Monday, June 23, 2008


a predestined fool,
a high-toned fool,
a fool of nature,
a B-sharp and B-flat fool,
a heavenly fool,
an earthly fool,
a jovial fool,
a happy and frisky fool,
a mercurial fool,
a handsome and lively fool,
a lunatic fool,
a tipsy fool,
an erratic fool,
a tasseled fool,
an eccentric fool,
a fool with bells,
an ethereal, Junoesque fool,
a laughing and sexual fool,
an Arctic fool,
an abstracted fool,
a heroic fool,
a fool from the top of the barrel,
a genial fool,
a fool of the first barrel,
a predestined fool,
a foaming fool,
an august fool,
an original fool,
a Caesar-like fool,
a pope-like fool,
an imperial fool,
a consistory fool,
a royal fool,
a cardinal fool,
a patriarchal fool,
a papal-bullish fool,
an original fool,
a synod-like fool,
an honest fool,
a bishop-like fool,
a ducal fool,
a doctoral fool,
a flag-waving fool,
a monkish fool,
a lordly fool,
a fiscal fool,
a palatial fool,
an extravagant fool,
a leading fool,
a puffed-up fool,
a magisterial fool,
a beginning fool,
a total fool,
an oversexed fool,
an elevated fool,
a fool with a diploma in folly,
a priestly fool,
a messmate fool,
a boss fool,
a licensed fool,
a triumphant fool,
a lickspittle fool,
a vulgar fool,
a superfluous fool,
a domesticated fool,
an echo-like fool,
a model fool,
a faded fool,
a rare and foreign fool,
a stupid fool,
a courtly fool,
a fleeting fool,
a polite fool,
a well-connected fool,
a popular fool,
a wild fool,
a familiar fool,
a noble fool,
a remarkable fool,
a full-grown fool,
a petted fool,
a bone-biting fool,
a Latinate fool,
a recovered fool,
an ordinary fool,
a savage fool,
a feared fool,
a driveling fool,
a transcendent fool,
a slack-jawed fool,
a sovereign fool,
a bloated fool,
a special fool,
a coxcomb fool,
a metaphysical fool,
a secondary fool,
an ecstatic fool,
an oriental fool,
a categorical fool,
a sublime fool,
a predicated fool,
a crimson fool,
a violent fool,
a born fool,
an officious fool,
a middle-class fool,
a well-drawn fool,
a feathered fool,
an algorithmic fool,
a topmasted fool,
an algebraic fool,
a major fool,
a cabalistic fool,
a thought of a thought of a fool,
a talmudic fool,
a scholarly Arab fool,
an alchemist's fool,
a queer fool,
a compendious fool,
an Aquinas fool,
an abridged fool,
an abridging fool,
a hyperbolic fool,
a Moorish fool,
an Aristotelian fool,
a papal-bulled fool,
an allegorical fool,
a proxy fool,
a tropological fool,
a begging-friar fool,
a pleonasmic fool,
a tenured fool,
a capital fool,
a slyboots fool,
a cerebral fool,
a surly fool,
a cordial fool,
a double-chinned fool,
a gutty fool,
a high-handed fool,
a choleric fool,
a well-hung fool,
a splenetic fool,
a scribbling fool,
a lusty fool,
a giddy fool,
a legitimate fool,
a kitchen fool,
an azimuth fool,
a hardwood fool,
a celestial-circle fool,
an andiron fool,
an appropriate fool,
a wretched fool,
an architrave fool,
a rheumy fool,
a pedestal fool,
an elegant fool,
a perfect fool,
a twenty-four-karat fool,
a famous fool,
a bizarre fool,
a happy fool,
a transverse fool,
a solemn fool,
an absurd fool,
an annual fool,
a touchy fool,
a festival fool,
a cap-and-bells fool,
an amusing fool,
a well-aimed fool,
a bumpkin fool,
an up-to-date fool,
an agreeable fool,
a stumbling fool,
a privileged fool,
an out-of-date fool,
a rustic fool,
a boorish fool,
an ordinary fool,
a hard-swotting fool,
a constant fool,
a gallant fool,
a harmonious fool,
a luxurious fool,
a determined fool,
a quick-footed fool,
a hieroglyphical fool,
a figurative fool,
an authentic fool,
a protective fool,
a valuable fool,
a hooded fool,
a precious fool,
a full-cut fool,
a fanatic fool,
a Damascus-bladed fool,
a fantastic fool,
an arabesqued fool,
a lymphatic fool,
a Persian-pursed fool,
a panicked fool,
a farting fool,
an alembic fool,
a speckled fool,
not a boring fool,
a proven fool.

