29 July 2006


The subject of school has been a difficult one for my household this summer. Our son, who is 10, has been attending a charter school since kindergarten. We initially made the decision for him to attend based on their accelerated curriculum. We have put up with their lack of amenities (lunchroom, gym, etc.) as a sacrifice for the excellent education. We also happened to be lucky that the school was just as close to us as the public school for which we were districted. That changed when we moved this spring. We are now nearly 30 minutes away, and with gas prices as they are, we have somewhat of a dilemma.

I have always had a problem with public schools. I feel like the curriculum is based on making sure enough students get good marks on 'The Test' that is given every couple of years so that the schools will continue to receive adequate funding. I don't feel like enough time is spent on subjects beyond the basics for kids to come out at the end with a true appreciation for the world and a desire for lifelong learning.

Supposedly, the school district that we have moved into has a reputation for being 'good.' I'm not sure, though, what that is supposed to mean. Do they hire better teachers? Do they have more money in the district for cooler equipment? Or do they actually go above and beyond the call of duty? We recently visited the local intermediate school that he would go to, should we so choose. It certainly looks nice, and the people seem nice. We talked extensively with the principal about the gifted/talented program, to see if that could somehow make up for the difference between what the charter school offers and what public school has. I have my doubts. While we were there, I looked through the 5th grade math textbook. I saw everything that he had learned LAST year. And he had begun complaining that he was bored, as he had done some math self-study at home.

This has led us to some radical and dangerous thinking. Some background information may be necessary before I go any further... I am the full-time worker of my household. My husband is the stay-at-home dad who does some work here and there to help supplement. We moved this spring in order to shift everything around so that we could change our situation in life and hopefully get 'ahead.' We puchased a large house with my in-laws, moved in together (but fairly well separated), and I started working only four days a week. The idea is that I can keep our health insurance in place while we start our own business (an online metaphysical shop.) The business has been in the works for a while, but I'll post more on that at another time. Back to the radical ideas. As may have been surmised from the title of this post, the subject of homeschooling came up. Now I know that the Christians have pretty much cornered the market on this idea, but I have seen some things here and there about a pagan homeschooling movement. My husband and I figured that I have the best 'teaching' rapport since we already do other kinds of 'lessons' (see previous post), and would therefore be the main instructor, but would I have enough time to work, start a business, and teach school? I could feasibly drop another day in my workweek and still receive our health insurance, and we would probably be able to scrape by financially.

The main concern, I think, for any homeschooled child, is socialization. I've met many a homeschooled graduate who did not know how to function in the real world. I guess that's a problem here in the bible belt. It's possible that if we did homeschool, we would only do so for a couple of years. But, in the meantime, would karate class and Spiral Scouts be enough? One other factor, my son's best friend from the charter school just happens to be transferring to public school this year so he can participate in sports. You only get one guess which school he's going to. That's right, the same one we would go to. Now, I do need to mention that my son has been begging to be homeschooled for many years. Much the same way I begged to go to private school when I was a kid (no, I never got to go.) I just wanted a better eduaction than what I felt I was getting. I was bored - just like he is now.
So, the question now is, do we try this? We are running out of time to make a decision. School is starting at the charter school week after next, and at the public school one week later. We don't even know whether to buy regular clothes (public), uniforms (charter), or nothing (home)!

22 July 2006

Wicca Books

I've been asked by my friend the Librarian (note the capital L, that's new) to recommend a book or two on Wicca for the religion section at her library. Apparently they have absolutely no books on the subject, and she is seeking to remedy the situation. I must admit that I have pondered on this for maybe too many days (I think she would have liked an answer a few days ago...), as the longer I think about it, the more undecided I become. I mean, how can you condense the entirety of Wiccan practice and philosophy down to a book or two? You just can't.

Usually when someone asks me at work (yes, I'm really a bookseller) what they should start with, I recommend Scott Cunningham's Wicca: A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner. That's the one I started with, along with Raymond Buckland's Practical Candleburning Rituals. But this was quite some time ago, and there was not much to choose from. I quickly became enamored of Scott Cunningham and bought everything he had written. His Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs and his Encyclopedia of Crystal, Gem, and Metal Magic are still the books I use most often. Unfortunately, he passed away shortly after I discovered him. Here's a wonderful article about him from Llewellyn's site.

Back then, it seemed there was a larger demand for Buckland's Complete Book of Witchcraft (yes, I worked at a bookstore then, too), but I didn't really dig it myself. Maybe others found it more desirable beacuse it's a big book with a giant pentagram on it? I had forgotten why I didn't like it until I looked in one again the other day. In Gardnerian witchcraft, which is where Buckland got most of his 'brand' of witchcraft, it is necessary to do rituals 'skyclad' (naked), and the initiation rites seem to include a fair bit of bondage. Not for me, thank you very much...

