Spelling Bee winner

     When I turned on my computer this morning, one of the news items was:

Guerdon. Noun. Spelling Bee Victory
Friday, May. 30, 2008 By AP/JOSEPH WHITE (WASHINGTON) — As it turned out, Sameer Mishra provided more than just comic relief at the 2008 Scripps National Spelling Bee. He ended up winning the title.

The 13-year-old from West Lafayette, Ind., who often had the audience laughing with his one-line commentaries was all business when he aced "guerdon" — a word that appropriately means "something that one has earned or gained" — to win the 81st version of the bee Friday night.

"I don’t know about comedy lines, but my parents have been telling me since the beginning that I should always stay calm, cool and collected," said Sameer, who likes playing the violin and video games, and hopes one day to be a neurosurgeon.

Sameer, appearing in the bee for the fourth time and a top 20 finisher the last two years, clenched both fists and put his hands to his face after spelling the winning word. He won a tense duel over first-time participant Sidharth Chand, 12, of Bloomfield Hills, Mich., who finally stumbled on "prosopopoeia," a word describing a type of figure of speech.

For placing first, Sameer will receive $35,000 in cash plus more than $5,000 in other prizes.

      Because homeschooled students have done so well in the national spelling bee in recent years (as opposed to Subway-Scholastic essay contests–OK, I know that Subway and Scholastic have apologized and said that they would do better, but I still think the fact that their contest specifically said "No Homeschoolers" shows a latent educational prejudice against homeschoolers which lingers in our society), I was curious as to the educational background of Sameer.  Since none of the news items I checked specifically said that he was homeschooled, I began to assume that he probably was not, and then I came across the following note from Learning at Home that was posted on HomeSchoolBuzz.com:

Congratulations, Sameer
May 30th, 2008, 10:21 pm  posted by learningathome
A lot of people joke about homeschoolers winning all the spelling bees. This year, it went to a public schooler. The winning word was guerdon. I ended up catching the last few rounds on TV. I didn’t think we’d get it with our reception. It was interesting to watch.

     I agree.  Whoever the national spelling bee winner is, he or she is worthy of our congratulations.


Follow up and contrast to yesterday’s blog

     However….: Not all public schools are bad. There are many fine teachers, even a lot of Christians, who are are trying to do the best they can to help people and be an influence for good. As I have said before, I applaud them and support their efforts. At the same time, when one sends his children to a public school, he is taking "pot luck" and runs a big risk of their running into situations like these, gleaned from just one day’s news. At Chastain Middle School in Jackson, MS, a science teacher asked 6th-graders to vote from among themselves who was the most likely to be pregnant, infected with HIV, or dead by the age of 19. Parent Curtis Lyons wants to see the assignment given his daughter, but is being told he won’t be allowed to review it. The students initially refused to vote, but the teacher overruled them. The 6th-graders then were horrified to see their names listed on a chalkboard, ranked in lists for everyone to see. Parents like Lyons, whose 12-year-old daughter was voted among those most likely to be pregnant, were outraged. Lyons’ concerns were heightened when he sought to see the assignments his daughter’s class was given, and he discovered the school had confiscated them. In Fairfield, CA, students in a computer graphic arts class at Armijo High School have reported their instructor was teaching a lesson on Adobe Photoshop Monday when the image that was projected to the screen revealed two men engaged in sex. Freshman Chris Matthews told KXTV-Television in Sacramento that the teacher was clicking on random files when, "All of a sudden this big image of literally gay porn shows up. And he’s going crazy. Just by that reaction that shows that he didn’t expect it." However, someone had to have been looking at the porn for it to come up on the school computer. Students report that the image remained on the screen for four or five seconds while the teacher scrambled to remove it. In New Britain, CN, school administrators are investigating an alleged incident in which two Pulaski Middle School students engaged in sexual behavior in a classroom while other students watched and one student recorded it with a camera phone. Superintendent Doris Kurtz said that the students were in a classroom with a substitute teacher at the time, but the substitute was unaware of any inappropriate behavior. Kurtz said she did not know what grade the students are in and had not seen the video that was reportedly taken. "There are some clear indications that if these allegations are true, that perhaps our middle schoolers …maybe need a little but more guidance and education about appropriate behavior," she said. I should say so!  And in Indianapolis, IN, a 15-year-old male student at The Renaissance School in Warren Township told police that he had sex with teacher Sheila Vazquez during a "lunch" outing during school hours, police said. She was arrested and suspended after allegations surfaced. The incident is alleged to have happened on May 1 following several months of conversation that included sexual innuendo, the student told police. According to a police report, the student indicated that the conversations began innocently in February when he told her that he was bored in school. The student told police that Vazquez responded that she had something that would keep him busy. As the conversations continued over the ensuing months, according to the student, he and Vazquez met in a classroom after school on several occasions to kiss and embrace. The student told police that Vazquez arranged to take him to lunch during school because he was working hard in class. Police said the student told them that he and Vazquez went to her home and had sex during the encounter and that she brought him back to school afterward. Vazquez faces four counts of child molestation. No, we cannot wrap up our children in a cocoon, but we do have a responsibility to protect them from unnecessary dangers while we prepare them for "the real world," and homeschooling is one way that many of us have chosen to do that.

