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High Touch, Low Tech: Remembering the start of a retro-chic women’s network

POSTED ON Jul 31st 2015 BY LESLIE LOFTIS UNDER Adult Beverages, Economy, Friendship, Gadgets and Techology, Social Media, This modern life, US Media

Red dotHub Dot is a little over 2 years old. We have opened in a dozen plus cities worldwide and have a membership of 15,000 women and counting. We recently posted how we started and I remembered that I had written about it at the time. I had only a small inkling of what we would become.  From February of 2013.

 

 

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A few weeks ago a friend from London wrote to me about a women’s networking coffee. She wanted me to pass the info to my London contacts. She meant email. I posted it on Facebook. She had me take it down, telling me she wanted ‘high touch, low tech’ networking. No problem, I took it down and sent an email instead. I giggled a bit about email was now “low tech,” but I understood her point.

Old enough to have learned to get news and correspondence on paper—perhaps even the last trained to type on actual typewriters with carbon leaf—many of us have only transitioned to email. (How many readers under 35 know what “cc” stands for?) And many of us have little interest in, or even aversion to, social networking and its ilk.

I’ve seen many discussions and changes aimed at attracting more viewers for websites, but always from the stash of people already on the web. Considering their political impact, I’m surprised by what little effort outfits make to reach the low-tech Gen X women.

We don’t have an outright aversion to the web. In fact many figure—correctly— that if we could just figure out where to go, that the web is a more efficient source of news. But we like neat and clean, and we want substance. Since information and news services have the same problem as the porn industry, free availability, websites fill our pages with little bites of info and advertisements and often get revenue based on metrics that no one really understands. (More here.) The result is just a barrage of visual noise that repels some readers.

Yes, HuffPo and The Daily Mail have wildly successful websites, but there is an unserved audience that those information gristle mills will never reach.

Retro economics

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Speaking of coffee, I am addicted. Right before I met my friend for lunch, I was writing at a new coffee shop—one that lacked wifi, but that’s a comment for another day—but even I couldn’t finish this Texas size latte.

Around the same time, a friend and I were sitting in a niche coffee/wine bar, just the kind that could survive next to a Starbucks, and discussing the closure of another Barnes and Noble. We remembered the Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan reunion flick, You’ve Got Mail, in which the giant bookstores put the little niche bookshops out of business. But then the colossus, Amazon, and e-readers came along. The big bookstores added coffee shops, but lost revenue. They merged with companies like Paper Chase trying to prop up store revenue with stationary and stocking stuffers. It didn’t work. Now the companies that will thrive are Amazon and the little mystery bookshop with the good coffee, inviting seating area, and Tuesday and Thursday night mystery dinner theater.

So will it be with news. It might seem like the web has taken over the information world, but it hasn’t. I don’t think it ever will, not fully.

 There is, and always will be, a hunger for no-gimmick in depth reporting. In the new tech world, someone will eventually figure out how to deliver it. I’d ask for comments or suggestions, but the women I’m writing about won’t ever read this post, unless I email it to them. And then they might reply in an email, but more likely will bring it up for discussion the next time we have coffee. They prefer low tech, high touch.

By the way, my friend’s low tech, high touch coffee saw 450+ women from all over London networking in a dress shop on a rainy Tuesday night.

 

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The next month I flew to London and joined the Kitchen Table (Simona’s kitchen is the board room.) Hub Dot expanded to Milan, Luxembourg, Barcelona. To the big events we added supper club and smaller themed events about art, parenting, health, and others. About a year and a half later, we opened in Houston. You can find out about Hub Dot and if we are opening near you at: hubdot.com. I recommend starting with the What is Hub Dot? video. Here’s our latest article in The Times of London, “Joining the Dots for a Bigger Picture“.

 

Hub Dot speakers watching

A few of our speakers and planners watching Simona open the evening. From left to right, Magen Pastor of MagenPastor.com, Sophia Jorski’s mother (Sophia runs thesummertimecakery.com), Lisa Graiff of Hub Dot Texas, Dorothy Gibbons of TheRose.org, Caroline Leech of inspiringhoustonwomen.com, Rev. Jan Dantone of sjd.org, and Anita Kruse of PurpleSongsCanFly.org.

