Wednesday, February 24, 2010

I Would Be Remiss...

WARNING: What follows is pretty blunt and ugly.

... if I didn't at least briefly mention the horrible Schatz case, wherein a 7 year old Northern CA girl named Lydia (originally from Liberia, adopted by the Schatz family along with two other Liberian children) was beaten to death over the course of many hours by her adoptive parents. With a length of 1/4 inch "plumbers line."

For mispronouncing a word, according to her "parents," the ones who beat her until her spirit quite literally left her body.

Her eleven year old sister, also adopted and from Liberia, was beaten to the brink of death, but was hospitalized until her liver stopped trying to shut down. A biological child of the Schatz', a ten year old boy, was also discovered to have bruising on his body.

So, from what kind of freak-a-zoid source would this self-proclaimed "evangelical family" ever get the idea to use a length of plastic tubing, usually used inside of a toilet, for beating their children? Why, from Michael and Debi Pearl's fractured Bible Tales, of course! Michael and Debi Pearl, of the Sean Paddock infamy; Michael and Debi Pearl, who somehow believe that one can achieve sinlessness and perfection right here on earth; Michael and Debi Pearl, who believe that only the husband of the family is sanctified through Christ's death, and that his wife is only sanctified through him.

Well, okay then, some might say- only a few really uber-fundie Christian cult members would fall in line with this sort of thinking. Only a few quacks would really use this, right? Not so much, unfortunately. The Pearls offer a quick fix, guaranteed to make your children achieve salvation, and force your home into perfect harmony. Who can resist? Your house is calm and orderly, your children follow your every command (CHEERFULLY!), Mom's soft-spoken and CHEERFUL, and Dad- well, according to the Pearls, it doesn't matter which of the three entities of God he is (the "commanding" Father God, the "dreamy" Holy Spirit, or the "merciful" Christ), he is just plain God to that house. I'll let others do the citation from their Child and Wife Abuse Manuals, respectively, as I refuse to link them to my blog. For more links, if your stomach can handle it, especially to the Pearl's website, check out the website, "Why Not Train A Child?" I want to strongly caution Christian readers especially- when I first started reading into these people about two years ago (during the time that the Paddock trial was still going on, and North Carolina was attempting-unsuccessfully- to indict them for an aspect of his death), I came away feeling very spiritually violated. My interactions with others, even my own husband, was very negatively affected by the experience of reading chapters of their book, "To Train Up A Child," and I had a very visceral reaction to such severe blasphemy and heresy. To be perfectly honest, I was literally tainted by what I feel to be the work of two people who are being operated as tools by Satan himself. This is no ordinary demonic possession within these "two old country folks," this is the handwriting of the Old Scratch himself. If you are a Christian and you take on the task of reading this pile of lies, surround yourself with spiritual people who can pull you from the brink, if it comes down to that. And so there- I've laid it on the line that I may be a little overly "religious," or a little over-concerned with the spiritual realm, but there it is. Consider yourself warned.

So many others have blogged about the insidiousness of this "ministry's" message, and how parents have been swept away by this. Because God knows, (and I'm talking the real God, not the Freaky God that the Pearls seem to worship) that no parent in their right mind would decide that they want to go with a program that beats kids to within an inch of their lives (if they're "lucky." And I would argue that poor Lydia is far better off having not survived such a horrific experience.) And others have blogged about the extreme contrariness this "ministry's" message has toward actual Scripture and fundamental Christian belief. A fairly comprehensive list of all of those bloggers, from Tulip Girl to Beauty For Ashes, can be found at the blog Roscommon Acres. Whether you are a Christian or not, it's well worth checking these out, as it seems to be (oh I hope, I hope, I hope...) the beginnings of the Christian body as a whole deciding that it's time to quit calling this "the extreme," and to start taking a stand and saying that the whole thing is evil.

There is not a whole lot I can add to the outcry, aside from my own cries that this IS NOT CHRISTIANITY. I will share a little bit of my own "joy," that completely fills our home on a daily basis, without the application of any sort of physical implements or withholding of love or any sort of shaming or screaming. And a possible look at what Mr Clarateaches and I would completely miss out on, if we decided that we needed to physically harm our child to make her do whatever is convenient to the adults:

While shrieking, the other evening, in the midst of the angst of "the witching hour" (the hour or so before dinner when everyone from newborns to probably centurions tends to fall apart a little) while I was changing Gianna's diaper, I reminded her that I can only help her out if she tells me what she wants- otherwise, I have to make the very best decision for her- in this case, finishing with the diaper and going back downstairs. She responded with a shriek. I told her that I would help her out by finishing her diaper, to which she immediately responded, in a totally rational voice, "Mommy, I only want you to be happy!" (To which I replied, obviously, that I am happy no matter what she does! My adult emotions do not start and stop with her actions, and I want her to be well aware of that.) But ponder for a moment, if I would have applied the Pearl methods of going ahead and "switching" her until she was cheerful? For one thing, I would have switched my arm off, because I don't know anyone who responds to physical pain with "cheerfulness." For another- I would have missed what was arguably the cutest and silliest thing she said that day.

