Saturday, February 28, 2009

To Preschool or Not to Preschool

They absorb what goes on around them, things they hear, things they see. They learn to speak by listening to us. They learn how things work by watching us like little spies. We want to foster this potential our children have to be taught. We want to be sure we have them as prepared as possible for their life-long learning tour.

We know this tour begins at home. As parents, we usually, instinctually, start teaching our children. The question is, at what point do we say they need a professionals touch. Kindergarten begins their elementary school career, but do they need preschool before that? Is it better to put them in preschool than to teach them at home?

My man and I both have to work full time, but we were lucky enough not to have to put our daughter into day-care until she was nine months old. We do not have family close by, so day-care was/is a must. After calling every preschool in the phone book I had found that they were full, the child had to be two years old, or had to be potty trained to attend. After interviewing some horrendous possible caregivers we started L in an in-home day-care. We had to find another within only a few months, which was fine by me. Something was just not right about the first place. The children didn’t seem at all enthused.

By chance we were told of a lady who runs an in-home day-care and came highly recommended. We interviewed R and were happy (really we didn’t have much of a choice if we wanted to keep our jobs). R was a middle school English teacher but had quit almost twenty years prior to stay at home with her own daughter. L has now been contentedly attending R’s day-care for about three years. L is happy at R’s house. She benefits from the nurturing environment R provides.

With things playing out this way do I need to put L in preschool before kindergarten? We started asking this when L was two. At that time we decided we would think about it over the coming year and decide before she was four…and the time has come. L will be four in May.

What do children learn in preschool? Three things: social skills, academics, and how to behave in a school-like environment. Between me, L’s father, and R’s in-home day-care, can we provide everything L needs? I believe so. Well, mostly.

Karen Deerwester of South Florida Parenting states that preschools are “…places where children learn to consider the needs of others and think of others as friends and partners.” While this is true, Deanna Mascle, author of the article “Does Your Child Need to go to Preschool,” and I agree that in a day-care setting children will learn how to play with others, how to share, and how to follow instructions. L does receive the types of social interaction that preschool would provide. The other four children are her friends. She even has play dates from time to time with one little boy who is only a month older than her. She gets socialization outside of this group as well. R takes the children and meets up with another in-home day-care crew everyday (weather permitting) at a park or the library. We also take her to the park and to visit family during the weekends. Do I really want to take her out of there just to turn around and take her out of another familiar environment in a year (she’s almost four now) to put her in kindergarten? She has done very well with change so far.

What’s my other option? Is there anything that she would be taught in preschool that I couldn’t teach her at home and have R back up? R doesn’t just sit around while the kids run all over the place. She is incredibly involved with them. She teaches them as they play, but she also uses school workbooks. One of the best things about her is that I can tell her what I am teaching L at home and she will reiterate it while L is with her. I go beyond the natural development that happens at home, although doing so seems natural to me.

Currently, L is considered very smart. She is very inquisitive and we are constantly feeding into that. But what if, by not putting her in preschool, we aren’t allowing her to develop to her full potential?

I was reading a parenting magazine some months ago and came across an article on the choice of whether or not to place a child in preschool. The only thing that struck me as particularly interesting or swaying about the article was the picture at the beginning. It showed a game of sorts. There were columns that had letters at the head of each. Under each letter were two inch think, five inch long strips of paper with words written on them that began with the letter at the head of the column. I thought, is this really what they are teaching them in preschool. I wondered if I was leaning the wrong way by thinking she should stay at R’s house. I realized I could play this game myself with L, but what else were they teaching that I wouldn’t know about?

Deerwater asks “But do you wake up in the middle of the night and write yourself a note to remember to find a new book to read about dinosaurs? Or create a hospital in the living room because you want your daughter to practice what it feels like when Mommy leaves to have a baby? Or build a three-dimensional cow complete with latex-glove udders for the children to "milk"? Good teachers are always thinking of ways to meaningfully engage children's minds and bodies.”

The only time I wake up in the middle of the night after an exhausting day of work, school, and raising a child, is when that child wakes up (often) or if the dogs bark (rare). But, every time I see the types of ideas mentioned in Deerwater’s quote I make a point of trying them with L. And with a decision to not put L in preschool I will go hunting for them. According to Mascle “A motivated parent can certainly create a quality preschool program for their child…” And motivated to do what’s best for my child I am.

