Inspired by a little-known picture book from the pen of Bethany Tudor, this is a diary, of sorts, where I document some of my thoughts, activities, and ideas as I explore the challenges met by the characters in the story: hard work, the care and nurture of others, housekeeping skills, life changes, charity, community, and cooperation, among others. Like Samuel and Samantha, the ducks in the tale, I struggle and succeed, cope and celebrate, work and play, handling the tasks that come my way. I invite you to join me on my journey.

Friday, October 31, 2008

This Day in History...

For most people, October 31st means Halloween and all its related festivities, but what else happened on this day in history? Infoplease had this to say:
Martin Luther posted the 95 Theses on the door of the Wittenberg Palace church, marking the start of the Protestant Reformation in Germany.

A heavy snowfall trapped the Donner Party in the Sierra Nevada mountains.

Nevada became the 36th state.

Work on the Mount Rushmore monument was completed.

Rear Admiral G.H. Dufek became the first person to land an airplane at the South Pole.

Indian prime minister Indira Gandhi was assassinated.

Pope John Paul II admitted that the Roman Catholic Church had erred in convicting Galileo of heresy 250 years earlier.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Some Interesting Local Events

More from my weekly community newspaper...
In honor of the Florence Griswold Museum's current exhibition, "Bessie Potter Vonnoh: Sculptor of Women," the museum, the Lyme Academy College of Fine Arts and other venues along historic Lyme Street in Old Lyme are celebrating by opening their doors for free and offering special exhibitions, artist demonstrations, and hands-on activities. The even is made possible by a grant from the Connecticut Commission on Culture and Tourism and will take place Saturday, Nov.1.

The museum, including the special exhibition, will be open free of charge. Visitors can tour the exhibition and the historic boarding house for artists, where Bessie and her husband, Robert, stayed before moving to the area. From 11 am to 2 pm participants can watch Sculptor-Residence Sue Chism and her model demonstrate the sculpting process in the museum galleries and then try their hand a t sculpting using clay in a drop-in workshop in the Hartman Education Center.

At the Lyme Academy College of Fine Arts from noon to 3 pm, visitors can explore sculpture studios and meet students and faculty. Instructor Jeremy Davis demonstrates the sculpting process from noon to 4 pm. Visitors are invited to explore the special exhibitions, "A Slice of America: Selections from the New Britain Museum of Art" and "Excellence in Painting and Sculpture Exhibition, Samantha Weber and David Krevolin."

Also on Lyme Street, the Cooley Gallery has the work of a variety of artists on view, including a sound sculpture by Harry Bertoia and a new work by Michael McLaughlin. There are open houses at Studio 80, the studio and sculpture garden of artist Gil Boro, the Lyme Art Association, featuring the sculptures of female elected artists, and the Bee & Thistle Inn, where artist Andrews De Vries pours a bronze sculpture at 2 pm.

More information can be found at
The best part of this event is that it features the work of a young lady, Samantha Weber, whom I have known for a number of years through my homeschooling circles. Congratulations, Samantha!
Connecticut author Glenn Alan Cheney will speak about his book Thanksgiving: The Pilgrims First Year in America on Thursday, Nov. 6 at 7 pm. at the Lyme Public Library. The book covers the pilgrims' struggles for religious freedom in Holland, their decision to try life in a new world, the harrowing ocean crossing, and the crucial first year between the land of the Mayflower and the famous harvest feast that followed. The pilgrims survived in the new world and laid the foundation for a new nation, but their survival was far from guaranteed.

In addition to writing, Cheney has also been a businessman, and an adjunct professor at Fairfield University, Albertus Magnus College, Connecticut College, and Three Rivers Community-Technical College. He will sign books after the presentation. Copies of his book will be available for purchase at the program.

Call 434-2272 to register or for more information.

