After school programs for homeschoolers

      An article in our local paper headlined "Find the right fit for you child’s after school program" began, "For many households across the country, having two parents working has become not only the norm, but a necessity." I do not know if it is really a necessity, but is often the norm. "This trend has resulted in after school programs growing more and more important as the years go on." The article talks about the need for investigating the staff, layout, and activities to make the right decision. My first thought was that this is one thing that homeschoolers do not need to worry about, but then I decided that homeschooling families do have an afterschool program–it’s called staying at home and having fun with Mom and maybe later with Dad.

And one more movie recommendation (last one for now, I promise)

      One of my favorite all time authors is Robert Louis Stevenson. I agree with Nathaniel Bluedorn’s assessment in his Hand That Rocks the Cradle of Stevenson’s Treasure Island when he said, "If you look up the word ‘adventure’ in the dictionary, you will read ‘circumstances that follow the plot of Treasure Island.’" The Black Arrow is one of Stevenson’s lesser known books which we have read (many years ago–the review appeared in the 11/02 issue of my free e-mail homeschooling newsletter — biblicalhomeschooling-subscribe@yahoogroups.com or http://groups.yahoo.com/group/biblicalhomeschooling ). It is historical fiction set in the period of the War of the Roses, an English civil war between the houses of Lancaster and York beginning in 1455. Those who enjoy "yeomanly" stories with battles of valor should like the book. There is an animated film for young people based on the book that we recently watched. Jeremy, who loves all things having to do with swords, thought that it was great and even watched it a second time. A short (c. 45-min.) animated film cannot deal with all the intricacies of a Victorian era novel (although Stevenson does not usually have as many complex subplots running at one time as did, say, Charles Dickens), but the movie does a good job of following the overall plot, and it is exciting!

thoughts on the Obama health care proposals

     This also has nothing to do with homeschooling, but contains some information that I have seen recently in news items other than what the Obama-supporting mainstream media allows to filter through and my thoughts on them.

     Obama, taxes for health care, and socialism: Our nation’s fearless leader, Barak H. Obama, seems to bristle whenever anyone accuses him of socialism. He denies being a socialist. Well, on July 21, 2009, all the major news outlets were reporting that Obama remained noncommital on a surtax to pay for the health care overhaul, which some experts have said could cost over $1 trillion in the next several years to reconstitute and incorporate some 46 million uninsured into the system. The president noted in an interview on NBC’s Today show that "the House has put forward a surtax." And he repeated his feeling that wealthier Americans, "such as myself," should pitch in and help reinvent the system to spread coverage to those now without it. Obama has said that people making over $250,000 a year should have to pay more. The exact quote, as taken from his interview with Jim Lehrer is, "Well, here’s what I think — that people like myself, who can afford to pay a little bit more in taxes, should do so in order to help people who are desperate for a little bit of security when it comes to their health care." And Obama is not the only one promoting this idea. Providing broader health coverage through a government-run program simply cannot be done without higher taxes of some kind, House Ways and Means Chairman Charles B. Rangel , D-N.Y., said on the CBS program Face the Nation. And Senator John F. Kerry, Democrat of Massachusetts, eager to find a compromise on paying for the healthcare overhaul without taxing employee benefits, has stepped into the fray with a proposal to tax insurance companies on their most expensive healthcare plans, which could be more palatable politically than taxing individuals, but those costs will just be passed on to beneficiaries, so it would still have the effect of a tax increase. The whole basis for this argument is "From each according to his ability, to each according to his need." A lot of people seem to agree with this idea, but do you know who said it? Karl Marx in his 1875 Critique of the Gotha Program (although it was first used by socialist Louis Blanc in 1840 as a revision of a quote by the utopian socialist Henri de Saint Simon and has also been attributed to the French communist Morelly who proposed it in his 1755 Code of Nature.) So let us just admit it–what the left is proposing as "health care reform" is basically socialism.

     Something else you may not know about the proposed health care "reform": While doing some research on the previous item, I came across this information from Smart Money. Say you have an individual health insurance policy because you’re self-employed or work for a small company that doesn’t provide coverage. Under the new law, your current plan might be deemed "unacceptable" to the feds if it has a lifetime limit on benefits or for some other reason that would take too long to explain here. A grandfather provision would allow you to keep your plan as long as you don’t make any changes (like increasing the deductible to keep the cost down). But if you do make changes, you would be forced to switch to an "acceptable" plan or get hit with a penalty tax. The proposed penalty: up to 2.5% of the difference between your adjusted gross income (the number on the bottom of page 1 of your Form 1040) and the minimum amount of income that requires filing a federal return. For most folks, this figure ranges between $9,350 and $18,700 for 2009. For example, if you’re a married joint-filer with adjusted gross income of $80,000, the penalty tax could be slightly over $1,500, based on 2009 numbers. Even if you want to keep your existing "grandfathered" plan without making any changes, it’s likely to go out of business before long because the new law would prevent that plan from enrolling any new members. Whatever happened to the freedom of choice? If the current proposals become law, we are headed for a government-controlled, government-rationed health care system with absolutely no individual liberty.

