Welcome to my life. It's a whirlwind of kids, chaos, pets, people, family, art, and being home (most of the time; I like to get out here and there). We unschool, so the unexpected is, well, expected...

Sunday, December 19, 2010

In the spirit of the season

I've been thinking and rethinking all that has come out about the girl who ran away and where she's at right now and where her mother is at and the heart breaking sadness of all of it. The tendrils of sadness that emanate from the actions of the mother and her own heart breaking sadness reach out and touch others in really terrible ways. I don't fault her, she's very very sad and hurt and human.

At some point we all own our actions whether or not we are aware of them or not. Sometimes it takes life changing alterations to cause us to see our actions and sometimes people get so stuck in their sad lives that they can't at all see how they impact others. Part of me believes that it is selfish and self righteous and part of me believes that because people aren't perfect, that some people really aren't self aware or recognize at all how what they do effects others, and because of that don't care.

So, where does that leave those that have been harmed by others in that place?

Not everyone is going to be happy in life. Not everyone is going to be kind and thoughtful towards others. Not everyone holds themselves to high standards of self awareness, their thoughts and lives are focused elsewhere, and I can't change that about people.

What I can do, is focus my own happy thoughts towards my family and create the life that I want and help my family members do the same. In so doing all of us help others through our thoughts and actions. I always wanted a home that was open to others, a place that people feel safe to be in and enjoy spending time in. I never thought it would be that to dozens of teenagers. I never knew how many teenagers there are growing up without happy homes full of love and peace.

So, in the spirit of the season I will be kind and loving and peaceful. All my actions shall be geared toward that. This is my heart, it has been for years. Sometimes the cruelty of others stifles that, but I am strong and my children are strong and others can NOT change that.

Live in peace, seek joy, and love others openly. In all actions that should be first and foremost. If what I do isn't creating peace, joy, and love, then I should not be doing it. It really is that simple. If my thoughts shift in focus, or get distracted by the many sad things in the world, then I'm not living in awareness. If I don't live in awareness I am not living a life worth living. I want my life to count, I want my actions to count.

I'm so grateful to my Chamille who lives, above all else, an honest life. She's often my reality check. She calls it like it is, doesn't make excuses for the way things are, and while things cause her sadness, she's able to move on and be happy. She lives by her principles and sometimes she lives in a very black and white world.

Margaux is my girl who calls me on my actions every time I exhibit impatience or frustration. All I do is geared toward making her life comfortable and happy and pleasant. It seems like a lot sometimes, but it's really the simple acts that create peace and harmony.

And my husband says so many thought provoking things and gives me another view of the world. He's deeply kind and compassionate. I love him and cannot imagine a life without him.

That is some awesome happy peaceful and loving stuff there! I'm very very blessed! I have wonderful friends and family, and people to confer with in intelligent conversation. What more could I ever ask for? Everything I have is here to share.

So, Live in peace, seek joy, and love others openly, there is plenty to go around! It's always free and easy to share and creates abundance!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

"The price I had to pay for what many people call "good upbringing" was that for a long time I was separated from my true feelings, from myself."

That is a quote by Alice Miller in a preface from her 2002 edition of "For Your Own Good"

Today, we saw the girl who ran away. I thought it was just Chamille being invited to meet up with her, but I found out at the last minute that I was invited too, so I went.

I'm still processing that visit. I love that girl, (I'll call her Alex for this story) she's so vibrant, yet here she sat with most of that hiding away. It was a supervised visit with her mentor/counselor. She introduced herself and told us all about the place where Alex is staying and then moved several tables away to let us talk. We met a coffee place.

In my own thoughts I made note of various things Alex said. Chamille asked if her mom trusted her yet, and her response was that "yes" she did, however we found out at the end of the visit, that the mentor hadn't just given her a ride like she'd explained. Yes, she'd given her a ride, but Alex's mother came to pick her up afterwards to take her home for the holiday weekend. So, really, the only reason the mentor stayed was to babysit. I'm not sure who she was babysitting. Was it because Chamille is so dangerous that she needed to be supervised or was it because Alex really isn't trusted yet. Either way, it says a lot.

One thing really jumped out at me in the conversation. Alex said "I know this is all for my own good. I know that what my mother is doing is for my own good." My immediate thought to that, which I did say, was to be careful with the phrasing "for your own good", it's the excuse that abusers use to continue abuse, and commonly used to control and manipulate others.

I'm glad that Chamille got to see her best friend. She wasn't either happy or sad about it. She really wished she could just hang out with her but was willing to accept a supervised visit.

I know I'll have much more to say, but the visit left me feeling empty. Alex firmly believes at this point that everything was clearly her fault and that she needs to heal from all the pain. She parroted back many things in her wording, things that didn't come from her own thinking. It was painful and sad to experience.

There were a couple of moments where there was a flash and a smile of the real Alex tucked underneath it all. That was worth the whole meeting, just to see that small bit of her still left hiding away. Just like the title and quote. I hope she survives it all!

More to come.....

Saturday, November 20, 2010

The gift of helping your kids feel empowered... it's one that keeps on giving!

Spreading into the world, one person at a time, touching one person here and another there. Changing the lives of our own children DOES change the world!

Here is what comes from being a solid and happy person! I copied and pasted a facebook thread that my daughter was in. She is LunaCandy Bloodstroke, and the other person, G A, is someone I don't know.

The other girl started it with a status update:

I don't feel good enough.. OR pretty enough for him.. :/
3 hours ago

LunaCandy Bloodstroke then feel good, and pretty for yourself :)
3 hours ago

G A ‎://
3 hours ago

LunaCandy Bloodstroke not other people last forever, but you will always have yourself for as long as you are alive.
3 hours ago

G A Yes thats true.. But sometimes I hate myself..
3 hours ago

LunaCandy Bloodstroke everybody has those moments but its best to try and not get stuck there.
3 hours ago

G A Yeah.. :/ Ijust feel like falling apart that's all..
3 hours ago

LunaCandy Bloodstroke well then wrap your arms around yourself and hold everything together.
3 hours ago

G A I'll try..
3 hours ago

LunaCandy Bloodstroke everybody can do it, you just has to be strong. :3
3 hours ago

G A But see thts the thing I'm not..I wis I was..
3 hours ago

LunaCandy Bloodstroke I use to think I wasn't, I use to fall apart really easily, then I just kinda was like, no. I am strong, and I am me. and I can be whatever I want to be. and I can be happy even in the shittiest of moments.
2 hours ago

G A Wow.. I wish I could be like you.
2 hours ago

LunaCandy Bloodstroke then do it. I had to do it in one of the most worst moments of my whole life, and all I wanted to do was kill myself. but I thought of the people who are in my life. and how many more people I could meet in my life aswell.
2 hours ago

I always knew that Chamille had that power in her! I never doubted it for a moment even if she did. And for the record, the other girl, G A, is absolutely gorgeous. I can't say what kind of person she is since I don't know her, but she is really pretty! I do know the guy she's talking about though!

Saturday, November 06, 2010

hmmmm manipulating mothers?

Chamille heard in a round about way that her runaway friend has decided that she's going to try being really nice to her mom so that she can get her life back.

We were talking about that. Both of us wondered why she doesn't try being honest with her mother. Chamille said that it wasn't going to change anything, that she wouldn't get her life back, and she still wouldn't be able to see her, even IF her mom let her come back home from the "bad kid" reform ranch/school. The lack of honest communication is part of what caused all this stuff in the first place.

If a mom's thoughts and ideas are bigger and better than her child's, and she's adamant about them and loud about them, and possibly annoying about them, the child, like the one in this story, might just tune mom out and nod in agreement to get her to just STOP talking already! That poor mom. I have sympathy for her, really. She really believed that her daughter agreed with everything she said, she really felt like she had wonderful heart to heart conversations with her daughter and that they were in wonderful harmonious agreement. What a shock to find out that her child ran away from her wonderful home full of harmony and agreement.