Halloween Safety

Even though I no longer celebrate Halloween for personal reasons, I think it is important for those who do participate in the festivities to do so safely. To that end, I offer this list of tips from Gabrieles Martial Arts. I found it on Zip06.
- Carry a flashlight.
- Stay on sidewalks.
- Always stay close to an adult.
- Don't run ahead of the group.
- Know who is around you.
- Try to have a bright costume so people can see you.
- Only go to the houses that are lit.
- It wearing a mask, take it off in between houses for air and good sight.

Parents and Guardians
- Make sure the neighborhood is a familiar one.
- Know exactly who your kids will be with, try to supervise personally.
- Have your child wear a watch they can read in the dark.
- Fill out an emergency contact paper and have your children keep it on them.
- Make sure they know how to reach you.
- Do not let children run ahead without adult supervision.

- Make sure the yard is safe to walk through.
- Put pets in a safe room so they don't get frightened or harmed.
- Use battery-powered ornaments, not real flames.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

DYK? Preparing for Colds & Flu

Note: These are only suggestions and are no guarantee that colds and flu will stay away from your home. Since I got my first cold on Saturday, it appears that I need to be taking my own advice more seriously.

Newsflash! Did you know that cold and flu season is here and that it is possible to navigate this time of year without getting horribly sick or, for that matter, without getting sick at all? Try these strategies from WebMD, as posted on The Weather Channel.

1. Get immunized.

I know this is a controversial/contentious subject for many people; however, being the survivor of an extremely severe case of German measles (contracted when I was sixteen) and being the child of parents who can remember their friends dying from diseases like diphtheria, I fully admit that I am an advocate for vaccination. The recommendation for cold and flu season is to check with your doctor about whether you should consider getting a flu shot, a pneumonia shot, or both. This may also be of interest:
...there is concern now about a resurgence of whooping cough, which is most contagious before the coughing actually starts. The best way to prevent whooping cough is still through vaccinations. The childhood vaccine is called DTaP, and there's also a whooping cough booster vaccine for adolescents and adults ages 19 through 64 called TDaP. The booster not only protects against whooping cough but also against tetanus and diphtheria.
2. Wash your hands.

This has got to be the king (or queen, depending on your perspective) of illness prevention strategies!
According to the CDC, frequent and thorough hand washing is the single most effective way to prevent catching cols, flu, or any contagious disease. Be sure to wash your hands frequently, including the following times:

- Before and after you prepare food
- Before you eat
- After you use the bathroom
- Before and after changing a baby's diaper
- After handling animals or animal waste
- After coughing or sneeze
- When your hands are dirty
- More frequently if someone in your home is sick

To wash hands properly, follow these steps:

- Wet your hands and apply liquid or clean bar soap. Place bar soap on a soap dish that allows it to drain.
- Rub your hands together vigorously, scrubbing all surfaces for 15 to 20 seconds. That's about how long it takes ot hum the song "Happy Birthday to You" twice.
- Rinse well and dry your hands. In a public restroom, use the air dryer or paper towels.
- In the absence of soap and water, use alcohol-based disposable hand wipes or gel sanitizers.
3. Don't touch your eyes, nose, or mouth without washing your hands.

Great advice! Tough to follow.

4. Don't share food, toiletries, towels, or pillows.

From a very young age, we are all taught that sharing is a good thing. Absolutely! But during cold and flu season, we need to be a little more conscientious about what we share. In our effort to be kind, we may give more than we intend.

5. Cover you mouth before coughing and your nose before sneezing.

If tissues are unavailable, cough or sneeze into your crooked elbow. If tissues are available and you use them, dispose of them quickly and (preferably) in the toilet so they can be flushed. If your are sick in bed, don't pile your used tissues on the nightstand or throw them on the floor next to the bed. Place them in a trash receptacle tat can be emptied and disinfected easily...and often.