Another mother, a doctor I am seeing, who has a child only slightly older than L suggested I take advantage of the VPK programs being offered. Because of her father’ schedule L is home with him 5 week days out of every two weeks. I am going to look into it to see if she can attend the VPK program, which runs from 9 am to 12 pm, during those weekdays. Being in this program would broaden L’s views. She can get used to being around a larger group of children. She can learn how to sit with them and pay attention to a teacher, which is something I cannot provide at home. While she loves the lessons I give her at home I can just picture her getting up during a lesson in kindergarten and trying to get another kid to play with her.

I realize now that her full potential isn’t going to be reached while she is four or five, and won’t be for quite some time. There will always be room for her to grow. I have confidence that, with the support from R and possibly the VPK program (hopefully they will let L go part time), I can teach her more than she needs to have a proper foundation for when she starts public school. She will be taught beyond just the bare necessities, of course. That’s what a dedicated parent does. Preschool is probably best for some children, but for mine we are on the right path.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Bowl For Kids' Sake 2009

I have signed up to participate as a team captain for Bowl For Kids' Sake 2009. This event is being held to raise money for Big Brothers Big Sisters. Our team goal is to raise $1,000.00 before the middle of March. $1,000.00 will support the mentoring of a child for an entire year. Please follow this link to check out our team page. Any support, any support at all, that you can offer will be appreciated, not only by my team, but also by the child you are giving time to, time that will be used to show them that they are worth our time, that their lives and well being is important to us, time that will be spent showing the child the love that is available in this world.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Obama Gives My Mom Headaches

Those who voted for Barack Obama to become president of the U.S. expect a savior; those who did not, view him as the national antagonist. My mother says he is a control freak that will lead this country into socialism. She complains this foresight is causing her to have headaches. Why can’t she see his good intentions?

Americans voted President Obama into office. The majority must agree with his intentions. We must agree with the means he is willing to use to make this a better country. We must agree that we have done a good job fucking things up and need someone in control who has the sight for recovery.

My mother mentions the GM bailout as an example. Obama allocated funds that would go to the company to save it from failing after having been in business all these years; however, the company would have to abide by certain stipulations. My mother says this is too much control for the government to have, that this kind of deliverance will smash capitalism. I disagree. Would it have been better to let the company fail causing millions of people to loose their job during a recession that is devastating our country?

Would it have been better for my friend to let my family go through hardship when he could have helped us through it? The bailout can be compared to some help we received recently. One of the cars in my household dyed. Without a second car we were unable to work as many hours, spent more money on gas because of trips back and forth to work and daycare, and had less time to spend with our child. My friend was kind enough to loan us just enough money to buy a good used car. We of course have to pay him back but we are able to make smaller payments than we would if we had borrowed from a financial institution.

In both situations money was given and had to be spent a certain way. In both situations much needed assistance was offered. The assistance made our lives less stressful and more fulfilling. The bailout meant millions of people still had jobs to make their lives less stressful.
Kevin, a writer of, has the following to offer on the employment effects of the bailout:

Not only would that kill those companies, it would kill all of the suppliers who
depend on their business. And that would kill all of the companies that depend
on those suppliers, and so on and so on down the line. Anywhere from one to
three million people could lose their jobs from those effects. And that doesn’t
even include the effects from the loss of millions of pensions or the fact that
this would be the first major economic downturn with the new, draconian personal
bankruptcy laws in place. It would now be harder for unemployed people to get
back on their feet, increasing the economic damage.

So the government has the choice of pushing us further into recession or helping sustain employment for millions. They would sustain employment while making an effort to better other aspects of the business, such as energy usage.

So, what then? The government should mind their own business? In this case the bailouts are their own business. Kevin from offers this example of how:

In addition to the savings in government outlays and increased tax revenues, a
properly constructed bailout could and even should be a long term benefit to the
country. First, any bailout would be an opportunity to force the Big Three to
finally address the reality of energy independence and global climate change.
That, and the breathing room to finish the management changes they have already
undertaken that promise to turn them into better competitors, should make the
Big Three much better job producers and tax sources in the years ahead. The last
auto bailout actually made the government money, and there is no reason to
believe that, eventually, this bailout could not do the same.

And so we see how this will benefit the government as well as the people of this country.

The bailout isn’t meant to last forever. Therefore, the government’s control over how GM operates will not last forever. Once the money is paid back the stipulations surrounding it are over and GM’s executives can go back to making the massively ridiculous salaries they are used to receiving.

Let us also not forget that GM does not have to take the government’s offer. They had a choice.

Let us also not forget that Obama cannot do this on his own. He takes more than one man to pass these notions.

Obama is performing what he thinks is the best kind of help he could offer people in trouble, and throwing in what he thinks is good for U.S., or even the world, as a whole.