So, now the daughter is STILL not wanting to communicate with her mother honestly, she wants her life back, her friends back, and what little bit of freedom she had before she was put in lockdown at the reform ranch place. I get it though. If the relationship is set up in such a way where one person's ideas always trump the other, the one being trumped will find other ways to get what she wants in life. That person will sneak and lie and hide. For a mom who is so sure that she is doing right for her daughter, that idea will be a hard one to swallow, but it happens ALL the time.

Chamille isn't holding her breath. She asked me why it seems that we are the only ones who seem to see that what they are doing isn't going to work. This girl's other friends are all in favor of her playing nice to get her life back. Chamille is, and always has been, 100% about honesty, even if it's painful or uncomfortable. She wonders why her friend doesn't just talk to her mom honestly and tell her exactly how she feels and what she wants, at this point, what would she have to lose?

How much could a kid lose? At what point is it too much? Why didn't she tell her mom how she felt in the first place? Her mom isn't a bad person really, lacking in parenting tools perhaps, but not a terrible parent like some other parents we know. It seems to me that open honest communication would help both the mother and the daughter. It would be a long hard road, but they could repair all the damage that has been done. If the mother waits too long, her child's childhood will be gone and I doubt very much that her daughter will forgive her any time soon. It's the nature of tearing down relationships through control and power dynamics. It's so hard to sit and watch it happen. It's hard seeing how torn my own daughter is over it, that I can only imagine how horrible it is for her friend, the one dealing directly with it.

I sent the mom an email a while back and told her she was one of the meanest people I'd ever met. A mutual acquaintance had suggested it was a shame that I said that, but it is truly how I felt. Her actions are ones of cruelty, stemming from pain, I get that, but does being in pain yourself ever excuse cruelty towards others? I guess, for me, I can't look at my actions and see that I'm hurting people and casually go about it anyway. That is the heart of self righteousness and a person can't truly heal from any kind of pain while being that way and behaving in ways that hurt others, especially if their actions are intentional. That doesn't even begin to dig into what this mother is doing to her very own daughter, that was just about her daughter's best friend. What she's doing to her own daughter is much much worse and could potentially destroy any chance she has of ever having a relationship with her. It's tragic that the one person this woman cares about, her whole world, is her daughter, yet she's driving a big wedge in between them, so much so, that her daughter is looking to manipulate her instead of getting what she wants by being honest and forthright.

I'm so glad that my own daughter doesn't do that to me. She will openly tell anyone that she likes me and respects me. She will openly tell me anything because I won't judge her. She's free to live her life the way she'd like to live it and I'm here to bounce ideas on and offer support and a little bit of guidance here and there. The only reason I'm able to do that is because I don't attempt to control her. I wish more parents could see that. In order to have any kind of influence on your kids is to NOT control them, in order to NOT control them, you need to trust, trust them to make good choices and trust them to come to you when they don't make good choices and need help.

Life need not be so black and white, right and wrong. Kids are people, real humans with real thoughts and real ideas and here's a news flash... sometimes they just know better than us parents about what's good and right for themselves, even if they make choices that we don't like! You really can be okay with it, really!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Prevent Running Away

I found this list of ideas for parents of kids that could potentially run away. What I find interesting about it, is that if ALL parents behaved this way towards their kids, their kids might not ever run away! What happens when they have already run? Sometimes parents don't get do overs! If your child has runaway and comes back, really really, follow these directions! Kids who run will often run again and stay gone longer and go farther away. Why risk it?

That list is so basic in parenting skills I find it almost appalling that there are parents that don't do these things. Why even be a parent?

The North American Missing Children Association says that developing a strong foundation of open communication with your child is the key to preventing most runaway cases. Try these tips to improve your relationship with your child:

Pay attention. When your child is talking with you, listen. Don't just nod your head while you're watching television, reading the paper or using your computer. Don't just pretend to listen - kids know the difference.
Give respect. Acknowledge and support your child's struggle to grow to maturity.
Understand. Try to sympathize with what your child is going through. Look at life - at least occasionally - from his or her point of view. Remember that when you were his or her age, your ideas seemed to make sense to you.
Don't lecture. All children hate to be lectured, especially teens. But all kids respond to clear information and direction, most of all when they know that the questions they ask will be answered.
Don't label. The throwing around of useless labels will only confuse the real issues that you wish to address.
Discuss feelings. Talk about what you, as a parent, feel and what you need. Allow your child to talk about his or her feelings, too.
Create responsibility. Give your child choices, not orders. Help him or her to understand the consequences of his or her actions.
Give positive praise. Describe your child's positive and negative behavior and how it affects others. Be specific, and give praise to reward good behavior. Do this at least as often, if not more so, than you criticize behavior that you don't like.
Stop hassling your child. Asking your child too many questions often shuts off information. Give him or her the opportunity to volunteer his or her thoughts and feelings while you show a sincere interest, without probing.
Don't always give the answers. You want your child to be able to find his or her own answers or solutions to problems. You can help by not giving your child the answers all of the time.
Use Teamwork. Work together with your child to evaluate the problems and find a mutually agreeable solution.
Provide support. You must tell your child that you will always love him or her, no matter what.

To All Parents of Runaways,

Kids do not run away from homes that are wonderful and full of love and respect! Make your child's life so wonderful that they never want to run from it or you! Don't be cruel or manipulative. Don't yell or nag. Don't lecture and be rude to your children. Be kind and thoughtful and compassionate. Tell your children that you love them, tell them often and then show them in actions. Build them up and empower them, be their mirror that reflects the beauty that exists inside of them, so that they can see their self worth.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

How mothers lose and how they can win

I have more than a few friends on facebook who are teenagers. I love reading the things they post, their excitement of life, their despair of things gone awry, their jokes and links, all of it. It's fascinating to me. If only I could have used facebook as a teen! One of my friends posted this on Tumblr, via facebook. This particular girl is a new friend. She writes some really beautiful things. This little bit touched me and tied in with what I've been writing about mothers. I asked her if I could quote it and she said I could, so here it is:

