Friday, January 29, 2010
Thursday, January 28, 2010
-from John Holt's book, "What do I do on Monday?"
It was from this system quoted above, that my son Ryan fled at the beginning of 4th grade. A tightly woven public school classroom which held him in a straight jacket, reducing his enthusiasm to read and write. I knew something was terribly wrong when Ryan stopped reading the Harry Potter series when he was half way thorough it, which up to that point he had been enjoying immensely. Along with that came his refusal to write and attend school. After a few stressful weeks of trying to understand exactly what was going on, I pulled Ryan out of school.
It seems Ryan was struggling with being told not only what to write about, but also how to write. There was a certain way his school expected him to write, a formula to be followed and anything less than their method was wrong. The school thought good writing was to be learned by following a prescribed set of rules and didn't understand good writing came about by allowing kids lots of freedom around their writing. Freedom to write at length on topics they enjoyed in order to allow their creativity to flow. Freedom to write uncensored by grades, especially in the early years when kids form opinions about how competent they are as writers.
For about a month after taking Ryan out of school, I didn't push any kind of reading or writing, allowing the negative feelings toward those subjects to dissipate. Then, borrowing an idea from Waldorf Education, I asked Ryan to start keeping a daily journal. At first, Ryan balked at having to write anything at all, so I told him he could simply draw pictures each day if he desired.
Monday, January 25, 2010
Others in my family have not fared as well. Early on in our Compact year, my son was invited to a Bar Mitzvah which involved purchasing a new blazer, nice white shirt and khaki pants. Luckily we could use my husband's dress shoes and a tie to complete the outfit. The last minute invite was received on a Wednesday night, the Bar Mitzvah started on Saturday at 10am. Because I am still relatively new to this area, I didn't have a single inkling about how or where to obtain these items used, so I was forced to haul out the credit card and buy them. It did cross my mind to rent the outfit, but it would have cost $130 and I wasn't willing to invest that amount of money each time a Bar Mitzvah invitation came along. The purchase of these items made me feel like I was failing the Compact before I even started. The good thing was it made me realize that I needed to get organized and find the thrift shops in my area in order to find used clothing and gear for teens. Being on the Compact is easy for me as an adult, but a completely different story for a growing teen.
With this idea in mind, I did some online research and was able to turn up some used clothing and gear resources for teens. Unfortunately, the clothing option is not located in my area but I include it here for those of you that may be able to benefit from the information.
Here are the resources I have found so far:
Game Stop- buy and sell your used video games and video game systems
Plato's Closet- buy and sell name brand used clothing specifically for teens
Play it Again Sports- buy and sell used sporting goods
I would love to add to this list so if you know of any other teen oriented used resources, please pass them along in my comment section. Thanks so much.
Saturday, January 23, 2010
Friday, January 22, 2010
Thursday, January 21, 2010
What I didn't realize is that there are stipulations on which type of donations will not be charged transaction fees. Only the larger relief organizations such as the American Red Cross, AmeriCares, Save the Children etc...will be exempt from having transaction fees deducted. Other smaller, lessor known organizations will still be charged the transaction fees in most cases. Each credit card company has a different policy on how they will handle your donation. For example, I sent money online to the United Nations Central Emergency Relief Fund (UN CERF Fund) using my VISA card. According to VISA, only 97% will go to the UN CERF Fund (because CERF is not on the list of VISA's transaction fee exempt relief organizations) and the other 3% will go to the American Red Cross because VISA is donating all of their transaction fees to the Red Cross. While I have nothing against the Red Cross, I really wanted all of my money to go to the UN and don't like knowing someone else decided where part of my money would go. On the other hand, Master Card will only waive fees to the larger relief organizations so if you donate to a smaller one, that organization will only receive 97% of your total donation, Master Card will get the rest. For information on how your credit card is handling Haiti donations, refer to this article written by Leslie McFadden at Bankrate.com or check with your credit card company.
My younger son has decided he wants to make a donation to the canine program through Virginia Task Force 1, a search and rescue group from Fairfax Virginia currently in Haiti using dogs to search for survivors. So that 100% of our donation goes to the Virginia Task Force, we will send our money the old fashioned way- by check.
The realization that big American credit card companies can be profiting in some financial way to the crisis in Haiti frustrates me. Shows me how crass some big businesses really can be.
Thursday, January 14, 2010
My thoughts are with the people of Haiti during this incredibly difficult time.
