Why I Didn’t #MeToo

I didn’t jump on the #metoo bandwagon not because I have not been sexually harassed. By God’s grace, I have never been assaulted or raped and it is only His grace that I give credit, because there have been times I sensed very real danger, but got out of it quickly. Yes, most women in the military have experienced some kind of inappropriate remark or sexism and the cases of sexual assault/rape are astonishingly high, including for men. Some of the stupid comments were a part of being the only woman on a watch team with ten men. Sometimes the men forgot I was there, by the way, and I forgave their oversight. I sat in a separate area with a curtain across it because of the nature of my mission.

My actual experience of sexual harassment was when I left the military and became a civilian. I felt deeply violated and sick to my stomach when it happened and for quite a while afterwards. It was disgusting what this pervert said to me. My work blamed me because it was a customer and profits came first, but I was too poor to do anything about it. I left my employment shortly afterwards because I was too sickened to look at my boss any longer who swept it under the carpet and blamed me for it. I ended up having to deal with the creep who harassed me again because there’s nothing like re-victimization when it’s covered up. The problem here is a mix of greed and objectification, by the way. Not to mention, the majority of my friends in early adulthood had either been raped or sexually abused as a child. One of the friends I helped who was in a dangerous relationship, threw me under the bus for a promotion when all of this happened to me.

My issue here is not that there is not a serious issue, there is, but I once again disagree because of the lack of balance. There is a never-ending war on men. Yes, there are perverts, predators, and creeps out there who should go to prison and don’t. The objectification of women is a rampant problem, but we forget that we also objectify men and we allow ourselves to be objectified in the name of freedom. The hook up culture is the objectification of both the sexes. Our culture objectifies people as a whole. Since utilitarianism is a prevalent philosophy (the idea that we can use people for our own pleasure/happiness and discard them) in our culture we use and abuse one another and then blame the other.

Women, I’m sorry. We don’t get to do whatever we want and constantly blame men for our choices. We have obligations towards our brothers in Christ in charity. If we decide to run down the street in a sports bra and booty shorts, then we are looking for attention. I am a runner. I do not need to run in what amounts to a bathing suit to get the job done. I run when it’s 85-90 degrees in a tank top and shorts just fine. That is a choice and we need to start being honest with ourselves that we are intentionally seeking attention. I workout and while I’m not the fittest woman out there, I have my ridiculous struggles with vanity too. A little self-reflection and honesty is warranted. We aren’t dressing in a provocative manner for some kind of freedom, we do so for our own pride and attention. Freedom is not wearing next to nothing in public. No, I’m not talking about wearing burlap sacks. A woman can be beautiful without showing every inch of her body to the world. Yes, men need to work on custody of the eyes, keep their hands to themselves, and keep their terrible remarks to themselves, but we need to stop pretending that men are not visual by nature and that this isn’t a deeply difficult struggle for those who are trying to learn to control it. As Jesus said, cast the first stone if you’re without sin.

We need to stop allowing ourselves to be objectified. Stop buying Cosmo or whatever other trash we are being sold. Stop going to movies and watching TV shows that objectify women and men. I saw Catholics justifying the pornographic 50 Shades of Grey because it’s not in pictures. Come on! Porn is porn! Let’s teach our sons and daughters how to respect the dignity of one another. They are seeing pornography–which is the ultimate in objectification–at a young age. I was in grade school when my neighbor showed me his father’s collection of Playboy. With the Internet, it’s shockingly young.

Yes, women have been harassed, assaulted, and raped wearing burkas. My point is that we need to stop pretending that we aren’t adding to our own objectification and consider our own culpability in–not the evils done to us those are not the victim’s fault–but the objectification of women as a whole in our culture. Consider how shows like Sex in the City taught an entire generation to objectify women AND men. And we need to stop pitting the sexes against one another. That is how we figure out a way to heal this horrific rift that grips our culture when so many men and women have been harassed, assaulted, or raped. Yes, even men have been raped, by both men and women (yes, women can rape men through drugs and alcohol as well).

When I was in the Navy, we had to warn men not to allow their drinks to go unattended in Baltimore because men were spiking other men’s drinks and raping them. We live in a culture that thinks we should use and abuse other people no matter what. Like I said with the mass shootings, when are we going to examine our own hearts to see where we are failing? Once we see that failure, what are we going to do about it?

When I found out so many of my friends had been raped or abused, I volunteered as a rape counselor for my entire Naval service. I designed and taught training courses on this topic, as well as sexual harassment, at multiple duty stations and I listened to many stories from real victims and tried to help them however I could. I’ve helped women out of abusive relationships and tried to find resources for them to heal. I’ve fought alongside women who had to go against the Chief culture in the Navy because higher ranking people still think they can rape or assault lower ranking sailors with no consequences.