Dear mother,

I know you try your best, but that just does not make up for all the wrong you have done in the past. I am sorry but I don’t think I can ever forgive you completely. I love you but some things never change. I hate the fact that you took my father away and gave me strangers apartment couches. Honestly if you brake up with my current step dad, I am not leaving. ~Christa Lee Anne Colt
~~~~~~

The fragility of relationships is so stunning to me. Even a very loving mother can do tons of damage, irreparable damage to their children. Forgiveness is a strange thing. Some people never completely forgive their parents. It's true, I've seen it. Some kids grow up and change and forgive and move on, but some wounds are too deep, too much, too heart breaking. Sometimes the best a person can do is try to forget, try to do things differently, try to heal.

I feel so blessed to have found a way to not inflict damage onto my kids. They will never need to heal from their relationship with me. They will never need to find it in their hearts to forgive me of a great wrong. When I do wrong, I apologize and change the way I do things.

I started writing about mothers because of one mother whose daughter ran away. It's heart breaking. So many broken hearts. Yet it isn't just that mother and that daughter whose hearts are broken. One broken hearted mother has reached out with her grasp to control, to touch dozens of lives, but not in a happy or positive way, in a heart wrenching sad way. Stories keep coming to me from the friends of the daughter, of sadness over the loss of her, the loss of her friendship, the cruelty they see this mother doing to her daughter, and to Chamille. Some of those kids have been able to communicate with this girl and even see her, but it's bittersweet for them because of all the sadness that it creates since most of them are also friends with or know Chamille.

Like Christa's mother, this mother took away a father and replaced him with herself. I don't know Christa's story, I have yet to meet her mom, but I have met her step dad. He was willing to drive all the way out to our side of town to pick her up at 1 am (about a half hour drive) so that she could go have fun doing a haunted house. Not a lot of parents will do that!

It is simply not good enough to try your best. One must rise above what they think their personal best is and reach for something even better. Kids get only one chance at being a kid and parents get only one chance at being the mom or dad of that kid. What we do matters! It matters a lot!

Mothers can lose their children, perhaps not physically, but emotionally. If a mother causes too much damage to the relationship, even if they are well intentioned in doing so, children will guard themselves, put up walls for their own emotional security and well being. They do it to their parents and often it gets carried onward into personal relationships.

So how can a mother win the hearts of their children? By putting their children's hearts first, by looking towards what will make their relationship better with their children. If what a mother does, isn't relationship building, she should not be doing it. Sometimes mothers can trick themselves into believing in a greater good and bypass the here and now of their relationship with their children. Raising children is ONLY here and now. There is no tomorrow more important than what is right there in the moment. Life is precious. Sometimes kids don't live to adulthood, sometimes, when they do, they move far away literally and figuratively, and sometimes they don't wait until adulthood to leave.

IT DOESN'T NEED TO BE THAT WAY! Did you hear that? It really doesn't! Life can be beautiful RIGHT NOW. In any moment a parent can stop what they are doing and do something different, something kind and gentle and soft and loving, something that creates happiness, something that creates a stronger relationship. Any parent can find a way to do what is better, one step in the direction of what is happier.

If your default is to be angry, calm yourself, if it's to yell, silence yourself, it it's to criticize, say something kind, if it's to guilt, assume positive intent and examine your assumptions.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

mothers... and parenting... onward

In all things that a mother can do, the most important is to build a relationship with her children.

That relationship can look so many different ways. Just like a mother who shushes her children or soothes them, a mother can create a relationship that is beautiful and lasts a lifetime, or one that is bumpy and difficult. Sometimes it's really bumpy for many years and people change and it gets better.

There are things one can do and ways to be with your children where it starts beautiful and stays that way. Mothers can and should be friends with their children, giving advice as needed, helping in times of need, laughing together, and playing together. It never needs to be otherwise.

Like any relationship, if there is unbalance there will be problems. If one person attempts to control another, there will be problems. If one person's ideas trump the other, there will be problems. So how does a mother go about NOT doing those things?

The very first thing is to recognize that other person as a full human being, that child right in front of you, who is growing and changing right before your eyes IS another human being. That person deserves trust and respect, the same kind of trust and respect that adults give other adults as a default benefit. In doing so, you also earn trust and respect, it's mutually beneficial. If you can trust and respect your children, you will not be able to, in good conscious control and belittle them, not even for their own good.

Parents have all the rights within a family, they get to say what goes and what doesn't. It's powerful, and power can be used to control others. Mothers do it all the time to their children. They do it by enforcing their own mandated rules. It's easy to do. Since a baby is completely dependent on it's mother for everything, what mom says and does, goes. What happens is that, as that baby grows, it becomes independent of it's mother, it walks or crawls away, comes back for it's dependence and goes back away.

As that little one grows it moves farther away and stays gone longer, and all the in between times can be little bits of maintaining closeness or alienating that young person. By the time that child reaches puberty, if alienation has happened repeatedly, that child will remain a secret to their mothers. Alienation happens every time a parent demands something of their child that is in any way hurtful, disrespectful, or tears down trust, as seen through the eyes of the child. That's important to see that a parent can do these things and not recognize that their child feels very different about the actions being taken.

Here's where it gets tricky though... sometimes a mom might not even know that they are doing something that their child dislikes, because the lines of communication have broken down over the course of years of not being trusting or respectful of that child's voice. In the case of the mother of the runaway that I recently posted about here, the daughter had been made to feel guilty so many times that she just simply agreed with anything her mother said, just to get her to stop talking. The mother sensed compliance, agreement, and being on the same page as her daughter, but it simply wasn't the case and hadn't been for a very long time.

There is a way to change that. The very best way is to give ample opportunity to listen, not just hear what you want to hear, but really listen and stop yourself from making comment. Listen without judgement and without giving your own opinion, ask for theirs, and only give yours if you are asked.

If you haven't torn down the relationship, advice is freely accepted and welcomed, even if you give bad advice that you later need to retract. There is nothing like open honest communication between a parent and a child. Without it, a parent is navigating blindly. With it, lives are shared and transformed in ways that I never thought possible. With it, a mom gets truth and respect, without it she gets half truths, secrets and lies.

Underneath a mom's attempt to control, lies fear. I see it every time. Fear steals away a person's ability to rationalize without bias. What is there to be afraid of more than the loss of a relationship with your child?

Monday, October 11, 2010

Joy

Open your heart and things happen.
Life swirls around and beauty surfaces.
Joy is always there pushing itself into the open to shine and breathe in life.
Live life.
Feel it all, the tears and suffering, the healing and love, and above all let there by joy.
Let there be joyous thoughts and joyous life.
Let it sit there like a glowing light in the dark waiting for you to bask in it.
Be in the light of joy and let it surround you, all around and carry you away.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

mothers... continued...

My daughter's best friend ran away from home this last July. By all outward standards this girl's mother is a good mom. She lets her daughter go to concerts, buys her clothing that she likes, and pays for dance classes. Sounds nice right? I mean, they have a nice house, and the mom makes nice food, they go to church and have everything looking JUST right. The mom also makes sure her daughter has the "right" friends and wears the "right" clothes and takes the "right" dance classes and is a chaperon on outings to make sure that her daughter is behaving "right", meaning, not doing drugs and getting into trouble.

Somehow, someway, that mom started shushing her daughter. She shushed her daughter when her daughter expressed interest in things the mother didn't think were "right". She shushed her daughter by fearing that her daughter would do drugs in her absence. She shushed her daughter when her daughter expressed the desire to hang out with friends. She shushed her daughter by trying to be a louder voice and hoping with all hopes that her voice would be so loud and so right that her daughter would see her wisdom and take it and use it in exactly the way the mother wanted her to do.

It's so stifling for a kid that just wants a little space and freedom to breathe and be her own person. Everything, for that kid, had strings attached. Some kids will comply to these things, some kids will simply cope knowing they can't change their circumstances and put up and shut up. Some kids simply won't and this kid didn't want to. Her life felt unbearable and crushing, to the point of needing to get away from that oppression.

There was a moment while this girl was at our house, and she was in Chamille's room and they were sitting, laughing, listening to music, and making things, and they were just happy, relaxed and happy. For the last 2 1/2 yrs that they have known each other, they have NEVER been able to do that. Two teen girls, best friends for over 2 yrs and they had NEVER had the opportunity to sit and laugh and listen to music and make things. Every time they spent together was measured and timed with conditions. Other than when this girl was here when she ran away, she had only been able to stay the night at our house 3 times. The first time she ran away (and here)from home, a little over a year prior, was because of the sheer disappointment of not being able to stay the night at her best friend's house, it was the "last straw" for her at that time. In the space of a year she was allowed to stay the night 3 times, clearly not enough to create a happy existence for this girl.