Wednesday, January 13, 2010
Just before we left the pond, the ice called out to us with a great cracking sound reverberating underfoot as the ice expanded. Nature's voice calling to us, rooting us in the body of her soul...
Monday, January 11, 2010
Homeschooling laws are such in this country that anyone can choose to teach their children at home rather than send them off to school each day. While homeschooling laws vary from state to state, ranging from high regulation to none, it is relatively easy to stay within the guidelines of homeschooling regulations. Much more difficult is to understand the many different types of homeschooling and figure out where you fit within the framework. From radical unschoolers to those that do school at home, wandering the maze of options can leave one feeling unhinged.
Unlike homeschooling, public school options take the mystery out of figuring out how to operate within compulsory school requirements, and there are many different types of public schools available- from large urban to small rural- all with a distinct flavor of their own. Private schools offer up another array of additional options to consider. Deciding if your child should attend a small private school or large public school can be a complicated decision as well.
As a parent, how do you know whether to send your child to public school or to homeschool? Further complicating the decision is that most parents of each camp feel extremely attached to their mode of schooling. If you ask a member from either camp why they chose the schooling option they did, it will be because they personally feel it is the best option available. There is very little flexibility or understanding between homeschoolers and those who send their children to public schools. I have heard homeschoolers say they are misunderstood by the public school folks and are tired of their children being labeled as unsocialized, while I have heard public school folks say that homeschoolers feel their kids are too smart for the system. Even within homeschooling itself, there are differences in philosophies which lead to conflicts. Radical unschoolers feel their children learn best by child led learning while traditional homeschoolers feel unschooling is lazy parenting.
While parents of the different camps spend vast amounts of time defending the schooling decisions they have made for their children, I wonder if the children themselves and their schooling needs have been left out of the equation? It seems parents quickly jump to one form of education or another because they like how it sounds, but is it really the best option for their child? Homeschooling proponents explain that their method supports freedom in education for their child, but what if their child would learn best in a school setting surrounded by their peers? Public school folks are in the same boat. What if their child would thrive in a situation which would allow them to study at their own pace and tailor their learning to their interests rather than sit in a classroom all day?
Having had my child in both homeschooling settings and public school settings, I don't write this because I believe one version is better than the other, but because I believe parents are not fully determining what their child's schooling needs are when deciding which type of schooling to pursue. Parents will tell you they made the choice they did because of their child, but the negativity shown toward those that choose the opposite option tells me they choose their method because it most adheres to their lifestyle values, not their child's real needs. If school choice was being made based on needs rather than values or preconceived notions, then there wouldn't be any animosity toward those doing things differently. Why are homeschooled children told that being in school is like being in prison? Why are schooled children told homeschooled kids are weird misfits? Children hearing these words are being molded into a certain way of thinking...homeschoolers being taught to never want to try school, and public school kids being taught to never want try homeschooling. Each camp teaching hate rather than tolerance.
Really, again...what about the kids? What would work best for them and their needs? Look closely at your child. Do they seem unhappy as they head out the door for school each morning, like life has been sapped right out of them? Maybe a few years spent learning at home would suit them well. How about that homeschooled teen, sitting in his bedroom playing video games all day? Wonder if he would like to spend a few years at school, investigating some new learning avenues you or he never thought of? Lets get rid of the homeschool or public school labels and pursue real educational freedom with the kids in mind.
Wednesday, January 6, 2010
I read Erin and Bretwood's story just after I convinced myself that it was OK to raise my thermostat from 55 to 60...a full 60 degrees higher than their early morning temperature and I don't even have a baby to keep warm. I really am left to wonder how they manage it. I found I had to wear a coat and scarf and sometimes even a hat to keep warm at 55. I just really got tired of the bulk and the constant moving around to keep warm. At 55, I always seemed to have a constant shivering feeling about me as well. I feel like such a wimp compared to them.
Now that I keep my temperature at a balmy 60, I still wear the layers but don't need the hat and don't have a cold feeling about me all the time. I also don't have to be constantly moving and can actually sit for a bit and type on the computer. I feel 60 is a perfect temperature and one I can live with for the remainder of the winter, even though I feel bad for not sticking with my original plan of 55 degrees.
I wonder what it must feel like to sleep in zero degree temperatures, especially with no indoor bathroom. No hot shower to warm cold bones with. I don't know if I could do what they are doing but I sure give them credit. They are not living this lifestyle to prove anything. They just are living their dream which makes it all so cool...