What are we, what are you, *doing* about the problem? My problem with social media initiatives is they are largely empty words or hashtags. It’s easy to type #metoo #unitedwiththiscountry #vegasstrong etc. What are we doing to fix this brokenness and evil in our culture? I’m sick of social media initiatives that are largely empty words. Let’s be people of action. Let’s stop objectifying one another each day. Yes, it is more of a struggle for men, but let’s stop looking at them as our enemy and start looking at them as fellow Fallen human beings trying to overcome sin. if they aren’t trying, then let’s teach them why chastity matters; the same goes for women. Real predators should go to prison, but stop yelling at the guy holding the door for you! Let’s find a way to make it easier for women and men to report this type of vile and evil activity to the authorities without them being blamed for their own victimhood by becoming lawyers, police officers, and judges of character and virtue. Let’s teach men how to be men and embrace authentic masculinity AND femininity. This all begins in the home with our own children. We need to get rid of the filth in our own homes first.

Suffering is an opportunity to do something good in the face of pain. I’ve suffered plenty. We can either wallow in sorrow or we can heal with the right help and then do something about it. It isn’t easy, but revealing such wounds in the culture should allow us to bring healing out of it. I don’t see an empty social media campaign doing that. It’s a cliche, but actions speak louder than words. It’s easy to feel like only posting in social media is doing something, but it isn’t. Change doesn’t come from a virtual, largely distant posting. I’m a writer because God gave me this gift, but I do not pretend that it is enough. Change comes from reaching out to others in our communities in person.

Now that we know this is a problem (we’ve known this is a problem for quite some time), what are we going to do about it? Starting in our own communities is the place to begin. We have to walk alongside our neighbor and we need to be honest enough to confront the darkness in our own hearts. I do that by helping women at Planned Parenthood, many of whom are there for abortions to cover-up their rape or sexual abuse. Think about THAT. Now, there’s a cover-up!  And it’s all in the name of an evil understanding of freedom…

First Grade: The Homeschooling Journey Continues

My five year old daughter started First Grade yesterday. We have been homeschooling for a year. Kindergarten was very relaxed because I didn’t want to force her too quickly into a rigid school routine. She was interested in starting some school at three and became very interested at four. To my delight, not so much surprise, she breezed through Kindergarten and was ready to jump into First Grade early. The reasons we homeschool are vast. Some of these reasons include: religious conviction (this is the biggest), conscience issues, intellectual rigor, immorality within the culture, and the desire to go at our daughter’s pace.

Thankfully, we live in a state where homeschooling is respected and we live in great freedom. We do homeschool under a religious exemption and I applied under Virginia state code with my local school board using a variety of quotes from Popes and other Catholic resources. The great gift of the Church’s 2000 year history! It makes finding resources easy. Our exemption was granted with no trouble at all. It is very difficult to argue conscience of homeschooling with a Catholic because the Church has made it very clear that it is the parents’ right and duty to school their children in the manner they see fit and which will lead their children to Heaven. That latter part can be something we forget at times.

Part of homeschooling is to focus on going at the child’s own natural pace. My husband and I knew from birth that our daughter is smarter than both of us combined. While this does invoke some level of pride in us, some good and some bad, having a very smart kid comes with interesting problems and times of great comic relief. There’s nothing quite like your child pointing out your errors from a very young age. In fact, yesterday I was on the phone with my husband explaining to him a situation in which I felt powerless. When I hung up the phone, my daughter said to me: “Mommy, only God has power.” I was momentarily stunned into silence and then told her she was absolutely right.

Since I am a newer homeschooling mom, I try to read a lot of different books by veteran homeschoolers. I have read books on unschooling. I have read books on classical education of which I am a fan. I have read books on discipline and the need for tight schedules. I have read books on monastic living within the domestic church and the list goes on and on. These books have been helpful to a point, but really they tend to point to the author’s individual preferences over any universal necessity or practice in homeschooling. There is a need in day-to-day living and the spiritual life to instill discipline from an early age. Even though I was in the Navy for 6 years, I still struggle with discipline. One of the real difficulties is finding books that fully apply to us. I can learn a good amount from a mother with 10 children, but her situation is drastically different from my own. Homeschooling an only child comes with great blessings and difficulties that differ greatly from a large family.