     Oh, and one more thing about the "utopic" health care plan being proposed that you may not know: In an item headlined, "Why won’t Congress enroll in gov’t health care? Democrats exempt themselves from own ‘reform,’" on July 23, 2009, Chelsea Schilling of WorldNetDaily asked a question, "If government-run health care is such a great idea, why won’t members of Congress enroll their own families?" Next she said, "The question has been on the minds of many Americans, but Democrats aren’t giving answers. Instead, they are exempting themselves from their own health care ‘reform.’" Is that true? Well, she then reported, "The Affordable Health Choices Act drafted by Sen. Edward Kennedy’s staff and the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee pushes ‘Americans into stingy insurance plans with tight, HMO-style controls,’ the Wall Street Journal reports. At the same time, Page 114 of the act specifically exempts members of Congress from the public plan." Apparently, what’s bad enough for us isn’t good enough for them!

Some good news for a change

     The following items are not necessarily about homeschooling, but with all the bad news about how rotten things are in our culture, which is one motivating factor for many homeschooling families, it is good to know that there are some hopeful signs.

     Hallelujah! Some judge finally got it right!: In an item headlined, "Homosexclamation! Christian student fights prof, wins big: Judge rules college can’t censor religious speech for being ‘offensive,’ on July 14, 2009, Drew Zahn of WorldNetDaily reported that a California court has ruled in favor of a student who was insulted for defending traditional marriage and has ordered the college to strike from its website a sexual harassment policy that censors speech deemed "offensive" to homosexual people. Jonathan Lopez, a student at Los Angeles City College, was delivering a speech on his Christian faith in speech class when professor John Matteson interrupted him, called him a "fascist b—-rd" for mentioning a moral conviction against homosexual marriage and later told him to "ask God what your grade is." The professor also warned on his evaluation of Lopez’s speech, "Proselytizing is inappropriate in public school," and later threatened to have Lopez expelled. Represented by attorneys from the Alliance Defense Fund, Lopez sued the Los Angeles City College District, the largest community college system in the U.S., with over 135,000 students. The lawsuit not only targeted the school over the professor’s comments, however, but also sought removal of a campus sexual harassment and speech policy that court documents allege "systematically prohibits and punishes political and religious speech by students that is outside the campus political mainstream." ADF claims the district’s policy, which labels speech as sexual harassment whenever it might be "perceived as offensive or unwelcome" – such as Lopez’s opinions on sexual morality – opens the door for Christians and defenders of traditional marriage to suffer abuses similar to the type Lopez endured. "Professor Matteson clearly violated Mr. Lopez’s free speech rights by engaging in viewpoint discrimination and retaliation because he disagreed with the student’s religious beliefs," said ADF Senior Counsel David French in a statement. "Moreover, the district has a speech code that has created a culture of censorship on campus. America’s public universities and colleges are supposed to be a ‘marketplace of ideas,’ not a hotbed of intolerance." In a ruling handed down, U.S. District Judge George H. King apparently agreed, calling the campus policy "unconstitutionally overbroad" and ordering it to be stricken from the college’s website. Judge King ruled, "By using subjective words such as ‘hostile’ and ‘offensive,’ the policy is so subjective and broad that it applies to protected speech." He further quoted court precedent, stating, "’It is firmly settled that under our Constitution the public expression of ideas may not be prohibited merely because the ideas are themselves offensive to some of their hearers.’" The ruling concluded, "Thus, the policy reaches constitutionally protected speech that is merely offensive to some listeners, such as discussions of religion, homosexual relations and marriage, sexual morality and freedom, polygamy, or even gender politics and policies. Indeed, the LACC’s website indicates that sexual harassment can include ‘sexist statements … or degrading attitudes/comments about women or men.’ This could include an individual’s outdated, though protected, opinions on the proper role of the genders. While it may be desirable to promote harmony and civility, these values cannot be enforced at the expense of protected speech under the First Amendment. Thus, the policy is unconstitutionally overbroad." The judge then granted ADF’s request for a preliminary injunction, suggesting Lopez was likely to win his case and that the posted policy was likely to cause irreparable harm should it be left in place. He ordered the college district to remove the policy within two weeks. "Christian students shouldn’t be penalized for expressing their beliefs at a public college," commented French on the judge’s decision. "We are pleased that the court has taken this step to ensure that the First Amendment rights of students are not violated. We will continue to litigate this case to make sure the constitutional rights of our client and other students at the college are protected."