It seems just the thing that someone with his track record for helping people would do. According to this article translated from Norwegian by the author of Raising Max & Evie, Obama, while still a Harvard student, had paid a luggage passage fee of $103 for a complete stranger. The stranger had been unaware of the fee and was quite upset. Her two suitcases had contained all of her belongings. This is not the act of a man whose intention or insight would lead the country he is responsible for to a system one notch below communism.

I am not saying that Obama is or will be the perfect president. I am saying I would like us to be able to see the mess we have made of this world and how, charged with the wellbeing of this country, Obama wants only the best for us.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Mommy, Where Does God Live?

I spent some time in my life thinking that I didn’t believe in God. Actually, I think it was more that in the back of my mind I knew there was a God but that it didn’t really matter because it was too difficult for me to being living the life I was living and think of myself as a follower of God.

After that I adopted this sort-of agnostic philosophy: If there is a God, he (he/she/it…for intents and purposes here I will continue using he) knows I am a good person, and as long as he knows that, I am not worried about the little rules and regulations of religion.

I still feel that organized religion can suck the goodness out of God’s lessons, but within the first year after I had my daughter I had an epiphany. I was sitting on the love seat, the only sitting furniture in our tiny apartment besides a rocking chair, with my man one night. We were talking about religion and how the formalities and regulations of it ruin Christian spirituality. I stated the philosophy in the above paragraph.
We began speaking about miracles and decided that our daughter was a miracle. All babies are miracles.

That’s when it hit me like a blinding, yet gentle light. I know there is a god. I have always known; I just didn’t want to believe it. This realization suddenly made certain things much easier. I could explain death to my daughter. I could pray and give thanks for receiving her.

The idea of church still does not appeal to me. I ask too many questions. I find too many inconsistencies. I have too much to say about how the bible has been rewritten so many times.

Our relationship with God is personal. There is nothing wrong with worshipping together. In fact, I understand the need that others have for the church type of community as described by Jeff Lindsay is his blog-post entitled “Jesus Alone – No Need for Church.” I understand the need for support from those who have the same beliefs. But I feel that my spirituality is my own and I choose to share it with my family: my man and my daughter. I try to be supportive of others, spiritually or otherwise, everyday. And I feel I receive more from encountering a vast array of people since my sensibilities seem to be somewhat…strange. (I should also probably throw in here that in a way I am glad for churches. I love the aesthetics of ancient churches and want to tour those in Europe.)

Some months ago I found myself making comments to my daughter referencing God. She asked me why our noses are the way they are and I answered “Because that is how God made us.” The first time she asked me who God was I was speechless. Her three year-old attention span kicked in and she was distracted from her question by something outside of the car window. When we got home I told her father that I wasn’t sure what to say and I basically got scolded for not answering her. I went to her and told her that God is everywhere and he made everything. She accepted that answer and moved right along.

Not long after we began having discussions about the idea that God made everything. We turned it into a favorite type of game. When she has learned a new concept she will ask me to say something and she will tell me yes or no. For example, to teach the difference between lying and telling the truth and lying and pretend I would say something to her and ask her which it was. “Angelina hit me. Is this a lie or the truth? Mommy turned into a monster with blue teeth. Is this pretend or a lie?” For the God made everything scenario I let her ask me the questions. She asked me if God made puppies. I said yes. She asked me if God made houses. I told her “No. People make houses, but God made the stuff that the people use to make the houses.”

Last month my daughter and I were roaming the isles at a craft store. Near the front was a large picture of President Obama. I asked L if she knew who was in the picture. She got a very bright look on her face and in a hopeful tone she said “God!” (Please don’t tell my mother this. I fear she may be close to saying the president I voted for is the anti-Christ). I corrected her with a giggle and when I asked her the same question last night during Obama’s press conference made sure to tell her it wasn’t God first.

Last week my sister called me as we were leaving to take L to day care to tell me that her friend did indeed deliver her baby, but that he was born with a fever, had stopped breathing for a minute, and was sick. Before ending the call I told her I would pray for her friend and her son. I hung up and thought this would be a good time to explain to L what praying is. I asked if she knew what it was and she responded she did not. I told her that praying is when you talk to God. I asked her if she remembered my sister’s friend and she said she did. I told her that she had a baby, that the baby was sick, and that I was going to pray to ask God if it was ok with him, that he makes sure the baby got better. And with the utmost conviction L asks me “Well, what did he say?” It doesn’t get much better than a three year-old asking questions like this. I told her that God doesn’t usually answer with words, that we would just have to wait and see if the baby got better.

The other night in the car she said she wanted God for her birthday that’s coming up in a few months. We got to tell her that you have God everyday, not just on your birthday.

