Tuesday, August 24, 2010

I hate excuses

But yeah, I have a good one. Fall semester started up again on Monday, and I have been neck deep in getting the department ready for the semester. Eager to go back, it's my 10th year at the college, hard to believe I have been there that long. So much has changed in my life, I hardly know where to begin!
Speaking of changes, we have a new addtiion to the small but mightly McMillen-Oakley clan. His name is Edwin, and he's a 10 week old Maine Coon cat. Edwin, as you know is Olivia's cat, hence the name.
We are all adjusting well... even Yukon.
Your moment of kitteh:

Friday, August 13, 2010

Fatherhood Friday: Teach your children well, Sunday School edition

As teachers, Tod and I agonize about our kid’s education. We have spent countless hours over the past year deciding what to do with Anna this year in kindergarten, as we want to follow her year of pre-school with a strong year of kindergarten. We weren’t sure that was going to happen with some changes in the Jackson Public Schools, but after some letter writing and meeting with the principal of the school, we feel confident that she will get the best possible experience next year. Call us Papa Grizzlies, but we want what’s best for our kids.

However, we have not done so well with her Sunday Schooling. We left our church this past spring for a variety of reasons and Anna keeps asking when she can go to Sunday school. It’s hard to hear her complain about NOT going to church (as I know in a few years, it would be much different). I honestly think she misses dressing up “fancy” and eating the donuts after church and is not necessarily missing the educational aspect (even though her teacher was great). We were tired of the United Methodist’s stance on LGBT members, tired of the politics of the UCC/Congregational church, and basically sick of most religious institution’s involvement in politics and elections (Mormons and Catholics, I’m pointing at YOU!). We wanted a religion that took to heart the tenets of our Constitution of kept their business out of our business. Call us Religious Tea-baggers, but we want what’s best for our kids.

So, after some discussion, we decided that we would take charge of our kid’s religious education and do it at home. I did a quick search on line to discover the pros and cons of home schooling your kid, as I knew that teaching Sunday school couldn’t be that hard. I came up with a few sites and this article by Jeanette Steiner an EzineArticles.com Expert Author. She is a single homeschooling mother of seven who lives on acreage in beautiful north Idaho (via her bio on the site). Her article, “Ten Great Reasons to Home school Your Child” provided me with the talking points that I am certain we’ll have to use to defend our decision to tackle this on our own. Her points are first, my responses follow.
1. You will be the number one influence on your child and his formation.
This is a great reason! We’d hate to have a church preach to our kids that we are incompatible with Christ’s teachings, or belong to a church that uses its coffers to fund elections or policies, that would be bad.

2. It will allow you the chance to get to know your child better because you will be with him most of the day. Okay, so it’s only one day a week, but at least we’ll know what they are being taught. And since we won’t have to bother with actually taking part in the church service, we can put all of our focus on them and their religious education.

3. You can allow your child to learn at her own pace, whether she is ahead or behind. Teaching in a traditional school is "one-size-fits-all." I agree with this. I just wish the public schools would do more to help out with the kids who have special needs. And I am certain that this woman’s credentials allow her to adequately assess the various learning styles and issues that her seven kids have. So, with that said, Tod and I will be just the right people to custom tailor our Sunday school curriculum to Anna and Eli’s evolving needs. Oh sure, our graduate degrees are in Education and Administration, and not Divinity, but that doesn’t seem to stop the thousands of homeschooling parents who don’t have a degree in education. We’ll be just fine.

4. The ability to teach your religious faith and pray during your school day. This is very important. It is a proven fact that many children will lose their faith when faced with the day in and day out assault on their beliefs. I agree with this as well! I am certain that if we allow ALL the religion in all the classrooms, the kids will have a great time! By the time we get done with all the different prayers and rituals for all the different faiths represented, I am positive that we’ll have plenty of time to teach the four R’s. Okay, maybe just three of them. And, I am certain that Anna and Eli will blossom in an environment that doesn’t present them with a day in and day out assault on their family and their Daddy and Papa.

5. The ability to have a say in who your child's friends are. This is great! I wish all of society was like this! We could have marriages arranged and we could totally tell people who they can and cannot talk to each day. Maybe we can put different people towards the rear of the bus as well, and what about clubs and restaurants? It would be so nice if I could just hang out with people like me. And don’t get me started on water fountains! And hey, what if we all wore cool costumes/uniforms that set us apart? I think a basic grey uniform with some snazzy armbands with our logo on it would be great! And then, when we see people we don’t know or like to hang out with, we could put stars on them. Perfect.