     More good news–Bible banishment by court overturned: In an item suheaded, "Appeals judges approve policy of equal treatment for all materials" on July 17, 2009, Bob Unruh of WorldNetDaily reported that a ruling from U.S. District Court Judge Catherine Perry that singled out the Bible as an "instrument of religion" and banned its distribution in a school has been overturned by the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The case, which has been developing for several years, concerned the activities of the South Iron School District in Missouri, which for years had allowed members of the Gideons to hand out Bibles to fifth-graders. When the practice was challenged, the board adopted a new neutral policy requiring anyone wishing to hand out materials to submit them to the school for approval. It specifically banished materials in several categories such as commercial advertisements and documents that promote illegal actions. It also provided for an appeal process. "Under this policy, an outside group may offer Bibles to students who wish to take them in the same manner as other nonreligious groups are permitted to distribute secular literature," explained Liberty Counsel founder and chairman Mathew Staver, who argued the case before the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis. However, opponents of the school’s policy continued their protest, and Perry issued a permanent injunction banning the distribution of Bibles in classrooms and also condemned the school’s new policy. Her decision said the neutral treatment policy toward handouts was unacceptable, because it would allow actual distribution of Bibles. Her ruling, according to Liberty Counsel, "presented a novel (and unconstitutional) theory that a private third party (like the ACLU) must have the opportunity to veto the distribution request of the private applicant." The veto power, the judge wrote, must be provided to veto religious, but not secular, literature, the law firm said. Staver said the Constitution simply doesn’t allow the Bible to be singled out, like contraband, for special penalties. "How ironic that in America, until recent times, the Bible formed the basis of education, and now its mere presence is radioactive in the opinion of some judges," he said when he argued the appeal. "The founders never envisioned such open hostility toward the Christian religion as we see today in some venues. To single out the Bible alone for discriminatory treatment harkens back to the Dark Ages. America deserves better. Our Constitution should be respected, not disregarded." But the 8th Circuit decision, which continued a ban on handing out Bibles to students in classrooms, said they could be distributed on the same basis as other handouts. "Opening the school for expressive conduct to community and student groups serves the secular purpose of providing a forum for an exchange of ideas and social intercourse," said the opinion. "We know of no case holding that the creation of a limited public forum was not a secular purpose satisfying [the law]," the judges continued. The ruling found, "school officials must remain free to experiment in good faith with new policies to accommodate the tensions between educational objectives … private rights under the Free Exercise Clause, and … the Establishment Clause." Staver told WND that under the orders from the district court decision, "The Quran is OK, and other kinds of religious texts; just not the Bible. The Bible alone is impermissible in the public school." Among the groups that have distributed material at the school are the Army Corps of Engineers, Red Cross, Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, Iron County Health Department, Missouri Water Patrol, Missouri Highland Healthcare and Union Pacific Railroad, officials said. "The ACLU might not like the fact that equal access also means equal treatment for religious speech, but the Constitution requires equal treatment," Staver said. "The First Amendment protects private religious viewpoints. Hecklers may heckle but they may not veto private religious speech. … Religious viewpoints have constitutional protection." The appeals court opinion said, "The district court wholly ignored the proper initial inquiry, whether the text of the new policy evidences an unconstitutional purpose." Editor’s comment: Most public schools are still primarily humanist indoctrination centers and no places for impressionable children of Christians, but we can still rejoice in every victory for common sense in the public education system.

     Not all legislators are up to their eyeballs in compromise with decadent culture: In an item headlined "At issue: Students’ religious rights in graduate program," Charlie Butts of OneNewsNow on 7/18/2009 reported that Michigan State Representative Tom McMillin has introduced a resolution dealing with a Christian’s right to stand behind her religious beliefs. Julea Ward was a part of the Eastern Michigan University Graduate School of Counseling. With only two months left until graduation with a master’s degree, she was dismissed for declining on religious grounds to provide counseling to a homosexual who was trying to improve his relationship with his partner. "I was just calling on Eastern Michigan University to end this kind of discrimination based on somebody’s religious beliefs, and ask our state’s attorney general to conduct an investigation to see if her civil rights were violated, which certainly appears to be [the case]," Representative McMillan contends, noting that the resolution is gaining bipartisan support. McMillin, however, wants to add to the investigation. "And we’re also looking at funding. Michigan is in a very difficult budget situation right now, and I feel that if the university’s going to be giving that kind of discrimination that the taxpayers would like for them to have a little of their funding pared back as a result," he notes, "and so I am going to be working on that as well." The state lawmaker believes some university instructors have an elitist, politically correct mentality that should not be tolerated. [Editor’s note: He is right; and it is not only at the university level! WSW.]