6. Eat right, drink water, and get plenty of rest to improve your resistance.

Concentrate on foods that contain plenty of beta carotene, vitamin C, zinc, and garlic. Eat chicken soup. Drink the recommended eight glasses of water a day or, as some health professionals suggest, one-half ounce of water for every pound of body weight (in my case, 0.50 x 172 = 86 ounces). Sleep for six to eight hours per night; more if you are ill.

7. Stock up on supplies.

Here is what the WebMD article recommends:
- A thermometer for each family member
- Extra toothbrushes and personal tubes of toothpaste
- Plenty of tissues, toilet paper, and paper towels
- Throat lozenges and anything else that makes the sick person comfortable
My stock up list also includes:

- Expectorant, either liquid or tablet
- Cough suppressant (this is often combined with the expectorant)
- Acid reducer (sinus drainage often gives me heartburn)
- Ginger ale (in case sinus drainage causes nausea)
- Salt cartridge for my inhaler
- Humidifier filters

I also make sure my steamer is in good working order and my humidifier is cleaned and ready to go.

8. Disinfect germ hotspots.

Bacteria and viruses can survive on surfaces for as long as a few days or as short as a few hours. To keep on top of the contagions in your home.
...use a common disinfectant on the following household hotspots.

- Phones
- Remote controls
- Microwave and refrigerator handles
- Door handles and doorknobs
- Toilet seats and handles
- Faucets
- Light switches
- Computer keyboards/mouse
- Video game handheld controls
- Toys

What's the best disinfectant? The CDC recommends inexpensive chlorine bleach, which is effective against viruses. Add one-fourth of a cup of bleach to one gallon of warm water and allow the mixture to sit on the hotspot surface for 10 minutes before rinsing. Whenever disinfecting surfaces, you should wear rubber gloves, ventilate the area, and, if you're sensitive to chemicals, wear a mask. Wash your hand after removing the rubber gloves.
Personally, I use Shaklee Basic-G and wipe down most of the items listed above on a daily basis. It takes a few minutes, but the payoff is worth it fi you don't get sick.

9. Keep up with the laundry.

Containing illness is hard work. When you or a loved one is ill, it's advisable to wash towels, washcloths, pillows, and bedding daily. You may want to wash the stuffed animals that kids cuddle to remove germs.
I would also add heating pad covers to the aforementioned laundry list. Personally I don't wash my pillows. Instead, I cover them with both a vinyl pillow protector and a cloth pillow protector before putting on a pillowcase. Then when I change pillowcases and cloth protectors, all I need to do is spray and wipe the vinyl protector with some Basic-G to sanitize them. I also don't wash my sheets every day unless the severity of the illness dictates. Twice a week has proved sufficient in my home. I would be exhausted just from doing laundry if I washed sheets every day!

10. Know your enemies

Familiarize yourself with the "bugs" you could encounter during the season. Know the symptoms of each and their recommended care protocols, especially those symptoms that should trigger timely medical intervention. To learn more about the following diseases, visit this WebMD cold & flu information page. These are some of the illnesses you should be watching for:

- Common cold
- Acute bronchitis
- Strep throat
- Flu
- Chickenpox
- Stomach flu (viral gastroenteritis)
- Whooping cough

Filled for $37.00!!!

On Sunday, my husband filled the gas tank in my Subaru Outback (from the empty light, mind you) for only $37.00. In the past few months, that same amount of gasoline has set me back almost $60.00. One tank of gas at these new prices and I saved enough to pay for thirty minutes of voice lessons for my daughter. You gotta love it!

Price per gallon: $2.599

Monday, October 27, 2008

Will He Defend the Constitution?

In light of this old radio interview with Senator Obama, I got to thinking...

