Thursday, November 11, 2010

Learning to Blog

I am working with my son, Matthew, on blogging. All this stuff is neat, but a bit overwhelming. I am looking forward to blogging more often.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Life-Long Learning Community

Today, instead of tackling the huge list of items on my ‘to do’ list, I decided to look up the word ‘alternative’ in the dictionary. I was just thinking about alternatives: alternative life styles, alternative medicine, alternative schooling. So, I looked up the word ‘alternative’ at The online dictionary has a number of definitions of the word ‘alternative.’ The one that I thought fit was: “employing or following nontraditional or unconventional ideas, methods, etc.; existing outside the establishment: an alternative newspaper; alternative lifestyles.” O.K., I knew that. But what I found more interesting was the synonym for ‘alternative,’—‘choice.’

I think we should all have as many choices as possible, and especially when referring to the way we lead our lives or raise our children. We now have alternative farmer’s markets, organic food and health stores. We have alternative medicine, chiropractics, acupuncture, message therapy, oriental medicine and so much more. We have Montessori schools that ‘follow the child’ and well done, are extraordinarily successful in creating an alternative environment for children. We have Waldorf schools that ‘unite head, heart and hand’ and are also very successful working with the whole child. What about us adults?

I’m thinking a learning community might be very revitalizing and a refreshing alternative. Right now, I get up every morning, go to work, take care of the house, the laundry (my husband does the same), family errands and more. My life is fairly traditional and over-scheduled. I think about creating alternative schools that not only change the way a child experiences his/her day, but a fresh way of living for family and community. We did that when my kids were young and growing up…but creating an alternative community for us and our grown-up children is a little more challenging. I’m not referring to community colleges or adult education. I mean, a true alternative learning community where we support each other and figure alternative ways to live and grow. I think we could rethink this and create adult learning communities everywhere. If done well, it could be a nice, healthy, alternative life choice for us all.

Alternative schooling has been around forever. There was a time when alternative schooling meant a general education (the 3R’s, reading, ‘riting and ‘rithmetic’) instead of learning to farm or a mastering a craft or trade. ‘Traditional’ public education only started in 1852. It is relav

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

An ADD ADHD Family

My family was all together today. Stephen, our oldest son, walks into the house, empties the contents of his pockets, keys and odd crumpled up pieces of notes on the class family room table. Then he walks into the study (his old bedroom) and sits down with Dennis, aka Dad . They start some sort of project on the computer, but there's trouble with the internet connection. Dennis walks out of the study into the kitchen and makes coffee…except…dip and chip (even though it is only 10:00 am) seems like a good idea to him. So out comes the avocados, the wooden mixing bowl, the masher, and various spices. The sour cream is next, but it is in the back of the frig, so out comes all the stuff in front of it. Then Stephen calls. Dennis runs back down the hall into the study. The coffee is still perking and the guacamole contents are waiting. There's a problem with some wire that runs something to the room. I hear the garage door open. The front door is also left open. We haven't had a car in the garage since 30 B.C. (before children). I hear them. They are looking for a ladder. The holiday decoration boxes advance out onto the driveway along with the camping equipment, a couple of bikes and some unidentified flotsam and jetsam. The ladder emerges and makes it's way down the hall to the attic opening, which is in a closet. The closet contents spill into the hall. Our two big Rhodesian Ridgebacks take this opportunity to practice hurdle jumping. I trip over a tool chest in the entry hall. The front door flings open again. It's our daughter, Erin, with her basket of laundry and her German short-haired pointer. Now ALL the dogs are going nuts. She places the laundry in the entry hall because she's not finished unloading her car. Matt calls, he's on his way.

This is the profile of an active, creative family. Our family. The house is a mess. Projects are started and left sitting where they lie. Yet, the members of this house have all created significant contributions to the world. They have international businesses, solved interesting problems, lived in interesting places, started college and created functional, running businesses before the age of eighteen. Their profiles would have been labeled ADHD had any of them followed a traditional educational route. But none did. Not even, exactly, Dad. SO…what are we doing to this 'epidemic' of creative kids we label ADD/ADHD, (most without testing,) drug and confine to an uncreative, ordinary education? Eventually, the mess in my house will be cleaned up. My family remains creative. I feel saddened about the children we label and medicate, instead of giving them a chance to create in their own way, in their timeframes and find their own particular form of brilliance.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The Effects of Media and Reading

I go to the market. I see preschoolers sitting in shopping carts hooked into Ipods and other forms of electronics, watching cartoons, listening to music. I go to the doctor’s office. A young teen walks in, sits down and puts on earphones connected to something in her pocket. Another young person walks in, already plugged into his earphones.

According to the New York Times, studies link a drop in test scores to a decline in time spent reading. I am not as concerned about ‘test scores’ as I am about the fact I see electronics everywhere, at the park, at the beach, in airports, on airplanes and in places where a generation ago, people brought books and read.

According to a report based on an analysis of data from about two-dozen studies from the U.S. Department of Education, the U.S. Department of Labor and the Census Bureau, less than half of all Americans over 18 read. They no longer read novels, short stories, plays or poetry. There is a drop off in reading for pleasure as we progress from elementary to high school. The drop continues even through college. Some continue to read newspapers and magazines. But not enough.

Dana Gioia, chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts says, “we live in a society where the media does not recognize, celebrate or discuss reading, literature and authors.” In his 99-page report, Mr. Gioia described the data as “simple, consistent and alarming.”

