Eternal Vigilance Is the Price of Liberty

Whether you attribute that quotation to Wendell Phillips, Thomas Jefferson, or Patrick Henry, it's the truth, and no less true when it comes to the rights of parents to educate their own children. (More)

Posted by sursumcorda on Tuesday, March 18, 2008 at 9:02 am | Edit
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One of the strangest and most difficult aspects of interacting with other people is discovering those areas which you consider to be so basic, so foundational, so obvious that you don't even think about them—until you run up against someone for whom they are not basic, and maybe not even important.

For me one of those givens is that you don't take food from a common dish and then put it back, and if your hands touch something on a common plate you take it, even if you didn't mean to.  Thus I find it particularly unnerving to watch at church potlucks, or <shudder> restaurant buffet bars, as folks violate those maxims repeatedly and egregiously, with no consideration for those behind them in line.  I'm not speaking particularly of children here; the adults are just as likely, sometimes more so, to be the offenders.

This raises two questions:  Is this really a matter of fundamental hygiene and common courtesy, or merely a particular, culture-specific custom?  I do hope not the latter, or I may have to stop eating away from home.

and

What are the habits that seem perfectly normal and natural to me, yet cause in others the stomach-turning reaction I experienced this morning?
Posted by sursumcorda on Sunday, March 16, 2008 at 12:30 pm | Edit
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Since—ta da!—we expect our fourth grandchild in October Smile, and since choosing a baby's name has an aura of sacrament in the Daley household, and since others have already begun making positive suggestions, I hereby offer an article on baby names not to use.

Ancestry.com's Bad Baby Names on the Brain features the book, Bad Baby Names: The Worst True Names Parents Saddled Their Kids With—And Now You Can Too!  I don't know if the article is open to the public or requires a subscription; in case of the latter, I present just a few of the 2,000 or so names, culled from census data, that I would rather not use when speaking of our newest grandchild:  Title Page, Magenta Flamingo, Ghoul Nipple, Mann Pigg, Mary A. Belcher, Deuteronomy Temple, Hell Grimes, Lucifer Carmendo, Sandwich Green, Mayo Head, Tuna Fish, Fanny Pack, Major Nutt, Warren Peace.  Some people have no imagination; names like Octavio and Quintin clearly indicate birth order (though the one present-day Octavio I know is an only child; go figure), but the authors also found, as first names, "every number from one to twenty, by tens to a hundred, and thousand, million, billion, and infinity."  I know our Puritan ancestors were fond of naming their children after virtues (Love, Prudence, Patience, Charity, Endurance), and sometimes after circumstances associated with their lives (Fear, Wrestling), but who would name a child Lust, Wrath, Greed, Avarice, Envy, Sloth, Wrath, or Pride?

Take a moment and be thankful for your parents' wisdom.  Even if you've always hated your name, you now know it could have been much, much worse. 

Posted by sursumcorda on Tuesday, March 11, 2008 at 12:43 pm | Edit
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I am on an Andrew Pudewa kick.  I first discovered his Institute for Excellence in Writing through an online forum for early childhood education, and—as usual—once I'd heard of him, his name started coming to my attention in other ways.  A friend of ours is the principal of a private Christian school which emphasizes academic excellence as well as a solid Christian worldview, and she and her teachers waxed so enthusiastic about his program for teaching writing that she even sent me a sample videotape of one of his lectures.  It didn't take me long to get hooked.  For the first three minutes, I found Pudewa's voice to be annoying; after that I was so intrigued by what he was saying and how he was presenting it that it didn't matter.

Now I'm not averse to spending money on educational materials for our grandkids, but they're not yet old enough for the writing materials, which are a bit pricey to buy on speculation, especially since there might well be a subsequent edition or two by the time they would be used.  Fortunately for my curiosity, one of our favorite homeschooling families was impressed enough to try it out, and I'm looking forward to hearing about their experiences. (More)

Posted by sursumcorda on Wednesday, February 27, 2008 at 3:05 pm | Edit
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The One Thing You Need to Know...About Great Managing, Great Leading, and Sustained Individual Success, by Marcus Buckingham (Free Press, 2005)

[This is Part Two.  Part One is here.] 

The mediocre manager believes that most things are learnable and therefore that the essence of management is to identiry each person's weaker areas and eradicate them.

The great manager...believes that the most influential qualities of a person are innate and therefore that the essence of management is to deploy these innate qualities as effectively as possible and so drive performance. 

I find Marcus Buckingham's belief in the essentially unalterable effect of our genetic makeup on our abilities to be disturbing, to say the least.  However, that doesn't change my appreciation of his observation that we spend too much time and effort trying to shore up our areas of weakness, and not enough building on our strengths.  True, we can't afford to ignore our weaknesses, and well-directed efforts at overcoming them are often in order.  Spending the majority of our energy on our strengths, however, generally leads to the most progress, the most satisfaction, and the most achievement. (More)

Posted by sursumcorda on Sunday, December 16, 2007 at 8:41 am | Edit
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Central Florida is the most dangerous place in the country, at least if it's lightning strikes that worry you.  The tragedy of a girl who was struck by lightning just after descending from her school bus is still fresh in our memories, so it's no wonder the Orange County school board policy errs on the side of caution:  No student is allowed outside until 30 minutes after the last lighning flash, if thunder follows the lightning within 30 seconds.