First, I do not have older children or younger children who my daughter can learn from throughout the day, weeks, months, and years. Many of these moms discuss the great gift of learning from siblings, of which I have no doubt, but at this point it is God’s will for us to have only one child and that may remain. I do not know. We are looking into adoption, but just like my fertility, these things are entirely up to God. So the gift of a large family is wholly unhelpful to me and at times is painful for me since one child was never our plan. In all honesty, It makes it hard for me to want to attend a Catholic homeschooling conference since all of the speakers seem to have 6-10 children while the rest of us with one child or small families, through no fault of our own, are not represented in the speakers. My other friends who homeschool one or two children feel the same way.

Second, since it is just my daughter and me, there are times she is going to get tired of me and there will be burn out.There will also be burn out for me. Let’s be honest, homeschooling is something we are called to and it is by the grace of God that we are successful and survive. This is precisely why I cannot express enough gratitude and extol the blessings of our local Catholic homeschool coop.

Mondays are Coop day and while it is exhausting and crazy, it allows my daughter to be in a classroom with other kids of a variety of ages–I might add. She learns from other teachers on a whole host of subjects, many of which I do not do at home. This year she is learning Art, Italian, Classroom Concepts, as well as two programs we are doing at home, Harcourt Science (I am her teacher at Coop for this) and Classical Catholic Memory (CCM). She learns from me at home four days a week: Reading, Math, Religion, Science, Spelling, Writing, Art Appreciation, and CCM (a memory program that includes Latin, Religion, History, Science, Math, Poetry, and Geography each week). Coop gives her the opportunity to spend time with friends and to communicate with a wide age range of people from 3-18, as well as adults.  There are over 30 kids in our Coop. Each Monday, she spends all day with other kids and moms and we both get a break and guidance as we go through this homeschooling adventure.

This year’s journey has only just begun. She seems to enjoy learning, and because it is just the two of us, we are done for the day by lunchtime. I am sure we will hit bumps on the road frequently. There will be days she isn’t as interested or a topic is a bit of a struggle. That is when we can take our time and down shift or up shift depending on her needs. Her being ahead allows for flexibility in future years. If she hits a subject in junior high or high school that is difficult for her, then we can take two years if we need to. She will graduate at 16 based on where we are now, but homeschooling her means that we can move her back to 18 if we need to. The point is to stay at her pace, so that she can foster a life-long love of learning from a very early age rather than become frustrated by either being ahead or behind. Pray for us. Like I said, no homeschooling family would ever pretend that it is an easy road. It is deeply difficult and one completely dependent on God, but it is rewarding, and in my view, the most assured (there are no guarantees, we can only do our best and rely on God’s grace) in keeping our daughter on the path to holiness in later life.

 

 

Letters from Homeschool: Jumping from Preschool to Kindergarten

Child reading  pile of books.

Last month I formally, well, semi-formally, started to home-school my 4 year old daughter. We did letter crafts and other activities over the past year, but it wasn’t a set curriculum I was using. I had decided to order the Catholic Heritage Curriculum for Pre-school to get us started. The set came with what we needed, including lesson plans. I started looking through the workbooks and noticed, much to my wallet’s chagrin, that Michaela already knew most of what was provided in the Pre-school packet. I told my husband that I needed to buy some Kindergarten materials to supplement. He told me to wait a little while to get into a routine. I agreed.

In the beginning it was a bit difficult to get her going, but then out of nowhere, her learning exploded. She started writing letters and drawing non-stop. She began to grasp sounds and was retaining a ton of information. Even though she would battle me at times during school, I found that she was absorbing it anyway. My husband and I knew that God had given us a very bright daughter. In fact, I often tell people that she is smarter than my husband and me put together. I struggled to find materials to keep her busy and I cut back our time at Co-op because she is ahead in much of what is offered for her age.

So here we are mid-October and I absolutely have to jump her into Kindergarten. Yes, she is 4. The temptation is to just let her have a year of freedom and wait to start until next year when she is 5. The problem is that she wants to learn. She keeps telling me that she wants to be able to read. So, sure, I could hold her back, but why would I? Yes, we home-school because we have concerns about the public school environment these days. My husband and I both went to public schools and things have changed drastically since our time. While our Catholic faith is a part of our reasoning, my biggest reason for homeschooling is to teach her at her pace.

Human beings are not carbon cutouts of one another. Some kids her age are still mastering colors and learning to count to 5. Some kids are already reading at her age. I want her to learn at her pace, not some arbitrary pace set by some bureaucrats who really don’t care about sound education. Pardon my cynicism after having taught in public schools briefly which resulted in my radical shift away from teaching high school.

