Monday, February 21, 2011

Talk About Living Simply!

Living Simply-- Is it possible today?

 Oh, my. I totally LOVE this woman's clutter-free, simple-living philosophy:

While I have very different reasons for wanting to live in such a way, and while I could NEVER give up my precious book collection, I do admire what's she's been able to accomplish and I long for her simpler way of living. She's a modern-day Ma Ingalls!!!

Can you imagine how much less stress we'd all have if we lived with LESS STUFF in our lives? I am salivating at the possibilities!

Now, do you think there's any chance I can talk my girls into giving up a ton of clothes and shoes? (I can hear the wailing and gnashing of teeth even now!) Hmmmm...

To read and watch more about this family's amazing lifestyle, follow more link below:

This calls for more de-cluttering today. (Woo-hoo!!!)

Sunday, February 13, 2011

A Fire Re-lit

Plato (I couldn't find a picture of Socrates!)

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to attend a wonderful event that exercised my brain in a way it hasn't been worked in a LONG time. It felt just like the days when Russell and I would trek up to Cedar City for another TJEd event, and come home, filled to the brim with excitement, enthusiasm, and inspiration to keep going another few months.

You see, these last couple of years I have not worked hard on my own education. We moved to another state, our Five Pillar group broke up, I've been swamped with mentoring Shakespeare, we moved back again, and I had a baby.

You could say I've been a bit busy.

 But then, I attended the Southwest TJEd Forum yesterday, and I feel like my veins have directly been given the shot of inspiration and excitement I haven't been able to find for a very, VERY long time. My four biggest kids also attended, and it was a LIFE-CHANGING experience for them. They're rejuvenated and ready to focus more on their missions, as well as already pining away for their Forum friends. *grin* We're all walking around with new eyes and minds today!

I wish I could share everything I learned, thought, and felt, but that would take me hours! Here are some of the things that inspired me and the random list of the books that were mentioned throughout the day:
  • How can we lead unless we KNOW what is true, right, and good?
  • Nietzsche was the first one to use the word " values", rather than teaching about good and evil or wrong and right. It's interesting that he substituted the age-old terms of enlightened instruction with a purely economic term. How telling.
  • Charlotte Corday and the French Revolution: I have read several books on the French Revolution and I had never heard of Charlotte. I also did not know that the French Revolution started out as something good, and then turned into a blood bath once evil, ignorant people started taking over. (Marat) Charlotte's story reminded me that tyrants cannot be overthrown on passion alone-- the MORAL people in America, who were also EDUCATED in the LIBERAL ARTS, made the American Revolution successful. And because the French did not have the same kinds of people at the time of their revolution in France, it did NOT work. (Is it JUST to kill a tyrant? Is it EFFECTIVE to kill a tyrant?)

