Springtime in the valley

Our fruit orchard in bloom.

Anne Josephine at 4-1/2 months.

The debut performance of “The Country Road Fiddlers” at the Best of the West Expo at the Glenn County Fairgrounds on Saturday. What a show! The new band consists of three Culbreaths and three members of another homesteading family, including the father. We had a tough time coming up with a name. Because this is dairy country, LeXuan suggested “The Orland Dairy Air”, but that sounded too much like “The Orland Derriere” …

Miss Glenn County and the 1st Runner Up. Very sweet girls who seem worthy of their crowns. Besides, they said nice things about “The Country Road Fiddlers”.

One of the many antique trucks, tractors, and machines on display at the Expo.

The Expo was organized by the Orland Chamber of Commerce and is great way for local businesses to promote their products. The “Best of the West” theme means that it is a “westside” event, reserved for the small towns and districts on the west side of the Sacramento River including Corning, Orland, Capay, Hamilton City, and Willows.

The marvelous St. Patrick Pipe and Drum Band performing at a fund-raising dinner last night. The band is much larger than the small group in this photo. Among his many goals for the band, the organizer would like to play during the Walk for Life in San Francisco next year. Imagine that, for a just a moment: the mean streets of San Francisco, the pro-abortion rowdies shouting their obscenities, the huge pro-life crowd … and twenty Catholic boys solemnly marching with pipes and drums. A fitting reminder that the Walk for Life is not just about politics, but about remembering the victims of abortion – and no instrument commemorates the dead like the bagpipes.

Hard times, part II

Chris of The Yeoman Farmer left the following comment on the Hard Times post below:

“I hate to play the skeptic, but this whole train of thought is reminding me of the runup to Y2K. I’m embarassed to say that I took the doomsday scenarios more seriously that I should have, and as a result I’ve grown far less ready to accept predictions of impending economic/social doom. At heart, I’m an optimist — because markets are remarkably resilient things, when allowed to function freely. High energy (or food) prices are painful things — but higher prices tend to spur entreprenurship (to reap the benefits of that premium pricing) like nothing else can.”

Chris, it reminds of Y2K as well. Although Y2K itself proved to be a non-event, I think the anxiety behind it – and behind the current economic quagmire – has legitimate roots and should not be summarily dismissed. Markets are indeed resilient, and I agree with your remarks about scarcity and entrepreneurship, but markets are never enough, and some markets can be harmful when they are “free”. Banking seems to be one of them. I think you will agree that the resiliency of markets is entirely dependent upon sound underpinnings – most importantly a culture of trust and financial integrity. When the underpinnings are weak, as they were in 1929 and most assuredly are in our times, markets can fail along with everything else. Here are my thoughts on why many ordinary people see disaster ahead:

1. Deep down, Americans know this country has been enjoying a false prosperity for five or more decades, a prosperity that cannot continue indefinitely. Most Americans have been living beyond their means and they know that the economic “scales” need a radical re-adjusting.

2. Of those who are wealthy and saving money, there are three types: a) those who have “earned” their wealth unjustly; b) those who have worked honestly and diligently but whose wealth seems disproportionate to the quality of their labors; c) those who have received their wealth through favors, connections, or inheritance. The men in the first category are large in number and they have reason to be afraid: justice will find them, and perhaps soon. The men in the second category have reason to be anxious because we live in historically aberrant times. Market rewards have little relation – and sometimes they have even an inverse relation – to whether a certain kind of activity is intrinsically good or worth doing for its own sake. This eats away at the conscience, and one feels that, one day, the scales will surely be balanced. The men in the third category are anxious because they live in a country which believes, as a matter of sacred ideology, if you didn’t earn it, it isn’t yours and you are more a thief than an heir. In a normal society the response would be gratitude and its corresponding works rather than anxiety. Unfortunately this anxiety results in behaviors that may help fulfill the doomsday prophecies.

3. The modern global economy is too big and too complex for anyone to understand. Therefore it has taken on god-like qualities and is seen as an omnipotent beast whose demands must be met, a ruthless master that rewards and punishes according to its own arbitrary laws – laws which are impossible to know with certainty. With a master like this, we are bound to make a mis-step sooner or later, and we wait for the other shoe to drop.

4. Men and their empires, nations, and economies all come to an end. There is no reason to believe the United States will be the exception to the rule.