Homeschool graduation and more good reading

     Another Homeschool Graduation: Last month’s issue of my free e-mail homeschooling newsletter ( biblicalhomeschooling-subscribe@yahoogroups.com or http://groups.yahoo.com/group/biblicalhomeschooling ) contained an article from the Belleville, IL, newspaper about a homeschool graduation in Belleville. On June 6, 2009, our older son Mark graduated with the St. Louis Area Homeschooling Activities, Resources, and Encouragement (SHARE) support group of which we were a part when we lived near St. Louis. Actually, Mark was too sick with a massive sinus infection to attend his own graduation, but Karen and I, along with Karen’s mother and Jeremy, went and received Mark’s diploma. Every year the NEA passes a resolution condemning homeschooling which says that homeschooling simply cannot provide for all the educational needs of students. Well, how does this add up? Of the 22 students who graduated, one received multiple scholarships to Missouri Baptist University, another received a couple of scholarships to attend the University of Missouri–St. Louis, still another received a music scholarship to attend Webster University, and one received a full scholarship to Washington University of St. Louis (a very prestigious school indeed!). Of course, not everyone, even in public schools, receives such scholarships, but these young people appear to be well educated. Furthermore, all of them seem fully "socialized" (at least no one looked as if he or she had just crawled out from under a rock), they have had numerous experiences already interacting with various aspects of the "real world," and they simply act like nice kids generally! Congratulations.]

     More good reading:  The May/June, 2009 (#88) issue of Practical Homeschooling ( www.Home-School.com ) has an excellent article on "The Standards Straitjacket" and how the move toward national and even international academic standards stifles educational freedom, even for homeschoolers, by Cathy Duffy, who has long followed this issue; articles on an educational trip to China and the National History Club; the usual features and columns, including one by Sam Blumenfeld addressed to homeschool graduates; and an interesting "Final Word" by publisher Mary Pride.

places to see (and one more thing to read)

     Okawville, IL: The little town of Okawville, IL, has some interesting things to see. The town grew up as a result of the fact that there were mineral springs in the area, and at one time there were several bath house hotels. Only one is in existence today, the Original Springs Hotel and Bath House located at 506 N. Hanover St., originally built in 1867 and rebuilt in 1893 after a fire There is a restaurant in which we ate, and they allow you to wander through the hotel to see what kinds of accommodations people enjoyed in days gone by. Also in town is the Heritage House Museum, 114 W. Walnut St., which consists of three properties. The Frank Schlosser Home Complex consists of the Frank Schlosser home, Frank’s turn-of-the-century harness shop, and his wife’s and daughters’ commercial laundry, all of which are being preserved as they were when the Schlosser family lived there rather than being restored. Neither a mansion nor the home of a great historical figure, the complex offers a picture of the way that common people lived and worked in the early 1900s. Across the street is the Joseph Schlosser Brick House, where Frank grew up. Frank’s father was a cobbler, and the building, dating from 1869, is the last surving Old-World style street house in Okawville. The Heritage House Museum also maintains the Dr. Poos Home, a restored Victorian era home of a physician with a medical museum. Unfortunately, the Poos home was not open the day we were there.

     Rockome Gardens, Arcola, IL: Another interesting site in Illinois is Rockome Gardens outside of Arcola, located in the heart of the Illinois Amish country. Established when a local farmer purchased an Amish farm and his wife used the rocks that they pulled out of the fields to build several gardens, the complex has grown through the years. In addition to the actual gardens, it includes several gift shops, a learning center which houses special exhibits (when we were there they were preparing for a World War II weekend), a pottery shop, a livery stable, a blacksmith, a sawmill, a schoolhouse (we got to sit in on a demonstration in the school), a petting zoo, a bakery and candy store (we bought some of the Amish bread), the Amish farm home (which is currently being restored and is closed), the Haunted Caverns, a soda fountain, and a full-scale restaurant (we ate there and the food is really good!). There are also train and buggy rides. At various times, demonstrations in pottery, fire starting, broom making, wire bending, candle making, wood burning, and other old time crafts are held. The day we were there, they had a "Shoot Out on Main Street," which is probably a regular attraction (Jeremy got to hold the "bags of gold"). We enjoyed our day there.