Charlotte Corday and Marat
  • I  need to read Plato's Republic. (I think I'm finally ready!)
  • I need to research Plutarch's Parallel Lives
  • Justice is its OWN reward. (Thank you, Socrates!)
  • I am astounded-- yet not surprised-- at how wonderfully Socrates' philosophies on education mesh with the Learning Phases taught by TJEd. Truth is truth is truth. :-)
  • "Ethics of Elfland" by G.K. Chesterton 
  • I need to sit down and listen to different types of music with my kids, and then discuss them together. We do this with books, but I haven't done that with music since my biggest ones were small. How could I forget there are "classics" of every kind? We need to do the same with great artwork.
  • Tell stories. It's from STORIES that we learn and become inspired to change and be better. There's a reason Christ taught in parables.
  • The BEGINNING is the most important part of any work. (Character Building is the MOST essential of ALL learning!)
  • Who knew that "The Headgate" would be in Plato's Republic? (There's that TRUTH stuff, again!)
  • I need to read and discuss Shakespeare's Henry V with my kids.
  • "History of the American People" by Paul Johnson
  • The Math taught in today's society is based on TRUST and FAITH (not PROOF!) that those who came before us actually PROVED their theorems. If  I want to understand math, I need to go through the steps and the hard work MYSELF. Am I ready for Euclid? We shall see...
  • Leadership Education is all about ENVIRONMENT. That's it! ("The Headgate" again!)
  • Pray and ponder. Pray and ponder.
  • "Skills" do NOT equal EDUCATION.
  • I need to create an internal change in me (inspiration), so that I can create an inspiring external environment, so that our children can experience their own internal changes. (Everything is cycles.)
  • JUMP IN with both feet. I need to get back to the deep end. I've spent enough time taking a break in the shallow waters.
  • Getting MY education right now is not "ideal." I need to both accept and embrace that, and move forward, so that my CHILDREN can have the IDEAL education.
  • Never forget: IT'S ALL ABOUT MISSION.
  • "Teach the ideal, but then you DO what's RIGHT." Thank you, Oliver. (I could hear you saying it through Angie Baker.)
  • Go to the Eight Keys (And remember the Ninth: God, not men.)
  • "The Talent Code" by Daniel Coyle
    "Study creates a more powerful motherhood."
  • Leadership Education is about PEOPLE, not about curricula or test scores. It's RESPONSIVE to what my family needs.
  • The Power of parental EXAMPLE is enormous! It can be used for good OR for bad.
  • We are ALWAYS teaching, whether by design or accident-- whether we homeschool or not.
  • As parents, are we cheerleaders, or coaches? (I choose to be a COACH!)
  • "The Spyglass" by Richard Paul Evans ("You've seen what might be. Now, go and make it so.")
  • WE, the parents, are the key.
  • "Work without vision is drudgery. Vision without work is just dreaming. Work PLUS vision is a dream come TRUE."
  • Pioneering: We'll learn and succeed by DOING!
  • I LOVED learning about Mentoring in ALL its forms: Peer Mentoring, Mentoring from the Classics, Classroom Mentoring, PARENT Mentoring, and Personal Mentoring
  • I am so excited to simplify my mentoring sessions with my kids!
  • Mentoring is RESPONDING.
  • "Eight Cousins" by Louisa May Alcott
  • "A parent's subtlest power is in Parent Mentoring."
  • Mentoring MULTIPLIES our efforts! 
  • It's more important to prepare what my students NEED, than to prepare what I WANT to present to them. (Powerful mentoring follows.)
  • Madison was ONE little man who changed the WORLD. (If not us, then WHO?)
  • Genius is not a level of intellect-- it is a CALL. It has the same root word as "genie." A GENIUS is a guide, a path, a direction. We ALL have genius.
  • "Let us not be weary in well-doing..."
  • Find out more about the movie, "Secretariat"
  • And much, much more...

Friday, February 11, 2011

The Day of the Many Pictures

Sleepy Grayse
 After we came back from our Thanksgiving trip up to Idaho, Avalon promptly took our digital camera in the back yard and broke it.


(Yes, this was right before her second birthday. And CHRISTMAS.)

After two months of no camera (other than Russell's cell phone), we have finally set aside enough money to get a new digital camera. YAY!

And so, I would like to declare today "The Day of the Many Pictures" here at Thoughts from the Hearth. I hope you enjoy looking at these pictures as much as I've enjoyed being able take them again!

I love this man of mine!

Beautiful, shy Didi

Gavin wants to know why I'm taking his picture.

MacKenna LOVES the camera!

Happy Eryn Millie!

Three of my beautiful girls.

Just Ronan

Lovely (though blurry) Avalon

And one more of Baby Eryn-- just because...

Friday, February 04, 2011

What I love about babies

  •  The way they kick and smile when I walk toward them to pick them up.
  • The tiny indentation at the base of their heads-- it's my favorite spot to kiss.
  • The sweet smell of their wee heads.
  • I love it when they learn to clap, and how they do it over and over again, just because they can.
  • Baby-babbling, complete with gurgling and spitting.
  • The way a baby seems to be born knowing how to hug and snuggle.
  • The contentment they feel being held and rocked.
  • Tiny, soft ears. Another great spot to kiss.
  • I love the way they giggle and squeal with delight.
  • Their cleverness in teaching adults the "Oops, I Dropped It Again" Game.
  • Happy kicks, bounces, and rocking back and forth.
  • Pouting lips when they wind up to cry.
  • Tiny tongues. (See the picture above.)
  • Grunts of happiness when they realize they're going to be fed.
  • Soft, squishy, sleeping babies.
  • The way they can relax so completely.
  • The trust, love and adoration they give to the "big people" in their lives.
I love babies. I feel so privileged to be a mother of eleven little ones!