I have decided to encourage her and teach her at her pace. At this point she will graduate a year early, but in reality we may hit a year where she really struggles in a subject. Then we have the option to put on the brakes and focus, even take an extra year if we have to. Part of the beauty of home-schooling is that the child leads in their own education. She may get to high school and stumble over Geometry and Trigonometry like I did, or she may breeze right through it. She may need time to emotionally mature and we can slow down so she doesn’t graduate too early, or she may be ready for whatever vocation God calls her to.

I was sitting in the waiting room at the optometrist’s office the other day listening to my daughter talk to a fellow patient. She was writing down letters and sounds for this woman and the woman was shocked that she is 4. I said we home-school and she said now it made sense. It’s not that intelligent people don’t go to public schools. Plenty of intelligent kids go to public schools or private schools. The problem is that many of those kids are bored to tears because they are ahead or frustrated because they cannot keep up. There are a good many who are content in the middle. Why shouldn’t education meet the needs of each individual and unique human being? Quite frankly, it should. That includes in technical areas that don’t require a college level education.

At this point my daughter is ready for Kindergarten and I am along for the ride. Homeschooling isn’t easy and I have days that I need serious patience, but then she shows me that she is learning even if she is having a battle of wills with me. What an amazing, difficult, and sanctifying journey we are on. Pax Christi.

My Choice to Homeschool

There is a disturbing trend in this country in regards to discourse and the right to personal opinion and free speech. I know that most people who frequent the Internet have noticed that comment sections on Facebook, Twitter, articles, and blogs are filled with name calling, vilification, irrational rants, and unintelligent and unintelligible arguments. People in this country cannot seem to reason through their arguments. If you do not agree with them you are either a) attacking them personally or b) a bigot, hateful, judgmental, intolerant, or whatever other name they can come up with, some are pretty colorful. What this says to me is a couple of things: First, we are egotistical and this includes me at times. We think that someone else’s personal choices or opinions have something to do with us personally. A wake up call to all of us: The world does not revolve around you or me! Second, there is a breakdown somewhere in our vast, and I mean vast, education system that is no longer encouraging reasoned thought. Instead we are taught to regurgitate information that we have heard, rather than think through, and reason our way to the truth or our own subjective opinion. In fact, many people cannot even defend their opinion without personal attacks.

I find these trends disturbing because they are a first step towards the oppression of others. This can be seen currently in the “gay marriage” debate, land owner issues, abortion, education, secular versus religion etc. While this trend exists on all sides of the political spectrum, they appear to be gaining most traction right now on the Left. If you are against us then you are a bigot, is a very common response to disagreement. What this does is shut down discussion. I will vilify you if you disagree with me no matter if you are objectively right or well-reasoned in thought. This is a very useful tactic for the oppressor. It allows a group of people to be demonized, and that is taken up by national groups like the media. Once word gets around, people tend to assume that this group or that, are in fact villains. Truth does not matter. This tactic is used by many professors and teachers with students. That is why so many parents are having to reteach their children who have heard various assertions that are taken as fact. If you are not with us then you are against us. This is very difficult for children who are already trusting and vulnerable. The hot button issues of our day usually produce these kinds of fights. Another one is education choices by parents. I have very passionate views on this topic after years of study, teaching, and observing our culture make dramatic and disturbing shifts.

To give you a bit of background about myself. I am the product of public education. I graduated from high school in 1999. My family could not afford the Catholic school in town. The bulk of my education is in large part thanks to my mother and even more my father. He is the one who taught me how to reason to a proper answer. He taught me the Aristotelian method of understanding truth and reality when I was 14 years old. The object sets truth not the viewer. This is diametrically opposed to the post-modern view of today that is largely from Rene Descartes. This is why relativism is so rampant in this country. We think that we set truth. As I used to tell my confused classmates in college, just because you think that a tree is a fish, does not make it any less a tree. Clear as mud…

As long as I can remember I wanted to be a high school English teacher. I joined the Navy so that I could pay for college. After my military service, I went back to my home state of Montana to finish up my degree. As I worked on my Education degree, I worked as a debate coach and teacher in my old high school. I was not prepared for the mediocrity, frustration, and apathy that I found there. I struggled to get students to do their work. The other teacher cared even less than the students. This school had failed to get its funding from No Child Left Behind, so major blocks of time were dedicated to teaching to the tests that were required. Coupled with what I could see were largely ridiculous Education courses, I switched majors. Sorry, Dewey! While I was working at the school I began to read extensively on the history of public education in this country, research on the low ranking of the US against the developed world, and how unions are damaging our public system. Add to it the openness to teen sexuality that I encountered and immoral behavior that was widely ignored, I made the decision to switch out of education. I was deeply saddened, but knew that I do not have the personality for such a broken system. I would have led a life of not so quiet desperation.

