reasons to homeschool

Reflections on the Berlin Wall in pictures and cartoons

Now that Monica Crowley is to serve on the National Security Council in President Elect Trump’s administration, an old tweet has been making the rounds again.

 

walls-work

She says people missed the point. I’m not sure what her point was. I don’t know if it was an odd bit of sarcasm or a complete misunderstanding of the historical significance of the wall she was standing next to.

The wall that worked.

But that isn’t really what this post is about. I stood near where Crowley was standing. My thoughts were very different.

east-side-gallery

Two years after that wall came down, I stood in its shadow. For me, as a child of the Cold War, it was not a smiley selfie moment. It was one of quiet reflection. I felt much as I did standing at Bergen Belsen, the concentration camp where Anne Frank died. There, standing in the shadow of this historic monument, I saw what governments were willing to do to control their people.

The Kiss
“My God help us survive this deadly love” From a famous photograph of Brezhnev and Honecker’s “socialist fraternal kiss” that many thought was a little too “passionate.”

This wall that stood between East and West, between totalitarianism and liberty divided a nation, a continent and a world. East and West. That’s all I had ever known, and one night, the people tore it down. Because once the people realized the guards weren’t going to shoot and the dogs weren’t going to attack, the bit of concrete that stood between them and freedom didn’t prove to be much of a barrier at all.

chained-dove

But I was also there two years after it came down. Two years was long enough for the euphoria to wear off. People weren’t toasting their victory with champagne and passing out money and care packets to people spilling over the wall and through the gates anymore. Once every person who made it across was hailed a hero. Now, they were all a nuisance. Germany was coming to grips with what it meant to graft this second world nation onto their own economic powerhouse. Germany has always prided itself on its social market economy, but now their resources were being drained by these . . . leeches. Unemployment was skyrocketing. The public koffers were draining. And what had the East Germans ever done but take?

"Where the state ends, life begins."
“Where the state ends, life begins.” Graffiti across from the monument.

There was a joke going around we had all heard. “It’s time to build another wall . . . but 10 meters higher.

Reunification cartoon
“Hurry! Before West Germany builds a wall!”

And another wall was being built. But this one wasn’t made of concrete and barbed wire. It was in the hearts and minds of Germans, looking down on their neighbors, not trusting their economic superiority to these outsiders, not entirely accepting of these intruders as Germans.

German reunification
“State of the nation.” The Ziggy-like figure is “the German Michel,” the symbol of Germany, much like our own Uncle Sam.

Now they were Ossies.

And I only ever heard that word used as a perjorative.

Even my civics teacher who had devoted an entire semester to “Die Wende” (The Turning Point — refers to the events in East Germany leading up to the collapse) made very clear that “reunification” was a misnomer. Germany was being unified, not reunified, because it had never existed prior to this moment. East and West were not being reunited. They were being spliced together.

the-german-michel
Note how there are two German Michels? And one intends on moving in with the other. The hugging will only last so long . . .

And somewhere in there is what the wall means to me today. The monolith of my childhood. An art gallery in Berlin. A moment in time where two people became one. A reminder that our political dreams often look very different when we achieve them. A symbol of oppression. A symbol of triumph.

A reminder that walls can be torn down. Even between East and West, Red and Blue.

Because at the end of it all, East and West did become one. One Germany. One people.

(Note: The photographs are my own. The political cartoons are from “Die Wende in der DDR” which was published by the German government and hence –to my understanding–free to use with attribution.)

 

reasons to homeschool

Thank you, Donald Trump

Dear Mr. Trump (because Dear The Donald just sounds awkward),

I must thank you for being the first candidate to tackle one of the biggest issues of our time. It may, in fact, be the only one that really matters.

I feel strongly about this. I don’t usually talk politics on this blog. It is my happy place. It is my grieving place. It is about my little place in the country with all of its ups and downs. Politics hasn’t really found a home here. It’s just too . . . divisive. But sometimes you just have to stand up for what’s right and you, dear sir, are the first candidate to inspire me to take this humble little platform and do just that.