If this is the Oath of Office for the President of the United States:
I do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.
and the Illinois senator who is currently running for President had this to say in 2001 (emphasis mine):
...the Supreme Court never ventured into the issues of redistribution of wealth and sort of more basic issues of political and economic justice in this society. And to that extent as radical as people tried to characterize the Warren Court, it wasn't that radical. It didn't break free from the essential constraint that were placed by the Founding Fathers in the Constitution, at least as it's been interpreted, and the Warren Court interpreted it in the same way that generally the Constitution is a charter of negative liberties. It says what the state can't do to you, it says what the federal government can't do to you, but it doesn't say what the federal government or the state government must do on your behalf. And that hasn't shifted. One of the, I think, tragedies of the civil rights movement was because the civil rights movement became so court focused, I think that there was a tendency to lose track of the political and community organizing and activities on the ground that are able to put together the actual coalitions of power through which you bring about redistributed change...

- snip -

...I'm not optimistic about bringing about major redistributive change through the courts. The institution just isn't structured that way. You just look at very rare examples during the desegregation era, the court was willing to, for example, order changes that cost money to a local district. The court was very uncomfortable with it. It was very hard to manage, it was hard to figure out. You start getting into all sorts of separation of powers issues in terms of the court monitoring or engaging in a process that essentially is administrative and takes a lot of time.

- Does Senator Obama, who is trained and educated in the Constitution, believe in this most important foundational document as it was/is written, or does he see the document as irreparably flawed and inconvenient?

- If Senator Obama does not believe in the Constitution, can he honestly take an oath of office that requires him to "preserve, protect, and defend" the document itself and the government that it establishes?

Just a couple of questions that are worth pondering before the vote on Tuesday.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Survey: Mortgage or Credit Card?

If you have to choose between paying your mortgage and paying your credit card, which do you pay? Have you ever had to make this choice?

Answer in the comments, please.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

What Would I Do?

Tonight (10/16/08), I was watching yet another newsmagazine program when I heard that familiar sound byte of the day: being upside down in a mortgage. Sometimes I hear the variant: being underwater. Readers, you will need to forgive me on this one. Listen up: this is only part of the problem! The problem is cash flow…combined with falling home values. The problem is that the folks who are having trouble being in this condition on their mortgages are the folks who are not making/cannot make their monthly mortgage payments and/or the folks who need to sell their homes immediately. If you are making your monthly mortgage payment, have no intention of selling your home, and have no other debt being secured by the value of your house, it is ok to be “upside down” or “underwater” for a short period of time. My husband and I were in this condition when he was a cancer patient. We owed over $100,000 on our home; the housing market in the Northeast had tumbled, valuing our house at less than what we owed on it; and the Navy transferred him to Virginia. Hard truth: he commuted for 29 months and I stayed put because we couldn’t make enough on a home sale to pay off our mortgage so I could move with him.

The other issue that is not necessarily a problem: lack of a down payment when purchasing a home. Why do reporters always bring this up? What is the purpose of putting money down on a mortgage anyway? Simple: it lowers your monthly mortgage payment, making your home more affordable, because it lowers the total amount you need to finance. My husband and I did not put any money down when we purchased our house in 1989. We financed the entire amount --- $125,000. Our interest rate: 10.50% fixed. Our initial mortgage payment, plus escrow: $1354.00. We used a mortgage company instead of a bank or a credit union, something we will never do again. They sold off our mortgage within about three days of closing. Thankfully, within a couple of years, the interest rate had dropped to 8.00%; we were not “upside down” in our mortgage at the time; and we refinanced with a credit union that didn’t sell mortgages. Sadly, not everyone is so fortunate.