-Francois Rabelais, Gargantua and Pantagruel, Book 3, Ch. 39, trans. Burton Raffel. I'll leave Ch. 26 for someone else.
But I'm Making a Dress From Flour Sacks

See how well you would have fit into a Steinbeck novel, via the 1930's Marital Scale (shamelessly stolen from DarwinCatholic).

The O.H. scored a 41, not too shockingly. Like I needed an on-line quiz to tell me I'm a whiny, selfish, spendthrift with no work ethic. Heck, I got the same results via a quiz like this one last Saturday evening. Just an occupational hazard of being a GenX Slacker.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Now, Child-Free!

Not usually having an occasion to watch television for obscenely long stretches--I can't seem to concentrate for real reading with a temperature--I find real immersion in the Evil Medium to be an eye-opener. What's up with the PBS talking-heads shows, anyway? A few times in the course of the morning, there was reference on various shows to childless adults (in discussions of gay marriage, Social Security, etc.), except on PBS it's consistently "child-free adults." What?? Who thought "child-free" was some kind of neutral term? When does the "-free" suffix indicate anything except a bad thing of which one would wish to be rid? Error-free, bug-free, disease-free ... child-free.

Oh well. At least they're showing a terrific peformance of Swan Lake right now. This is what I like to see my tax money used for.
Catholics in the News

Sick as a dog with a fever this Sunday morning, so I'm watching the Sunday morning talking heads shows, and it's almost as good as having gone to Mass, what with all the Catholics all over the news.

First, much discussion of possible VP picks. Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, touted as a possibility for Obama's running mate, aiming for both the female and the Catholic votes, which were seen as going for Hillary. But Sebelius has recently been asked to refrain from receving communion by her bishop, Abp. Naumann, which is not-quite-but-almost excommunication. While Obama certainly doesn't care, and it's unlikely to bother many of the pro-Clinton Catholics whom Obama is wooing, I'm guessing he doesn't want to step into the middle of this particular mess, which seems custom-made to polarize the Catholic vote.

Meanwhile, wunderkind Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal is being mentioned for the McCain ticket. Interesting: young enough to offset the age issue, I guess, if you somehow see their ages as averaging out; but will the demons in his background--which seem more Louisiana than Catholic--be too offputting for the electorate?

Moving from politics to Hollywood... Steve Carell, of NBC's The Office, is starring in the upcoming Get Smart movie, which looks fun. Apparently he's a good buddy of Stephen Colbert, another practicing Catholic (and CCD catechist) whose hilarious send-up of "King of Glory," which we've all been forced to sing ad nauseam by handclapping, tambourine-waving folk choirs who seem to think Catholic hymnody began and ended in the 1970's, was a hit a couple years ago on the Catholic Blogging circuit. If you missed it, definitely check it out. It will be cathartic (unless you're not a Catholic, in which case it will just make you grateful).

Must mention that there's a political connection here, too. One of the morning shows (sorry, they're all bleeding together) had a great little interview clip of Carell interviewing McCain:

Among Daily Show staffers, Mr. Carell's trademark moment came after a round of Republican debates in New Hampshire in late 1999, when he interviewed Arizona Senator John McCain. After asking Mr. McCain about his favorite poem and his favorite movie -- a little light banter from this amusing fellow from Comedy Central! -- he suddenly went straight and asked Mr. McCain about his record-breaking spending in a Congressional subcommittee, contradicting his claim to be a fiscal conservative.

"McCain was completely like a deer in headlights," recalled Mr. Rocca. "The silence was just horrible and deafening."

