite well everyday - middle class.  We got very, very lucky and I never forget that luck is all it is.

And college.  The price of college.  It terrifies me to the marrow.

Not for the Lone Star Girl (although I confess to a newborn fear of the cost of college textbooks where she is concerned).  I've made it clear that she needs scholarships to pay for living expenses if she wants to go away to school (like to Austin) and that she'll be living at home if she doesn't get them, but I know her tuition is covered. I purchased a Texas Tomorrow Plan for her when she was 4 - a ten-year plan.  I've been paying $152 a month for it ever since and we should pay it off in August.  It locked in the cost of 4 years at a state university in Texas for her at the price that it cost when she was four and those four years of college will be waiting for her when she's ready.  I definitely think this was the smartest thing I ever did.

That plan had long ago ceased enrolling when the Lone Star Baby was born, though.  She's the one I really worry about.  Does anyone else think that the rate at which state tuition is going up every year is insane?  It' going up by far, far larger percentages than any sort of interest on any sort of investment ever.  It is already double what I paid.  It will be more than double what people pay today - much more - when the Lone Star Baby is ready to go.  I really think it is a bit of a national crisis when college is about to be out of reach of everyone except the extremely wealthy.  It has been out of reach of the poor and working classes in many circumstances for a long time and now it is going to be out of reach for the children of teachers and nurses and social workers, too.  Is this just a little crazy?  I think so.  I mean, rich kids don't usually want to be teachers and nurses and social workers - they want to make money.  Where are we supposed to get more teachers and nurses if they can't send their kids to school?  Maybe we won't.

I just signed the Lone Star Baby up for this generation's Texas Tuition Promise.  This plan isn't as good as her sister's plan and it is way more expensive.  We'll be paying $230 (something) a month until she's out of high school and it will only pay for 2-3 years of college, if it doesn't go broke and send us back our money. Things will be tight until August when we pay back off the Girl's plan, but then it should be covered by what we were paying for hers and for her braces which we just made the last payment on in January.  It will mean that if the Lone Star Baby doesn't get into one of the charter or lottery schools we're applying for, it will definitely be our neighborhood school for her - we won't be able to even afford the cheapest Catholic one that only costs $250 a month to keep her away from all that testing.  Taking on an expense like that scares me half to death - it really does.  But.  It will lock those 300 units in at today's rates.

I think that's the best I can do.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

They're Here....

We Love Breathing! Love Corpus Christi - Don't Pollute!

Please join us at 5:30pm on the public sidewalks along SPID between Everhart and Staples to show your support for a city that breathes easy with no Las Brisas!  Remember - people who can breathe make better valentines!

New Valentine's Day Tradition

Happy Valentine's Day!  I decided we needed a new tradition.  

More books, of course.  

Plays, actually, for the Lone Star Girl.  I'm going to get her new plays every Valentine's Day.  For the Lone Star Baby, it's still just a good book, but once she's older and has a long-term interest like Drama Girl's, I'll try to make her Valentine book match it.  The Lone Star Baby is getting a nice copy of Click, Clack, Moo because I love the way it teaches activism (and it's funny).  The Lone Star Girl is getting a little book of Greek drama with plays by by Euripides, Aeschylus, Sophocles and Aristophanes that includes The Trojan Women, a play I know she's going to love.   She's also getting a little book of plays by Wendy Wasserstein that includes The Heidi Chronicles which I know she's going to love.

Happy Valentine's Day!  Have a sweet day of love and friendship!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Friday, February 12, 2010

15 Years....

... is a whole lot of marriage!!!  Let's go for 15 more.

Happy Anniversary, Lone Star Pa!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

February YA Pick: The Carbon Diaries 2015

This month's pick is a good read and another book that the Girl was willing to read even though I recommended it - The Carbon Diaries 2015 by Saci Lloyd.  The year is 2015 and climate change  has ransacked the earth, causing storms and shortages.  The UK had planned to somewhat more gradually implement a a 60% reduction in carbon emissions by 2030 but after the Great Storm, they decided to do it immediately.  All citizens were issued carbon cards with strict allowances and harsh penalties for overages.  Europe is expected to follow soon (but the still clueless).  English teen Laura is worried about the climate but also about keeping her band alive and her family together...and catching the eye of the boy next door...all on 200 Carbon Points a month. 

Love Corpus Christi - Don't Pollute

Please join me on Valentine's Day on the public sidewalks along SPID between Everhart and Staples from 5:30pm until 6:30pm to show your support for a clean city that does not include Las Brisas . . . a city where we can breathe easy!    Thanks! 

People who can breathe make better valentines, you know!  xxxooo

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Daisy Day At Camp Green Hill


I love Camp Green Hill.  This sign always makes me cry.