Would you be willing to sacrifice some creature comforts to live in a beautiful place and experience nature in a way unlike any other?
Tuesday, January 5, 2010
I really don't want to be left borrowing a bike pump as the need arises. Tires can come up unexpectedly flat and without a reliable pump to remedy the situation, I could be left high and dry. Or in this case flat and at home. So, I have decided to lump a bike pump in with acceptable purchases found in the transportation category. That being said, here is how I plan to implement the Compact for 2010:
- Shelter- I will only make purchases pertaining to the required maintenance and lighting of the place I live in. I will purchase vinegar and baking soda to be used in cleaning. I will not purchase any new furniture, linens, kitchen equipment, technology related stuff etc...
- Energy use- I will keep the use of water, heat, electricity and gasoline to a bare minimum by practicing conservation measures.
- Transportation- I will only make purchases for gasoline and required maintenance of my vehicles. I will walk or bike most places or use public transportation. My car will be used sparingly. I will not travel by air.
- Clothing/Shoes- I will only purchase underwear and socks as needed. No shoes, no clothing, no nothing whatsoever period! Any clothing I need that I don't already possess, will be purchased used or borrowed.
- Office Supplies- Will only purchase stamps, or other required staples as needed and only if can't be found used.
- Books, Newspaper, Magazines- I will purchase the NY Times each Sunday or read the copy left behind at Starbucks. Books will be obtained from the library, or purchased from used sources. Magazines will be read online.
- Toiletries/Health- I will purchase those items as needed to maintain health and personal cleanliness.
- Gifts- I will not make any gift purchases this year with one exception- I will give money as a gift to my son as his college graduation present which he will probably use to purchase a laptop. All other gifts will be something that can be consumed such as a membership to a museum or a food item, handmade by me or acquired used.
- Food- I will eat as local as possible to avoid excessive transportation costs and will eat less meat. Also buy more bulk food to avoid packaging waste. Will eat primarily organic to avoid the destructive nature of conventional food. Will not eat at any fast food establishments that produce single-use paper waste. I will use a reusable mug when visiting coffee shops, cloth napkins over paper at home.
- Vacation/Leisure- I will minimize my travel and only pursue low-impact vacation options such as staying with friends or camping. I will avoid entertainment that wastes large amounts of energy or water such as Disneyland or water parks (this part is easy because I NEVER visit these sorts of places).
I am sure I will need to update this list as I go along. Not so much to adjust it so that I can buy something, but more so because I find I forgot to address something. I feel my version of the Compact suits me well and takes into account my desire to reduce my overall impact.
Granted, the idea of Compact 2010 is imperfect. It is not meant to be the answer to our environmental problems, but more a vehicle to help create awareness. Maybe the answer can be found through this new found awareness.
Monday, January 4, 2010
In other words, the path to my true self, or "Lightness of Being", is found by getting rid of both my physical material goods (as required in the Compact) and emotional baggage (as the church exercise asked). Excessive possessions and negative emotions (such as sadness, disappointments, and worries) keep me from my inner essence, cluttering my physical space and mind.
As I entered my UU church yesterday, all of the chairs were gathered around the fireplace in which a large fire was roaring. The setting felt intimate and comfortable, a place in which it would be easy to "get real" with myself. After singing the hymn "This Little Light of Mine", we were asked to write down on a sheet of paper the things we wanted to leave behind as the new year began. We each wrote down the things we wanted to shed and then placed our paper into the fire. It felt good to watch my list go up in flames, almost like I was instantly healed of all past concerns and worries. That I would somehow be fresh and new and the energy I once used to manage my hurts would now be redirected toward getting to know the real me better.
This year, as I attempt to toss some of my concerns into the fire and try to remove myself from the work of buying and maintaining stuff, I will find I have time for long walks in nature, or better opportunities to stop and listen to thunderstorms. A moment to watch snow drift slowly toward earth, or an afternoon spent sitting on the beach. This freedom from life's distractions will allow me more time to slow down and think, to meditate and come to understand my true inner self. To strive toward "Lightness of Being"
Friday, January 1, 2010
I suppose this is a good lesson for me to heed. As the New Year dawns, and our time remaining here in NYC becomes shorter, I am anxious to know where we will be moving next and wonder what opportunities are waiting for me in the new location. I need to remind myself to slow down and appreciate each day between now and then. Very difficult to do when living in limbo...