Mr. McCain's aides were slack-jawed. "Then he breaks the silence with, 'Just kidding.'
And of course the big story, the sudden death of Tim Russert. My favorite memory of Russert was during the 2000 campaign, when he interviewed Al Gore and George W. on back-to-back Sundays. He asked Bush about his appearance at Bob Jones University, where it's still a matter of policy that the Catholic Church is Satan's tool of deception and the Pope is the Antichrist. Bush gave the usual bluster about Some of My Best Friends and Relatives are Catholics, and how they weren't offended, so, you know, it's all good. Russert replied that he was Catholic, and he was offended, leaving Bush to flounder. Ha! Then he nailed Gore, who's just fine with both execution and abortion, on his demurral in the case of pregnant women on death row. Gore gave his usual bluster on choice and a woman's control over her body: Russert responded with the obvious questions about how you could talk with a straight face about someone's control over their body if you were just about to kill them, and why you would delay killing someone so as to preserve a life you just a minute ago said doesn't exist. Leaving Gore to flounder in the classic Russert interviewee deer-in-the-headlights manner. Ha again! Chalk one up for the much-maligned "seamless garment" theology. A great Catholic moment in politics.

(Update: They just showed a bit of that second interview, where Russert got Gore to flat-out deny that an unborn child is a human life.)

(Update #2: It was affecting to see Maria Shriver on Meet the Press mentioning that Russert carried his rosary with him at all times.)

Requiem aeternam dona ei, Domine; et lux perpetua luceat ei. Requiescat in pace.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Truly Scrumptious Children's Books

We just rented Chitty Chitty Bang Bang for family movie night, and got to thinking. What other children's books could we think of, by authors who didn't write primarily for children? We decided it didn't count if the writer's juvenile efforts are well-known (C. S. Lewis, for instance, doesn't count). Likewise we didn't include books not originally intended for children, such as Defoe's Robinson Crusoe.

Ian Fleming, the James Bond author of course, wrote Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Dickens wrote The Magic Fishbone, beloved by Offspringen #1 and 2. Pearl S. Buck wrote The Story Bible and The Man Who Changed China: The Story of Sun Yat-Sen for the Landmark series of children's history books. Shirley Jackson likewise contributed the excellent Witchcraft of Salem Village to the Landmark series. Ian McEwan wrote The Daydreamer, also popular in the Opinionated household. Thackeray wrote The Ring and The Rose.

What else?

Friday, June 06, 2008

Back to the '80's

This is best watched with the sound off. Really the music was always beside the point anyway.

I must excuse myself by observing that I spent the early '80's in the U.K., and so New Romanticism both attracts and repulses me.

(H.T. Rod Dreher)

Back to the '70's

When we hear the dreaded "S-word," we homeschoolers inhale and unload our full list of social activities on our hapless interlocutor. You think "homeschool" means my kids are shut up in the house all day? Chess club drama class campfire kids programming lessons swim team park day playdates fencing salle German tutor oh and did I mention she's taking a math course at Big State U.? "Carschooling": when you're committed to so many socialization-promoting activites, classes, co-ops, and extracurriculars that you have to keep workbooks in the van so the kids can get some normal lesson time.

Well that's all changing now, judging by the conversations I've been hearing lately. Most of us are on one, or one-and-a-bit, income, and usually with more children than average, and the gas prices are hitting us hard. Suddenly choices must be made, and Scout meetings in McManorberry may not make the cut.

Here's the questions for my fellow homeschoolers: Are the rising gas prices affecting your homeschooling? What's got to give, and what are you still willing to drive for? We've given up a Park Day with wonderful women because of the thirty-minute drive. The city pool with the diving boards is being passed up for the smaller neighborhood pool a few blocks away.

And how about walking, biking, and public transportation instead of the reliable Soccer Mom Minivan? Where will you still go, just not by car? Today I walked over to the post office with Offspringen #1 and #2 in tow, and mailed a package to my niece in Red Countyville up north. The shipping cost was less than the gas would have been, I noticed. This afternoon, after biking home with Eudoxus, Offspring #1 took the city bus by herself up to the store to buy a birthday present for a friend. (I walked her to the bus stop, which she liked; waited with her, which she thought unnecessary; told the driver where she needed to get off, which caused eye-rolling; and then explained "It's her first time on the bus by herself!" to which the driver smiled and nodded and said "I'll take good care of her!" causing her to nearly slither under the seat in mortification. My maternal work was done, except for the next hour of fretting. But I digress.)

