Saturday, May 19, 2007

More 'Research' on the Thimerosal-Autism Link

Is this study supposed to finally convince us that there is absolutely no link between vaccines and autism? Well, I guess I can't argue with research like this. I mean, a study of children who were exposed to thimerosal in utero (how much of that crosses the placenta anyway; does anyone know?) from one whole shot? Well, that's just gotta prove that the thimerosal in the (ballpark average) 20 shots kids have received by the time they're two couldn't possibly be dangerous.

Now I want to know if they've done a study on the children of pregnant women who have received 20 thimerosal-containing shots. I might be more inclined to consider the results from that one.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Everyone Loves a Carnival

Well, I submitted a post for the Education Carnival over at Principled Discovery, part of the Gonzo Blog Carnival Series. I even added a banner.

It's my first carnival, and I hope I did it right. How could I have done it wrong you may ask? Who knows, but I'm bound to find some way to screw it up.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

What?! You Have a GED?

I admit it. I didn't graduate high school. I'm not usually eager to share that information, because I never know how people will react. It's not that I wasn't smart enough; I was an honors/AP student who loved reading and writing and knowing more than most people I met. I was the teacher's pet who screwed up the curve in biology class. My teachers loved me and I stayed after school just to talk to them. I loved the idea of school, of education. I thought about maybe being a teacher one day. I was never a very social person when it came to other students; I mostly just felt uncomfortable and out of place with them. But the teachers spoke my language. I could make connections with them.

But at some point, I just didn't want to be there anymore. Actually, it wasn't a specific point; it was more of a gradual realization that I didn't see a purpose in going to school. English class was a joke; they never taught us anything new. I was reading and writing at a level higher than any of the classes that were offered, so what was the point? I found it insulting that I had to sit there for two more years, when I had already taken courses beyond what most
graduating seniors had taken. Why couldn't I move on? Was this a prison sentence? And then there was the whole issue of What I Wanted To Do With My Life. I had no idea. Teaching? Art? Writing? They all seemed like viable options, but I didn't feel passionate about any of them. I had just taken the classes that people like me were supposed to take. Was I supposed to think about my classes, as far as how they related to my future? No one had ever told me that....

So I approached my parents with my plan: Drop out of school, get my GED, and go to community college. And somewhere in there, figure out what to study, since that would determine my future career path. Surprisingly enough, my parents let me leave school, probably because my mom couldn't deal with the stress of trying to get me to go any longer. I didn't get my GED for about a year and a half. My parents weren't thrilled. I spent time working, being with friends, reading, thinking, talking, learning, and trying to figure out who I was. I toyed around with the idea of college, but every time I thought about it I still had no idea what I wanted to do.

During this time, I met my husband and fell madly in love. We got married and had two wonderful children. By this time I had figured out what I wanted to be, and it wasn't a complete shock to me when I finally realized it. I wanted to be a mom. I had always wanted a family more than anything else. Of course, when you're young and people ask you what you want to be, they're asking about what paying career you want. Mom is not really an acceptable answer; it's more of a side job than a career. But my mom had always made us her full time career and I wanted the same for my kids.

So as time went on, I had to start thinking about schools for my girls. I researched everything I could find about the public schools in our area, but nothing really seemed good enough. I looked at private schools, but we couldn't afford them, especially on one salary. While looking at private schools, I stumbled onto this school that I absolutely fell in love with. It was called Sudbury Valley School and it embraced everything I never knew I believed about education and learning. There were no mandatory classes, kids had freedom to explore their interests, all ages mixed freely, and the students set their own goals for graduation. It was like education heaven. Unfortunately, it was in MA and we were in NJ. So much for that.

Funny thing is, that school was what pushed me toward homeschooling, and, more specifically, unschooling. It was the combination of all my frustration with public school and the realization that there were alternatives that were so much better. I took the philosophy of Sudbury Valley and used it as a jumping off point. Of course, I did tons of research into homeschooling and unschooling once the idea planted itself in my head. And the more I read and thought and talked about it, the more right it seemed. Like it was the natural next step our lives were supposed to take. And it really has been the best thing I could have done for my kids. So it turns out I became a teacher after all. But I didn't need to finish my prison term and march off to college for 4+ years to do it. In fact, if I had done what I was "supposed" to do I probably would have been leading a much less fulfilling life than I am now. As happy as I am with the way my life has turned out, my best friend never really forgave me for leaving school. She thought I was wasting my intelligence, which I find insulting. I don't think I could have put my intelligence or life to better use.