HubDot Houston 1

 

 

Goodnight, My Angel

POSTED ON Jul 01st 2015 BY LESLIE LOFTIS UNDER Friendship, Life with dogs, Marriage and Wifery, Motherhood, Religion

In the summer of 1999 I had life sorted. I was living in one of my favorite cities, Austin, and about to enter my 3L year at the University of Texas School of Law. I had a very serious boyfriend, a lawyer heading up the Gulf War claims tribunal at the UN in Geneva. I would leave one favorite city to spend holidays with him off Lake Geneva. In the previous summers I worked in the British Virgin Islands. Life was good. I expected a proposal anytime and 3L years are notoriously easy. I would be taking various maritime classes from favorite professors. I had life sorted.

A little less than 10 years before, I had entered into that I don’t need God or external rules phase that so many young Christians hit. With the cushy life I had working in the late-90’s, I didn’t have much reason for doubt. I was cocky. God kept whispering things in my ears and I had all sorts of fears that I ignored whenever possible. Mostly I tried not to sleep and avoided the quiet. I remember once telling that voice that I didn’t need any help. I could do this myself.

A few days before term started, I went to the movies with a friend. I can’t remember what we saw, but we went to the Central Market on the southside afterward. I needed her to do my measurements for a friend’s bridesmaid dress and CM had a good bathroom for it. (Weird, I know. In Austin it made sense.) As we walked in we passed a father and his young daughter giving away three puppies. They had found them covered in ants in a box at the door of a closed animal shelter in the August Texas heat. They were about 5 weeks old. Dad and daughter had tended their bites, but they couldn’t keep them. Dog lover that I am, I cuddled with them for a bit. Then, Amy and I walked into the bathroom to do the measurements.

I whined that I wished I had time for a puppy. In two years we’d known each other, I’d done a fair bit of whining to Amy about what we would now call #firstworldproblems. She had lost patience with me months before and had taken to giving me direct advice. “Leslie,” she said, “Time? Do you think you would have more time for a puppy next year after we start working?” I looked at her, gave it 2 seconds of thought, walked out of the restroom, and chose the black and white little girl with the perfect nose. LML and baby Ripley

Excited, I called Jim in Geneva and left a middle of the night message that we needed to talk. I wanted to surprise him and tell him that we got a dog. Instead I panicked him. He called me at 6 AM Central Time after a morning of worrying that I was breaking up with him. And so our adventures with Ripley started.

As a careful reader might gather from the previous paragraphs, my having life sorted was an illusion. I only thought I knew what I was doing. And oh, the mistakes I made with Ripley. I cooked for her and coddled her. She slept in a crate at the foot of my bed for a short while, until she sleep on the bed. I used positive reinforcement only. Do you know what happens when you coddle a Border Collie pup in the city?  If anyone in Austin happens to recall a young brunette woman in a nightgown chasing a speedy young dog in the middle of 38th near Lamar at 11 o’clock at night in the winter of 2000, that was me.

When I realized that all my positive, intelligent ideas had gotten me to a place where I could not protect her, my doubts started. Perhaps I didn’t know everything. This started my return to God.

That lesson was big, but over the next few years, Ripley taught me much more. She also saved me, physically. First, she kept me away from a snake on Lake Travis. She positioned herself between me and the large water snake I did not see. I noticed that Ripley was oddly still. One year old Border Collies are rarely still. She was concentrating on the snake, specifically staying between me and it.

She saved me from a fire, twice. The first time we had just returned from a walk. She hated being on a leash and was usually glad to get home, especially since she was afraid of bikes, and men with hats. (Two tons of longhorn steer, no flinching. A guy with a hat, she’d almost jump out of her skin.) When we got home that night, she wanted to go right back out. When I asked her what was wrong, I swear she rolled her eyes at me before going to sit before the closet door. I opened it and smoke rolled out. A short in the water heater had set the insulation to smoldering.  The flames started just as the firefighters arrived and made quick work of the tiny fire. They tried to thank Ripley, but men with hats, tanks, and masks? Ripley was having none of it.