And I could probably go on and on, and describe many more adorable interactions with the little Gianna-bee, and describe how proactive, "Get Off (My) Butt Parenting," style responses have somehow managed to create a peaceful and happy and intelligent little girl. I have to wonder what Sean, Lydia, and possibly many other un-recognized Pearl victims would be like, had they not only lived, but had been parented consistently, gently, gracefully, and positively. Lydia may have mispronounced words, but she would have been reading. Joyfully, no doubt. God rest her sweet soul.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Classical Toddlerhood

Babe's gestating nicely... plans to VBAC as peacefully as possible are percolating...

And there is a short, intelligent little person who always wants to know more! After looking through different options and reading books and links, we've decided that the Classical, Latin-Based Curriculum looks like it will fit our style and Gianna's learning style beautifully! The very best part of this style of curriculum, I think, is the central concept of "Multum non multa." A broad amount of learning without extraneous "stuff." Much, not many.

Applying some principals of "multum non multa" to early childhood education is kind of fun and pliable- there really is not a lot recommended at this age outside of some fun and joyful childhood experiences- reading language-rich books that have a deeper meaning (such as, rather than "Dora The Explorer Saves the Day," read "The Hungry Caterpillar.") Explore the great outdoors, as much as possible, and with as much narration and child- originated activities. Bake together, explore art materials together, et cetera.

I had to "un-school" myself, to a certain degree, to get beyond the typical state-educated, teacher-trained mindset. Granted, I had already done this during my time teaching kindergarten at the Chicagoland public school. My class was comprised of students who were not the "typical" children towards which the curriculum was geared. So, a lot of times, the Houghton-Mifflin and Harcourt needed to be tossed aside. Working at the cult only exacerbated my extreme need to patchwork various types of curriculum together for a more precise tool.

While I have ideas about what I will use when it is time to use a more formal format for Gianna, here is just a bit of what we typically do together on a daily or weekly basis:

- Calendar time: Very loosely done, usually lasting no longer than five minutes per day. I have a pocket calendar and all of the stuff that goes along with it- right now we're mostly focusing on the month, day, date, and year. So it usually goes like this:
"What is the month? It starts with Ffff-" G- "February!" "Right! And yesterday was Sunday, so today is Monday! Tomorrow will be Tuesday." Then we say the whole date ("Today is Monday, February 22nd, 2010.") And then Gianna picks out a card depicting the day's weather- today the snowflake will represent the wet and heavy snow that is falling.

- Games: Hullabaloo, Memory, and Elefun do the trick for now, as well as a homemade ladybug spot-counting game that she enjoys. I think this blog would be much better with photos- I'll have to scrape up enough memory to take some photos and add them later!

- Baking: This is half necessity (heat up the downstairs and avoid buying bread at the store) and half fun. Just because Gianna doesn't understand the concept of "half" or "quarter" or "teaspoon" right now doesn't mean she can't be exposed to the sounds of the words, or to using the tools! Measuring and mixing and even some small amount of heavily-supervised cutting go into this. Math, sensory experiences, and language all fall nicely into place- as well as the social cooperation of working together and the natural rewards of following directions.

- Art: What don't we do?!? Gianna gets the full advantage of having two artistic parents who have a TON of materials around. Yarn, fabrics, various markers-crayons-pastels-pencils, paper of different types, watercolors and poster paint... it goes on and on. She first put marker to paper in June of 2008, shortly before turning one, and she's made it a point to do something creative ever since.

- Books: Mr Clarateaches has read to Gianna almost nightly since she was a little gestating belly babe. Currently, they either read three stories a night, or one chapter from the old, classic Winnie the Pooh book. During the day, she finds all kinds of favorites to bring to me to read. We also do a lot of environmental reading- she "reads" the cookbook (points out numbers and letters she knows, finds numbers in the junk mail we receive, and interprets road signs while driving).

- Recitation and Memorization: Perhaps controversial, but nothing I do is aimed at making people feel all warm and cozy about my decisions! We recite various Psalms and prayers at night as part of her bedtime routine. Soon, I will be adding classical nursery rhymes to her morning school time. I do this NOT so that she'll entertain other adults in social settings (because she probably wouldn't, anyway) but mostly because I want to grab her little brain while it's still forming connections and processes, and get some goodies crammed in there. The language and beauty of the content will add to her vocabulary and incidental understanding of the English language.

- Reading, 'Riting, and 'Rithmatic: Mostly still environmental, but I do plan on making her a chart loosely based on the Sing, Spell, Read & Write letter-sound song. SSR&W is a decent curriculum up to a certain point, where it sort of takes off in a direction that I wasn't totally fond of when I used it while teaching kindergarten at the cult. Calendar and other number cards on her wall have helped with linking numerals to their names, and counting to brush teeth have helped with rote counting. One-to-one correspondence has naturally followed a lot of what we do throughout the day.

Something we are working on is forming a bigger social circle, so that Gianna is exposed to different children. I'm enjoying the ebb and flow of her learning style- she likes to have a lot of materials, and hear what things are and how to do it... and then she wants me to back off while she absorbs it. And then wants to move on to something else, and just when I've resigned myself to the idea that she won't be picking up on that particular concept, she just starts using it or demonstrating it one day.