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

A Homeschool Opinion Post

I hope my friends and family will forgive me. If you think you might be offended by my opinions on homeschooling, please feel free to skip this post. But there are some things I just HAVE to say today, and I cannot rest until I've said them here.

Usually, when other parents find out I homeschool, I get one of two reactions.

1) "Really?! Are you crazy? Aren't you afraid your kids will turn out weird/unsocialized/dorky/uneducated? Why do you think you're qualified to teach your kids everything they're going to need to know?"


2) "Really? Wow. I could never do that. You must be a saint/have so much patience. But, you know, if things ever got bad enough, I'd homeschool my kids, too."

My concern doesn't ever lie with the first response. If I get that reaction, I automatically assume that the person responding is very close minded, and/or lives their life in fear. I have nothing more to say to them on the subject, so I usually just smile and walk away.

However, the second reaction always puzzles me. Today, I'd like to say here what I am not usually brave enough to say to someone's face. *gulp* Bear with me, and know that I love my family and friends. I am not writing this to offend you. But I am in a quandary over the idea of what "if things ever get bad enough" means. 

What DOES it mean???

What constitutes "Bad Enough" for YOU? Because I reached my limits on what's "Bad Enough" years and years ago.

Let me 'splain.

Reason #1 why I think public education is "Bad Enough": 
I believe that PARENTS, not the State, have a divine stewardship to raise and teach children.

Just this morning, parents in two different states got the same reaction on closing school due to weather concerns from school officials in their respective states. In a nutshell, parents were told that they couldn't shut down schools today because of all the students that "needed" to be provided food, warmth, and babysitting services, even when the weather is bad.

To directly quote the Superintendent of Denver Public Schools:
Equally important in making our decision was the consideration for the thousands of our families of working parents who are on moderate incomes, have few to no child-care options, don't get paid days off from their jobs, and therefore face a huge burden when schools are closed for a second day, while private-sector and other public-sector employers are open.”
“Our schools also serve tens of thousands of children who come from low-income households. Schools are not only are vital places of learning for those students, but they are also in many cases the only place where these students get two free hot meals a day, health care, counseling and support services. We felt it was the right thing to do to give our parents the option of sending their kids to school.”
“We consider our schools to be learning centers as well as community centers where children and families can get help with health and other social-service needs. And we feel an obligation to the public we serve to keep our schools open as much as possible.”
Do you hear what this Superintendent is saying?  He is saying that without the state-run school, "tens of thousands" of students would go hungry, not have health care, counseling, or CHILDCARE. Gee, did this man just say that school is glorified BABYSITTING?! Um, yes. Yes, he did.

Wow. Where, may I venture to ask, are the PARENTS of these children? This school official is telling us that because parents are "low income", they NEED schools to be open, or else they could not parent their children on their own??? If this is true, then our nation and educational system is in a sadder, scarier state than ANY of us could have imagined!

The attitude that "schools parent children better than their own parents" is not new-- not by any stretch. Remember the people that love to question my abilities to homeschool my children? They ask me this because THEY don't feel "qualified" to teach their kids. It makes me wonder why they feel that way, especially if they feel their own public education-- and, consequently, the education their children are getting-- was completely adequate.

I am a HUGE proponent of Parent Rights. I believe that the right to parent comes from God, and NOT the State. When parents believe that others are more qualified to care for and teach their children, they are handing the State the right to parent, teach, and nurture their offspring. So when the state assumes the role of "The Protector" and "The Expert", how can parents be shocked by their audacity?

Here is an example of out-of-control state-run schools. How would YOU like to be graded as a parent?
"Last Thursday, CNN reported that a Florida legislator has proposed a bill that would have public school teachers issuing a grade to parents. Yes, grading the parents. HB 255 provides that “each prekindergarten through grade 3 student report card shall include a section in which the teacher grades the parental involvement as satisfactory, needs improvement, or unsatisfactory…” based on criteria set by the bill."
"The whole idea of setting up public schools as overseers of parents is one more sign that American parental rights are in danger. Parents should not have to answer to government agents unless and until there is solid evidence of abuse or neglect on the part of that parent. Giving a grade to every parent clearly violates this constitutional principle."

"In fact, this bill would espouse the same foundational principle as the UN’s Convention on the Rights of the Child: assume that all parents are bad parents, and that only government oversight can save our children from parental incompetence.
Parents should NEVER answer to schools. Rather, schools, teachers, and administrators should answer to the PARENTS in their communities. Do any parents out there disagree with me on that?

