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Widowed mother of six. Wanna-be-photographer. Black sheep. Pariah.

Miranda Hanford knows all too well how these define her.  She might even add oppressed and bullied to that list. 

When the pastor of Miranda’s church requires the entire congregation to move with him out-of-state, Miranda knows she can’t do it.  She also knows now would be the perfect time to break from Mason Chandler and his ministry. Mason, however, has other ideas.  And he’s not above blackmailing her to get what he wants.

Set in rural Georgia, I was hooked by the end of the first paragraph which said, “She could steal a moment with Jezebel.”  Initially, I started reading with the intention of this being the book to read after dinner each night of the week.  By 10 pm, I knew I would have to stop and finish the rest later.  But I didn’t want to.

I loved Miranda.  I understood her motivation, and recognized how, all those years later, she woke up somewhere entirely different from what she had imagined as an adolescent.  Her fear was palpable; her pain unmistakable; the conflict in her soul evident.

Then there’s the accident and a relatively unknown brother-in-law to complicate things even more. Miranda struggles for control- control of any kind, even through the haze of her head and other injuries.

On page 97, there is a comment that still has me chuckling: “Not all homeschoolers were nut bags, but many of the nut bags in a certain off brand of Christianity were homeschoolers.”  As a homeschooling mama, I know all too well how easy it is to paint everyone with the same brush.  It made me chuckle, though, because where I live, there are a lot of homeschoolers.  And we’re not nut bags.  😆

I love thinking and guessing during mysteries.  While I had part of it right, the primary part led to a world with which I also have first-hand experience (although not to all facets), and also left me nodding my head.  Without going into details and spoiling it,  I can say that these things happen and are real.  And probably happening much more than any of us know.

I cannot say enough good about this book.  I loved it! I would definitely recommend this to friends. 

While I know some might disparage the depiction of this particular homeschooling family (and others who homeschool in this manner), I, personally, wasn’t bothered by it.  I think any time you look at an extreme example of anything, there are going to be people who assume everyone else doing “that” are the same way.  Judging, in my opinion, particularly without insight or experience, really is a personal problem for the person doing the judging.

I give this book 5 stars out of 5. 

I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.

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There’s something I want.  I submit that I *must* have it, in order to survive.  Problem is, I don’t have the money to pay for it.  Who’s gonna pay? 

I’ve been watching with great interest the debate going on in Wisconsin over pay raises for public employees, like teachers.  At first, by all accounts, it was the teachers who flooded the state capital; now it seems all kinds of public employees are there too. 

Except, of course, for the Democrats in the state Legislature  who literally ran away to another state to hide, so they didn’t have to vote on the budget.  The government is at a standstill, and who knows how much money has been spent unsuccessfully trying to use the State Police to find and bring home the missing elected, public servants.

I don’t think those folks are living in the same world I live in. If I ran away from my paying job because I had a difficult decision or an unpleasant task to have to do, not only would I be disciplined for insubordination, I’d also be fired by this point and time.  There’s a term for that – it’s called job abandonment.

At the crux of this debate is money. Some will say it’s about all kinds of other things – denigrating public employees (particularly teachers), usurping the ability of public service unions and their members from exerting the power they feel they are “entitled” to. Statistics from the Washington Examiner says this about unions:

“Only 7.3 percent of all private sector employees are union members, while 37.6 percent of all government workers are unionized. Fifty-one percent of all union members are government workers.”
 
I am not in a union, nor have I ever been.  My husband is not in a union and hasn’t been in one for over 17 years.  Yes, at one time he was in a trade union, but not by choice.  He either had to be in it or he didn’t get the job.
 
Regardless of choice, the issue at hand here is money.  People there want more.  The state doesn’t have it. Where is the money going to come from?  Do we rob Peter to pay Paul? Do we roll the dice or throw darts? 
 
As an adult, I am responsible for my finances.  Me.  I don’t have a money tree in my backyard.  I have to balance my budget.  It’s as simple as that.  No one will pay bills for me if I want something I say is necessary for my survival. I have “x” amount of dollars coming in. Thankfully, this isn’t a flexible amount like it is for a state, which has to estimate income (like taxes) and hope it meets up with actual spending at the end of the year.
 
In my budget, something has to give when there are unexpected changes, like medical bills or plumbing issues.  So, what’s it going to be?  What is going to give?
 