I’m alarmed. A society that doesn’t read is susceptible to being manipulated by hearsay and propaganda. A society that doesn’t read, doesn’t think as clearly or as analytically as a society that reads and questions. An illiterate society doesn’t know how to gather information and make individual decisions. A society that doesn’t read, loses a valuable part of its culture. Worse, a society that doesn’t read, doesn’t write, doesn’t encourage writers, doesn’t buy books. If we lose our writers, we lose independent thought. We lose individual perspective. We run the risk of losing our intellectual freedom and maybe freedom itself…all for an electronic quick fix.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Reaching Out to a Support Community

I write. I like writing. But sometimes writing is a lonely sport. You do it alone, whether it’s sitting at a WiFi internet cafĂ©, on the beach, or in your living room. When I write, I am alone with my thoughts. That is the good news. But it is also an isolating experience. Then the phone rings. It is my friend Dave, 1000 miles away in Kona on the Big Island of Hawaii. We talk. We connect. He is writing a book, too. “Email? O.K., send me your draft…I’ll give you my thoughts if you want.” Then back to isolation. A half hour later the phone rings. Chuck? Wow! Did you get my email? 2,000 miles in the opposite direction. Upstate New York. Then a flurry of exchange of ideas. I stop to check my inbox. An email from Julie in Chicago. She’s going to Kona in a few months. Got to connect her to Dave. Their two families would love each other.

So, maybe I’m not so isolated. Maybe it just feels like that until I connect to someone with whom I can share my innermost thoughts and feelings. Otherwise, I feel alone.

I used to feel alone, too, as a child…especially on Sunday afternoon. We had a big family lunch every Sunday and then everyone went off to do their own thing. I remember sitting on the porch steps, feeling the time go by. Unscheduled and not knowing what I wanted to do next. Isolated and bored. As an educator, I wonder how many children feel isolated and alone in school? With no avenue to share their thoughts and feelings…and maybe the lunch yard is not the place…I wonder if they feel what I felt on those Sunday afternoons? I wonder if, during their classroom activities or assignments, they feel isolated and alone? I wonder what would happen if, in some part of each school day, teachers had a share time…a time and a place to create a ‘safe place’ where kids go share their innermost thoughts and feelings? Maybe one-on-one with the teacher, or small groups or just with friends. I wonder have many children feel alone during their day, isolated and don’t even recognize that that’s what they are feeling? I just wonder.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Socialization…What is it?

I hear this word often, particularly as a homeschooler. What about socialization? I think to myself, “Thank goodness my kids are not socialized to the current society!” What do I see when I look at our local high schools?

I see competition over cooperation. And I want my kids to be cooperative. I also want my kids to be so strong in their self-concepts, that the only competition they will ever need is to stretch their personal limits to the best of their ability and help everyone else along the way.

I see psychological pressure to conform. I want my children to be able to stand calm in the rising tide of social confusion and reactive behaviors. I want them to be able to evaluate their path along the way and not automatically ‘be like everyone else.’ I do not intend to raise lemmings. I want my children to be able to connect with everyone. Raised in a multi-aged environment, my kids learned to deal with kids of many ages and a variety of adults under different circumstances daily. I look at them now and am delighted they can reach out and connect to anyone regardless of age or social standing.

I see a lot of angry kids in high school. Do we call that social? I see an angry culture that listens to anxiety- producing music and violent lyrics. I don’t wonder why. Kids who have no internal direction, who have never had an opportunity to find their passions and talents, who are told all day, everyday, what to do….have a tendency to be angry and defiant. I am grateful my children have been directing their own daily activities since they were little. I am happy to see they are never at a loss as to what to do. They are active, productive and creative thanks to years of self-directed activity and the ability to create in the real world. They are not angry.

So, what about socialization? I think to myself, we dodged that bullet. If conforming, angry, non-cooperative kids are part of the social norm…we’ll pass. Thank you.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009


I am sitting on a beach at Newport, California. A kayak passes. It is red, long and narrow and obviously requires a great deal of skill to keep upright. The man powering this vessel is skinny, muscular and old. His weathered skin belies a seasoned life in the outdoors. He is bare-chested and wears a funny cowboy hat…also worn. Who is he, I wonder? What is his story? I wonder how much of who he thinks he is, is colored by his personal story-line, his history. I wonder if he had been born in another time, at another place, how his story-line would evolve. Would he experience himself differently? How would that affect his sense of personal identity? Who is he really?

It seems to me that the search for identity begins at birth. It is the relationship between child and parent that initially forms our sense of self-worth and value in life. What happens after that?

The world steps in. We begin to form our sense of self, based on feedback from the world-at-large. We begin to create our sense of identity based on a storyline created by our interactions with the people and events around us. Our siblings, teachers, neighbors and friends all tell us who we are by our interactions with them. As our story unfolds, we graduate school, get a job, find romance, raise a family—all these events frame our personal histories. I just wonder if that’s who we really are? I believe that each of us have an essence with which we were born…a core being, regardless of what happens to us or what we do, that’s closer to our inner truth. I suspect that the closer we live our inner truth, our truer identity, the more we feel like ourselves. The more we feel like ourselves, the more fulfilled we are and the more at peace we’ll be.

When we raise our children to connect to their deeper selves, we raise children who have a greater sense of who they are…one not completely dependent on storylines. How do we do this? There is a simple way: when we connect our children to their own innate interests and talents, to their own creative processes, to their own internal sense of direction, then we have children who are connected to themselves. Children connected to themselves become adults who are connected to themselves, no matter where the current may take them. And isn’t that ultimately what we want for our children?