Some good news for a change

     Not all students attending public schools have been corrupted by the anti-American multi-culturalism that seems to be characteristic in at least a lot of public schools. The Rocky Mountain News reported on May 15, 2008, that Jeffrey Sahli, 14, has been raising and lowering the American flag each school day for the past two years at Evergreen Middle School. Sahli noticed the faded, fraying American flag outside Evergreen Middle School soon after he started eighth grade last year. "I thought the flag wasn’t being treated with flag etiquette. I thought I needed to do that," the 14-year-old said. "I wanted to serve my country." With the principal’s permission, he began taking care of Old Glory. Every school day he carefully hoists the U.S. and Colorado flags before classes and takes them down before heading home. He folds the Colorado flag into a neat square, the U.S. flag into a triangle, and places them in a cabinet in the office. He said he wasn’t embarrassed by the attention because he wants people to see what he stands for. "I stand for duty, honor, God and country." Jeffrey doesn’t come from a military background, though he hopes to attend West Point. He wears a cross and a dog tag on a chain under his shirt. The bands on his braces are red, white and blue. Outside Evergreen Middle School, the flag is clean and bright. Jeffrey said the flag reminds him of the soldiers serving in Iraq. "When they’re coming home, I wanted them to see the flag flying high." May his tribe increase!

apology from Subway and Scholastic

Here is an apology and explanation from Subway:

     Regarding your concerns about the Subway contest that excludes home schools from contest eligibility, Scholastic and Subway apologize to all individuals who have taken offense at this. Our intention was never to make independent schooled children feel discriminated against or excluded from this specific promotion.

     Throughout the course of the year Scholastic runs a number of contests and sweepstakes that are open to all teachers and students. The eligibility of this contest in particular was solely put in place to award a large group of children with the grand prize of $5,000 worth of athletic equipment. We do however understand how home-schooled children could benefit from this type of prizing and will make sure eligibility is open to everyone in future promotions.

     We appreciate your feedback and will make sure a similar situation does not happen in the future.

     If anyone has any additional comments to make regarding this contest, please email Scholastic directly at P&Cconnects@scholastic.com and we will respond promptly to your concerns. Other email addresses or phone numbers shown in this blog will not reach individuals who are equipped to help you. Again, please direct all comments/inquiries to P&Cconnects@scholastic.com and we would be more than happy to speak  with you regarding this.

If that social worker knocks on the homeschooler’s door, just remember this

      According to WorldNetDaily on Mar. 15, 2008, the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services erroneously labeled 3,051 innocent people as child abusers by placing them on the state’s official list. According to a Belleville News-Democrat investigation, 11,473 people have appealed to strike their names from the state record. The list has a 27 percent error rate of parents falsely accused of abuse. Once on the list, people are required to remain there for a minimum of five years. "They’re not all bad, there are good ones," Nick Brunstein reportedly said of state child abuse investigators, "but the bad ones have the power of God, and with the stroke of a pen they can ruin your life." Brunstein is a former foster parent who won his 2-year fight against DCFS to clear his name after his 11-year-old foster daughter, diagnosed with schizophrenic and bipolar disorder, accused him and his wife, Judi, of physical and emotional abuse. The girl claimed the family harmed her by requiring the children to do chores and homework. The Brunsteins lost $20,000 in lawyer fees, and three daughters they had planned to adopt, ages 2, 5 and 11, were permanently removed from their custody. "A lot of what happens at these hearings is it becomes a legal process, not … whether it happened or not, but whether enough evidence is presented," Meryl Paniak, the DCFS’ chief administrative law judge told the paper. The judge even admitted, "So does that mean some people are probably unfounded and shouldn’t be? Yes. And it’s the same thing with some who are indicated and probably shouldn’t be." However, attorneys who represent parents at appeals hearings have called child abuse investigations flawed and unreliable. In 2006, the News-Democrat reported that 53 children died while they were under DCFS’ care following sloppy investigations by caseworkers.