Seems to me, in this situation, pensions and medical plan costs are being passed down to teachers, which yes, affects their take-home pay.  I have heard the argument that “teachers are taxpayers, too, and their pension/retirement plans have taken huge hits – why should they have to pay more and make less money?”
 
Welcome to reality, friends. Over the last few years, our retirement plan has also taken huge hits. Over the last 5 years or so, our medical plan costs and deductibles have continued to increase, while the benefits change. I read an article a while ago about the teacher’s union (New York) being up in arms because things like Viagra and plastic surgery were “benefits” that were going to be cut.  We here in this world have been dealing with all the things the teachers and other public employees are upset about. 
 
Viagra has never been part of our benefit plan.  Neither has birth control pills, although I heard a rumor that if it was medically necessary, it would be covered.  I tried that a few times and never got it covered, despite it actually BEING medically necessary. The upside is that birth is covered. We don’t get plastic surgery at all, unless it’s reconstructive. Our company has thousands of employers and is a Fortune 500 company.  This generally means they have some pull and can get better rates than smaller companies.
 
We also don’t have the ability to go on strike or otherwise fight for wages.  Yearly wages are predetermined, according to the budget.  There are annual reviews, and if you are management, you have the opportunity to meet your objectives and get a bonus. If you are hourly, you get the raise they give you, if one is given.  I’m sure there is more to it, with nuances that I, the one not being reviewed and employed, don’t have first-hand knowledge of.  I can say that my boss (for my very part-time job) went and asked for raises for us.  The answer was no, of course.  Times are tough.
 
I know a lot of teachers.  I’m related to a lot teachers (and administrators).  I’m friends with teachers that I had in high school, and have great regard for those  (teachers) I’m friends with and some others that made an impact on me. I grew up in a household where my dad was a teacher and then moved on to administration. I think there are some wonderful people out there who are wonderful teachers.
 
Let us please be clear on those points before y’all start flaming me.  🙂
 
The public school system is deeply flawed.  While there are a number of excellent teachers, there is also a great number who are not. In some districts, people can teach school without ever having gone to school to become teachers.  I think this is some of the problem with schools. I think another problem is that there are people who become teachers simply because of the benefits.  I mean, who wouldn’t want a job where you only have to work 9 months out of the year, and where you have great benefits, including retirement, right?  And that’s not to say that it is a gravy train, because as good teachers will tell you, there is a lot more to it than that. I will tell you that I have known (casually) people who went into teaching *only* because of the benefits and shorter work year.
 
I’m not putting it all on the school districts themselves, because let’s face it, the No Child Left Behind Act had goodness behind the concept but is a boat anchor in practicality. We can’t blame any one group. We can’t blame only the Democrats; we can’t blame only the Republicans (despite a lot of people wanting to point fingers at them and the Tea Party and others who are fiscally conservative and trying to balance budgets, like the Republican Governor of Wisconsin.); we can’t only blame the former or current administrations.  The point is not to place blame, but to find a realistic, sustainable fix.
 
I don’t have one.  🙂  Just thought I’d clear that up.  😆
 
So here’s the thing.  Pretty nearly every career job requires more than an 8 hour work day. More often than not, there is work that goes home and is worked on during non-clocked hours there as well. More often than not, there are difficult people and situations to deal with, too, in these other jobs.
 
I had a note come across my desk today that likened teachers to babysitters ( as in, this is how some people see teachers and are therefore justifying not paying them more), so let’s see what we should pay them.  The math was $3 an hour @ 6.5 hours for 30 students X 180 days a year.  That’s not including planning hours or parent-teacher conferences or any kind of extra.  Sound low?  Well, according to the math, the income “should” be $105,300. 
 
Now, if you were a more educated teacher, like a special education instructor with a master’s degree, you could charge more, like minimum wage, which would result (using this math) in a wage of $280,800.  This formula has been applied for stay-at-home-moms, too, so if you combine that with the teacher wage, since we homeschool, I’d be rolling in dough.  🙂 
 
It’s my opinion that you have to throw that kind of math out the window, because it’s not reality (and no, I’m not saying using that kind of math in this example is anything more than a show of support).  The realities of a job are the duties to be performed.  Every job has details and responsibilities.  Depending on the job, those things are going to vary.  That’s part of the job. You know that going in. If I work in a nursing home, I am not going to count (except for charting purposes) residents I care for, and how many times each is taken to the bathroom, helped, or responded to and expect that to be taken into account into my paycheck.  Why? Because that is not how the job and payment for the job work. Employment payment doesn’t generally work like that.
 