And even though I'm technically a dropout and haven't had any "formal" higher education, I still know more than most people I meet. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that I think for myself, as opposed to being told what to think. Or that I actively seek out information all the time, not just when I have to. Or that learning has become such an integral part of my life that I'm always eager to find out something new.

Or maybe I'm just conceited.

Why Can't I Get Any Straight Answers?

Overall, I've been very disappointed in the responses I've received from the college admissions officers I emailed 2 weeks ago. The bulk of them went something like, "Blah, blah, blah. No specific information kept on homeschoolers... thanks for your interest in applying at 'insert school name here'." (Nice of them to assume I want to apply; I mean, that's the only possible reason I would want information, right?) "Here's what we suggest for all applicants. Blah, blah, blah." I didn't receive a response from Columbia at all.

The one piece of valuable information I did get was from Yale, who said, "Homeschooled students do not receive any special treatment in the admissions process. They must demonstrate the same academic and extra-curricular dedication as any other student." I will at least take that to disprove the "affirmative action" statement that was made.

I didn't get answers from any school pertaining to admit rate or university performance. I can't really say I'm surprised, though.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Are We Really This Stupid?

After reading the most recent post over at Principled Discovery, I was inspired to go in search of some really asinine warning labels. Luckily, my search did not take long; I came across this site, which has an extensive list.

Some of my favorites:
"For external use only!" -- On a curling iron
"Do not use orally." -- On a toilet bowl cleaning brush
"Please keep out of children." -- On a butcher knife
"Warning: May contain nuts." -- On a package of peanuts
"Warning! This is not underwear! Do not attempt to put in pants." -- On the packaging for a wristwatch

I don't really get that last one....

Friday, May 4, 2007

I Wouldn't Mind Living There... As Long as I Didn't Run Out of Pine Cones

On Tuesdays, we go to our homeschool co-op, which we really love. The people are so nice and the kids all get along, regardless of their ages (not surprising to homeschoolers, I know). Last period, my girls are in exercise class. When the weather is... less than ideal, that means we play games like dodgeball and kickball in the gym. When the weather is nice we head outside, and "exercise class" morphs into something very different.

There is an area of trees toward the back of the property,
to which the kids seem to be drawn, almost magnetically. The trees are planted in groups of three, in triangle formation, and there are about six or seven of these triangles. The kids have taken up residence in these tree shelters, and have begun to build their own civilization. There is a hotel (which was a private residence, until the occupants were evicted for not having enough pine cones to pay the rent) and a restaurant, in addition to a number of homes. Currency takes the form of the aforementioned pine cones, some sort of pods containing some sort of seeds (pictured above, held by Daughter #2), and other assorted items worth trading. This past Tuesday, there was a dispute about the ownership of some pine cones and the possibility that a theft had taken place.

I think they may need to set up a legal system soon.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Yikes! My first post. Can I take the pressure?

Ok, so I figure I've spent enough time working on my profile and procrastinating on the actual task at hand: posting something that's... worth posting. I have no idea what paths this blog will take, but hopefully it will be of interest to someone out there.

One thing I will start off with is how addicted I've become to Yahoo! Answers. It's really pathetic; I get all excited when one of my answers is chosen as a Best Answer. I generally answer questions (Silly Monkey is my screen name) in the homeschooling section. I've noticed recently that there are college professors saying some things about homeschoolers getting into college that don't really "mesh" with what I've read and heard from the homeschooling community.

One example was chosen as the Best Answer to this question. When I read it, I felt compelled to get some accurate information straight from the horse's mouth - or in this case, the horses' mouths. So I sent the admissions offices of Yale, Harvard, Columbia, Princeton, and M.I.T this email:

To whom it may concern:

I am inquiring about your policies on admitting homeschooled students. As you may be aware, there is a plethora of misinformation floating around on the Internet, and I would like to get to the real truth of the matter.

The questions I have are:

1) What percentage of homeschooled applicants have been admitted to your university in the last three years?

2) Are homeschooled applicants admitted on their own merits or are they admitted under affirmative action?

3) How do homeschooled students perform at the university level as compared to their schooled peers?

4) Are homeschooled applicants subject to the same requirements as public/private schooled applicants, or are there additional requirements?

Thank you for your time and responses.

I'm sure many have done this before me, but I'm anxiously awaiting my responses anyway. When I get them, I will post them.