I must humbly confess that up to now, you have not been my favorite candidate. I just didn’t trust you. After all, you threw your support behind Hillary Clinton. I understand you’ve come clean on that. Something about being a man of business and knowing where your bread is buttered. And while I can see your point, I rather prefer a man of principle in office. A man who will back what’s right even to his own personal disadvantage. After all, John Hancock was one of the wealthiest men in the colonies who stood the most to lose and he still staked his life on a few principles that guide our nation yet. I’m sure he could have paid off a few people and gone on in relative peace, his fortune largely untouched, but that is neither here nor there. After all, that was only the British Monarchy he was standing up against.

And you’ve always seemed to me like a caricature of conservative values. Like the face behind all those forwarded emails and facebook posts that no one ever checks out before sharing with everyone on their friends list. I just never quite trusted that you were real.

But thanks to your recent stance on the Starbucks coffee cup crisis, I now know you are the man to lead this country in the right direction.

“I have one of the most successful Starbucks, in Trump Tower. Maybe we should boycott Starbucks? I don’t know. Seriously, I don’t care. That’s the end of that lease, but who cares? If I become president, we’re all going to be saying Merry Christmas again, that I can tell you. That I can tell you.” ~ Donald Trump

Pure Presidential poetry.

Because no one should be forced to drink overpriced coffee in a plain red cup this time of year. It’s time to finally get rid of holiday trees and season’s greetings for good. I want Christ’s name slapped on all of my holiday excesses and co-opted pagan symbols. And anyone who believes otherwise can just turn in their citizenship and move to the Republik of Kalifornia.

Thank you, Mr. Trump. For taking a stand for all of us.

Roscommon Acres

reasons to homeschool

Frozen gifts

So, on New Year’s Eve, the kids and I drove all the way out to Creston, IA to watch Frozen with my husband. It’s about the beautiful princess Elsa who has the weird (and somewhat useless) power to freeze things. Once I got over that, I enjoyed the movie. And the poor princess locked away in her room as her powers grew got me thinking about how we treat giftedness in this country.

giftedness

Sheer numbers alone force teachers to “teach to the middle.” Students who perform significantly above or below average are difficult to deal with in the classroom environment. Thanks to testing requirements, there are a number of services available to lower performing students. And while gifted and talented programs available at many schools may provide some much needed enrichment, gifted students often have a difficult time fitting in.

Some eventually drop out.

But then, you don’t even need to be gifted to feel locked away in a classroom. I have nothing against the idea of public school. I went to public school. I did well. I went on to become a public school teacher. But it seems that over the years, school has been taking over more and more of our children’s lives. There is increasing pressure to increase instructional time through lengthened school days and more of them. Recess is being taken away. More focus is being put on math and reading in the early grades to the detriment of everything else. And to prepare for the all important testing, more and more homework is being handed out.

And I wonder how much time the average student has to really notice the world around them. To explore. To think. To daydream. To get bored enough to come up with something to do . . . and to start recognizing his own interests and talents.

How many are frozen by the expectations of a single standardized test given to all students as a measure of academic achievement?

And it isn’t just our schools. When my daughter was in kindergarten, I joined a Christian homeschool support forum and made a comment about my daughter’s budding leadership abilities and not being sure how to direct that. A number of women jumped on the thread warning me to “nip that in the bud.” Strong girls, I learned, are a parenting challenge. Not because you have to guide them with any particular skill, but because you have to break that strength. Apparently, submission and strength are mutually exclusive concepts.

And with all the strong women of the Bible . . . and all the strong women leaders of the Bible . . . the discussion mostly left me wondering if we all read the same book.

And it left me concerned for these girls whose God-given gifts and talents were frozen by an ideology that allowed only for a very narrow view of what it meant to be a woman.

Conceal, don’t feel, never let them know . . .