Here are some numbers to look at that have wage information:
High School Teacher $43,355
Elementary School Teacher $40,432
Middle School Teacher $42,311
Special Education Teacher, Preschool, Kindergarten, or Elementary School $41,016
Special Education Teacher, Secondary School $43,889
Secondary School Teacher $42,223
Special Education Teacher, Middle School $42,060
Measure  Some High School High school graduate Some college Associate’s degree Bachelor’s degree or higher Bachelor’s degree Master’s degree Professional degree Doctorate degree
Persons, age 25+ w/ earnings $20,321 $26,505 $31,056 $35,009 $49,303 $43,143 $52,390 $82,473 $69,432
Male, age 25+ w/ earnings $24,192 $32,085 $39,150 $42,382 $60,493 $52,265 $67,123 $100,000 $78,324
Female, age 25+ w/ earnings $15,073 $21,117 $25,185 $29,510 $40,483 $36,532 $45,730 $66,055 $54,666
Persons, age 25+, employed full-time $25,039 $31,539 $37,135 $40,588 $56,078 $50,944 $61,273 $100,000 $79,401
 
Now let’s compare. Let’s use the numbers that we used earlier. We will start with a high school teacher average: $43,355 / 180 days of work = $240.86 a day / 8hrs (standard for most companies) = $30.11 per hr.

Male, age 25+ w/ earnings with a Bachelor’s degree earns $52,265 /245 (let’s give 2 weeks vacation per year and 5 holidays) = $213.33 a day / 8hrs = $26.66 per hr.

It looks to me like the average teacher is making a higher per-hour dollar amount now using those numbers.  But WOW, take a look a the report with figures from the National Education Association report on salaries, which states in part on page 10:

Classroom Teacher Salaries:   The U.S. average public school teacher salary for 2008–09 was $54,319.”

Another article worth checking out come from Michigan, and can be found here.  This table shows:

State Average Teacher Salary
New York $71,470
California $70,458
Alaska $69,864
New Jersey $68,703
Connecticut $68,412
Massachusetts $68,000
Maryland $65,902
Michigan $65,285

 

While I couldn’t quickly find that chart, I did find the chart on page 110 with 2010 estimated teacher salaries for Wisconsin.  This estimates an average teacher salary of $52,644.  Using our math per hour, that gives us an houlry rate of $39.59.

When working a shorter monthly schedule, there are about 3 months of the year where, if needed, another job, albeit temporary, could be considered.  And, in fact, I know lots of teachers who do more than just teach school, and therefor are paid additional monies.

So, back to the money.  Where’s it going to come from?  “Teacher’s can’t pay their bills.”  The reality is that given the current economic climate, a good many people can’t pay their bills.  We’re all in that same boat.  That’s reality.  Except, most of the rest of us don’t have a summer where we could find extra work to help offset the bills because we’re already working a 40 hour plus work week.

We all want more money. We’re all paying more out-of-pocket for groceries and gas and health care, etc.  Some of us want to sell our houses, but can’t. There are a whole variety of reasons a person may want to sell his house, like to get out of a mortgage that couldn’t afforded without the sub-prime rates; balloon payments (and lowered value in many real estate markets); payments at regular rates that can’t be afforded; to upgrade and get more space, to change locations, or to get away from rotten neighbors. We are all affected by the lousy economy!

It there is anything that we should have learned from the recession, it is this:  You shouldn’t spend more than you make. You HAVE GOT TO plan for the unexpected, which usually means living a little lower and socking some money away for those unexpected things.  We each need to be financially responsible. Counting on someone else (who??) to save us is not going to work. The budget HAS GOT to be balanced. 

So. Who’s gonna pay? 

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And a bit of stressing, too.  My usual stress, once school starts, is, of course, schooling.  Did you ever think you had plenty of time and you would have it all mapped out by the time you got there?  Well, I’m there.  And while I have the map in my head, the details are driving me to stress.

The plan has always been that they would go to college and do dual enrollment, which would probably mean a diploma and getting ahead with college credits.  I have more digging to do, but while I think this is completely attainable, I don’t know that it’s realistic in the time frame I was thinking.  I was thinking the last two years of high school would be the clinchers and the time to crank out in college classes.  Now I’m not so sure.