One of my favorite stories is the day I had to fake an injury to get her home from the park. All that positive reinforcement I had done, well, that had failed by the time she could out run me, which for a Border Collie is really young. (It was that night on 38th Street.) When I took her to dog parks, we couldn’t leave until she was ready. If Jim was there, then this was not a problem. He was not an arrogant fool. He had established himself as the alpha when he first met her. At the time I thought it was his James Earl Jones voice advantage, but really it was that he meant business and I didn’t. (She spared me a steep learning curve when we had children.) On that night in the park, she didn’t want to leave. I chased her for two hours. I finally feigned an ankle injury. When I collapsed in crocodile tears on the track, she came to check on me and I nabbed her.

Among the many things Jim and I owe to Ripley is our marriage. Our first year of marriage was hard in the way that most modern marriages are hard. We have unreasonable expectations of what our spouse will do for us. We have assumptions about how marriage will be great. We think more about the kind of spouse we have than the one we are. I had this problem in spades when we got married. About nine months in, I lost it about him not making the bed. My “why can’t you see what needs doing” accusation spiraled into a full out row about everything else. At one point he was so furious that he walked across the room away from me and sat down on the couch, probably so he couldn’t throttle me. I was yelling. He was yelling. He rarely yells. When he does, everyone knows it. When he sat down, Ripley jumped into his lap, put her paws on his hands, and then turned to face me. She was scared. She wanted us to stop fighting. She made us pause. We had scared our dog. What would this kind of row do to children? We calmed down. I spent the next day on the phone to my marriage mentors, Maverick and Sherri, seeking marital advice. I got that advice. I doubt that Jim and I have had even 5 arguments approach that intensity in the 15 years since, and they were about things of far more import than chores.

Ripley was my first baby, the angel on my shoulder, and the reason I didn’t make a bunch of mistakes with my kids. I made those mistakes with my dog. Actually, that was a piece of Sherri wisdom, you could spoil dogs because you didn’t need to worry about what kind of person they were at 35. Ripley and Calvin window

Readers can probably guess from the long post and the past tense, we lost Ripley today. She was almost 16. She had done the slowly, slowly then all at once decline. Last night she woke me in the middle of the night. She had fever and was in general pain. She was scared. I called our vet this morning. The office was wonderful. She left us early this afternoon.

When we get her ashes back, we will scatter them at the ranch. She loved it there, and my major regret for her is that we never got her a herd of goats. When she was about 2 years old, we took her to a friend’s property where they had about 30 head of tax cows. A couple of loops around a calf, and her genetic memory kicked in. She herded cows for almost 36 hours straight. At another friend’s she tried herding horses. They don’t herd so well. She thought maybe they could smell her, so she rolled in horse apples. She was so proud of herself for that bit of smelly inspiration. Took two baths to get the yuck out of her hair. She was a great kid herder though, especially when Calvin was our only. They were buddies. But our plan was to one day get a ranch, buy some goats, and make goat cheese. It just took longer than expected. We’ve not gotten the goats yet.

So my lovely girl, I am sorry we didn’t get you a herd of goats. I thank you for everything you did for me, for us. Goodnight, my angel. Sleep well.

And if readers ever find a cheese named Ripley’s Herd with a picture of a beautiful black and white dog, that’ll be ours.

 

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I love having my office in the hallway…in theory anyway.

POSTED ON May 30th 2015 BY LESLIE LOFTIS UNDER Life Admin, Motherhood, This modern life

I have become my college mentor. Her daughters and I used to tease her for overcommitting. (Note to young people: oh, how we do end up eating our words as time marches on.) She was always busy, not with crafty mom stuff or with a formal job, but with various committees and initiatives. That’s how we met actually. She was my Pi Beta Phi alumnae shadow advisor when I was on our board.