Want to know how your neighborhood rates in the brave new world of $4+/gallon gasoline? Find out at Walk Score. We rated a 77--"Very Walkable." The scoring isn't perfect; we did well for schools, not because of Big State U. two miles away (which is one of the reasons we moved into this neighborhood), but because the chiropractor's school around the corner somehow got counted three times. Still, a useful, if rough, indicator.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

You Wouldn't Let an Unlicensed Brain Surgeon Operate, Would You?

What is it lately with the obsession over teaching credentials? All the half-decent teachers I've ever known have said their time in the school of education was mind-numbing and useless, and that their real teaching skills came from experience.

Here's a credentialed teacher for you. And here. And here.

If these incidents--all reported in the space of two weeks--had involved homeschoolers, there would be a bill before Congress right now to criminalize homeschooling.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Harris Poll: Homeschoolig Bad, Public Schooling Worse. And a bit of Whining.

The 2008 Harris Poll gauging public opinion of various forms of education is out. 2000 people were asked about the general and particular educational quality of regular public schools, public charter schools, private schools (secular and religious), and homeschooling. Oddly, public schools and public charters came in last, even behind homeschooling; but if you look at the breakdowns, homeschooling trails by a big margin when respondents were questioned about any of the particulars.

Now of course this is an opinion poll, and there's obvious absurdity in people thinking they have any sort of handle on the overall or particular academic success of homeschooling. I don't have a good idea of how well most of my friends' kids are doing in their home education. So it's tempting to dismiss it.

But I think it's a bad sign that we're regarded as so horribly backward in subject areas and socialization. Because public perception drives legislation, and lately we're seeing a spate of anti-homeschooling commentary.

We know that our kids have good educations and play well with others. Homeschooling has been around for decades, and in the last decade has soared in visibility. Why are we seen as so educationally ineffective? And what can we do about it?

Our parish bulletin announces the names of the parochial school children who win or place at PSIA (like UIL, but for private schools, which in Texas includes homeschoolers). But not the homeschooled parishioners. One year Offspring #1 placed first in mathematics for her grade at State, beating out hundreds of kids from the toniest private schools in Dallas and Houston. Every year she's gone to state and done extremely well in core subjects. But only the parish school results may go in the bulletin (yes, I asked). I do know something about the achievement of the homeschooling families in my parish, and they're impressive: scholarships, awards for virtuoso musical performances, admission to top-tier universities. But I didn't find out about them from the newspaper or the parish bulletin.

I'm not mentioning this just to whine. We don't need the parish to validate our kids. (Though considering that the Diocese seems very concerned that our children are properly Socialized as Part of their Parish Community, you'd think some recognition might contribute to that.) But the comboxes and opinion polls continue to show that most non-homeschoolers think our kids are sitting in the basement reading the Bible. Changing the public perception has to start in communities, including (especially) parishes.

But would it even matter if we had more publicity? For years, homeschooled kids have been dominating the Howard Scripps Spelling Bee, the National Geographic Bee, and lesser-known events (looked into chess lately? why do you suppose the US Chess Federation has effectively banned homeschool teams at the national level?). What has it gotten us? The confirmation bias entrenched in perceptions of homeschooling means that reports of individual achievement are seen as outliers, not disturbing the ugly stereotypes in the public mind. As Dana at Principled Discovery points out, public opinion of homeschooling is actually slipping.

In a country where the party beholden to the NEA is about to control the White House and Congress, where the courts don't seem to be on our side, and where the current administration has effectively federalized education, this could mean real trouble.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Here We Go Again

Friend-of-blogger "Sophia" below gives a link to the little Parade Magazine tidbit flying around the internet right now, which is short enough to give here in its entirety:
Should Home-Schooling Be Illegal?

In February, a California state appeals court ruled that unless parents have recognized teaching credentials, they must send their children to school. The judge, citing a state education law, said that “parents do not have a constitutional right to home-school their children.” Parents and politicians were outraged, and the court will rehear the case this month.

At stake is the education of the 166,000 California children who currently are home-schooled. But the court decision also could influence laws across the country. Nationwide, up to 2 million children are taught at home. Experts estimate that the number is increasing 7% to 12% a year.