So, what would I do now if I had a cash flow problem and an “upside down” mortgage? First, I would pay only the necessary part of my mortgage payment; no extra principal payments for awhile. If I absolutely had to, I would investigate participating in one of the “bailout” plans so I could stay in my home and renegotiate my mortgage. If all else failed and I had no other options available, I would short sell my house and take the loss. Second, I would find a way to generate more income, either by getting a second (or a third) job or by finding a way to make money online. Medical transcription work, maybe. With a plethora of baby boomers approaching retirement age, employment in the medical sector is certainly in demand. Being a home educator, tutoring might be a reasonable alternative as well. If either of those options didn’t pan out, I would check the local businesses in my area for help wanted signs. At the moment at least three businesses within one mile of my home need help: Auto Zone, Starbucks, and Dominos Pizza. I would focus on jobs that didn’t have huge travel or wardrobe expenses. That way my employment costs wouldn’t eat all my earnings. Third, I would find ways to reduce my expenses. For example, I would park my Subaru Outback in the driveway and start sharing the Mazda Protégé with my husband; the former gets 22 mpg, while the latter comes in at 34 mpg. This strategy would save quite a bit of gas money, especially now that the price of fuel is dropping. It would require some pretty creative time management, but it would need to be done for the sake of saving money.

More importantly, I would try to adjust my thinking to accommodate the short-term reality of longer work hours, less time with family, and a new definition of fun that looks more like roasting marshmallows with friends in the backyard than like an excursion to Disney World. If necessary, I would also patch up my differences with friends and family members with whom I could cooperate in money-saving, expense-reducing efforts like childcare, carpooling, hand-me-down clothing, and the like. Lastly, I would reexamine my expectations about what I desire versus what is necessary to rebuild my financial well being. A four-bedroom house with a family room and a pool may be what I want, but a three-bedroom apartment and a few trips to the beach may be what I need to survive.

Most importantly, though, I would pray…a lot…for guidance about the best course of action, for protection from unexpected events that could cause my family more financial distress, and for the ability to endure gracefully whatever challenges I had to face. Since living in Connecticut, I have experienced two recessions: one from July 1990-March 1991 and the other just after 911. This one, if it truly is a recession, will be my third since getting married. I didn’t panic during the other two and I don’t plan to panic now. I plan to trust God.

He [the man who fears the Lord] will have no fear of bad news; his heart is steadfast, trusting in the Lord. --- Psalm 112:7

Friday, October 17, 2008

Some Interest Rate Perspective

When I was home from college for Christmas vacation in December 1980, these were some of the business statistics our country faced, compared with the statistics at the close of trading today. Granted, I am looking at only three statistics and I am cherry picking the ones that, to me, paint a picture that is certainly not as dire as the mainstream media would have us believe; yet, I am tickled pink that my credit card interest rate isn’t calculated off the older prime rate.

Dow Jones Index (December 31, 1980)*: 963.99
Prime Rate**: 21.50%
Average mortgage interest rate***: 14.95%

Dow Jones Index: 8852.22
Prime Rate**: 4.50%
VA mortgage rate (30 year) @ my local credit union: 5.75%

Here is something else I found interesting. A look at the history of the prime rate in America reveals that 1980 was a pretty depressing year. Just look at these numbers from a table on the Wall Street Journal prime rate page. Between September and December 1980, the prime rate increased 10.00%, with more than six points of that increase coming in the last eight weeks of that period:

August 27, 1980 11.50%

September 8, 1980 12.00%
Septmeber 12, 1980 12.25%
September 19. 2008 12.50%
September 26, 1980 13.00%
1.50-point increase. Minimum increase 0.25%.

October 1, 1980 13.50%
October 17, 1980 14.00%
October 29, 1980 14.50%
1.50-point increase. Minimum increase 0.50%.

November 6, 1980 15.50%
November 17, 1980 16.25%
November 21, 1980 17.00%
November 26, 1980 17.75%
3.25-point increase. Minimum increase 0.75%.

December 2, 1980 18.50%
December 5, 1980 19.00%
December 10, 1980 20.00%
December 16, 1980 21.00%
December 19, 1980 21.50%
3.25-point increase. Minimum increase 0.50%

Just imagine if you had a credit card whose interest rate was calculated at prime + 3%. In 1980, the interest rate on that credit card could have changed from 14.50% to 24.50% from Labor Day to Christmas. Talk about putting the brakes on spending.