Sometime after I graduated, I went for a visit and she showed me around their upstairs redo. In all the renovation, she hadn’t made a formal office for herself.

The trend at the time (the mid 90’s) was to expand and make a uni-task space for everything. Magazine spreads were full of fancy home office ideas, and the architect behind the sanity of the Not So Big House had not yet published her book. Yet, Sherri’s office was just a nicer closet with a window between her daughters’ bedrooms. I asked why. By this time I had learned that Sherri’s advice was well worth seeking.

She told me that it was her job as a mother to stay in her children’s sphere, although not necessarily in their business. She didn’t directly monitor everything they did. She didn’t hover. But since she was in their space, she heard, she felt, she anticipated, she deterred. She was available to them. She knew about their lives without interceding out of habit. And she still had her own pursuits.

I remembered this, and a fair few other bits of wisdom that she passed on to me, when I had my own children. In England, I officed in the foyer and then the kitchen. In Texas, we have one of those 60’s ranch houses with the long hallways, part of which has a large window alcove. I put my office in the alcove. The children’s bedrooms are directly behind me.

office space

It all works just as Sherri said it would. As a mother, I love my office arrangement. Most of the time, I even love it as a writer. But this arrangement does not work for deadlines. Some Most of the things I hear from the children is bickering. It is just low level bickering, sometimes about whether they are bickering. This does not aid concentration.

I kick them outside, but today the rain started again. I have a few remote offices—a coffee shop and a Tex-Mex restaurant—I can use in a pinch and if someone else is here. I also have some noise canceling headphones. But sometimes, none of my zigs work. If I’m not on a deadline, I just put work up until later. But if I am, “Argggggggggg!” (That’s my Charlie Brown football kicking scream.) Today, it is a deadline at the start of summer in a post Memorial Day 2015 flooding thunderstorm when I might lose power or have to bail something out. I should add a few more g’s to that arggg.

The trouble with tech upgrades

POSTED ON Apr 27th 2015 BY LESLIE LOFTIS UNDER Boys and men, Education, Gadgets and Techology, Homeschool, Life Admin, Motherhood, This modern life, Uncategorized

Today was a work day. I had planned to start focusing on math facts with the twins. In eight weeks home, their reading is rolling and their handwriting is almost as good as their 9 year old sister’s. But Calvin woke with fever. And Yasha had spent part of the weekend installing our new router.

As I have covered elsewhere, we have tried every type of parental controls avaliable. All are exploitable, and regardless, the best control is still human. So what I have wanted for a long time is just time blackout control, a way to limit their internet access to hours of our choosing. Specifically, we did not want our kids waking at night and watching videos or playing Minecraft into the wee hours.

(We do monitor their history and a few weeks ago Calvin stayed up until 1 am reading the Wikipedia entries for all the major battles fought by Napoleon. We object becuase first, he needs his sleep, and second, there are better sources than Wikipedia.)

Desktops had blackout control, but as people have moved to tablets, that simple limitation was not available. I’ve read bits here and there about how this is harder to do on tablets. As I’m not a programmer, I basically take their word for it, although I don’t see how difficult it is to shut off the wifi or Internet for certain hours. Force it into airplane mode like we set sleep mode. Sure, they could still play Fruit Ninja, but they couldn’t get into online trouble.

Yasha did the research, and found a router that allows us to blackout certain devices from the router side, rather than though the device. So now Yasha and I have high speed, secure access, with storage (like your own personal cloud) and the kids have access for only a few hours a day.

But of course, with technology upgrade comes setup hassles. Either I’m not entering the passwords correctly or we did the block out in reverse–or maybe both–but right now I have no wifi access. So whether I trouble shoot that this morning or I do something that doesn’t require Internet, I will not have the productive day I expected. I might have a different productive day, but not one online. As soon as I finish this, I will move around the house looking for enough bars to post via our phone network.

I see a little twitter and email activity I need to address, I need to Skype with the Kitchen Table @HubDot, and I need to post the Commission to establish a White House Council for Boys and Men video from this weekend, talking boys and men with the Perry camp, but technology is not cooperating.