Moms can shush their children or soothe them. Sometimes the consequences of shushing are simply not worth it.....

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

A story about mothers.. completely unedited with many parts...

This is a true story with thoughts mixed in.

If there were any way that I could persuade all parents to be kind to their kids, I would do it. I would shout it from the mountain tops and sprinkle magic dust on all parents on the day their child arrives.

When a baby is born, they are perfect and whole and beautiful. A bundle of joy! Somehow new mothers in the midst of their sleepless nights and busy days, get through and still love their little babies and change their diapers and rock them in their arms.

I'm not talking about the mothers that don't do that. There are plenty of mothers that don't, but they are the exception and the heart breaking parts of humanity, broken people trying to raise children.

Every mother tries to start out doing everything just right for their perfect baby. Every maternity check up is in anticipation for that child to come and be with you. That excitement of watching a child grow inside of you and come out and then watching and waiting for that child to grow into an adult. Every step of the way, most aware parents try to do what is right and best for that young person.

If that mother can let go of expectations of their child, of what they should do or be, it's easier to do what is right and best for that child because what is done is directly for that child, not for the mother and through that, you will be the best mother you can be. If a child cries and a mother soothes, she will be a better mother than one who shushes her child.

Mothers can and do soothe or shush their children in so many different ways. I want to always be the kind of mother who soothes.

Sunday, August 01, 2010

Math is art is science is life

For anyone who has ever hated math class or anyone who thinks they are bad at math, you should watch this film. THIS is why math, the way that it is taught in school, should be criminal! THIS is why schools fail at helping kids discover the beauty within the world. THIS is why the way we divide the world into "subjects" stifles creativity and the possibility of greatness. People used to believe in the interconnectedness of math and art and science and everything else in the whole wide world. How and why that ever changed, I don't know.

There is greatness that can happen by exploring the world through your passions. One idea can lead to millions of others IF you let it happen, IF that love of learning isn't crushed by boredom and tedium and dullness. The world is exciting and beautiful!

Between The Folds


At PBS, there is a whole bunch of cool stuff to explore on this!

games and info and other cool stuff

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

I'm that mom

I'll play the impromptu blog carnival... inspired by Flo and then Ronnie

I'm that mom who...
...lets teenagers come over and climb up onto the roof of the house
...stays up later than anticipated to watch a youtube video that leads to more of them
...goes on bike rides even when I have a pile of dirty dishes in my sink
...asks for grocery requests and tries to comply
...gives either of my children my last $5 bill
...helps find ways around seemingly insurmountable obstacles
...lets my kids pick the music
...lets my kids pick the movie and/or TV show
...sets aside projects to help one of my kids with one of their projects
...makes platters of food and calls it dinner
...lets my kids leave large and messy projects and play out in the living room for extended periods of time
...will spend an hour or more salvaging a special toy that was injured
...who will give up my special saved crafty item to one of my kids who sees a vision of use for it before I do
...doesn't have any rules, but when pressed, will say my only rule is to "be kind" or "play nice", said mostly to neighbor kids who insist I have rules that I'm not sharing
...who doesn't punish my kids or ground them or make them do chores
...who is privy to really private information
...who is blessed to have kids that are happy and like to be home

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Unschooling is: post #7

Unschooling is about seeing the world from the perspective of the child and taking that into consideration.

The day before yesterday the neighbor girl ran away from home. Her mom had sent her to her room and grounded her for being disrespectful. To me, the irony is clear, the mom was clearly being disrespectful of her child by grounding her and sending her to her room. As if somehow, because she is younger and smaller she can be controlled and manipulated to the parent's idea of how she should be.

There's a lot more to that story, much of it could have been avoided if the mom took her kid's perspective of the world into consideration. I drove the mom somewhere that same night that the girl ran away and in the car, we talked about stuff. She keeps allowing bad men into her life, she says, and this is her wording not mine, "My picker's broken." I get that, it's a cycle of violence that she probably grew up with.

Her kid's "pickers" aren't broken yet. They knew immediately that the last guy she brought home was a bad one. Her son knew it, he came over to my house and cried the day he moved in. A year later and another kid, that man landed in jail for giving his girlfriend a black eye and breaking a radio. That was the least of all that he did. The daughter that ran away had been removed from the home because of that man. She was forced to live with her estranged father and while there, witnessed him brutally assault his mother. She was able to go back home because her mom's boyfriend was in jail.

She's angry and frustrated and ran away. She called the police and made allegations of abuse. Personally, I don't think it's true, I think she wanted to punish her mom. It worked. I don't know what the outcome is. I've been a crying shoulder for that mom so many times. She's so caught up in her own emotional trauma that she can barely parent.

If I had to give a simple set of instructions it would be this; put yourself in the perspective of the child, be calm and gentle, don't allow men to be involved for a while, GET help, seek counseling.

I wonder sometimes how parents can be so unaware of what goes on within the minds of their children. How can a mother, who gets a second chance at having her daughter back home, the abusive man gone, NOT see that she needs to be the voice of her children and be understanding of the huge emotional trauma that they dealt with and should recover from?

So, that's not really unschooling. From my perspective, seeing the world through the eyes of a child, gives me pause to do things differently. It would be easy to do just what feels right to ME. Kids are born with this innate ability to see things from their own eyes, from their own perspective, it's what makes us all individuals. As they grow and learn and see and do, their perspective grows to encompass more and to see things from many angles, including the view of others. How much better can that happen, than to model that for them? To be a person who does that, as their parent, the most trusted person in their world, is a gift, not to be taken for granted.

Yet, I see parents doing this in big and small ways all the time. Every time a parent tells a child something that isn't true, they take it for granted. Every time a parent sees multiple choices and only give their child one, they do that. Every time a parent says "no" and doesn't have a good and logical reason for it, they do that. Every time a parent's idea of what is "right" trumps the child's idea of what is "right", they do that.

Children are PEOPLE! It shouldn't be a radical idea to acknowledge this, but most parents don't see that. Sure, children have less experience and may not always make the best choices. What I've come to understand through unschooling, is that if you can see that a child can learn what they need to learn to live happily, then certainly you can see that they can make decisions too, that they can think for themselves as real bona fide PEOPLE, and what better way to help them along, as the more experienced person, by being there as their partner and validating their very person hood and choices, by being their soft landing when they make mistakes, by helping them find better and better ways to do things.

These are the things that make unschooling work. How in the world can a parent angrily swat their child's behind for not obeying an order, if they first see that their child is a real person NOT to be ordered around? If a big adult male person did that to a woman, they'd go to jail. It dehumanizes people. Might does not make right, no matter how much people feel that it does. It's oppressive. Children are people, and as people, should be treated humanely, asked, talked to, and respected by those around them as REAL PEOPLE, not objects to be ordered about. If a child says "no", then gosh darn it, it should be respected. The more I respect my children's right to have a say, the more they say "yes" to me.

When parents can see that their child has a perspective that requires the answer of "no", even if it causes inconvenience to the parent, they'll know that much more about how their child works, how they view the world and find out why they are saying "no". It so often is something so simple to accommodate that I wonder at parents who expect obedience, and if a parent shows how life can be one of accommodating one another, they will do the same, for you, for others, and for their own children. It's a selfless act to accommodate a child, but one with HUGE rewards that come with a child who becomes accommodating in the most unexpected ways.

It's a whole different way to view the world. We live in a culture that puts children away from their homes to be raised by strangers, a world where they must follow rules and "get along" with all those around them. We train them to not question authority, to put up with bullies and not recognize their own comforts and feelings. Parents perpetuate this at home, kids must eat when they may not be hungry and sleep when they may not be sleepy and do homework that they may not want to do. All of this is called NORMAL childhood. There is NOTHING normal about living in this way. Most adults I know, if put in that environment would react terribly to it because they KNOW it's wrong. Enslaved people know that enslavement is wrong, they feel it to their very core. It's exactly what we do to children though, we treat children as if they are somehow less than adults, that they must do and go along with every thing that adults around them say they must. Then, people are left wondering why so many teenagers misbehave, why college students binge drink and why children disrespect their parents by "talking back" or do their chores in anger.