In the early 90's, I bought pretty much every new witchcraft book that came in so I could give it a try. Some I kept, but most have been sent out into the world to find a new home. Aside from a few of the Cunningham books, the one book from then that I actually still use is Edain McCoy's The Sabbats. Celebrating the Sabbats is my favorite part of being pagan, and I've gotten many, many ideas for family shindigs from this book. One book I wish I still had is Power of the Witch, by Laurie Cabot, although I do still have her Celebrate the Earth book about the Sabbats which has some good recipes. Since Ms. Cabot is based out of Salem, Mass, my dear Librarian might have some local interest in her books, as her library is in nearby Connecticut.

In the past few years, there has been just an enormous amount of paper dedicated to Wiccan practice. Many are excellent, and some are just so-so. Speaking of family (yes I was, just a minute ago), my son, age 10, and I have been having 'magic' lessons based on Elements of Witchcraft and The Book of Wizardry. Elements of Witchcraft is a very basic book written for (pre-)teens, but it serves our purposes (he is only 10...). The Book of Wizardry is written more as a young adult novel kind of thing. It seems to try to make a bridge between those interested in the Harry Potter kind of magic and those who are serious about how things really work. I don't think I would really recommend it for a child/teen to read on their own as they might misunderstand. I've been reading the chapters out loud during the lesson and then following up with 'real-world' magic instruction.

As far as recent books I've actually felt the need to purchase (which if you know me, you might think it wouldn't be too hard to convince me to buy a book, but I'm actually pretty picky), there are three that stand out to me. One is Grimoire for the Green Witch, which is a book on natural witchcraft with a Wiccan slant. This is a great all-around book that is substantial enough for a beginner and beyond. And it only has a small pentagram on the cover...The other book is Wicca: A Year and a Day. I actually just purchased this book and am anxious to be at a place in life (soon hopefully) that I can start work through it. It will be nice to get a refresher course that's more in depth than my original self-guided training. A year and a day is the traditional amount of time for study before initiation. (As well as other things like a handfasting...) This book has a lesson for each day and covers theology, deities, divination, correspondences, ritual work, and etc. I'm hoping that I will be able to integrate some of the lessons into my son's lessons. While this seems to be a really great book, my husband pointed out to me that if it got checked out of a library, it could result in a very, very overdue book. The last book is Everyday Magic by Dorothy Morrison. This is essentially a spell handbook; they are all fairly simple to do, and they are arranged alphabetically by intention. Handy in a pinch.

OK, down to the official Moderatrix recommendations. If you can get only one book, get Cunningham's Wicca: A Guide for the Solitary Practitioner. If you can get two books, get Wicca and The Sabbats. If you can get three...(we can always hope, right?), get Wicca, The Sabbats, and Grimoire for the Green Witch.

07 July 2006

New things I like

Well, we braved the movie theater this evening to see Pirates of the Caribbean - Dead Man's Chest. I must say it was almost as fun as the first one. Lots of fun stunts and cool effects and makeup. Oh, and you have to stay till the end of the credits. It's nothing that big, but still cute.

If you haven't had Haagen Dazs Mayan Chocolate yet, go get some right now. It is fabulous (and I don't use that word - ever). Vey simple formula - their rich creamy chocolate with a fudge swirl and a hint of cinnamon. I had it in a shake today at the mall - it was even better all swirled up with whipped cream on top!

And alas, I have been seduced by Library Thing. I've only entered around a hundred books so far, but I can't get over how easy it is. It's so cool how you can see who else has the same books and then look at their shelves without feeling like you're spying! It's the coolest (dot) thing (dot) ever(dot).

03 July 2006

Rhythm of the Heart

I stumbled upon a magazine today that I'd never heard of (even though it's apparently been around for 10 years), called ODE. I found this week's featured article very interesting. Here's a link:


What I found most intriguing was the idea that heart rhythm is connected to stress levels. Of course when we read things we see them through the lens of our own experience. I have a mild mitral valve prolapse and have been officially diagnosed with 'Mitral Valve Prolapse Syndrome.' Basically meaning that when I get even a little stressed out or overtired, I have chest pain, palpitations, and shortness of breath, not unlike an anxiety attack. The problem with this 'syndrome' is that no one seems to know why a problem with the anatomy of a heart valve can cause anxiety symptoms. I had a proverbial 'lightbulb' moment when I read

“There is a constant exchange between the heart and the brain. Research shows that a coherent heart rhythm is able to bring the emotional brain to rest. When your heart is beating in a healthy way, you can heal stress, depression, tension and other mental afflictions.

So maybe it's not the stress causing the symptoms, but the heart causing the sensitivity to stress.