They are wisely reconsidering the policy, however, after a recent debacle.  A long-lasting storm coupled with rigid enforcement of the rules kept some 2000 students trapped at two schools until nearly 9 p.m.  Snacks were trucked in (the district apparently caring less about the safety of their employees), and no doubt many of the students thought the excitement high adventure—at least for the first hour.  But most of the children—not to mention the teachers—must have been anxious to get home to their families, with not a few kindergarteners crying for their mommies. (More)
Posted by sursumcorda on Tuesday, August 28, 2007 at 8:23 am | Edit
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With my interest in both children and education you knew it wouldn't be long before I commented on the latest "Baby Einstein" controversy.  A study (based on telephone surveys) published in The Journal of Pediatrics found that babies between eight and sixteen months experienced a significant decrease in language development for every hour spent per day viewing baby videos.

Now those who ridicule parents' attempts to enrich their children's early educational enviroments are having an I-told-you-so field day, and those who profit from the business are crying foul.  The responses that bother me most, however, are those of the defenders of baby videos.  They are giving answers to the wrong questions, and reassurances for the wrong concerns. (More)

Posted by sursumcorda on Thursday, August 16, 2007 at 11:13 am | Edit
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Television has long been called the "idiot box," but here is more evidence that being a couch potato harms the brain as well as the body.  Unfortunately, in this case reading is just as bad as watching TV.

The Swedish experiment was actually about depression.  Previous studies have shown that the hippocamus region of the human brain shrinks in depressed people.  In this study, exercise was shown to have a significant anti-depressant effect in rats, and promoted dramatic neuron growth in the hippocampus.  (If you, like me, wonder how on earth they can tell if a rat is depressed, read the article.) (More)
Posted by sursumcorda on Thursday, July 5, 2007 at 8:39 am | Edit
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One of our nephews is a Boy Scout.

My father was for many years a Boy Scout leader, so when I joined the Girl Scouts I was mightily disappointed that we did so little of the camping, hiking, mountain climbing, knot-tying, fire-building, and survival skills work he did with his boys.  Thanks to some amazing (and somewhat rebellious) leaders and dedicated parents, we still had a good time, but the national program left me less than impressed. (More)
Posted by sursumcorda on Monday, June 25, 2007 at 8:41 am | Edit
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Not long ago, a friend was lamenting to me about how tedious elementary recitals are.  Little piano and violin students plunking and scraping away on the same, boring pieces, making the same mistakes you've heard hundreds of times.  I couldn't disagree more.

She has a different perspective, mind you:  she's a music teacher, so no doubt that makes a difference. (More)
Posted by sursumcorda on Saturday, May 5, 2007 at 3:20 pm | Edit
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This just in:  middle-aged men have no business stopping to chat with young people.  After all, the young and their elders have nothing in common, right?  No reason to talk to someone who is so different from you.  Certainly no reason to smile and speak to a stranger passing on the street.  Even if you both have dogs.

Here's the story.

The 43-year-old man was the subject of a police "be on the lookout" memo because two children said he spoke to them while they were walking their dogs. Police said no criminal activity had been reported.

I don't blame the police for being cautious.  Maybe the kids had been overly hyped to "stranger danger" by well-meaning parents and teachers.  Maybe they truly sensed something wrong.  In any case, I'm glad the police took them seriously. (More)

Posted by sursumcorda on Thursday, May 3, 2007 at 8:12 am | Edit
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I'm supposed to be writing about our trip to Europe, but the discussion on a friend's blog (begun here and continued here) tempted me to respond, and why waste a long essay in just one place?

The discussion began with the statement, "I loathe the spanking of children," and some very interesting comments followed.  Herewith my own contribution. (More)

Posted by sursumcorda on Thursday, April 19, 2007 at 9:39 am | Edit
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I've already written (here and here), about some of the dangers of epidural anesthesia during childbirth.  Today's reports bring still more bad news to those who see epidurals as an important part of the birthing process: an apparent link between fentanyl (a component of the anesthesia) and subsequent problems with breastfeeding.
Posted by sursumcorda on Monday, December 11, 2006 at 10:04 am | Edit
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Wild at Heart, by John Eldredge (Thomas Nelson, Nashville, Tennessee, 2001)
Captivating, by John and Stasi Eldredge (Thomas Nelson, Nashville, Tennessee, 2005)

When a good friend lent me Wild at Heart, it took a long time for me to steel myself to read it, for I expected it to make me angry. I've had more than my fill of books, especially from Christian authors, telling men to be authoritative and women to wear makeup and Saran Wrap.

After the first few pages, I was sure I was right, and I was going to hate the book. But I kept reading—something I'm not sure was true of many of those who wrote the negative reviews I read—and became convinced it's a worthwhile book. Oh, there's plenty I found exasperating, a lot I disagree with, and much that's expressed poorly, but Eldredge is asking important questions and has a few good answers. Although it deals with much more than just the church, the book is worth reading if only because it dares reveal church as a place where, all too often, the men are bored and the women are tired—and offers a remedy. Captivating attempts to do for women what Wild at Heart does for men. It is not as good, but still valuable.

(I wonder why it is almost all of my reviews these days seem to boil down to, "This book has some good things to say even though it requires a lot of work to get past the way in which they are presented.") (More)

Posted by sursumcorda on Thursday, October 26, 2006 at 10:19 am | Edit
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I'm cleaning out old computer files, and came upon this article by Paula Rothermal of the University of Durham. Unfortunately, I no longer have any idea where I acquired this comparison of home- and school-educated children in the UK.

For reasons of copyright, the above link goes only to an abstract of the paper, but I'm posting a few interesting quotes that I believe fall into the "fair use" category. (More)
Posted by sursumcorda on Sunday, September 3, 2006 at 6:07 pm | Edit
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