Sunday, April 15, 2012

Unusual Minorities

The other day I ran across an article that could have been written by me.  I'll summarize the article with the points that resonated with me the most.

Yes, I'm still a secular homeschooler; and yes, I'm aware that this is a minority position. But there's something degrading about the idea of begging the mainstream population for forgiveness: "It's okay! I'm not like those homeschoolers!" And there's something misleading about saying that it's unusual to be a secular American homeschooling parent, when the larger truth is, it's unusual to be a secular American parent, period.

I can't tell you the times I have dreaded telling someone we homeschool for fear they will assume we are religious. In the past I use to make the mistake of automatically telling people we were not religious. I don't know what was worse to let them believe we were "sinners" or to tell someone who is religious that we are not and watch them glare at me with a concerned furrowed brow. I learned to just keep my mouth shut. Matter of fact, nowadays I avoid the subject all together and just let people I know we will never see again believe my kid is traditionally schooled. Better that than be viewed as one of those "weird homeschoolers".

The majority of Americans are Christians -- 78.4%, according to the latest Pew report. About 16% of the rest are "unaffiliated." Which sounded like good news to me, the big fat scary atheist. But in fact only a tiny minority of the unaffiliated identify as either atheist or agnostic -- 1.6% and 2.4%, respectively. The rest are happy to consider themselves as "nothing in particular," and those whatever-dude types are about evenly divided between secular-whatever and religious-whatever.
This still makes people like me a minority within a minority.

He hit the nail on the head when he said.."Minority within a minority". That's what we are. Not only are we not religious homeschoolers we are not religious PERIOD. That's two strikes against us already.

The idea that the homeschooling community is a religious body is as incorrect as the wistful assumption that public schools are entirely secular.

I had never thought about that before until I saw it on paper. With the exception of my atheist neighbor the rest of my mainstream neighbors would be considered religious in some fashion or another even if it's not readily practiced or broadcasted.

On the other hand, if you're a secular homeschooler in the Bible Belt, you may have to do some serious searching to find another of the "unaffiliated." But that's not because you're homeschooling. That's because you live in a place where the phrase "Nice to meet you!" is pronounced "What church do y'all go to?"

I had to laugh at this one. When I lived in Mobile more than just a couple of times I had people automatically ask me what church I attended upon introductions. Luckily, it's a little more diverse and progressive here so nobody assumes anything.

Homeschoolers are neither more nor less likely to be Christian conservatives than are their mainstream counterparts. Or, to put it more simply: Most American homeschoolers are Christians, but only because most Americans are Christians.

All that being said, I used to really stress about not finding a homeschooling circle for Summer but you know what? I have found that because of our non-religious beliefs and restrictions we mold well with most people we come across, both religious and non-religious. We have no expectations and we go with the flow.

 In turn, that has made us able to be ourselves and enjoy our surroundings as a whole experience and certainly none of us are lacking in friendships or activities.

If you are interested here is a link to the whole article.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Happy Camper

One of our favorite pastimes in Alabama was to camp. For various reasons we don't do much camping here in Texas.

When Toby suggested we do a camping trip while the burn ban was off and the lakes are full I have to admit I was more than reluctant.

I had visions of the tween striking a streak of boredom from being away from friends and technology and the dog causing all sorts of disturber with his prey drive in a place that was meant for relaxation. Put bluntly...I really didn't want to go and secretly hoped that some slight tragedy would happen that would prevent us from going.

Luckily, I've learned to trust my inner instincts instead of my anticipated fears and proceeded with the trip.

We ALL had a great time. It ended up being one of those trips that I look longingly back on and look forward to doing again.

We camped at Inks Lake, which is the first and only other place we have camped here. Even though there are numerous other places to camp, we have an affection for Inks and have gone there just for the day in the past.

Because it was off season we were able to pick and choose our campsite spot, which we had mentally picked out from previous day trips to Inks.

When we first arrived we unloaded, hung out near the water, and set up our temporary housing for the evening....

After we got settled and explored our campsite area for awhile we decided to go for a short hike along the nearby trail....

When we got back it was time for some dinner.  Summer enjoyed helping Toby prep and chop wood for the fire....

Summer had a unique way of observing the grilll....

 And Bo said it looks really yummy to him....

After our dinner we had a little daylight left so we took a walk to the nearby fishing pier....

By the time we got back it was dark so Toby and I made us an adult beverage and Summer roasted her and Bo some marshmallows, and we settled in and told a few ghost stories. Before long the sound of night birds, jumping fish, coyotes, and other unidentifiable species along with an abundance of adult beverage and sugary marshmallows lured us all  to slumber land.

I woke up a few times during the night by the movement of Bo who, out of the confines of his kennel, had snuggled up against me. Every rustle of wildlife outside of the tent caused him to become alert. Luckily he's not a barker and only silently observed. Secretly I loved him nestled beside me and enjoyed his dog smell and warmth his body gave me against the night chill.

The only mishap of our trip happened at early dawn the next morning. The squirrels began their morning play in the trees above the tent. With nothing but a thin screen between the playful squirrels and us it was all Bo could take and he took a giant lunge into the air to snag one. When he came back down his claw took a dig into our airbed. With air quickly seeping out of the bed, that was our cue to get up and get our day started.

We spent most of the morning at our campsite drinking coffee, preparing our breakfast over the grill, feeding ducks, catching minnows at the lake edge, and packing up the tent and supplies.

After we packed up we took a hike. The wildflowers along the way were beautiful...

Here is Devil's Waterhole cliff. The goal is to jump off the top of  the cliff into the water. Summer and Toby have done it, but there is not enough bravery in my bones to do it...

