10 Are you scared?
10 How about now?

We took advantage of the last-minute Hallowe’en sales and added a creepy creature to our holiday decorating.

I was also able to get my disposable Christmas basics — cards, paper goods for the Christmas Eve buffet, and Christmas crackers — at impressively low prices at T. J. Maxx, so I got some things crossed off my HGP list.

I also got Ivy put together and the sleeve bands nearly completed. I will have a picture for you at some point. I don’t think it would scare you, though.

Yesterday morning at church there was a little contretemps. I had finished with the little children and had a few minutes till the meeting in the choir room, so I joined a friend for coffee in the fellowship hall. We were chatting comfortably about political issues. One person and another appeared, and we continued our desultory discussion about the environment. Then a Republican arrived.

“Oh,” said I, “We had better quit talking politics.” I tried to steer the conversation toward the influence of science on daily life, or some other relatively harmless topic.

The political discussion got more heated. “At ease!” the Republican kept saying. I’m not quite sure what he meant by that, but it sounded alarming.

I tried to talk over it, suggesting the Renaissance Faire as a topic. I asked another person at the table about the music at other services. I said things like, “It’s hard to talk about these things calmly if you don’t already agree.”

The political discussion deteriorated into vulgar abuse.

The Republican stomped off.

It is hard to talk about these things calmly if you don’t already agree.

Later, the Poster Queen and I were having an email exchange about oversight of homeschoolers.

She and JJ had been at the store on Saturday and a homeschool parent came in. She had, it appeared, been taking a break from school. Here it is October and her family hadn’t gotten back into lessons from the summer break yet. Now she was needing math materials to try to catch the child up.

JJ and the Poster Queen both teach in public schools, and both are good teachers. They felt that there should be a system in place to catch people who weren’t conducting school, and make the children go into public schools.

Now, I have been a homeschooler. I am familiar with the philosophical position favoring unschooling. I wouldn’t do that, myself. I have also been the parent of four children in public schools, and I have seen whole semesters go by while they didn’t learn anything new. I wouldn’t do that, either.

All of us at the store have seen home and school educators who impressed us with their dedication and intelligence, and we have seen home and school educators who dismayed us with their apparent incompetence.

But I remember talking once with a fellow homeschooler about just this question of oversight, and she said, “Who is going to do it?” The Department of Education is supposed to do it now, and clearly they do not. Probably, with the numbers involved, they cannot.

Local schools are not necessarily doing such a good job themselves that they could oversee homeschoolers with authority. If nothing else, the homeschool families wouldn’t be homeschooling if they were persuaded of the authority of the public schools.

I said this in a couple of emails. Having just come from the Fight in the Fellowship Hall, I wondered about the Poster Queen’s response.

Here I was, assuming that we basically agreed, since both of us are firmly persuaded of the importance of education and the value of free public schools, and thinking that we were having one of those discussions of small differences and details and further considerations that had been the pleasant part of the political discussion over coffee at the church.

But really, it could be that the Poster Queen doesn’t think people should be allowed to homeschool at all. There are those who don’t. Or she might take my response as a disrespectful attitude toward the trained teachers in public schools.

Since the discussion was conducted by email, I didn’t see her face or hear her tone of voice, so I don’t know.

I do know that the combatants in the political discussion did not enjoy their quarrel. Each was offended by the other. Neither was persuaded, even slightly, by the other’s point of view. Their minds were not opened, they did not gain new perspectives.

I always enjoy discussing things with people who disagree with me — or I think that I do. But maybe there has to be an underlying layer of agreement for it to be pleasurable.

I have posted about  the Muffin Formula over at my other website. I will now munch on a Cranberry Bran Muffin while contemplating what degree of agreement is required for a pleasant discussion of controversial topics. Your views are solicited.