We’ve got the ground work.  We’ve got the core classes, and I think we’re good with the electives.  But I find the whole thing totally intimidating right now.  There’s so much to think about; so much to prepare for. I think much of the pressure comes from this being the first of our children in this position.  I can’t fail any of them, and he has always been more or less the “test” case, in the regard that test the theory with him and change plan accordingly.

I feel like we’ve been cruising along on plan, but now we’re at the point where it’s do-or-die, kind of, and it’s scary! To that end, I am reaching out to those that I know have gone before me, to pick their brains. I know many people who have homeschooled through high school with success, and I have long known it can be done successfully.  I just need reassurance, I suppose, that we won’t be screwing up.

Which classes to take at college? Which can be counted for at home? What about the stressful schedule? Is he ready?  Am *I* ready?

I know the end result of raising children is to have them become productive, self-sufficient members of society.  And while I know we’re not there just yet, it has taken me by surprise to find I’m here where I am – because I’m not ready!

If you have practical experience to share, please do!

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You’d be so proud.  I got a lot done today, and it wasn’t all just work done in my head!  😀

The homeschooling game party seemed to go over well.  I figure that we had over 50 people there.  At one point, I counted 37 kids sitting still.  I may have missed a few running around in circles.  😆  Several new people came, and it was wonderful to reconnect with those that have been homeschooling for a while.  Everyone was appreciative, and that makes events so much nicer.  All in all, I can count this as a success.

I also tackled the pile on the counter.  Indeed, I chucked the pile of magazines.  😀 Except for one. 😆  I was mostly through it, but I know I can finish it during the commercials on TV later this evening.  And then I’ll pitch it.

I feel good about what got accomplished today.  I feel like maybe the organization outside of my office is starting to happen. I hope this time it totally takes root and is something we can maintain. I have to say, though, I am totally wiped out. 

What’s on tap for tomorrow has already made it onto the to-do list. Tomorrow looks to be lighter, which I am most appreciative of.  I know that I can’t keep up this break-neck pace for long, and thank goodness the weekend is around the corner.  And there’s a list for that, too. 🙂

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Duck, duck, duck, GOOSE!  That’s me.  The goose.  I’m it.  Now let’s all run and run and run and run in circles!  🙂 

Does this feel like you?  Ya, me too.  😆 I am once again at home, drinking my pot of tea, and looking over my to-do list. 

Looking down the list, I have come to the sinking realization that I’m “it.”

A very near and dear friend used to live across the street, and we spent a lot of time together. We spent time walking every evening, we sang together a few times, and we talked a lot. Her youngest daughter was the same age as my oldest daughter, and she was homeschooling her older children. She was a great inspiration to me, and was a constant source of encouragement. We moved across town while my oldest was in 1st grade, and the following year we began homeschooling.

This is our 8th year of homeschooling. When we started homeschooling, I knew lots of people with young children who were also homeschooling.  As time has gone by, most of those people either aren’t homeschooling any more, have had their children go to college, or, like my friend, have moved away.  I know of a few others who are still homeschooling kids this age, but it seems like the older they get, the harder it is to find time to get together, because the older kids are busy doing things.

Our homeschooling group here used to do things together; more than just park day. We used to have events and take regular field trips as a group.  We had an email list – that not many people were on – and we had one mother who was the “keeper of the list;” a comprehensive list of who in our town was homeschooling, contact information, and names and ages of children.  Boy, was she organized!  She stopped doing the homsechooling list at some point; I’m not quite sure when.  She’s still homeschooling, though.

It took me a while, but then it hit me that all the people who had been the planners and organizers of the group were no longer doing the things they had done for so many years. And no one else was stepping in to do it!

Being the introvert that I am, we didn’t generally participate in a whole lot of events.  This does not mean my children weren’t socializing, and I’ll go into detail on that in another post, since it’s a rant all to its own.  😆 We went on field trips that fit in with our schedules and went to parties as we could. When I got sick, I spent over a year in bed, and basically lost touch with a lot of people, outside those that I saw regularly or was on the email list with. I think it was during this time that the shift of planning and organizing happened.

Believe me when I say that I am NOT looking for more to do! 😆 I tried to organize a get-together for Christmas, but started too late. So here we are now, at the beginning of January, and the party is happening.  I would have been content to let the idea drop, and just wait for a holiday, like Valentine’s Day.  It was suggested at work (the week before Christmas) that I host the party before registration for the new semester began. I agreed, but the negative feelings started creeping in almost immediately.