“If upheld, the California ruling will send shock waves nationwide,” says Richard Kahlenberg, the author of a number of books on education. He says the case “pits those who believe parental rights are paramount against those who place a premium on well-educated citizens.”

Right now, only six states have strict regulations for home-schooling, usually requiring parents to have their curriculum approved, to show test scores and, in some places, to submit to home visits. Fourteen states, including California, mandate only that parents notify the state of their decision to home-school.

There's an accompanying meaningless poll, already reflecting the widespread dissemination of the URL to homeschool groups across the country.

The article itself is difficult to muster outrage over, as it's obviously just meant to boost traffic to the website. There's a ridiculous little quote implying that homeschooled children won't be well-educated citizens, meant to push buttons, clearly a successful strategy judging by the stratospheric number of comments. As has been observed before, there's no longer a judgment to be upheld; that train left the station when the court decided to re-hear the case, so either this Kahlenberg guy doesn't understand what "uphold" means, or the article writer got an out-of-date quote. And of course there's no reason to think that the court decision would "influence laws across the country," which is presumably why the article writer failed to offer any. (The writer appears to think that "constitutional" in the vacated judgment refers to the U.S. Constitution, which it does not.)

There are some interesting points, though. The mini-article is all over the place, asking in the title if homeschooling should be illegal (no state is going to make it illegal; even the Governator figured out that he better hop right into the fray on the side of the homeschoolers). But the poll only asks if parents should have to be credentialed teachers; and the text itself only seems to appeal to some sort of toughening-up of laws regarding homeschooling in various states deemed too lax. The whole thing has the air of "tell us if you love or hate the idea of homeschooling."

The sweeping question of the title makes me, yet again, despair. Non-homeschoolers worry endlessly about the tiny fraction of homeschooling families: yet the frequency with which it's suggested that the entire enterprise should simply be criminalized is exactly what keeps the HSLDA in business, keeps homeschoolers paranoid, and ensures that no real problems among homeschoolers will ever, ever be talked about openly. And articles like this, even though they're clearly just meant to increase traffic, contribute to the idea that if you don't like what someone else does with their freedom, by golly you should make sure it's taken away from them.

The comments boxes contain the usual silly comments and generalized arguments from anecdote on all sides. It's interesting to see how often "they're hiding child abuse" and "they should be made to have teaching credentials" rear themselves. There's a good discussion of them both at Principled Discovery, including the impact of credentialing on the likelihood of abuse. Well worth reading.

After a few hundred (thousand?) outraged comments, the whole thing will blow over. Until the next opinion column. My friends, I think our time is better spent preparing lessons.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Picky Eating

Ian at Musings has a gutsy post up calling homeschoolers to task for their children's bratty behavior. He specifies large families, but in my experience having a large family only magnifies issues: I've seen plenty of rotten and uncorrected child behavior in one- and two-child families.

Interestingly, most of the objections are directed at his criticism of children not eating what they're served. There are a couple of valid points made in response.

First, it's arguably the polite thing to simply not eat food you're served that, for whatever reason, you can't or won't eat. This is what we've trained our children to do: you don't complain about the food, you don't explain why you can't or won't eat it, you just smile and say "It's great!" when asked, you push it around with your fork, and you trust that your parents will give you a sandwich when you go home.

Our kids are vegetarians (they get it from Eudoxus), and anybody who has had to hang out with the more militant of that tribe--particularly vegans, for some reason--has reason to thank us for training our children to just keep quiet about it, eat the bread and salad, and have some beans and rice when we get home. Some friends of ours who are Orthodox Jews have this down pat; you don't burden others with your eating limitations, you don't make them feel guilty that they don't have anything you can eat, you don't announce to them ahead of time what your children can and can't eat, you just decline politely and keep your own snacks in the car.

Second, as at least one commenter at Musings observes, in the days when it was a virtue to eat whatever was placed in front of you, not only was vegetarianism rare, but it was a safe bet that what Joey's mom was serving for dinner would be in the same general culinary class as what your own mom was serving. I really don't believe it's realistic to think a five-year-old must be trained to gulp down sushi, borscht, or gorditas con chicharron when they've never seen such foods before and are suddenly confronted with them.

Or maybe I'm just raising bratty kids. Thoughts?