Reason #2 why I think public education is "Bad Enough": 
Schools don't actually want students to be literate or think for themselves.
When I felt I should learn more about homeschooling, I studied the history of education in America. Did you know that compulsory schooling laws were not instituted across America until the late 1800's? Did you know that parents used to do the hiring and firing of ALL teachers in their communities BEFORE then? Did you know that education-- actual learning-- in America has gotten worse EVERY YEAR since the institution of compulsory education laws?

If less educated, more ignorant students is the result of compulsory education for all children, then WHY were those laws and ideas instituted?

Professional educator and former New York State Teacher of the Year, John Taylor Gatto explains it this way:
"The structure of American schooling, 20th-century style, began in 1806 when Napoleon's amateur soldiers beat the professional soldiers of Prussia at the battle of Jena. When your business is selling soldiers, losing a battle like that is serious. Almost immediately afterward a German philosopher named Fichte delivered his famous 'Address to the German Nation' which became one of the most influential documents in modern history. In effect he told the Prussian people that the party was over, that the nation would have to shape up through a new Utopian institution of forced schooling in which everyone would learn to take orders. So the world got compulsion schooling at the end of a state bayonet for the first time in human history; modern forced schooling started in Prussia in 1819 with a clear vision of what centralized schools could deliver:"
"Obedient soldiers to the army; Obedient workers to the mines; Well subordinated civil servants to government; Well subordinated clerks to industry; Citizens who thought alike about major issues."
"Schools should create an artificial national consensus on matters that had been worked out in advance by leading German families and the head of institutions. Schools should create unity among all the German states, eventually unifying them into Greater Prussia.
"Prussian industry boomed from the beginning. She was successful in warfare and her reputation in international affairs was very high. Twenty-six years after this form of schooling began, the King of Prussia was invited to North America to determine the boundary between the United States and Canada. Thirty-three years after that fateful invention of the central school institution, at the behest of Horace Mann and many other leading citizens, we borrowed the style of Prussian schooling as our own."
  President Abraham Lincoln simply said it this way:
"The philosophy of the classroom today will be the philosophy of government tomorrow."
State-Run schools have an agenda to teach children NOT to think. (Please read the ENTIRE article by Mr. Gatto I've linked to above, to fully understand the history of compulsory education.) Many parents refuse to believe this. It's unpleasant. It's sad. But it's WRONG, and parents should not sit by and refuse to see it happening. "Not in MY school district." "I live in a little town." "Stuff like that only happens in California or New York."

I hate to tell you, friends, but the curriculum and the standards are the same across the United States. The SAME textbooks, lessons, methods, and ideals are being taught NATIONWIDE. Not only can it happen, it's already been going on for more than two generations. Whistling in the dark will not change that.

Just consider that it might be true. Is that "Bad enough"?

Reason #3 Why I Think Public Education is "Bad Enough":
The current atmosphere in public schools is spiritually damaging to children of ALL ages.

I have heard countless friends, family members, and fellow church members tell me that they want their children to go to school and "be a light" to children with no spiritual upbringing. My question is: Do you really feel your 5 year old is strong enough spiritually to stand up and tell their teacher that evolution is wrong, and that Heavenly Father made the earth? Really? 

Maybe your children are stronger than mine, but I didn't have one that knew their own minds about sex, evolution, or homosexuality before the age of 12. (All of which is being forced on Kindergarten students.) At the MINIMUM. Half of what I just listed was not on their radar, as children. I guess they could have invited their atheistically-raised playmate to Primary, but how do children combat the falsehoods their teachers teach them? After all, most children love and idolize their teachers. 

Public-schooled children spend at least FOUR TIMES the amount of time with their teachers and schoolmates than they spend with their parents and siblings. They follow their rules, abide by their standards, and are not allowed to pray, mention God, or proselyte the Gospel to their friends on school property. (My little Activity Day girls recently informed me it's against their school's rules to give any of their friends a Book of Mormon on school property, and that they are not allowed to invite their friends to church or any church activities at school.) So how can they be "a light" again?