How many of our children can relate to Elsa’s song? And how many will feel driven off into the cold before they can finally let it go?

reasons to homeschool

Choosing the agrarian life

When we bought our four little chickens, I inadvertently stumbled into the curious world of the backyard chicken.  One of the most active forums I have ever participated in is about keeping chickens, especially in suburbia.  I guess farmers in rural Nebraska are probably not looking for a support system for their chicken habits, nor tips on dealing with authorities like the renegades I have met online.  One woman lives in a suburban area where the city limits her to three chickens.  She has thirty.  She keeps them in the garage, letting them out in groups of three throughout the day so no one catches on.  Another family is even more daring keeping not only chickens but a rooster in an urban area where chickens are outlawed.  A coop in the basement and strategic eggs delivered to the neighbors have kept this operation under wraps as well.

At first glance, they seem a little nutty.  Worse than the cat hoarders.  But reading the discussion and the linked articles introduced me to a small little social world not so very different from ours as homeschoolers.  Many of the arguments used at city hall sound rather familiar, and the goal of any meeting involving chickens and laws is to bring as many people as possible to speak up for the humble backyard chicken.

After owning chickens for awhile, I’m beginning to understand.  Top on my list of purchases once we move to our little slice of country life is more chickens.  But there are other things we want, too.  Some geese for weeding (and meat), guineas to help with insects (and meat), goats, sheep a large garden and an orchard.  This, too, seems a part of a larger movement, a heavily politicized back-to-the-land movement, seeking independence from Big Oil, Big Business, Big Ag.  When looking for information on a variety of topics, it is Mother Earth News that Google continually delivers me to.  We’re talking hard left there, and it seems that this general philosophy is a driving force among many making the choice to live a more agrarian lifestyle.

It seems odd to me.  In my mind, there is nothing so quintessentially conservative as growing up working the land.  But as I read blogs and websites and magazines and books about returning to the land, I am increasingly aware of my unique position within this countercultural trend as a conservative.  One with no particular disdain for industrial agriculture, even.  I have stumbled across a movement with which I share certain perspectives in common but of which I am not really a part.  That leaves me feeling a little on the outside, though I can’t say I did before reading up on the issue.

I wonder how I’d look in a granny dress?

reasons to homeschool

On socialization and learning where we fit in the world

Hey, did you know we’re Mexican?

says the little girl at craft table at the library.  She couldn’t have been older than six.  Her little friend across from her dropped her scissors, mouth agape.

Don’t you call me that!

She was clearly insulted and the table fell silent, all eyes on the offender.  She averted her eyes, but there was no place to go.  She and her two friends had been told to stay there and color and stay she did.  Just before hurling this horrendous insult, she had been happily counting and singing . . . in Spanish.  Clearly, neither she nor anyone at the table had any particular issue with the country of their obvious heritage until it was named.

Mexican.

After a long moment of silence, the third girl leaned in and whispered, “It’s called Hispanic.  We’re Hispanic.”  With that, the tension eased and they went back to their playful chatter about school and television and friends.  They forgot about that dirty word.

Mexican.

She may as well have said, “Hey, did you know we were spics?”  Or niggers.  Or chinks.  Or any number of racial slurs.  I can’t help but wonder how a child growing up Hispanic in an Hispanic home with Hispanic friends, watching Dora the Explorer, who happily sings songs in Spanish in the library learns that Mexican is a dirty word.

This is socialization.  Learning what is “other,” labeling it and trying to make it conform.  This is the “leavening effect of democracy” which compulsory schooling offers.  It does not teach us to value difference, but to conform.  It does not teach us to handle conflict, but to submit to the capricious and cruel tendencies of small children with inadequate supervision.

Humans are fundamentally social creatures, and I would be the last to argue against teaching our children how to function within our social groups.  Socialization is a natural part of being human.  But how do we best teach this to our children?  Seated in neat rows while the teacher talks?  Or perhaps better seated in circles?  On the playground while an adult with a whistles chats with an aid and watches for any grievous rule breaks?  Or within the context of the family where true, selfless love can be experienced alongside daily modeling and guidance specific to each child’s needs?