More HS support from CA public school officials

“My feeling is very much in line with the governor in that it is a parental choice as to how they will educate their children,” said Chris Bertelli, assistant secretary of education. “To require a credential for a parent that is home-schooling is ludicrous.”

“No other state in the country requires a credential,” Bertelli said. “It would be nearly impossible to enforce and would do so much more damage than good.”

“As long as they are a private school registered with the state then as far as we are concerned they are a legal home school,” said Victor Thompson, director of student support service for the L.A. County Department of Education.

Source Whittier Daily News.
Courtesy of California Homeschool Network.

Appeals Court to Reconsider HS Ruling

The story is here:

“The 2nd District Court of Appeal in Los Angeles granted a rehearing Tuesday, essentially voiding the 3-0 decision until it rules again. The decision will now allow home-schooling organizations that had blasted the decision to weigh in.

‘Wow!’ said Diane Flynn Keith of Redwood City, who edits Homefires, an online home-schooling journal. ‘I think the judge recognized that he hadn’t done his homework.'”

From the Pacific Justice Institute:

“Pacific Justice Institute has just received word that the court ruling which declared most forms of homeschooling unlawful in California has been vacated. This means the Rachel L. decision, which has sparked a nationwide uproar, will not go into effect as it is currently written. The Second District Court of Appeal has instead decided to re-hear the case, with a new round of briefings due in late April. It would likely take the court several additional months to schedule oral argument and issue another decision.

Today’s announcement by the court that it will re-hear the case reinforces PJI’s position that homeschooling families should continue their current programs without fear of governmental interference. PJI will be actively involved in the upcoming briefs and will continue to post updates and special bulletins on this vital issue.

Brad Dacus, president of Pacific Justice Institute, commented, ‘We are pleased that the Court of Appeal has decided to re-hear the Rachel L. case, and we are hopeful that the fundamental rights of these parents, our clients Sunland Christian School, and the tens of thousands of homeschooling families in California will be honored. Homeschooling parents should be treated as heroes – not hunted down or harassed by their own government.'”

Love songs

One can measure the health of a culture – or a music genre – by its love songs. Do its love songs exalt raw sentiment for its own sake? Or do they place emotion in the service of virtue or understanding? Sentimentality isn’t all bad. Americans these days tend to either wallow in sentimentality, or to despise it entirely, which only proves that our society is losing its balance. We do not have the good sense of the Irish, whose traditional culture has always contained a healthy balance of realism and sentimentality.

Secular love songs are by nature sentimental, and they have their place even if “love” is sometimes employed in confusing way. TSO – St. Blog’s resident expert on sentimentality – once said of John Denver (and I like John Denver) that the message of his music is “feelings are everything”. Well, perhaps, but that sounds hyperbolic to me, and anyway not all feelings are created equal. Emotions can be ordered or disordered, and it seems to me that the sentimentality of “Take Me Home Country Roads” is directed to virtuous ends. There is consequently a qualitative difference between the feelings inspired by the music of John Denver and the music of, say, Guns ‘n’ Roses.

So it should not surprise you that, sentimentalist that I am, I have been known to indulge in the occasional love song. And here I would like to showcase what I think are two of America’s best love songs. They have it all: courtship, marriage, sacrifice, devotion, suffering, loss, children and old folks. They have the perspective of time. They represent an America that seems to be slipping through our fingers, even disappearing before our very eyes. There are, in fact, millions of Americans who simply cannot relate to the kind of life these songs portray, who have never known anyone even remotely similar to the people in the lyrics, and who perhaps have always felt a silent and inexpressible longing for what these songs represent. Human love, marriage, and family life are meant to be shadows of heavenly things, and if we can be inspired by these things we are very likely still open to grace.

The embedding has been disabled for Alan Jackson’s “Remember When”, but the YouTube video is accessible here.

Jud Strunk’s “Daisy a Day”, from 1973, remains the American love song par excellence:

Cleaning out my bookmarks

A few random links for Easter week:

First Principles. The ISI e-zine.

Penny Justice. Catholic social doctrine.

Pro Deo et Patria. Reports on the Traditional Latin Mass from the last Catholic nation on earth.

National Vaccine Information Center. Things you haven’t been told about vaccinations.