First Day School: Protestants And Parables

At First Day School, our Junior Young Friends/Young Friends Class (the Lone Star Girl) is exploring the mainstream Holy Book-centered Protestant denominations.  Today we finished reading about Presbyterians and read about Methodists and Baptists.  It is cool how this dovetails with a lot of what the LSG has learned in U.S. History class this year.  I'm sort of sifting through how I want to handle the Anabaptist movements which don't fit terribly well in this section, although the Mennonites were mentioned and with how many evangelical denominations I should cover now versus waiting until we are talking about fundamentalists.  This curriculum pretty much treats the fundamentalists as cults, which I mostly agree with, but I've got a marginally softer spot for non-fundamentalist evangelicals and the curriculum doesn't make that distinction.

In the Little Friends/Primary Class (the Lone Star Baby), we're mostly still working through the parables in the approximate style of Godly Play.  Today, we did the parable of the leaven.  These materials really speak to the Lone Star Baby and do a lovely job of helping her connect with the Inner Light.  I love the way they are so heavy into "wondering".  She chose the crosses of many cultures for her work after the lesson and matched the crosses with the cards. Then she decided to trace and label them all on a big piece of paper.  I love the way she listens to her own inner leadings on how to adapt the work to suit her meditation.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Poetry Published!

I have a poem from the Lone Star Baby's younger days published today on!   Please read it here - tomorrow night it will be on the poemblog

Monday, February 01, 2010


January is finished and my book isn't.  Quite.

Yes, More Dinosaur Units


The title of this post comes from the phrase "no more dinosaur units" which is something of a catchphrase in these days of "standards-based" education. The phrase refers to the fact that, in the past, kindergarten teachers have almost always taught intricate units about dinosaurs, even though there are no dinosaurs in the kindergarten TEKS (for you yankees, "TEKS" refer to the "Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills" which is what the standards in Texas are called).  

But here's the thing:  kindergarteners love dinosaurs.  There is some major psychic bond across eons of time and evolution that has hard-wired humans so that sometime between the ages of four and six, each human child must experience a period of dinosaur-fever.  It's like one of those sensitive periods that Maria Montessori wrote about or something.  At around age one, they start to walk and talk.  At somewhere between 4-6, they develop a passion for prehistoric lizards.  No one knows why - it just is.

What good kindergarten teachers have always known is that kids learn the important skills that they must learn best when immersed in a subject that excites them.  Our current system of  standards-based education leaves little time for this sort of unit-based learning.  Today's "units" fly by too quickly for kids to truly immerse themselves in anything.  Although the experts and administrators say that they want kids to learn higher order thinking and for things to be taught at the conceptual level, the curriculum leaves no time for much of anything except shoving knowledge-level (the lowest level of thinking) facts into their heads as quickly as possible.  This can work in math and reading which are so skills-based, and a little bit in writing if you have only one goal (that TAKS essay) in mind, but it is really super bad for learning science and social studies and for creating life-long learners. And allowing teachers to take the time to immerse their students in a subject of interest can easily incorporate all the math, reading and writing skills that they need to practice just as well as today's drill-drill-drill methods.

Lone Star Pa and I don't have the financial means to keep our kids in private schools forever and we value the experience of our children having membership in a diverse community too much to do that even if we could afford it.  Even so, and even being public school teachers, there is a lot about subjecting our kids to this drilling-the-standards-into-them form of public education to which I object.

We paid the big bucks to have our kids be in the very, very best daycare/preschools/private kindergartens we could find, both times around.  We were extremely lucky to be able to do it at all, I know, but it has not been easy.  It has pretty much meant choosing financial ruin for a long, long time but I think it has been worth it - those early years are the most important ones.  They got dinosaur units.  They got to experience learning with passion and excitement - that total immersion experience.  That is what I want for them educationally.  I firmly believe that if you have that, the rest follows almost automatically.   And that if you don't have that, the rest is never enough.  

The Lone Star Girl lucked out by getting into a wonderful, well-rounded elementary school where the standards emphasis was at least partially mediated by the fact that she attended school with kids who were all so bright that the school had no stress about test scores and felt little need to drill.  Likewise middle school.  Now we are looking at high schools for her and first grades for the Lone Star Baby, and we will try to make good choices for them if we get any choices (tests, lotteries, interviews) . Still, in my heart, I know it will be the preschool/kindergarten experiences that carry them through it all.

The Lone Star Baby has recently hit her dinosaur stage.  She is all about dinosaur bedtime stories and crafts (that increase her fine motor skills and stimulate creativity).  She is talking about the cretaceous period and the triassic period and the jurassic period.  She is studying rocks and bones.  She is reading and measuring.  She is comparing and contrasting and expanding her vocabulary.

I find that I am all for the dinosaur units myself.