COUSs, Carrots of Unusual Size

POSTED ON Apr 24th 2015 BY LESLIE LOFTIS UNDER Food, Housekeeping, Housewifery, Motherhood, Texas

When we planted our kitchen garden last fall, the twins got a little too enthusiastic about scattering seeds. Areas and spacing within areas went by the way side. This is Houston, so any seed stuck in the ground will grow—it might not survive the heat, but it’ll sprout. As our plants sprouted, we lost track of what we had planted where. So I completely missed when the carrots came up. They grew until the stalks were really huge and long and I wondered what weed those little white flowers peeking up over our wall were.

I didn’t realize they were carrots until I went to the garden to get some thyme. I noticed the top of the root on those crazy-tall weeds. I pulled them up and got the COUSs, Carrot of Unusual Size (and Shape).
  Carrots 2
I almost need a wide lens to get the carrot tops in a photo.
Carrots 1
I also got Siamese carrots too. I figure this is from the lack of spacing control. They grew together.
Carrots 3
They might look ridiculous, but they are still tasty. Pretty produce of consistent shape and size—it rarely tastes like much, much less what it is supposed to taste like. Funky looking and tasty is better, though next fall I will monitor the seed scattering more closely.

New blog format is up. (Again.)

POSTED ON Apr 14th 2015 BY LESLIE LOFTIS UNDER Blog Admin

I’ve been on maintenance mode off and on for a few weeks so the lovely Anna Moore of Anna Moore Designs could get the new format up for me. It is still a work in progress as I add the links. Homeschooling has cratered my work time and my writing has become like gardening, in the sense that it is never done, although I have finally come up with a garden plan. (More on that later.) I am adding links on the “Links” page now. Soon “Other Feeds” will have links from Twitter lists that I’ve put together for a variety of topics.

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I am not a hairdresser. 

POSTED ON Mar 29th 2015 BY LESLIE LOFTIS UNDER Housewifery, Life Admin, Motherhood, Sons

It’s not a personal tragedy that interferes with my ability to do good hair.* It is a lack of talent. I am not, nor have I ever been, a hairdresser. And I think the character building day my son had last week is a right of passage for sons who do not have a hairdresser or a barber in the family. I will not be posting his picture, but he calls it his “Dumb and Dumber” hair. I did not intend to give him the Jim Carrey bowl cut, yet…

As I tried to fix it the next day—we did not have time to go to a barber and he told me that he was not going to school again without a fix—I told him this was payback for what he did to his sister when she was three. As so much time has passed, I feel comfortable posting a picture of that piece of handiwork.
Peyton's shearing

This is actually her second shearing by her brother. The first time, he cut pieces out of her long locks. They were blowing in the wind and he was “cutting the wind.” A cute page boy cut later, and all was well. But then, he decided to cut it again. There was no saving style this time. This picture was taken just after Calvin’s second adventure in haircutting. I’m in the background trying to set up the first available hair appointment.

I also tried to comfort him with the fact that I had done this to myself a few years ago. From my last blogpost at my original blog, An American Housewife in London:
Like most people, I had over indulged over Christmas and never made it to the gym. Two weeks of neglect is usually no problem, but by the time the kids were well, I was heading into week 4 without exercise.

The first glance at myself in the aerobics mirror was the first time I noticed the storm heading my way. I was…dissatisfied with my appearance. Then, in a leap of logic that only makes sense to mothers of young children, I thought perhaps bangs would help. They were supposed to balance out my slightly fluffy face. Of course, I was way behind on all of my to dos and couldn’t make it into my hairdresser for a color a few weeks previously—I had my mom teach 7 year old Cupcake how to color my grey, but back to that in a moment—so I cut them myself.

I think I have mentioned previously that prior to post-pregnancy hair loss, I had straight hair. Now I have curly hair. Do you know what happens when you cut long curly hair? Yes, that is correct, the curls tighten making the hair shorter than where your scissors snipped.