Vaccination and brain damage. Be sure to read the comments. I haven’t decided what to think about vaccinations but am exploring alternative viewpoints.

How to Pray as a Catholic. A great resource on Catholic prayer.

CatholicTube. Catholic videos and news.

The Chapel Veil Campaign.  The fight to restore a venerable tradition.

Glenn Sacks. Pro-fatherhood, anti-feminist.

President Ngo Dinh Diem of Vietnam. A Catholic statesman whom the world could not endure.

LiveIreland.com. Twenty-four hour internet radio!

Protestant and Catholic Drinking Attitudes. “Drunken barbarians and merry Romans.”

Mixed-sex friendships.
A conversation I had with Eric Johnson in 2002.

LevelWise. I don’t have any idea who runs this website, but many (not all) of the entries are from my old El Camino Real blog. I am not mentioned as the author.

Council of Europe. Best to keep an eye on these guys.

Hard times ahead?

The economic news has not been good, as most of you are well aware. Many are talking about how to survive the coming economic chastisement. Should you head for the hills and buy remote land far away from urban strife? Or is it better to buckle down in the suburbs near friends, family, and a healthy parish? If your utilities are cut off, which is the best substitute: a diesel generator, solar power, or something else? Do you rely upon city water? Can you grow vegetables in your front yard? Where should you keep your money? What kinds of skills will you need? These questions and more are being addressed by the folks over at Catholic Home and Garden.

It’s difficult to say which direction things will go. In the past, the cities were always the hardest hit by economic disasters – but that was before the modern industrial economy swallowed rural civilization as well. In our circumstances the rural areas will be suffering along with everyone else. That said, I still think it best to live someplace near a regional food source, in close proximity to fertile land that is not dependent upon a complex water delivery system. Las Vegas and Phoenix are not the best choices here; neither are mountainous regions with short growing seasons; neither is any region with extremes in the weather.

Broad swaths of the east and west coasts would seem to be ideal – inland from the large coastal cities – as well as the southern and lower mid-western states. The northern mid-west and Great Lakes states worked well for our hardy ancestors, but deprived of civilization they could be virtually uninhabitable for soft, modern Americans.

City or country? The largest cities are going to be quite dangerous. Imagine Chicago going for a month without power and water. Therefore, it could be advantageous to live in or near a small town with a population between 2,500 and 25,000. Such a community is small enough to avoid urban dependency and turmoil, yet large enough to provide basic goods and services. An older home on, let’s say, a quarter acre could still produce a significant amount of food while providing a safe environment for the family. In such places driving (and fuel consumption) can be kept to a minimum if one is fortunate enough to work in town.

Steve Skojec has some interesting thoughts on the subject.

I’ll have more to say about this later …

Stupid and malicious

Those are the only two possible descriptions of the authors of this anti-homeschool screed published yesterday in the L.A. Times. A few choice excerpts:

“The court’s decision means that home schoolers must be given some substantive instruction in social studies and not simply spend their time watching Fox with its strange assortment of oddballs pontificating on current events.”

“If home schooling forums on the Web are indicative of the views held by parents of learn-at-home kids, their offspring are getting an extremely warped lesson in civics.”

“It’s evident that the vast majority who teach their offspring in front of the television do so because they don’t want their children to be subjected to such dangerous doctrines as evolution, abortion, global warming, equal rights and other ideas abhorrent to the evangelical mantra.”

Well, you get the idea. I’d love to see real data on the average daily TV viewing hours indulged by homeschooled children and public schooled children, respectively. These bozos seem not to realize that television and public education are on one team, homeschooling on the other. We banned television from our home twelve years ago. Most homeschooling parents we know either forbid television entirely, or they severely restrict viewing time while controlling the content. Fox News isn’t even on the radar of acceptable viewing options.

The good news is that the ridiculous opinions expressed in this piece seem to be in the minority in California. Newspapers up and down the state have been running editorials condemning the Feb 28 ruling non-stop for two weeks. Comments on homeschooling articles are overwhelmingly in favor of keeping parent-directed home education legal. Why? I think it is because homeschooling has become so mainstream in California that almost everyone knows some homeschoolers, and their impressions of these families are mostly positive. Furthermore, while most parents don’t homeschool themselves, many of them would do so if they believed they could, and many more just want to keep this option available to them in the future.