There is nothing wrong with being a child. Children are people, younger and less experienced people, people capable of greatness! They aren't disobedient, they aren't rebellious, they aren't disordered, or diseased, they aren't any less than any adult. Children react to their environments in the same ways in which ALL people react to their environments. The difference is that children so often don't get to create their environments the way adults have the power to do for themselves.

Unschooling is seeing the world through the eyes of their children and creating an environment that matches it, that fosters it.

Saturday, July 03, 2010

Unschooling is: post #6

In the absence of school and all it entails, children can be free to pursue their passion.

Our culture has gone the way of certification and qualifications and benchmarks and licensing and degrees and diplomas. Yet, what do those things mean? What do those things imply? That a person has put in a certain amount of time, read a certain amount of required literature, written a certain amount of required writing, taken a certain amount of non-essential required courses, done a certain amount of hands on work, and passed enough tests and examines.

Does it really mean that a person has reached a level of proficiency? Does it mean that person really knows what they are doing or that their knowledge is enough to be employable, and that they have a strong work ethic?

Our culture creates commodities of people. Early 20th century factories required functional expendable people that were literate enough to perform the required tasks. That model has been perpetuated many times over in the work force and the education designed to create a mass of employable people. Is it still necessary? Is this really what parents want for their children?

Chamille is old enough to have a job. What she wants to do is cut hair. To do so requires a license. This morning I read the history of barbering. The red and white striped pole stands for the two points of barbering, one of cutting hair, the white, and one of surgical procedures, the red. The pole itself is said to be used by the patient to hold onto and it had a cap on it that represented the container for holding leeches and catching blood. When a barber would finish with all that blood, those white cloths would be rinsed and hung out to dry, twisting in the wind and winding around the pole to create a twist of bloody cloths.

Many hundreds of years later, barber poles still exist to symbolize a barber shop. The first organization of barbers was founded in 1094. The practice of barbering is said to be around since 6000 BC. It involved the practice of hair cutting, teeth extraction, medicines, and other specialized surgical procedures. How many of those barbers today do any blood letting, amputation, or teeth pulling?

Somewhere along the way, barbering and surgical procedures got separated. Barbers were paid more than someone who was just a surgeon, until surgeons alone were used by British war ships during the naval wars. Since it wasn't referenced, I'm assuming these were the wars that came about with the advent of the Navy Royal in the time of King Henry VIII.

Barbering was a multi-tasked business practice of offering several services. Many hundreds of years created specialty services. The original practice of cutting hair still exists. One can go to a beauty school and get a license to cut hair. Separate from that, they can also get a longer and more expensive training in barbering, which also provides a license to cut hair. The difference, as near as I can tell, is the learning to do facial hair and learning the history of barbering. Kind of... Here's an excerpt from one barber school about what is learned in barber school, "Although barbering courses are often taught at cosmetology and beauty schools, there are also independent barber schools which are designed specifically to teach the time-honored profession of barbering. Students at barber schools learn such services as steam facials, facial massages, and foam shaves, as well as modern razor styling, hair cutting, coloring, permanent waving, and blow drying. Through these programs, students train for their state barber license, which is given by a state barber board."

I seriously doubt they teach any sort of blood letting as a time honored tradition of barbering! It's almost laughable, actually, that steam facials, facial massages, and foam shaves, are considered to be essential time honored traditions of barbering considering the actual history of barbering!

What DID get held onto after all those prolific things a barber did, was the credentialed aspect of it. The easiest part of being a barber is STILL being thrown into the arena of being so complex that one must be licensed to do it.

What I'm left wondering, is why do so many professions require licensing? If a person is really great at cutting hair, and performing all the services that a hair dresser does, what difference would a license provide? Most states license through the guise of "health and safety". Is hair cutting really for the health and safety of an individual? Is that a hold over from the history of barbering? Why is a profession relegated to aesthetics, controlled by health and safety? Despite the obvious reasons of disease prevention from the tools of the trade, it seems a bit overboard. Not only that, all schools in the area require a highschool diploma or a GED, as if somehow those things will make for a better cosmetologist. The benchmarks for those requirements have little to do with what makes for a passionate and talented hair dresser.

I must admit, my thinking has been influenced a bit by Ivan Illich's Deschooling Society. In the very first part of that book, he writes, "Rich and poor alike depend on schools and hospitals which guide their lives, form their world view, and define for them what is legitimate and what is not. Both view doctoring oneself as irresponsible, learning on one's own as unreliable, and community organization, when not paid for by those in authority, as a form of aggression or subversion. For both groups the reliance on institutional treatment renders independent accomplishment suspect."

I'm simultaneously reading "DIY U, Edupunks, Edupreneurs, and the Coming Transformation of Higher Education" by Anya Kamenetz. Both books say very similar things about how education, and the need for credentialed mass populations, may actually do more harm than good.

So, what does this have to do with unschooling?

Chamille really wants to get paid to cut and style hair. The way *I* see it, she should get on with the doing of that. There are barriers to getting there to legally accept monetary compensation for doing so. To Chamille it's no big deal to jump through that hoop, although, she has misgivings about doing all the extra classes that she has zero interest in that are generally required for getting a license.

For me, if, as a culture, we'd like a change in the status quo of the lack luster educational system, the worst thing one could do, is jump through the hoops and buy into that, literally. I don't have the answer.

Meanwhile, I will support my kids in getting what they want out of life, in the here and now. Right now, that might just be cosmetology school and all that it entails, state credentials and all! Even though, the subversive and aggressive part of me would like to say, "F that"!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Sistine Chapel

This is really cool! A virtual Sistine Chapel!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Lying

On one of my wonderful yahoo groups email lists that I frequent, there is a thread about lying. I haven't weighed in on it yet, largely because it's one of those moments that I have so much to say, but no time to write it all out. Each email I open is one more thing I want to say something on!

Sandra Dodd has a page on her website devoted to why people lie. It's here.

One quote from that page: "when someone lies to someone else, it's because the person doing the lying actually does not trust the person being lied to."

At the most recent Life Is Good Conference, I had more than a few chats with Diana Jenner, she's over there on my list of blogs in case you want to see some more of her.

She was telling me about her habit of lying and how it had become so ingrained in her as a person that it's taken all these years to really actively work to undo it. It's not big lies, it's stupid little stuff. She had a heart to heart with one of our special guests that we brought with us to the conference about this subject specifically. I love Diana sooo much for doing that because this is one area this kid struggles, and it has EVERYthing to do with how he relates to his dad. How he relates to his dad has everything to do with that quote above. There is zero trust built in that relationship.

For a kid, the fear of getting in trouble or the fear of looking bad in the eyes of a parent is HUGE! Kids want more than anything to feel loved, especially when they are not at their best, or when they've made a mistake and are already feeling pretty darn crummy about it internally. If they tell a parent the truth and that parent reacts badly and punishing, it only validates that internal feeling of zero self worth. So many parents do that though, they punish lying harshly and cruelly.

Most kids don't want to lie. They want to get it off their chest, that feeling of having done wrong. The Catholic church recognizes this in a sanctioned way, they also sanction guilt, but that's a whole other subject and also one that came up recently. There is something very cathartic about telling the truth.

Back to this kid. It's taken a long time for him to know that he need not lie to us. It was kind of cute, in a way, how he'd do that sneaky sort of half truth lie for a long time and we'd call him on it. He half expected us to kick him to the curb for it, but we didn't, we accepted him and finally he trusts us enough not to lie. He still lies to his dad, all the time, about lots of things. I get why he does it, I really do. Mostly his technique in dealing with his dad, is complete avoidance and when that's impossible, lie.

What I think would be really really cool? If all those kids that lie to their parents, would simply tell the shocking and sometimes horrifying truth. I wish they would confront their parents head on. After all, nobody can change another person. A kid can't change the way their parents are going to react, good or bad. What they CAN do, is change the way they are as people towards their parents. If a kid can actively tell the truth in the face of an angry parent that's out to punish, it's one huge step of self empowerment.