So, how do you feel about the current financial crisis now?

*Dow Jones Industrial Average History
**Prime Rate History
***Mortgage Rates Slides to 17.54%

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Cat on the Roof!

This morning, just before lunch, Katherine the Great came in the back door announcing that the neighbor’s cat was on our roof. I didn’t believe her at first because:

1) I have never seen a cat on the roof of a house, and
2) I couldn’t reason out how a cat could get on the roof of our house, seeing as we have no trees or poles or ladders that could afford access to the higher heights of our abode.

What kind of cat climbs onto a roof? The kind that curiosity kills? Well, this furry black maniac lived to see another day. She was rescued by my daughter and a very sturdy ladder.

Nothing like a little excitement in your day.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Making History

Tonight (10/10/08), my daughter had the tremendous privilege of participating in an historical first: the premier of an opera at the Ivoryton Playhouse in Ivoryton, Connecticut. Built in 1908, the facility originally served as a recreation hall for employees of the Comstock-Cheney factory. By 1930, the building had become a theater, opening operations with a Broadway play called “Broken Dishes.”
The theater gained in prestige to the point that invitations to work there were highly prized in the theater profession. Its reputation grew nationally and Paramount Pictures produced a short film showing its complete operation.

- snip –

Ivoryton’s fame as one of Americas leading summer showplaces continued to grow until the outbreak of World War II when the theater went dark for several seasons, mainly because severe tire and gasoline rationing made it virtually impossible for audiences to get to Ivoryton.
The Playhouse reopened after the war, hosting an array of well-known stars that included the likes of Marlon Brando, Art Carney, Talullah Bankhead, Helen Hayes, Betty Grable, Groucho Marx, June Lockhart, Gloria Vanderbilt, Kitty Carlisle, Don Ameche, John Forsythe, June Allison, Alan Alda, and Treat Williams (just to name a few). It continued to operate successfully until the late 1970’s when the owner, Ken Krezel, decided to sell the property.
It was then, amid rumors that the historic theater might be torn down to make way for a discount drug store that the non-profit Ivoryton Playhouse Foundation was organized and with the help of The Essex Savings Bank, came up with a mortgage to buy the property…for $115,000.

Over the course of the past 28 years, the Ivoryton Playhouse Foundation has completed a total renovation of the building, including new shingles, a new heating and air-conditioning system, new seats and state-of-the-art theatrical sound and lighting systems. The Playhouse has maintained its reputation as a first-class summer theatre and now produces a year-round professional season of musicals, comedies and dramas. well as opera; kudos to The Salt Marsh Opera Company for adding such a distinction to an already important historical venue for the arts in America. Congratulations on a job well done!

All quotes in this article are from the website of the Ivoryton Playhouse.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Another Sad Driving Tale

Several weeks ago, my girlfriend was involved in an auto accident in the parking lot of a nearby medical center. The incident was not her fault; it was determined to be the fault of the teenage driver who plowed into the rear quarter panel of the van my friend was driving. The force of the impact broke the tire on my friend’s vehicle and bent the rear axel to the point where the entire assembly had to be replaced. Despite this extensive damage, my friend (being the compassionate mom that she is) consoled the young lady while the police collected information at the scene. Fortunately, everyone was ok.

Sadly, this morning (10/8/08) the news was not so encouraging. Yesterday afternoon, this same teenager was involved in another accident…and this time she had two friends in the car. Our local newspaper is reporting that the young lady lost control of the Volkswagen Jetta she was driving, hitting a pickup truck being driven by a gentleman from Rhode Island. He is ok, treated and released from a nearby hospital (Lawrence & Memorial) after suffering a leg injury. The driver didn’t fare so well. She is currently in stable condition at Hartford Hospital after being transported there by Life Star helicopter. Her passengers remain hospitalized as well, one of them at Yale-New Haven; the other at William Backus Hospital in Norwich, CT. The accident continues to be investigated.