Compounding my problem: the color.

Cupcake had done a fine job coloring my hair. I don’t do highlights, I just cover grey, and for that the modern box stuff is much cheaper than a salon job and up to the task. It was my first time, however, and like wall paint color, the box color is deceptive. I had chosen a color perhaps 2 shades darker than I wanted. Complicating matters, since Cupcake was learning, she went slowly, so the color stayed on about 15 minutes longer than the recommended time for typical hair. In short, my hair is very, very dark. This only accentuated my now too short bangs. I look ridiculous.

Happily, that haircut grew out, as bad haircuts do. My son’s will as well. Actually, after I called my friend who happens to be a hairdresser and asked her to tell me how to fix the bowl, his hair looks better and I now know what I’m doing. I told him next time it wouldn’t be so bad. He said there will be no next time.
He is a wise boy.
* Steel Magnolia reference paraphrasing Darryl Hannah’s comment to Dolly Parton. It’s been years since I’ve seen that movie, but the phrases still play on repeat with certain trigger words: hairdo, freezes beautifully, red velvet cake…

The New Homeschool at Wit’s End

POSTED ON Mar 03rd 2015 BY LESLIE LOFTIS UNDER Education, Homeschool, Motherhood, Texas

Homeschool deskRemember some posts from a few months ago, one about how I was a once and future housewife and the other about the lack of rhythm in motherhood? I wasn’t kidding. I had just gotten settled in three part-time/freelance jobs, when…

We pulled our 7 year old twins out of school for homeschooling. This is week three of the Homeschool at Wit’s End. I am writing a long-read on How to Make a Homeschool Mother, one complete with research on curriculum fads’ failure to teach. (In our case, we have Texas standardized testing, STAAR, and a version of common core math called Math in Focus. It is one of the many spinoffs of Singapore Math.) I will cover the curriculum details soon, but until then—my writing time had severely contracted, obviously—a few initial observations and a short “why?” answer since many have asked.

  • Telling my peers, especially my conservative peers, that we’ve started homeschooling gets the same type of reaction as telling them I’m expecting. “Oh, congrats!” “You’ll do great!” “Exciting news! Be sure to check out [website, curriculum, blog]. They have a ton of good info.” They have been helpful, supportive, and encouraging to a one.
  • If I’d known homeschooling was going to be this easy, I would have done it last fall. Granted, I’ve now seen enough to know that “easy” highly correlates with “schedule”. Luckily for me, designing a schedule and sticking to it is one of my strengths. One day, when I turned over the morning start to my mom so I could hop on a conference call, I learned exactly how important a schedule was. Scheduling is not her strength and the bickering started not even 5 minutes in, while they were still in their pajamas. (Having them get dressed is part of my schedule.)
  • A friend told me that I would find homeschooling much easier than the after school homework hassle. She was absolutely right.  The homeschool bloggers type the truth—you can do a full day’s curriculum in under 3 hours leaving the rest of the day for play, field trips, or hands on learning. And I know that the work we are doing will teach them skills beyond test performance. Which gets us to the why…

So why did we pull them home?

Our elementary school has changed. It is trying to keep up with the new fads in education, specifically the quest for test scores. In the school’s desire to enhance test scores, they are not only doing Math in Focus’s ‘5 ways to solve a problem in 5 minutes when a flash card memory and 5 seconds will do’*, but also have upped the standards for reading and writing. Pushing skills forward sounds great and is all the rage in education theory, but it is a failure in actual education.**  Furthermore, teaching a child to read is not the same thing as teaching a child to perform reading on a test. These may sound like synonymous goals, but they are not.

By November my girls’ home behavior turned south. It took me a while to figure out it was stress from the sense of failure for only doing 1 out of 5 things well on any given day. One twin had a particularly hard time. She works in streaks and the teacher was unable to let her establish one skill and then move on to the next. That is what my son’s teacher had done at our beloved London school.