A Unique American History Instructional Model and Package

     As students increasingly disconnect from traditional textbooks, a new curriculum and its supplemental materials provide an innovative online learning resource, and also meets the needs of homeschool parents by using America: The Last Best Hope as part of an innovative curriculum package that begins with a story told by eminent scholar and historian Dr. William J. Bennett, and includes curricular applications developed by the noted American History experts of Team HOPE (History Opens Eyes). Learn about Team HOPE at http://www.roadmaptolastbesthope.com/about/teamhope.php . Finding ways to make learning more relevant and engaging for students is an important component to homeschooling. When students connect to the material they are studying, they not only learn more, they understand more deeply. Our American story is a dramatic and compelling tale of excitement, romance, comedy, and is filled with both tragedies and triumphs. If told well, as a treasured classic, students are drawn to the content. America: The Last Best Hope makes the history of America an interesting and exciting journey into our nation’s past. We encourage you to review their materials and decide for yourself (www.roadmaptolastbesthope.com ). America: The Last Best Hope has been evaluated by national experts in American History as the best narrative of American heritage ever written. The author, Dr. William J. Bennett, is a former United States Secretary of Education and author of 18 New York Times Best Sellers. The books were written as a story in order to captivate and deeply interest the reader. The curriculum has been evaluated as appropriate for Advanced Placement preparation and regular American History study. To learn more about the products and options available please visit our website at www.roadmaptolastbesthope.com or contact Rex Bolinger at RBolinger@ThomasNelson.com .

Subways rejects homeschoolers

     On Saturday, May 24, I received the following notice about a contest for children sponsored by Subway (the sub sandwich restaurant) that specifically excludes homeschoolers.  Now, I do not necessarily endorse or support any boycotts.  My family makes our decisions as to whom we shall patronize based on our own criteria, but I would not demand that others make the same decisions because everyone’s situation is different.  However, I am passing this along for your information and consideration.  First, I checked the website and it does specifically say:

NO PURCHASE NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN. Contest is open only to legal residents of the Untied States who are currently over the age of 18 and have children who attend elementary, private or parochial schools that serve grades PreK-6. No home schools will be accepted. 

     I copied and pasted the above directly from the website.  Second, I am sorely tempted to make the comment that the website must have been put together by a public schooler but I will resist the temptation because typographical errors (Untied States) can happen to anyone.

Kim Bowlin wrote on Fri May 23, 2008 3:14 pm (PDT) :

Please join us in boycotting Subway restaurants for their exclusion
of "home schools" in their "Every Sandwich Tells a Story" contest.
http://www.subwayfreshbuzz.com/kids/contest.aspx  to see for
yourself that though they encourage students in every other educational
setting to participate, they specifically exclude "home schools".
Also, the contest is only open to legal residents of the Untied
States. (This statement found at very bottom of page, white letters on
green background: "NO PURCHASE NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN. Contest is open only to legal residents of the Untied States who are currently
over the age of 18 and have children who attend elementary, private or
parochial schools that serve grades PreK-6. No home schools will be
accepted.") Could anyone please find that on the map and let me know
where such country exists?

Monthly Meditation

by Wayne S. Walker

     "Therefore, we do not lose heart.  Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day" (2 Corinthians 4:17).  Oscar Hammerstein wrote in "June Is Bustin’ Out All Over" that "May was full of promises, but she didn’t keep ’em well enough for some."  However, where we live May is a month in which spring makes itself fully known, when the trees have leafed out, the flowers have blossomed, the grass is growing, and the shrubs have budded.  Yes, after a long winter, spring is a time of renewal.  As many of us approach the ending of another homeschool year, we often see the need for some renewal in the spiritual and emotional realm as well.  We may well be committed to the homeschooling lifestyle, but everything does not necessarily go as we would like for it to.

     Our children may not always appreciate the sacrifices that we make and the efforts that we put forth to provide them the best education possible consistent with our family spiritual goals.  We try to help them understand the need to pursue certain subjects and to do their best so that they can be prepared for whatever life brings them–college, work, family, and so forth; yet they may complain about how much they hate studying.  Our aim is to encourage them to excellence but not push too hard so that the pressure becomes unbearable; yet disagreements and other problems still arise from time to time.  It is easy to grow discouraged.

     Therefore, it is good to find opportunities at this time of year that we might sit down together one on one and discuss these things with our children, especially as they enter their teenage years and start to do more thinking for themselves.  We can have give and take on what works and what does not, and make plans to jettison what does not work and find what does.  This kind of renewal will help us avoid the temptation on those days when things may not be at their best to think that the yellow school bus is an acceptable solution to a problem.  Rather, we need to stay the course and remember Paul’s admonition, "Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord" (1 Corinthians 15:58).

Stories for Children Magazine

     (The following review of mine appeared in HomeSchoolBuzz.com’s weekly newsletter on Sat., May 17, 2008; for more information, go to http://homeschoolbuzz.com ).