Let us pray for everyone involved in this mishap, for speedy recovery, and for timely resolution of the legalities that inevitably seem to follow these things.

Landmark Day

Amid the hustle and bustle associated with the end of my daughter’s opera internship, I didn’t want this headline to pass without recognition:

Same-Sex Marriage OK’d by State Supreme Court

Despite widely differing personal opinions regarding same-sex marriage, no one can deny the importance of this decision to the debate about whether the act of marriage belongs exclusively to a man and a woman, or whether civil unions are sufficient. My view falls in the latter camp, but that is not the point of this entry. I merely wanted to recognize the moment and to provide some information about the possible fallout here in my state of residence, as evidenced by this headline:

Ruling Spawns Movement to Revisit Connecticut Constitution

It was interesting for me (and for my daughter) to hear a personal reaction to this legislation, given by a younger gentleman who is working on the opera. He was thrilled that the case was decided in the affirmative; many of my acquaintances were not. I am waiting to see if the case ends here, even though the first article I referenced stated that no possibility exists for federal appeal.

Connecticut is now the third state in the union to recognize same-sex marriage. The other states to sanction this practice are Massachusetts and California.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Down Again!

It is 4:00 PM and the market just closed. Dow Jones: 9447.11.

Big losers
- Bank of America: -8.06 or -25.01%
- Morgan Stanley: -5.49 or -23.36%

Some perspective
Dow Jones closing on December 31, 1980 (the year I graduated from high school): 963.99

Happy Birthday, Chloe!

I didn't have a card for you, nor did I buy a gift. Instead, I give you this. Have a wonderful day.

Tight Credit? Better Lending Behavior?

This morning, after breakfast, I went through the Monday mail and found, to my astonishment, a credit card offer --- for my daughter! It is her first such offer. So, amongst all the talk of tightening up lending standards, my eighteen-year-old who is still in high school and has no income to speak of (and, therefore, no conceivable way to pay for any charges that my be placed on the card), received an invitation to apply for a Platinum MasterCard®. So much for a higher standard of behavior in the credit market.

NOW Opinion Poll

NOW on PBS has posted an opinion poll that asks:
Do you think Sarah Palin is qualified to serve as Vice President of the United States?
Follow this link to vote. The website also has some election-related videos. If you have time, check them out.

Another One Bites the Dust?

Up here in the Northeast, Connecticut is surrounded by states that rigorously regulate home education: New York, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and (a bit further away) Pennsylvania. New Jersey is actually one of our allies, so to speak, having a similar statute under which their families homeschool.* That is (possibly), until this week. A New Jersey assemblywoman and her fellow assemblyman introduced Assembly Bill No. 3123, an act that requires the registration and oversight of home education programs. To say that this bill may dramatically alter the homeschooling landscape in New Jersey is an understatement. What remains to be seen is if Connecticut will follow suit. Let’s hope not!

So what is New Jersey proposing?

1. That parents register their children in a homeschool program. Such registration will be accomplished via a notarized letter that includes:

- evidence that required subjects will be offered
- an outline of education objectives by subject
- evidence of immunization
- evidence of age-appropriate health/medical care
- certification that the education supervisor, all adults living in the home, and any person having legal custody of the children have not been convicted of specific criminal offenses within the preceding five years.

2. That each student shall receive 180 days of instruction per year in the subject areas determined by the education supervisor.

3. That guidelines for home education programs will be developed by the Commissioner of Education.

4. That parents may request use of public school textbooks, curriculum, etc.

5. That homeschooled students may have access to public school extracurricular activities provided the students meet all participation/tryout criteria and comply with all policies, rules, and regulations of the organizations governing the activities.

6. That the education supervisor will maintain a portfolio of work for each student enrolled in a homeschool program, including:

- a list of reading materials, samples of writing, worksheets, etc.
- standardized test results for students in grades three, five, and eight
- an annual written evaluation of student progress as determined by a qualified evaluator.