This kind of problem is more common for boys. Calvin would have been crushed here. Since he and his sister have a similar learning style, however, I can compare tactics. Mrs. Hindson, Calvin’s teacher, had experience, classroom autonomy, and no standardized test looming. She was able to nurture Calvin’s love of learning rather than quash it. She saw his streak learning and his late bloomer pattern. She worked within it, establishing his reading first. Plus, the school taught phonics. (It was an education fad resistant school. I knew Hill House was great, but I continue to learn just how great it was. I not-so-briefly considered returning to London, just for the school.) As anticipated by Mrs. Hindson, Calvin bloomed late and all at once. Now he’s the kid who reads The Transom and talks Napoleonic battle tactics with the dads at Laser Tag. He loves learning. I don’t have to do much with him but point him to the good books.

Back here in the now, however, the school’s goal is the STAAR test, and so a kid like Calvin, who is inclined to master one complete skill at a time, looks like a potential score drag because if your goal is testing a kid, then you can’t back off of math pressure to establish reading–which is all the more nonsensical since some of the early Math in Focus skills are word problems. Seriously, we parents would get notices on top of the regular “how to help your kids with their homework”—a bit of helicopter pressure I reject on principle— reminding us that we would need to read their math homework to them because they didn’t yet have the reading skills to read the homework themselves. The common sense idea that kids should perhaps work on their math facts while learning to read and then start word problems after reading was well established? Gone. And don’t even get me started on creative writing as handwriting practice.

Whereas, my son started reading later than his peers but loved school, my youngest daughters are reading later and they feel stupid. More than anything else, that worries my husband and me.

If this new curriculum requires me to go to take tutorials to learn the new “improved” methods so I can drill my deflated children after 8 hours at school because the new methods have so many options or are otherwise unreasonable that they cannot be mastered in the school day in time for the children to perform for the standardized tests upon which they think their intellectual self-worth hinges, then I’m going to teach them myself, my way, without smothering their natural desire to learn.

So, in mid-Febuary, we opened the Homeschool at Wit’s End. It is going quite well. They’ve improved in skill and attitude. No regrets. Just a lot less time, temporarily. Remember, there is no permanent rhythm in motherhood.

 

My husband on the Chelsea Mum Run, taking our elders children to a school we loved. I miss this school run.

My husband on the Chelsea Mum Run, taking our elder children to a school we loved. I miss this school run.

* That’s my tagline for Math in Focus, not theirs, obviously.

** Read the whole thing, but the link is for the bit about Head Start’s failure to deliver on it’s purposes and the bit about comprehension, teaching to the test, and 3rd grade failure. The last is something all of my elementary school teacher friends have talked about for years.

Nine Year Olds Cost the Most and Other Sickening Surprises from Google Alerts about Heavy Topics

POSTED ON Jan 22nd 2015 BY LESLIE LOFTIS UNDER Gadgets and Techology, Religion, US Media

I’ve recently reorganized my Google Alerts. The one that riveted me the most from last year was my alert for “gang rape”. I received daily collections of 5 to a dozen articles about gang rape from places like India and Pakistan. The stories often ended in in murder or suicide of the victim. It was overwhelming and so out of line with the occasional flurries of gang rape articles in the United States, which were usually multiple reports on one domestic event in which the accused had already been arrested. The only time US links drowned out links abroad was during the Rolling Stone journalism scandal.

The US media only covered a small fraction of the stories from abroad, and not even the worst of them. That’s partially why I was surprised. I assumed they had covered the most sensational but not all. Actually, they cover hardly any, and those aren’t the worst. The US media has a well-earned reputation for going for the drama, except it seems in the cases of gang rape outside the US. The public might be forgiven for not knowing how difficult life can be for women in other parts of the world.

When I added Google Alerts this year, I didn’t expect any of them would  surprise me more than the “gang rape” alert had. But I added an alert for “Christian persecution.” Not only am I getting more links than for gang rape–covered by specialized outlets not news organizations, of course–but also, some of the links are compilations compilations, long compilations, of reports covering everything from burning alive, to sports teams removing crosses from soccer jerseys so as not to offend Muslim sensibilities, to price lists for kidnapped Christian women and girls. Nine year olds are the most expensive.  They cost about $175.   It’s all at the link.