I have continued to monitor the system since then and have only grown more and more disturbed by what is coming out. With the new Common Core requirements I knew that my daughter would never step foot in a public school. We cannot afford Catholic education, and even then, it is not always reliable. I am firm and blunt on this choice. I finally got fed up with reading articles and made my sentiments bluntly known on my Facebook wall. And I meant when I said my daughter ‘will go to public school over my dead body’. It is how I feel, you are not required to agree. Let’s pray it does not come to that. It led to an irrational, and at times disturbing debate.

Do I think all people should homeschool? No. I don’t think that it is possible for everyone. Do I think that it is a better choice as our culture and system spirals more and more out of control? Yes. The Catholic understanding of education, is diametrically opposed to the system as it is today. Public schools largely undermine the Faith whether it be through teaching the gay agenda, handing out condoms or Plan B, taking away Bibles, teaching neo-feminism, or completely re-writing history to support secularism. These are just a snippet of what is going on today. Children are overwhelmed by peer pressure and a culture that is amoral. If we parents think that our children will go through public education unscathed then we are deluding ourselves. I can remember some pretty crazy things about high school, junior high, and grade school. I can count on one hand the teachers that really impacted me. I think that there are some superb teachers out there, but I will not say they are the majority. Tenure systems allow mediocre and even predatory teachers to keep their jobs even though they are not benefiting students, they may even harm them in some instances. I have not even mentioned school violence. It doesn’t even need to be a mass shooting. There were fights between gangs regularly at my old high school. How do school lock-downs not damage children’s sense of safety? Getting back to education, if we go to my original premise, students cannot even reason through to a correct answer. Everything is about “me” and my subjective understanding.

As a mom who is choosing to home-school, I am placing myself against a very large and powerful group of people. Home-schoolers are given all kinds of delightful titles. I was informed that I was ruining the economy and taking away jobs from teachers yesterday. This type of argument made me angry and horrified me at the same time. My daughter is not a meal ticket. She is a human being made in the image and likeness of God. My obligation is to educate her, not some teacher who sees her as a paycheck. Home-schoolers are unsocialized. I love this argument because it is so false. The difference between a home-schooler and a public school student is that home-schoolers by and large can carry on a conversation with any age group, including adults because they are not told all day that they are a 4th grader and only belong with that age. I see it in my friends’ kids. It is a great way to ostracize a group of people and claim that they are “weird”. It once again shuts down discussion. Reasoning and research do not matter. The charge that I am sheltering my child is partially true. She will not live in a bubble and will be well aware of our Fallen world. She will be in extracurricular activities and ministries. She will be around her peers, but not all day five days a week. However, topics will be done in an age and maturity based time. Not because someone says everyone is doing this and so should we. The clarion call of “everyone” is usually not from Christ.

Home-schoolers are a threat to those who choose public or private education. This is taught over and over again to Education majors. Talk about indoctrination! Our choice somehow has something to do with them. In the case of the public school system, we are taking away students and it is competition. I don’t sit around and think about all of the people I know and then make a decision. I look at my daughter and the systems available and decide what is best for her and where I believe God is calling me. My choices are not about you. Blunt, yes, but I get tired of politically correct tinged language. All of us are becoming toddlers when we cannot handle someone else’s opinion, even a blunt one, at that. I am guilty of this at times too. Parents need to choose what is best for their children and stop being offended because someone made a different choice. No matter what, parents need to educate themselves on what is going on in our schools. We are not sheep. We do not mindlessly follow what the government officials in our town are telling us. We study and research to get an educated picture. Regardless of what our government is trying to tell people, our children belong to us, the parents. Theologically they belong to God, but you know what I mean. I am beholden to no one, except Our Lord, for my choices as long as I am not doing anything immoral. I am not going to get into civil disobedience in this post.

My path to homeschooling is an unexpected and daunting one, but I know it is where God has called me. Yes, there will be times when I will express my loathing for our public education system, but that is because I know that people deserve better. The problem is that the system is just too dang large for me to get involved without risking harm to my daughter. While I believe one person can make a difference, which I try to do through my ministries, the political environment right now is so diametrically opposed to Catholic thought that it is not worth the battle. We must pick and choose our battles. I have chosen to home-school and you must do what is best for your kids. No matter what we decide, I pray that all of us help lead our children to Heaven and that at the end of their early education, their Faith will still be intact. God bless and Happy Easter!

*If you are interested in further reading, pick up the books by John Taylor Gatto as a start. He was an award winning public school teacher in New York for 30 years who now encourages home-schooling. Some of his books give an extensive history of public education in this country. It is not what you think!