7. That a portfolio of student work will be submitted to the local school district annually by the education supervisor. If the superintendent of the local school district suspects that education is not occurring, he may request an early portfolio review. In such cases, the supervisor of the homeschool program has thirty days to respond. If the supervisor fails to comply, the home education program will be declared unsatisfactory and the children will be placed in a public or private school.

8. That the superintendent of the local school district has the authority to declare a home education program unsatisfactory. Upon such declaration, the supervisor of the program must be notified in writing. He has twenty days to respond by submitting additional portfolio documentation.

9. That in the case of a request for additional portfolio documentation, the home education program will declared unsatisfactory if the education supervisor fails to submit additional information. If the program is declared unsatisfactory, the children will be placed in a public or private school. If additional documentation is submitted, the superintendent will review it. If the home education program is still considered unsatisfactory, the local school board will hold a hearing on the matter and issue a determination. If the school board finds the program lacking as well, the children will be placed in a public or private school.

My biggest problem with this legislative proposal? It removes the parent as the “education supervisor.” I am not exactly sure who the New Jersey assemblyfolk plan to put in this position, but it isn’t the parent. Observe in section six:
b. for students in grade levels three, five, and eight, the results of nationally normed standardized achievement test in reading/language arts and mathematics administered by the supervisor…The test administrator shall not be the student’s parent or guardian.

c. an annual written evaluation of the student’s educational progress as determined by a qualified evaluator…The evaluator shall not be the supervisor or his spouse or the student’s parent or guardian.
If homeschooling isn’t done by the parent, then is it truly homeschooling? The nature of home education isn’t merely that it occurs in a location outside the brick and mortar walls of a public or private educational institution. The nature of home education is that it nurtures and strengthens the bonds of family relationships through the process of teaching and learning. Through the close mentor relationship that is established between parent and child, excellence is achieved. Taking the parent out of the picture by assigning, for example, some public school official to the position of “education supervisor” succeeds in transforming the homeschool into nothing more than a public school satellite program. I can’t think of a better way to quash the innovation that is so badly needed in education today. Can you?

* Every parent, guardian or other person having custody and control of a child between six and 16 shall cause such child regularly to attend the public schools of the district or a day school in which there is given instruction equivalent to that provided in the public schools for children of similar grades and attainments or to receive equivalent instruction elsewhere than at school.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Opening Night

Tonight was opening night of Lucia di Lammermoor. After two months of music memorization, four weeks of rehearsals, and three weeks of dance lessons, it was time to put it all to the test. How did it go? At the moment, I cannot answer that question. At the moment, I am sitting in the Tim Horton’s donut shop across the parking lot from the George Kent Performance Hall waiting for the first offering to conclude. I arrived here at 9:30 pm, figuring the production would finish around 10:00 pm. That expectation was just dashed by the lighting designer who snuck over for a latte. He informed me that the performance runs until 11:00 pm.

And so, I wait.

Note: At the request of Katherine the Great, I did not attend this evening’s performance. She was concerned that having a parent in the audience would make her nervous. I will be attending the Sunday night show with some of our homeschooling friends.

Cue Up the Jeopardy Music

Forty-five minutes late, the House is now voting on the bailout bill. Speaker Pelosi had some closing comments, which I won’t reiterate. Michelle Malkin blogged the discussion session this morning. You can read her entry here. I despise the bill and all the “sweeteners,” but I don’t know as I like the idea of risking the lack of confidence and downright fear that may result from waiting. I suppose I owe that reaction to my liberal economics training. This is a vote between many bad choices. If it flies, I will be dogging my Congressman to scrutinize every provision for possible reversals or improvements. I am also going to pay off my credit card!

The vote is in:
Yea 263
Nay 171

4:15 PM...The market is now closed. DOWN 157.47. This morning, before the vote, the market was up over 200 points. Yup. That bailout really helped.