Lying is an attempt to maintain control in a situation that feels powerless. When a kid lies it's because they know that telling the truth will get them in trouble. A parent who dishes out punishment towards their kid, is attempting to control behavior. The child's reaction of lying is an attempt to control the environment, which includes the reaction of a parent. Seen in that light, a kid can use truth as a very powerful method of self empowerment and refuse to accept the behavioral control, by doing what they want to do, the "undesirable" behavior and maintain a healthy life of truth telling.

The deal is, kids will do what they want to do anyway whether or not the parents approve. The more controlling a parent is, the MORE the kid will do what they want to do and the MORE they will lie about it. The more a parent tries to control, even really silly things, like how often a kid showers, the more deviant the behavior of the kid will be. Life is more like a contest of wills, a power struggle, and one that ALL parents will lose. The bigger the power struggle the more both parties lose. What a lot of kids don't see, is that it IS a contest and a power struggle, and that "hey, I don't have to play." It's not surprising really, since power struggles and control mechanisms are really unhealthy ways to build relationships and kids who grow up with that aren't emotionally healthy enough to recognize their own self worth and empowerment. Which is why so many kids grow up to repeat that cycle. It's why kids who grow up in abuse, often repeat that cycle.

Control is an illusion. Parents who control, are themselves out of control. Kids who are controlled feel like they have no control over themselves. It's a vicious cycle of disempowerment, in which lying plays a huge part, both lying to oneself and lying to others.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Race to Nowhere

Oh, I'd like to see this! Even though I have already rejected the notion that schools are necessary, I see kids suffer everyday because of it! It's mind crushing, soul crushing stuff! This movie will surely cause me to cry. I'm so glad that there are still parents out there that see that this really does happen and refuse to allow their kids to grow up in that negative soul crushing world. Today's kids don't have time to wait for school reform that won't likely happen until they are having kids of their own!

Friday, June 11, 2010

Unschooling is: post #5

Unschooling is LEARNING! It's about learning all the time. It's about happy learning and fun learning. It's about living, loving, life, every moment of it and soaking it all in!

I found this interesting take on learning...

"Learning is an act of rebellion or revolution, it seeks to discover the unknown, and is drivenby the desire to do, create, and invent. Learning wants to know the thing, the past, and then build on it as a means to change the present and future, much like those during the Reformation who dared to print, read, and share the Bible. Learning seeks, not just to dip its toe in the deep end, but to dive in head first."

It came from this blog

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Unschooling is: post #4

The world is a big fascinating place! I'm struck with this idea that because the world is so fascinating, my kids will find it that way too! I heard an unschooling parent say that history isn't so important, perhaps the words were taken out of context or perhaps the person meant the subject of "history" isn't so important.

Here's the thing though, it IS important. It could be my personal bent on life and others could greatly disagree with that thought. It's not necessarily important to know exact names and dates, but ideas and time frames are pretty cool to sift through. I can't imagine ever telling my kids, or even succumbing to the idea that there are things out there that aren't important or fun or interesting to know. I'd love to know everything about everything!

As my oldest gets older I'm aware of what she knows and what she doesn't know because we talk. She may not know a lot about history, but she's never had a moment where she finds it distasteful or uninteresting or even not important. Not too long ago we talked about Galileo and the Catholic church. That stuff fascinates her. Her life doesn't dwell on these things, it's peripheral to all the other things she does dwell on, but it's there like a little dot in her mind that may just connect to another little dot one day and then another and another.

Unschooling is finding the world interesting and sharing that with your children so they can absorb all that interesting stuff! It's so easy to see little kids interested in the world around them, it takes a lot of passion to help a kid carry that into adulthood. There are lots of things that can crush it, but for sure saying something isn't important to know is one way to do that. It doesn't mean we need to cram things into a child's head, it doesn't work very well anyway. It means being open to the idea that everything can be important and interesting.

Chamille has a sign on her door that she's had up for 5 or 6 yrs that says "everything in life has the potential to be funny", then a "stop" sign, then underneath the word "stop" it says "hating smart asses". I love the double entendre! I think that idea can apply to lots of things in life!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Sir Ken Robinson: Bring on the learning revolution! | Video on TED.com

Sir Ken Robinson: Bring on the learning revolution! | Video on TED.com

I love the idea of human potential. It's something that I find really saddening about the way public schools harbor teenagers in walls and seats. HUGE loss of human potential there!

Friday, May 14, 2010

Unschooling is: post #3

Unschooling is finding a way to create happiness. When a kid is down and out in life, and can't see the forest through the trees or the sunny side of life, or they can't see the happy side of the situation and it feels bleak; THAT is when it's a parents job to step in and guide them to the happy side.

Unschooling is helping a kid see the sunshine and the positive side of the bleak situation and helping them get there. It's consciously distracting their path with something light and fun and interesting.

Unschooling is about making their lives a bit comfier, a bit cozier, it's bringing them a nice little snack and a drink of water and cleaning all their bedding so that it smells nice, and cleaning up after their latest project so they don't feel overwhelmed, and putting on nice music or a funny movie, or going on a nice walk somewhere outside in the fresh air.

Unschooling is about listening to a child's woes and not dismissing them and not telling them to "buck up" and then turning around and sprinkling their lives with a bit of niceness and happiness, so that they will just naturally "buck up".

Learning happens better with a happy heart and parents can help with that in large and small ways. Sometimes the little things are bigger than the big things!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Kid power

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Unschooling is: post # 2

Unschooling is seeing children as real people. It's seeing teenagers as real people. If a parent can take the idea of that real person right in front of them and see their ideas and insight as valid, then they'll be one step closer to truly respecting their children.

There is a shift that happens when a parent is down this path of unschooling, where the comments of more traditional parenting appears loud and glaring and dismissive.

What prompted this thought was a parent of a teen seeing their child's very real thoughts as stemming from being a hormonal, rock and roll, typical teenager. If a man were to see his wife in the exact same way, she'd likely feel dismissed, whether she was hormonal, into rock and roll, a typical woman, or not. Why is it different for kids?

What I've found, is that the more I examine how I view my children, the more my language changes when I write or talk about them, or to them. If one of my children came to me with a very serious, to them, issue, and I decided that they were too young to know better, too hormonal, or just being a typical kid, the advice I gave them may be dismissed. They may learn this sort of behavior and dismiss my thoughts, as the parent, because I'm too old to relate or really understand, as I've proven through my actions and words.

This is the sort of thinking that drives kids to their peers. Peers can understand and relate to each other and tend not to be dismissive because they KNOW how big it is to feel these things, these big, natural, life things. An unschooling parent is someone who is their child's partner, someone they can truly come to with ideas, problems, and issues, and feel really heard and understood as a REAL person with REAL thoughts.

It's not something that I ever expected to come out of unschooling. Yet, for unschooling to really work well, a parent really needs to see the world through the eyes of their child.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Unschooling is: post #1

I've decided to keep a semi regular idea post about this topic.

So perhaps once a week or so, I'll do a continuation of this.

If I had to sum it all up right now, I'd say that unschooling is trusting children to learn from their environment, what they need to know when they need to know it. It's knowing that everything, every idea, every action leads to something else, to something new or revisiting something old that's new again. It's knowing deeply that kids that are happy and trusted will learn better and easier than kids who aren't. It's following rabbit trails that are interesting and stopping and checking things out, collecting ideas and information, and continuing onward, possibly finding the rabbit at the end and possibly ending at the river and following that instead.

Friday, April 23, 2010

ahhhh unschooling

It seems everyone has their opinions about unschooling this week!

Rather than doing all the work over, I'll rely on my friend Ronnie...

Thanks for compiling all that! I had considered doing it, then saw that you had done it already, so I'll piggy back yours!

I liked this one too.

...and of course, who could talk about unschooling and NOT talk about Sandra Dodd, who was kind enough to do an interview here.

...or Pam, who is also super amazing! Who I will get to meet next month in real life!

Cheers to all you unschoolers! You guys, all my cool awesome super wonderful unschooling friends, kick ass! What a busy week of damage control! Geez, you'd think that the idea of learning had been co-opted by school or something.

And if you still believe that people don't need experts to spoon feed them information then perhaps you can join this facebook International Freedom In Education Day

Never fear, it's not just for all us radical unschoolers, it's for anyone who believes in freedom of education. Here's the weblink if you aren't a facebook person. Although it appears that the facebook link is way more up to date.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

So many thoughts floating around in my head

I recently set my facebook page on private, prompted by a parent sending me a message thinking that his son shouldn't be reading my status updates because it wasn't helping him do well in school.