Last night L asked me where God lives. I told her everywhere, but then told her that God lives in Heaven. She said, “No. What road does he live on?” (She just learned our address). I told her I wasn’t sure if there are roads in heaven. She told there are and that they are dirt roads. Giggle, giggle.

It amazes me how easily children of this age grasp the concept of God. Maybe we adults over complicate it. Oh, the lessons I learn from my child.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Morality: Black and White?

Morality is the motivation that drives reasoning of right and wrong.

How many of us believe that to every problem the moral choice is black or white? How many of us believe there are gray areas?

On the phone last night my mother was telling me in an exasperated voice that when she was employed at a military university cafeteria she overheard one student tell another that she should be fine because nothing is ever black and white, it’s always gray. My mother vehemently disagrees. My response to that was to ask her if she thought there could be, not that there is but that there could be, one set of rules that could possibly govern and provide the correct moral answer for every situation. The question came from an essay I had read the night before by Gareth McCaughan on utilitarianism. He states:

Firstly, about rules. There are a lot of rules in the Bible, and many Christian
communities have come up with others (either deduced from the ones in the Bible,
or not). I distrust rules, even when they come from the very most reliable
sources. It seems improbable to me that any finite collection of rules can
really give a perfectly accurate account of what one should and should not

McCaughan is stating this as an introduction to the question of what a satisfactory set of ethics would be. He attempts to pit Christianity against utilitarianism and then, in the same essay, attempts to take Christian ethics and use them as a basis for utilitarianistic thinking.

Now, up until last night I would be perfectly content with my answer to the question posed to my mother (and implied by the last sentence in the quote) as being “no.” It’s very easy to say that many situations are to complicated, complex, and convoluted for any one basic set of rules to be able to truly guide you.

Take, for example, a situation (which I think I recall from my college ethics class) where a man’s wife is dyng. He does not have the money to purchase the medicine that would save her life. The pharmacy refuses to give the man the medicine or allow him to pay for it in installments. The man is contemplating stealing the medicine he needs to save his wife.

Most of us are going to say that this situation is not, cannot be, black and white. On the one hand we know stealing is wrong. And on the other, is it right for the man to allow his wife to die when he can prevent it?

So, after dropping the question on my mother she gives the answer that I knew she would (but I was using the question as a segue to the example above). She said “There is one [set of finite rules].” She, of course, was referring to the Ten Commandments. In response to which I asked her, really more just contemplating that asking, if there is a commandment appropriate to govern every situation in which a person has to make a moral decision. And being an unwavering Christian, she said there is.

Here I began my normal critical analysis out load. I gave my mother the situation I mentioned above and asked her to use the moral code from the bible to deduce the correct resolution. She said stealing is wrong no matter how it is justified. It doesn’t mean that anyone would let their wife die because of it; it just means that stealing is wrong.

However, the commandments also teach us that life is sacred. The man would be choosing one sin over another. There is nothing in the bible, that I am aware of, that gives one sin precedence over another, no instructions on how to reason morally. McCaughan says as much in the same article I mentioned above.

It is tempting to infer from the absence of an ethical system in the Bible that
there is none (beyond the requirement to do the perhaps-opaque will of God); but
there is no justification for this, even if one takes a very high view of the
authority of Scripture. If you are going to rescue someone from drowning, you
just throw them a rope and tell them to grab it; you don't try to give them
swimming lessons.

Here McCaughan is saying that while the commandments are laid out, there is no further instruction for following them, no structured guidance for the situations we will face as humans.

It is true that an easy look at the commandments can leave a person feeling like there is something missing. You begin to ask “well, if this certain situation came up would I really have a choice and would my action really be a sin.”

I often find my self asking other questions like “What about the killing during war? How can Christians volunteer for the military? If you killed someone in self-defense, is it a sin? Is it considered suicide if...” and other such questions. Usually the response is "I don't know. I'm not God."

So, as I have said, before last night my answer was that most situations leave you in shades of gray. But the reality of it is quite simple according to the commandments, and I see it this way now. The actions you take, if they are a sin and no matter the reasons, are black and white. The reasons for choosing to sin are shades of gray…and purple…and red…and aquamarine, etc. Stealing will always be a sin, as will killing, and so on.
However, if God can see the struggles we face his judgment can be sound. We must look at our situations with an honest eye and see if we really put ourselves there. If we are the cause for the reason to sin God may not be as forgiving as if we are not.

As a side note: In regards to the cited essay. I don’t think McCaughan is half as intelligent as he tries to make himself sound. I think he is making excuses for his indecisiveness in knowing himself. Based on his web site I infer that he is a jackass.