     Study history in Vincennes, IN: If you enjoy studying early American history in a hands-on way, there is a lot for you at Vincennes, IN, which was originally established around 1732 by the French. The George Rogers Clark National Historical Park, built on the site of the English Fort Sackville, honors the American Revolutionary War general who is large responsible for winning the West by capturing Vincennes from the British in 1777. The park began in the 1920s and 30s when the people of Vincennes wanted to build a memorial to remember the work of Clark. The Memorial was probably constructed with New Deal funds, and President Franklin D. Roosevelt dedicated it. It was eventually turned over to the National Park Service. The Memorial itself is closed for renovation, but the visitor center, with a 30-minute movie about Clark’s campaigns, is open. The Old French House and Indian Museum is located in the home of fur trader Michel Brouillet which was built around 1806 to 1809; his father had been an officer in the Vincennes militia under Clark. Michel himself was in the Indiana Territory militia and served as a spy for William Henry Harrison. Fort Knox II State Historic Site is on the location about three miles north of Vincennes of the fort that was built in 1803 to replace the original Ft. Sackville which had been renamed Ft. Knox. It was the staging ground for Harrison’s troops in the Battle of Tippecanoe and in the War of 1812 but was moved back into Vincennes in 1813. There are only pilings driven in the ground to show where the fort was located, but there are about a dozen or so markers explaining about the people who lived there, the events which took place there, and life in such a fort. Grouseland is the home of William Henry Harrison while he served as governor of Indiana Territory from 1803 to 1812. It was completed in 1804 and is now owned and operated by the Daughters of the American Revolution. Guided tours are available. The adjacent Vincennes State Historic Site contains five buildings: the Log Cabin Visitor’s Center reconstructed out of 1850 logs from another structure; the original "Red House" which served as one of the territorial capitol buildings; the Print Shop of Elihu Stout who was brought to Vincennes by Harrison to print official business and who began Indiana’s first newspaper; the birthplace of author Maurice Thompson which was moved from Brookville, IN; and the rather new replica of the Jefferson Academy, a school started by Harrison which became Vincennes University. Other interesting things in Vincennes which we passed by but did not take time to investigate further are the Old Cathedral Complex with Indiana’s first church, St. Francis Xavier Cathedral along with its library and a museum; the Old State Bank State Historic Site (it was closed for painting); the Sugar Loaf Prehistoric Indian Mound; Ouabache Trails Park; and the Indiana Military Museum. Also actor Red Skelton was born in Vincennes; his birthplace is marked, though I found nothing about its being open to the public; Vincennes University has the Red Skelton Performing Arts Center which is to include a museum of Skelton paraphanalia; and the Pantheon Theater where Red began his acting career is to be rennovated. And across the Wabash River from Vincennes, just over in Illinois, is the Lincoln Trail State Historic Site (not the same as the Lincoln Trail State Park further north) which commemorates the place where tradition has it that the 21-year-old Lincoln, with his parents, step-siblings, and cousin, entered Illinois in 1830. There is a life-sized statue sculpted in 1938 by Nellie Verne Walker on the site.

     One more thing:  And the Summer, 2009, edition of The Classical Teacher ( www.MemoriaPress.com ) has articles by Martin Cothran on "What’s Wrong with American Education?" and "The Tortured Logic of the New Atheism," as well as by Susan Wise Bauer on "Stop Cleaning the Kitchen and Read a Book" and Cheryl Lowe on "Four Principles of Latin Study."

And one more movie recommendation

      I have never read Lew Wallace’s Ben Hur: A Story of the Christ, but it is on my list of books that I definitely want to read. I have seen the Charlton Heston movie based on the book. If you would like your kids to be familiar with Ben Hur but feel that the movie might be too long to hold their interest or too intense for more sensitive children, did you know that there is an animated version of the movie that was made specifically for children? And guess what? It stars Charlton Heston too! He personally opens and closes the film and also provides the voice for Judah Ben Hur. There are a few historical inaccuracies especially in the introduction (I do not know whether it is from the book or not), such as having the wise men visit the baby Jesus in the stable at the same time as the shepherds. The animated version does move along at a rather quick pace, so it is not as good as the live action movie, which itself is probably not as good as the book, but it is generally well done.