I waited a week to write back. I wrote and edited and wrote and edited and finally wrote something I was willing to send. Chamille suggested I ignore it and pretend I never received the message. For some reason I really thought I could help in some way. If I say and do nothing, what changes? If I say and do something, what changes? I decided that I really had nothing to lose, this person already dislikes me and everything I believe in and everything he *thinks* I'm about.

I took out all inflammatory wording, anything that would evoke a defensive response. I really do care about this kid. I wish so much that I could help this dad be a better parent, a nicer person. I had Chamille read it and got her approval to send it. She said it was nice, but that he wouldn't get it.

I sent it. He didn't get it. He was defensive. I sent him a link to Sir Ken Robinson's website because he has some really great things to say about how the educational system destroys the creative process. I thought if he would understand anything, this would be it. He's an artist who knows the system is broken, yet forces his child to fit right into it and all it's brokenness. That's not even the worst part though. He's just not a very nice dad to his son. I know he loves his son very much, but he's seriously lacking parenting tools other than yelling, shaming, punishing, and grounding.

Right now this kid is in parental lock down. His dad is taking him to school and picking him up and then he forces him to sit and do his homework until he falls asleep, ready for the same thing the next day. He's grounded from coming over to our house, which also punishes Chamille. I really hope good can come out of all of this. Parents should spend time with their kids, they should connect with them. Hopefully the forceful lock down and babysitting will create positive interactions where father and son can work together on helping homework become something positive. The part that concerns me, is the sheer negation of what this kid loves, keeping him from seeing Chamille, may do more harm than any good that could come from trying to connect, assuming that connection is the goal.

I've decided to put this all out into the open...

Here is the original message sent to me:

I'm having a hard enough time getting X threw high school as it is and to have constant unschooling quotes (about the "horrors" of the school system) fed to him on facebook doesn't help. I do not have someone else to support me while I school him myself. I have gotten him into classes to make it easier for him (smaller class sizes and more chances to get ahead), but he doesn't even try at all in some classes. I know the high school system is not perfect in any way, but I expect my son to put forth some kind of effort...at least try. I am in no way putting the blame for his apathy in school on you. I just saying the constant
the advocation of unschooling, something which is not an option for many parents, doesn't help.

Here is my response:

I'm really sorry that you and X are struggling. I can almost, about 99%, assure you that X doesn't read anything I post on FB. He goes there to chat with Chamille or Aly, usually. He also very rarely uses FB, not even at our house. I'm also not his only friend who posts things about school and educational reform. Last I checked, we had 30 mutual friends and 25 of them are other homeschooling ones.

I rarely post status updates on FB and even more rarely do I post anything about school stuff. However, most of my FB friends are other homeschoolers, family members and old school classmates. The primary purpose of my FB usage is to connect with other homeschoolers. X probably sees more pro-homeschooling posts and/or anti schooling posts from his peers, both schooled and non schooled ones. If you don't believe me, imagine how many of his school friends write "ugh, school sucks, I hate school so much!" and the other popular "ugh, my parents suck, I hate them so much!"

I don't want to have to censor myself because you are concerned about X having influences to his thinking that you don't approve of. Like I already mentioned, X has 25 mutual homeschooling friends, some of whom post lots of status updates about educational reform. If you want to be a bigger influence in X's life and how he thinks and believes, it's simple, be nicer to him. Be his partner in life, stop yelling at him, stop punishing him, stop shaming him, stop grounding him. Love him up while you still can, these last few teen years are fleeting, then gone. X is an amazing individual and he needs to hear that from you.

That being said... you don't have to go it alone. I can help if you let me. I have a great deal of experience in helping parents help and deal with their kids. I understand why you feel like you do. You very much love X and want what's best for him and simultaneously feel up against a wall in how to go about it. If you're being completely honest with yourself, you may even recognize that what you are doing isn't working very well with X. That's got to be really hard. Being a parent isn't easy, especially being a single parent, I really do get that!

X has talked a lot about his experience with school. If you care to listen, I'd share some of it with you. He knows how I feel about school, which, believe it or not, I don't hate. School is necessary for some people, and in general, educated masses of people are good for the world. There is a great deal that I very much dislike about school, things that you might actually agree with since you are an artist who has a leaning towards counter culture. Schools very much perpetuate the political/social status quo. This is an area that you and X are a lot alike in, one of many actually, and perhaps even a good talking point between you two.

I can't tell you what to do. There are no right or wrong answers, just better ideas and better choices, only you get to decide what those are. X will either comply with your ideas and choices or he won't. Ultimately, X will, in about 3 yrs or less, decide for himself whether or not he'll agree or disagree, or whether or not he'll maintain any sort of relationship with either of his parents. That's the way it works. What you, as the parent, do now will determine much of that.

I have always encouraged X to do better in his classes. I have also taken him to school when he's missed his bus, so that he isn't inclined to say "screw it" and ditch. I also really believe that X does try in school. He does put forth an effort, it's just not the way that you'd like it to be. His effort involves simply being there, in a place he hates, every day. Imagine for a moment that you had a job that you hated and yet you couldn't leave for years, a place where people were mean to you, stole things from you, and treated you as someone inferior. All of those things happen to X in school.

If you've read down this far, cool and thanks! There are things you could do to change the way X views school and ways in which you could make it easier for him to get through. There are always options! I mentioned this before and I stand by it, if you really want X to get through school you need to let him own the experience for himself and stop trying to make him perform to your standards. Whether he does well or not, it will be his choice, something he does for himself, not for you or anybody else. That is ultimately how all humans behave.

It would help a lot if the kids were to hang out at your house every now and again so that you could get their awesome company every once in a while and maybe get to know them better. They are fun and interesting people to talk to and hang out with! Chamille even said she'd help X with his homework and keep him on task with it (girls can be like magic that way). That so far, hasn't been an option because you don't like having her over and you don't let X do his homework anywhere but at home. Whatever you decide to do, I really do wish you well and I really do care a lot! My intent, assuming I have one, has never been to thwart you in any way. What I want more than anything is for you guys to be able to find a way to be kind and loving towards each other. X knows that too, I make it abundantly clear.

His response (loaded with lies and defensiveness):

Well four F's does not exactly tell me he is trying. He is sitting in a chair staring off into space and you think its better for me to say "good job, son". I would like him to show me he is putting forth some kind of effort. As for me always yelling at him, that is not true. I am a pretty kind easy going person and he has it pretty easy around here, I just expect him to take care of his responsibilities. At your house he has none, doesn't have to wear his retainer, take a shower, do his homework, wake on up time, anything a responsible parent expects his or her child to do. Of course he loves it over there...your his friend NOT his parent. The next time he misses the bus he needs to call me NOT you, you are NOT his parent. I love X very much and that is why I am doing these things for him. I would spend more time with him if he wasn't picked up at 7:30am and dropped off at 12:00pm every day he possibly can. Life is not just fun and games, it is also taking care of your responsibilities, once you have taken care of them, then you can have some fun. That is what I want my son to learn. My mother is a kind person who worked a full time job and raised me and my brother, she expected certain things of me and I love her for it.
And I never said I don't want Chamille over I just don't want her over when I am not here and X rarely ever asks if she can come over cause he is always at your house. As for X doing his homework with Chamille, I just don't see much work getting done in that scenario.

My final response, which caused him to "bitch about us and talk shit" about me and my family according to X:

I'm not afraid to be wrong are you? Live life and have fun! Best wishes to you!
**with the Sir Ken Robinson link mentioned above attached**

End

I do understand that he's scared and defensive, that's clear from what he says and how he responds. In the past, he's chosen to call and yell and scream at me, so I guess writing is a huge step up from that! I feel completely powerless to make a positive impact on this. I really do care for X and see clearly that the father has set himself up for a power struggle, one that he won't win. That, to me, is even more sad than any of the sadness that I, or Chamille, experience through this.

He hasn't responded to the link I sent except to do what appears to be arrange his work schedule so that X is dropped off and picked up by him without any chance to do anything other than school, home, sleep, school, home, sleep.

I'm not going to message him anymore. I'm going to leave it be for now and let him cool down, since he does tend to be hugely reactionary and say stupid thoughtless things in the moment, then forgets he ever said or did any of those things.

In the meantime, Chamille is deeply saddened by all of it. She's sad because she can't see him and even more sad at how miserable he is and angered at how ignorant his father seems to be.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