6. Nicer, more pleasant children. I hate to say it, but it is true. I have strangers tell me all of the time how "well behaved" my children are. It is not that I am such a great mother or am constantly nagging them about their manners (though I do believe in teaching them), but it is because of the removal of what I call the "Lord of the Flies influence." When children of the same age spend 6-7 hours a day together, five days a week for nine months of the year, unless they have adults constantly monitoring and correcting them, their behaviour can be somewhat barbaric and out-of-control. I left her whole bullet point here, as I think she has a good point. I have seen first hands the terrors of public education. The kids are bused to school and completely ignored by the bus driver. When they arrive at the school, they sit in the gym completely ignored by the teacher’s assistants getting them ready for the day. And then when they get to the classroom, the teacher(s) that were hired by the district to educate them just sit there IN THE CLASSROOM the whole day. The poor dears are even ignored when they are walked to the bathroom by the teacher or the para-pro. It’s just so sad. So yeah, we’ll totally be in there for them when we put in our Veggie Tales DVD and give them a page to color.

7. No worries about bullies. This is great! Anna is so passive that this shouldn’t be an issue with her or Eli!

8. No worries about sexual abuse. This is true! I am glad we are staying away from all those religious people who take advantage of kids in their care.

9. More freedom to express creativity and be themselves. If Anna wants to reenact the Last Supper with her dolls, I say why not? And if Eli wants to do his interpretation of the story of Elijah and the prophets of Baal in interpretive dance, go for it dude!

10. The ability to embark on a learning adventure with your children. This is great too! I am so excited to do this and can’t wait to get started.

So we are totally stoked and ready to begin with our grand experiment. We’re going to contact our former churches and see if they can send us some money to help us with this; after all, it’s their responsibility to help us make this happen, even though we have taken our kids out of their program. I am certain that they will help us with some kind of funding, if not, maybe we can push for a ballot initiative to make this happen.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Fatherhood Friday: The best anniversary gift ever!

The traditional gift for a couple’s second wedding anniversary is the gift of cotton, but yesterday we received an amazing anniversary gift, one that we do not plan to return. As I spent the day at the college yesterday, finishing up the spring semester, Tod and I quietly celebrated two years of being legally married. Longtime readers will know that in 2008 we took advantage of the new law in California and flew out there to get hitched on the 7th anniversary of our commitment ceremony in 2001. It was an important step for us as a couple and as a new family (with Anna in the picture) as we felt that being legally married somewhere was an important message to our kid and to our friends and family members.

But after we were married, Proposition 8 was put on the ballot by several groups (I’m looking at your Mormons and Catholics!) in an attempt to “save” marriage and protect families from the insidious threat of Gay Marriage (cue scary music here… ). Election night was bittersweet on many levels, some too personal to discuss here, but the passing of Prop 8 threw a monkey wrench into any celebration of Obama’s victory. It wasn’t until later the next year that we found out that even though the measure passed and new marriages were outlawed, ours was still intact due to a court ruling. It still hurt though that after only a few months, there were about 18,000 of us who did take advantage of the law and put a ring on it but now it was illegal.

The Federal Trial of the constitutionality of Prop 8 was a circus indeed, a circus that I followed intently as it played out on line and in the blogs. And yes, this circus had clowns, LOT’S of clowns. But in the end, Chief U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker gave Tod and me the best anniversary gift ever. The gift of justice, the gift of equality, and the gift of recognition as he struck down Prop 8 as unconstitutional. I have had many heroes in my life, but Judge Walker gets a pass to the top of my list for his ruling (which is a great read by the way). I am most certain, as are most legal scholars, that there will be an appeal from the supporters of Prop 8, but the analysis that I have read shows that they will have a tough fight with Judge Walker’s findings and rulings. Yes, we’re equal, yes, we deserve every right you have, and yes, dammit, we are as good as you.

Thank you Judge Walker for this wonderful gift.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Another reason why I fight

To those of you who wonder why I fight for marriage equality, consider this:

If Tod and I were able to share his medical benefits, as many of you and your spouses do, I wouldn’t have to be shelling out over $3,000 for a tooth implant. This is money that could easily go towards our kids and their future education. I am glad that I have insurance, but it would be nice to be able to share Tod’s and not have to pay out this insane amount of money for a tooth. This battle is personal for sure, as it hits home on many levels including our pocketbook.

Marriage Equality, it's as much fun as pulling teeth.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Welcome aboard!

If you are here because of Chris' great review on his blog http://sahdinlansing.com/
let me offer a warm and hearty welcome!
Things are crazy now with me getting ready for my show "The Dangerous Lives of Children" in Plymouth, MI but once the dust settles, we'll be back to business.
Thanks, and enjoy!