     Stories for Children Magazine, is a free monthly E-zine (online magazine) for children ages 3 to 12 years old that takes young people on an adventure into the World of Ink. Each issue is loaded with fun stories, articles, puzzles, children’s book reviews, crafts, poems, and an interview with a children’s author or illustrator. It was voted one of the Top Ten Best E-zines in Fiction, Non-Fiction, Poetry, Cover Art, and Bookstores on the web in the Preditors and Editors Readers Poll 2007. There are stories by some of the hottest new children’s writers of both fiction and non-fiction in three categories, ages 3-6, 7-9, and 10-12. In addition, there are stories by young authors. While submitting stories to children’s magazines, editor VS Grenier was shocked to discover that few magazines allowed underage writers. She vowed to change this and has done so with Stories for Children Magazine. Thus one thing that makes Stories for Children Magazine different is that they also publish stories written and illustrated by children and teens and encourage readers who are future writers and illustrators to submit to all areas of the magazine. What I like about Stories for Children Magazine is that it is a safe place for children to go on the Internet where they can find something that is both fun and educational. I would encourage all homeschooled students who are budding writers to send stories. The current website is http://storiesforchildren.tripod.com but it will be moving in June to http://storiesforchildrenmagazine.org .

     Here is some further information about the editor: Grenier also freelances as a children’s and teen’s author, in addition to running her own critique service. Having learned how to hone her writing skills at the Institute of Children’s Literature, she is also a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI), Author’s Coalition, and Musing Our Children. Currently, she lives in Utah with her husband, their two children, and the family’s two big fat cats.

a couple of related items

     More bad news for homeschoolers from Germany: On May 12, 2008, Bob Unruh of WorldNetDaily reported that a German couple already being threatened with jail time because they have been homeschooling their children say their nation has taken a turn for the worse, with a new federal law that gives family courts the authority to take custody of children "as soon as there is a suspicion of child abuse," which is how that nation’s courts have defined homeschooling. "The new law is seen as a logical step in carving up family rights after a federal court had decided that homeschooling was an abuse of custody," said a letter from Jurgen Dudek to officials with the U.S.-based Home School Legal Defense Association, an international advocacy organization in support of homeschooling. The latest letter from the family described the new law as granting various local social services agencies vast new powers, especially the "Jugendamt" offices, which are responsible for looking into situations if there are allegations of "child abuse." The letter said, "They have in effect been authorized to give expert evidence in court which the family judge has to follow … The withdrawal of parental custody as one of the methods for punishing ‘uncooperative’ parents thus is made even easier." I do not wish to be an alarmist, but this is somewhat ominous in view of the recent willingness of a California court to declare practically all homeschooling illegal.

     So, you still don’t think that things like this could happen here?: Just a few days before the preceding note appeared, WCPO.com (Channel 9, ABC, from Cincinnati, OH) reported that a Fairfield, OH, man was jailed because his daughter hadn’t gotten her General Equivalency Diploma (GED). A judge ordered the father to stay on top of his daughter’s education months ago and when that order wasn’t followed, Brian Gegner was sentenced to 180-days in the Butler County jail. The daughter, Brittany Gegner, says her father shouldn’t be punished for her problems. Especially, she says because she’s now 18, an adult. "It’s ridiculously wrong," said Brittany Gegner. "Of all the punishments they could have given him, to make him go to jail?," she asked. "I mean, probation – until I get my GED – would be reasonable, but to send him to jail? That’s overboard." Butler County Juvenile Court Judge David Niehaus ordered Gegner to jail for contributing to the delinquency of a minor by not following a court order which required Gegner to be sure his daughter got her GED. This comes after ongoing problems of Brittany skipping classes at Fairfield High School and then, Butler Tech. While Brian Gegner had custody of her, Brittany says it was while she lived with her mother that she was truant. "I’m about to be 19 and my Dad’s being punished for something I did when I was 16," she said. "It’s like I should, if anybody should be punished for this," said Brittany. "I would way rather me go to jail than my Dad." Brittany’s mother Shana Roach said, "They probably should have punished me if they were going to punish anybody. Because she did live with me at the time, but because he had the custody, that’s why he’s being punished. But I don’t understand the punishment all together because she’s going to school, she’s been going for four months. The only thing that’s holding her back is she can’t pass her math test." The judge says if she passes the test, her father could get out of jail before his six-months sentence is up. "I never dreamed they would put him in jail for this – for six months – it’s crazy," said Stephanie Gegner, Brittany’s step-mother. "He has no control over what his adult daughter does," she said. "He just doesn’t." Court administrators say that even though Brittany is an adult now, the case remains active in their court because she was a juvenile when the problems started. This doesn’t relate directly to homeschooling, but it shows an out-of-control judicial system that thinks that it knows better how to run families and raise children than parents.