This one's for you Jill and Joel!

http://handschooling.com/

To all others that may potentially read here... I will write soon-ish, promise!

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

The Bartleby Project

Watch this:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ev7Y-XbapLc

Then read about it here:

Invitation to an Open Conspiracy: The Bartleby Project

Now if only I could convince all the school kids I know! There is too much fear there, I'm not sure if any of them would do this...

Friday, February 26, 2010

Ok, so I like Peter Gray's blog...

Here's his newest article...

Children Teach Themselves to Read

I'm really glad that more people are looking to natural learning rather than lock step teaching. People are born learning and thinking and they never stop! John Holt wrote a lot about it, and somewhere along the way, those ideas of open classrooms and such got shoved aside for more testing and more insertion of knowledge. As if someone can insert knowledge into another...

If a child can learn how to walk and talk, then they can certainly keep on learning all kinds of things in the same way, through observing and living in the world, doing the things that humans do.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Today I will leave you with this...

The Dramatic Rise of Anxiety and Depression in Children and Adolescents: Is It Connected to the Decline in Play and Rise in Schooling?

It is from this blog called Freedom to Learn

"Rates of depression and anxiety among young people in America have been increasing steadily for the past fifty to seventy years. Today five to eight times as many high school and college students meet the criteria for diagnosis of major depression and/or an anxiety disorder as was true half a century or more ago. This increased psychopathology is not the result of changed diagnostic criteria; it holds even when the measures and criteria are constant."

and later in the article...

"Anyone who looks honestly at the experiences of students at Sudbury model democratic schools and of unschoolers--where freedom, play, and self-directed exploration prevail--knows that there is another way. We don't need to drive kids crazy to educate them. Given freedom and opportunity, without coercion, young people educate themselves. They do so joyfully, and in the process they develop intrinsic values, personal self-control, and emotional wellbeing. That's the overriding message of the whole series of essays in this blog. It's time for society to take an honest look."

Friday, February 12, 2010

learning to read, just one story....

My oldest daughter, now 15, learned how to read real books for real reasons at the age of 11. Before that time everything she did led up to what she is and would become, same as now. Here's how that looked:

Chamille has always been interested in good stories. She's told more than a few yarns herself and all of her playtime consisted of elaborate stories. To feed her love of stories we watched many many movies and read many many books together. When I couldn't keep up, we checked out books on tape and cd from the library. Book for book, she had acquired far more than most of her school aged peers even though she hadn't read a single book on her own. Her vocabulary soared. She used and understood words, she could comprehend what she was hearing and discuss intelligently the content of many books.

During this time of elementary school years, my daughter wasn't in school, we homeschool, actually we are radical unschoolers but we typically don't use that term with non-homeschoolers. There was no pressure to read and read now to keep up with the rest of the class. When she wanted to know something she asked, when she couldn't read something she asked. At a certain age, when she knew she should be reading on her own because all the other kids were, she couldn't find books at her reading level that had any kind of merit for an actual story. They were books for the sake of reading and they had no draw for her. We, her parents, assured her that she'd read when she was ready and that everything counted, and we'd point out all the things she could read, like signs and simple words here and there. We even put up little sticky notes all over the place with the word of what the object it was stuck to, like mirror in the bathroom. So that everytime she looked in the mirror, she also saw the word "mirror".

Now, Chamille was also a huge video game player, for all kinds, handheld, computer and gaming console. She found Pokemon when she was really little and to this day still loves and plays it. Video games have a lot to read within the games. She found ToonTown, and online MMORPG with chat feature. That game over all games was the single most significant thing that helped my daughter learn to read. She started to see and remember words because she needed to in order to communicate with other players, her parents included. Bit by bit she gathered words and remembered them.

During this time and influenced by her love of Pokemon, she became drawn to anime and manga. When she felt like she could, at the age of 11, she picked up a manga book and read it from cover to cover, in typical Japanese fashion from back to front and right to left. That was huge for her! She realized at that moment that she knew enough words to string them together and read a full book. And the rest is history, as one might say. She reads mostly online, but she's read a lot of books too, and not just manga, but "real" books.

One of the best things that came out of allowing her to read at her own pace and on her own initiative, was that she owned the experience and through owning that experience she came to realize that if she could do that, she could learn anything. We have never pressured her to learn anything at all, ever, and because of that, her ability to learn has remained intact. She is bright and inquisitive and interested in the world around her.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

wow, it's exactly a week since my last post

So here goes! Margaux didn't go to her class today. We got all the way there and she changed her mind, so we came home. She's busy doing "nothing".

Last friday, there was a chat and the general topic was doing "nothing" and what that looks like.

Since that talk I've been looking around at all the nothing we've been doing here lately, and rather than make a lengthy post, I'll make a list that barely tips the iceberg of all the nothingness.

Margaux:

baths, lots of them
-dolls, barbies, babies, and polly pocket and her boat that kind of floats
-foam letters that float and form a puzzle, lots of spelling and word play
-pretend kitchen
-bratz hair dye color mixing
-oils and soaps and how they mix
-making waves like Calvin from Calvin and Hobbes
-watching water spiral
-body suction on empty tubs
-water reflections and shadows
-seeing what floats and what doesn't
-holding one's breath and bravely dunking whole face in water
paper stuff
-drawing
-writing
-cutting
-glueing
netflix
-Xena the warrior princess, so much to learn in that show I don't think I could list it all
-Scooby Doo, interesting that we were just looking at pyramids in a book and that was the first episode she watched
-Bones, she's able to see those yucky dead bodies now because during Halloween, she helped me make skeletons just like them
-The number 1 Ladie's Detective Agency, which led to one of our favorite books to look at together called 1000 Families
-The Replacements
-A Plumm Summer, all kinds of cool free kids, but heart breaking bad parents too
-other various random shows and movies that I can't remember
Eating and cooking
-she has made several things this week with very little help from me
-she's also cleaned up after herself on her own initiative
Legos (although hardly considered doing nothing)
-built the whole Harry Potter set we have with my help
-made a lego person without legs in a wheelchair
-made all kinds of vehicles
-counted in sets of 2's, 3's, and 4's
Books
-Calvin and Hobbes
-Norman Rockwell picture anthology
-1000 families
-Curious George lift and flap book

I'm going to stop there... I could go on, and that's only the stuff that I SAW when she was hanging out with me. We haven't gotten out of the house much, but there's lots of learning going on.

Chamille:

Pokemon
-drawing
-strategy
-score keeping
-strategy guide lookups
-serious research
-money saving
TV
-Criminal Minds
-Bones
-South Park
-Scrubs
-Law and Order
-Pokemon
-various horror flicks
Hair
-always hair stuff going on
-redyes and bleaching
-cutting of her own and others
Computer (what isn't done on computer?)
-facebook
-myspace
-photobucket
-being a good friend, giving good advice
Transit
-scheduling time and walking and taking the bus
Social
-talking with and being with her boyfriend
-meeting up with her friends at their school during lunch
-finding ways to be pleasant and kind to people she dislikes
Art
-always crafty things going on
-dealing with the lull that artists sometimes get
-looking at a few artbooks and discussing what she likes and doesn't like about various artists and why. We really analyzed Vemeer, which she DOES like, but I didn't go into detail about the religious implications of women behaving badly, because surely if a work of art is to stand the test of time it will have meaning in modern context too.

Chamille's is a bit shorter in details, but still learning happening. She's been hanging out with her dad more lately because he's been giving her rides. I get little snippets of her life when she hangs out in the kitchen with me while I do the dishes, or late at night when she feels restless.

So what does doing NOTHING look like? Give your tales of nothing... or if you have no inclination to write about such things, maybe read about the idea here.

SEE the learning in EVERYTHING!

Thursday, February 04, 2010

the day before FRIDAY

Not that anything special is happening on Friday...

Margaux and I walked to her ooey gooey science class at the rec center 3 blocks away. It was her second class. It was raining and cold, but it was nice walking with Margaux. We got there late because Margaux wanted her babydoll ready to go with us. Some things are worth being late for a class!

She had fun, then we bundled up and walked home. We stopped at 7-11 which is almost half way and got some goodies and warmed our hands, because I forgot to pack gloves!

Then we came home and I made hot cocoa. Chamille heard the words hot cocoa and said "ooh I want some too" and Margaux shared her Pocky that she'd gotten at 7-11.

Earlier today, Chamille went over to Cyle's school and visited during lunch hours. I find it really amusing that she's done this more than a few times and nobody has questioned whether or not she should be there. She's not a very understated person, she really does stand out in a crowd. She even talked to the principal once!

All in all a very nice, and uneventful day, one in which my kitchen is clean, there are lots of leftovers, we all got out of the house and we can now snuggle up and watch tv and play with babies and blocks and surf the net.