In my other work prior to this job, part of what I did was to have monthly meetings.  This involved making monthly phone calls to contacts, usually 20 to 30, sending out reminder emails, and lugging around snacks and several crates of books and other materials. Given that I don’t like making phone calls to begin with, this effort was a stretch for me.  I did this nearly 7 years. In addition to all my other duties.

The bad feeling I get from planning any kind of event is that the amount of effort going into making the event happen – trips to the newspaper for advertising, getting snacks, etc etc – does not always = the reward of people coming.  This time, I have confirmation that several people are coming. This is encouraging to a degree.

The last event I planned was a field trip to the vet’s office. With all the people responding, I wondered if we would all fit! The night before, it happened to snow.  A little bit.  This to me means “a dusting.”  It wasn’t on my radar that everyone would bail because of a dusting of snow.  To be fair, two other families came, so it wasn’t a total loss.  It just wasn’t what had been planned for.

Homeschoolers in general are pretty flexible, in my experience. I don’t know if that means reliable.  One of the main reasons we homeschool is so that we CAN come and go as we please, and not be bound by another schedule.

At any rate, it looks like I’m it.  I don’t mind doing my share, and I feel that getting others connected to support is often *vital* to their success, so in that regard, I am happy to do it. It can be daunting to start homeschooling, and challenging to continue past the first year or two.  I remember being “new,” and having the deep appreciation for those that took the time to share information and experience with me.

Being on the other end of the experience pole, I feel like I have information to share that might make a difference for someone. It occurs to me that maybe I am not without passion and deep feeling of any kind – *this* is a topic I feel *VERY* strongly about.  😆 Another sudden realization I just had is that in my old work, I did *a lot* of writing, daily. Perhaps I do process more of what’s in my head by getting it out on paper than I originally thought. It seems I have missed that particular outlet more than I suspected.

The rest of the week is going to be busy.  I’m going to be more busy than I would like to be. But, I am feeling more and more confident that this event is going to be a success.  At the very least, I’ll be there with my kids and the 4 speakers/presenters I have scheduled.  🙂

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Here it comes. I am, not surprisingly, NOT ready.

The new year is upon us. And not just the new year, but tomorrow.  Tomorrow is the return to the hectic pace that is my life. Monday starts with a bang – running, making those dreaded phone calls, doing work tasks, driving children back and forth all over town to activities, etc. Tuesday is more of the same. And Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday.

It is no wonder that come the weekend, I am ready to shut the world off and just cocoon. I am an introvert by nature, so always going and doing and being around other people is incredibly draining for me. There is nothing I love more than to be curled up in bed, in the quiet of my bedroom, reading a book. I am really hoping next Saturday I get some reading time in.

I have given serious thought to the pace of things in my life. Could I not work? Could I eliminate the other weekly outing during the school year? I suppose I could. I would love nothing more than to not ever have to go anywhere (besides camping, but especially not shopping) and just hang out at home. My ideal life is being in a cabin in the mountains somewhere; living off the land. While being connected to the internet.  😆 Maybe in my next life, eh? 

What would I lose by checking out of society?  My kids would lose, since they are directly affected by both of  those outings. I would still have their stuff on Monday nights. Friday is shopping day, so I can’t stay home then. I could gain a few days of not leaving the house, but given that all my kids are here and schooling, it’s not like I can get the “alone” time I’m looking for.

I also recognize the tendency that both my better half and I have to become complete hermits, if not for our obligations in the outside world. We could live quite happy indefinitely, being hermits together.  With internet.

That being said, I am not sure it does me any favors, removing myself from the greater society. My social skills are adequate.  My job requires interfacing with the public all the time, in a variety of ways. I can do it.  I just don’t like it. In the end, I suppose that it’s one of those other things I “should” do, like taking medication, that I don’t really want to do, but is probably more beneficial than harmful to me.

I’ve mostly lost my faith in the overall human race.  Every now and then, I see a spark of genuine goodness.  I know a lot of people who work really hard at being good; good to themselves; good to others. *Those* people are the reason – in addition to my kids – that I continue the things I’m involved in. If it weren’t for them, I would check out of society completely.

So here’s to Monday.  Here’s to maddening, busy days of weeks that look just like the week to follow, and usually the week before.  Here’s to getting back on the hamster wheel that is life.  And here’s looking to next Saturday, and hoping I can find a quiet spot between now and then!

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