HSLDA Update

On Tuesday, March 11, Jack O’Connell, California Superintendent of Public Instruction, announced that he believed that homeschooling is still legal in California. O’Connell’s statement is welcome news. Click here to read O’Connell’s statement. Some might conclude that the statement ends the controversy. However, it is not the end of the matter; it is just an important step along the way.

His clarifying statement was probably the result of the massive public outcry against the February 28 decision of the California Court of Appeal which effectively ruled that homeschooling is illegal in California unless conducted by a credentialed teacher and that parents have no constitutional right to homeschool.

O’Connell’s statement is helpful, but the courts will undoubtedly take the position that their determination of the meaning of state law is final even though they should give serious deference to the position of the Superintendent of Public Instruction.

It should also be remembered that local school districts make the decision about when to initiate prosecutions for truancy, and they are not officially controlled by the state agency on these matters. However, many local officials may be influenced by O’Connell’s positive statement.

Did the February 28 Ruling Intend to Affect All Homeschooling Families?

Some have contended that the decision of the Court of Appeal in In Re Rachel L. only affects that particular family. While a court order can only direct one family to stop homeschooling, the case clearly sets a legal precedent that will be binding against all other families if this case is not reversed. (Technically, the decision is binding only in the Second District which consists of Los Angeles, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, and Ventura counties. However, other appellate districts will normally treat it as persuasive precedent. If ratified by the Supreme Court of California, it formally binds all California counties.)

There are two basic issues in the case:

  1. Does state law allow parents to homeschool without a state teaching credential?
  2. If not, is this law unconstitutional?

Below are three short quotations from the case which give the clear answer:

“It is clear to us that enrollment and attendance in a public full-time day school is required by California law for minor children unless (1) the child is enrolled in a private full-time day school and actually attends that private school, (2) the child is tutored by a person holding a valid state teaching credential for the grade being taught.”

“California courts have held that under provisions in the Education Code, parents do not have a constitutional right to school their children in their own home.”

“We agree with the Shinn court’s statement that ‘the educational program of the State of California was designed to promote the general welfare of all the people and was not designed to accommodate the personal ideas of any individual in the field of education.’ ”

In the first quote the court makes it clear that it believes that parents may not operate their own private schools. In the second they deny that a parent has a constitutional right to homeschool, and in the third they concur that California law does not accommodate parents pursuing their own education program for their children.

As you can see, the decision is categorical and was not written to be limited to just the facts of this case.

Due to the scope of the court decision, HSLDA is pleased to be working with other self-identified pro-homeschooling organizations, including Christian Home Educators Association of California (CHEA), Homeschool Association of California (HSC), California Homeschool Network (CHN), and Family Protection Ministries (FPM) in order to oppose this ruling. We are all in this one together.

What is HSLDA’s Immediate Plan of Action?

We plan to:

  1. Support the family’s petition for review to the California Supreme Court.
  2. File an amicus brief on behalf of all our members, and others we represent, if the California Supreme Court accepts the case for review.
What Can California Homeschoolers Expect in the Short Run?

We believe that it is highly unlikely that local officials will begin proceedings against homeschool families until this present case is resolved.

This ruling has obviously caused great concern among California homeschoolers. We want to remind all California homeschoolers that you should stay calm in the face of this decision. Please continue to operate your homeschool, because we believe that our interpretation of the law is correct and will ultimately prevail in the court system.

We must remain vigilant, however. If you are a member of HSLDA, and you are contacted by a school district, please contact HSLDA immediately.

Long-Range Solution

On another front, later today I am meeting with a half-dozen congressmen to plan a strategy to push for a constitutional amendment on parental rights. We have been receiving numerous calls from members of Congress wanting to respond to this decision. Visit ParentalRights.org for more information.

Final Thoughts/Conclusion

The way the homeschool law has worked in California for the past two decades has been successful for all homeschoolers. If we can keep what we have today that would be a significant victory for homeschool freedom.

We also understand that the current situation has caused much stress for California homeschool families. We are praying, and we encourage you to pray, that the threat we face will be swiftly removed and that homeschool freedom in California will be preserved.

We have seen God’s hand of protection on the homeschooling movement for the 25 years we have been working together for this cause. There is no reason to begin to doubt God now.

Michael Farris
Chairman, Home School Legal Defense Association