We finally got to our destination, our favorite swimming hole. It's perfect...

 Bo is a very photogenic dog...

Bo LOVES to swim. This is the one area we can just let him go and he will swim continuously only periodically stopping for a break then jumping back in...

As we were leaving I came across this sign...

WOW!! After I read the sign I thought about how everything from dinosaurs to the Native Americans and pioneers of this area had most likely walked along those same rocks. Now that's some history!!

The history also could be why this place feels so magical. As reluctant as I felt to make the trip, I felt just as reluctant to leave.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Peeking at the World

Being a homeschooling mom requires that I get pretty creative at times.

Not long ago, Summer was asking me some specific questions about New York City. Having never been to New York City we started googling for the answers.

As we were researching I came across New York City's Live Earth Cam. Summer and I spent at least 15 minutes observing specific parts of New York City via Earth Cam. We had a blast watching the people pose and wave to the camera, watching the street vendors, observing what people wore in a different part of the country, etc.

Since then, we like to take periodic peeks into the Times Square live cam. I think I probably "peek" alot more than she does.

After discovering cams, I realized they are the next best thing to visiting another city...albeit, not much of it but enough that for a second or two I somehow feel connected to these people in a city far away..or sometimes not so far away from me.

Over the last couple of months I have collected a few that I keep a daily check on.

One happens to be of downtown Austin Texas. Even though I live only minutes away from downtown Austin I still love to have access to it when I feel the urge to observe. Every so often a Grackle will land on or near the camera and you can hear and see his/her face while he squawks. I also love to watch it on the weekend nights when I can watch the horse and carriages meander down the streets.

Another one I enjoy is the is the Reindeer Cam. Even though it's not the Christmas season I check in on the reindeer daily to see what they are up to, what the weather is like-sometimes it's snowing there and 80 degrees here, or sunny there and rainy here, or dark there and still sunlight here...

If you have a cam of your city or another you would like to share feel free to post it or email it to me.

Let Freedom Ring

As Summer slowly ages her way into her preteen years she has become much less interested in the things she used to enjoy doing with me and Toby. It's a normal developmental stage so it doesn't surprise me that she is losing interest in the things that we always have done as a family. We don't hesitate to give her her space and in turn we are entering a different season of our marital relationship.

To take long awaited advantage of our freedom we have been carving in once a week to be our day.  We take our day as an opportunity to do something we know Summer would not be interested in doing.

Last week we took Bo and headed down to Lady Bird Lake located in downtown Austin.  The loop around the whole trail is approximately 11 miles but we usually end up hiking only a selected portion of it when we go.

Lady Bird Lake is one of my favorite places to hike because of my equal love of the city and the country.  I love seeing the tall buildings and city vibrancy of downtown but I also love the lake trail gives you a outdoorsy feel to it with all it's vegetation and wildlife.

Walk with us....

Friday, April 6, 2012

Galavanting Bastrop, Texas

Just right outside of Austin is a small town called Bastrop. In my opinion Bastrop is very visually attractive. I'm not sure if it's the small rolling hills or the fact of the more greener vegetation in the area. Mostly tall pine trees which you don't see very often in the other areas of Austin.

Monday, my friend Robin who owns some 30 acres of property in Bastrop invited me and Sum to explore her land.  Of course I jumped at the chance and didn't have to do much prodding to get Summer to tag along.

Once we got to the land I could see why they picked the slice of pie they did. It's a beautiful, quite place to build a home and raise all her herd of animals...and even walk around naked if her and her hubby so choose to do. :-)

Here are some highlights of our nature walk:

Here is Jake, Robin's best friend, cooling off in a pool of water.....

Next Robin took me to view the devastation of the Bastrop wildfires that were sparked from a blown down power wire from high winds onto land that had not seen rain for a very long time. To end our day we stopped in to a local thrift store...mine and Robin's favorite pastime..not so much Summer's but it will still a fun day for us all.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Just a Note..

I made the mistake of updating Blogger when it prompted me and now I am having to figure out its new format so it may take me awhile to get it right. This is why you may notice on my last post that there are no paragraphs and everything seems to be crammed together. Well, it wasn't when before I published it so bear with me while my limited technology abilities try to figure the "new" Blogger out. Oh, and I can't seem to find the spell check anymore either. My true spelling abilities may be revealed..


This year I've really been slacking on keeping up with my blog. A little of this and that has prompted me to move my blog to the bottom of my priority list. Actually, I have three started and unfinished posts that may or may not ever get finished. Shame on me.

Matter of fact, I have not even been carrying my camera around with me. When I do get the urge to photograph I have been using my phone camera.

Part of my camera neglect comes from the fact that I really don't like my Olympus camera..or I guess I should say that I can't figure out how to work it well enough to take decent pictures. It's a little more sophisticated than I am accustomed to dealing with.

Anyway, tonight I had a little time to download all the pics off my Iphone onto my computer and realized how many little things that I could have at least written a small post about.

Recently I've had a couple people remind me that I have not been posting lately.

Just this past Monday my friend Robin took me and Summer to explore her 30 acres of land in Bastrop, Texas and more than once she hinted that it would be "blogable" material. Honestly, whether or not it was a hint or not it did spark my blogging interest and make me miss it a bit.

So, I became aware that I need to keep up with my blog a little better.

Here are just a few small highlights to start off with:

Impromptu playdate with our friends in February...

Hanging out at East Metropolitan Park, hiking and fishing...

A hike and picnic with friends at Walnut Creek

Spring Soccer practice and games...

Summer's 11th Birthday Party...

More to come soon...