Below is today’s update.

 

 

Christian Persecution

Daily update ⋅ January 22, 2015

NEWS

Catholic Online
India turns on Christians; 2014’s wave of religious terror leaves many fearing state-sponsored 

Last year was not a great year for ChristianityPersecution and murder were rampant in the Middle East-especially in Syria and Iraq-throughout Africa …

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Christian Post
ISIS Kidnaps 20 Egyptian Christians in Libya; Miracle of God Needed to Prevent Expected 

Jacobson explained that the abducted Christians were Egyptian residents working in Libya solely because they were trying to escape the persecution …

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The War On Christians

While in 2014 the days of throwing Christians to wild beasts in the arena may be behind us, the persecutionof Christians around the world isn’t. In fact …

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Patheos (blog)
Pope: Catholics, Lutherans in shared Christian witness

Your visit comes within the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. … insecurity, persecution, pain and suffering experienced so widely in today’s world.

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A Modern Tradition for The Twelfth Night

POSTED ON Jan 04th 2015 BY LESLIE LOFTIS UNDER Entertaining, Holidays

I’m an Advent and Twelve Days of Christmas purist. I wrote the whole thing up last year but keep needing a quick link for the women’s night out on the twelfth night, which I am trying to import from Ireland. (Stuff like this is one of the reasons I keep blogging even though I usually write elsewhere.) The whole Advent and Christmas discussion is here, but this is the bit on the “The Holiday That Time Forgot”:

The end of Christmas used to have its own rich traditions. In addition to being the day decorations had to come down—otherwise they had to be left up all year to avoid bad luck—the Twelfth Night was a bit like childhood Opposite Day only with more mischief. It is The Holiday that Time Forgot, which is a shame because it sounds like loads of fun. From King Bean and Queen Pea to Little Christmas, there are many Twelfth Night traditions one could revive.

The Irish Little Christmas tradition caught my attention. It started out as a women’s tea party, the little cake and sandwich kind. The women socialized after leaving the men at home to do the housework and childcare for the day. In the modern era, it has turned into a women’s night out to celebrate the end of the busy Christmas season.

That’s the tradition I stole. For the past two years I’ve gathered about a dozen of my girlfriends at a local pub to toast the end of Christmas. We’ve had a lovely time and highly recommend the practice.

A warning though, we’ve had some confusion about the date. Determining the Twelfth Night of Christmas isn’t as easy as counting. Different Christian traditions count Christmas differently. Some count Christmas Day as day one, while others count the 26th as the first day of Christmas. And in many old calendars, a day began at sundown the night before. So there is much confusion on whether or not Twelfth Night happens on the night of January 5th or 6th.

If you plan any Twelfth Night festivities, you will need to specify the 5th or 6th of January. When trying to revive and modernize a dormant tradition, I advise simplicity. I called Christmas Day day 1 of Christmas, used the modern midnight as the date line, and, therefore, declared the Twelfth Night the evening of the 12th day which is January 5th.

This will be my third year. We’ve done rain and cold and still had fun. This year the 5th happens to fall on the evening prior to most kids returning to school, so turnout might be smaller than my invite list. But it takes three to cinch it as a habit. So some friends and I will venture out for a half pint at a local pub and raise a glass to the arrival of the Three Wise Men. (Depending on the calendar math used, the twelfth night starts Epiphany, which is when the three kings arrived to meet Christ.)

(I’m a little grouchy that I will have to toast them without Strongbow. The perfect apple cider is distributed by Heineken US, who have apparently decided that the way to expand the US cider marker is not only to add new sweet ciders–Jolly Ranchers in a bottle according to the unimpressed Facebook group–but also to discontinue importing the good, dry cider. Yasha just broke the news to me two days ago, as I swigged my last of my Strongbow stores, hence my grouchiness. The FB group recommended Mangers Irish Cider–Irish cider to import an Irish tradition. That’ll work.)