I went to public school in a small town, with a high population of LDS students. We went to release-time seminary during school hours. The seminary teachers were great, and there were some kids with high standards. But not nearly as many acted like the Latter-Days Saints they supposedly were. In my high school, you were NOBODY if you didn't have a steady boyfriend or girlfriend. Even among my "good" friends, make-out sessions and the watching of rated-R movies happened on a regular basis. Seminary was something to "ditch" or "suffer through." Music lyrics and dancing at school AND STAKE DANCES, was lewd and obscene.

The fruits of Public Schooling is not "lovely, virtuous, of good report, or praiseworthy." Public School is a spiritual trial for youth, where they only come out with strong testimonies intact if they completely distance themselves socially. How ironic.

Reason #4 Why I Think Public Education is "Bad Enough":
We undeniably live in the Last Days we've been warned about. 

On occasion, I have had a friend or associate tell me that "in the Last Days," when it's "Bad Enough," they will just send their kids to me to teach. That we could just start having classes at the church building, and that we could have positive, Gospel-based education for all the kids in the ward. Doesn't that sound great?

Those of you familiar with the scriptures should know the parable of the Ten Virgins. In that parable, was the oil available for ALL of the virgins to buy? Yes. But when did the wise virgins buy their oil? When there was NO indication that the bridgroom was tarrying. And when did the foolish virgins realize that they were short the oil they needed? When it was too late.

Now, I'm not saying that I'm better than anyone, ('cuz I'm pretty pathetic) or that I would deny anyone the help that they might need, should they choose to teach their own children at home. What I AM saying, is that like food storage, or emergency supplies, I am working on my own family's needs right now. IF I have excess, OF COURSE I will share! But I cannot give anyone the knowledge and the experience I have gleaned over the years. And I cannot turn into the only teacher for the ward's needs, should it "get bad enough." But I can do my best to encourage, to suggest things, and to help all I can. 

Yet I cannot give anyone else my oil. Each family must go and secure their own. 

What I am trying to say through this post, is that would it be so very terrible to consider that right now, today, it's "bad enough" to bring your children home? Would it be so very bad to consider learning about homeschooling as part of "Being Prepared"? Is it really so outrageous to question whether or not your local school district truly has YOUR KIDS as their greatest concern? Because I bet YOU are concerned about YOUR kids. I know that YOU have been given the stewardship over YOUR children, and not the schools.

All I ask is that you open your mind and heart to the possibility that public school is not the best option for Latter-Day Saint families.

Here are a few quotes from leaders of the Church that have reinforced and inspired me to keep homeschooling my children, even though it's not always easy. I hope they might inspire and help my readers simply CONSIDER the idea of homeschool.
"In many places it is literally not safe physically for youngsters to go to school. And in many schools – and it’s becoming almost generally true – it is spiritually unsafe to attend public schools." ~Elder Boyd. K. Packer in 1996 at the David O. McKay Symposium at BYU
Moral values are being neglected and prayer expelled from public schools on the pretext that moral teaching belongs to religion. At the same time, atheism, the secular religion, is admitted to class, and our youngsters are proselyted to a conduct without morality. ~Elder Boyd. K. Packer, General Conference, April 1994
Because of our sacred regard for each human intellect, we consider the obtaining of an education to be a religious responsibility. Yet opportunities and abilities differ. I believe that in the pursuit of education, individual desire is more influential than institution, and personal faith more forceful than faculty.” ~Elder Russell M. Nelson, Ensign, Nov. 1992
"Do the Saints need perfecting? Yes... People would not be found shuffling their children over into the hands of the enemy to be educated... If such people ever get into the celestial kingdom... they will find the children that might have been there with them, wallowing in misery; and those children will point up to them, if they may, and say, “Father! Mother! I blame you for this; for it was you that led me to it.” I tell you such people will sup sorrow in this world and in the world to come. Therefore, be careful how you treat your children: act the part of fathers and mothers to them, and not the part of unnatural monsters, who, having been enlightened to a degree by the Spirit of the Lord, trample under foot the things of God, and cast your offspring into the arms of the corrupt, of the evil, and of those who are seeking your life, and striving to destroy you.” ~John Taylor, Journal of Discourses, Volume 24, 12/9/1883, “The Age in Which We Live, Etc.”

Even if you feel you cannot consider homeschooling for YOUR children at this time, I hope and pray that you can now see homeschooling as something that is not as "out there" or "strange" or "crazy", as you might have thought before.

I hope you can see it as not just "do-able," but also as "desirable"-- should "things get bad enough."