School Daze

Why do kids grow up thinking school is this amazing wonderful perfect place? I’ve noticed this in my nephew  He’s 3.5 and thinks school is the greatest idea ever (right next to the cow that gives you ice cream), that is until he really thinks about it…

First he starts with “School is so fun, I can learn and play with friends!” Then I ask, “But what if you want to learn about dinosaurs and its time to learn math?” And he gets a puzzled look… I say, “At school you have to do what the teacher says.” He says, “What if I’m hungry?” And I tell him, “Then you have to wait till the teacher says you can eat.” He looks upset and thinks for a while.

Long before they are old enough for school the media is already indoctrinating kids to how great school is. Its like the magic school bus! Everyone is happy and you always learn interesting things, all your needs are met, and no one is mean (except maybe long enough to learn not to be mean)! But its not like that… Or this wonderful picture below…. Its not like that at all.

The “Perfect” teacher, clean and smiling.

 

As he thinks a little more my young nephew say, “But if I’m gone all day I’ll miss my Mama! And I like to play, I don’t want to sit.” And I respond, “That’s why some kids don’t go to school, then they can do what they want during the day! They can eat when they are hungry and see their Mom’s all day! They can learn about whatever they want!” Then I go on to tell him we are going to meet some kids who do exactly that tomorrow and he gets excited. I ask “Would you like to meet some new friends who don’t go to school?” “I would like that.” he responds.

School isn’t what the media portrays it to be (when they decide to portray in a perfect unfailing light). Its a place of confinement, breaking up families more than building them. It puts labels on children (Gifted, Mainstream, Special Ed) and keeps them categorized the rest of their lives. Kids must do what they are told, they must study for the test, not for the love of study. No learning about dinosaurs till we get to the dinosaur unit young man.

The schools aren’t flawed, they are doing exactly what the are designed to do; create consumers. I could go deep into the German history of our compulsory education, but I’ll keep it short by saying that the schoolers were designed so that only the elite could really succeed. They are designed to keep the masses the masses. The schools keep the “average joe” (95% of the population) from becoming above average. They create factory workers (now mostly office workers), people who will consume and who won’t ask too many real questions. People with unwavering loyalty to the elite that controls them, employees them, and sits back and makes millions selling products to them. There are very few schools (and certainly no public schools) that truly allow children to live and learn. That’s why I’m choosing to say no to the system, I’m keeping my son (and my sister is keeping my nephew) out of school.

For more information on the history and real purpose of our school system read “Weapons of Mass Instruction” by John Taylor Gatto, and Long time public school teacher and even “Teacher of the Year” for New York he reveals what most people choose not to see that the schools we grew up in did us a disservice, and continue to hurt our children more than help them.

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Working Towards a New Lifestyle

Since moving we kind have been floundering in our everyday life. With no job, school, or even scheduled hobbies to structure our life things have been…. laid back… to say the least. Its been nice though just spending time with each other and exploring our new city and neighborhood. I’ve learned the Public Transit, been to the zoo, countless food carts, finally figured out a grocery shopping routine, even had issues (now resolved) with the neighbor. We’ve had visitors for the first time now and that really marks the end of our time of settling and now its time to get into gear.

There are several changes that seem to be happening quite naturally. The first is that our baby is no longer a baby, and we are starting to treat him a little different because of that. Its nothing we really planned its just happening naturally. Mark is wanting and we are allowing him to have more time by himself. Often he wants to just play with his cars or his trains, sometimes he ‘reads’, or draws or just wanders around our front yard. I check in on him from time to time, and remind him to use the bathroom, but more and more he’s just doing his own thing for periods of time. We are also letting him fuss more and are not catering to his every want, or just making him wait a minute. We don’t make him wait just for the sake of waiting (we do love him, and that’s not cool to do to anyone you love) but we let him realize that we also have needs and wants and that he needs to learn to respect all people (and their things). This in itself could be a whole blog post, but lets just say Mark is moving from baby, to child.

We also seem to be moving away from screen time. Part of it is the great climate and culture here, we just want to be outside or other places, not sitting around in the house. Part of it is that we are all trying to read more. You don’t have much time for the TV or computer when you are trying to read every extra minute of the day. Whatever the reasons, moving away from screen time is a good thing. My migraines have totally stopped since I lost my phone a week ago and stopped staring at the tiny screen and my son isn’t constantly asking for TV. Its nice. Right now he’s sitting on the couch “Reading” a book of poetry.

Another change we would like to implement (we haven’t succeeded yet) is eating at home more. We said that when we moved to Portland we were going to “get in shape” and “be healthy”. Well, with all the delicious, not great for you food out here, that hasn’t happened. Ace stopped losing weight and I started gaining weight. There are tons of healthy options to eat out with here, but the BBQ, noodles, and sushi, are often too tempting. I love a good pulled pork sandwich or a slab of ribs covered in sauce with a big piece of cornbread, but its not exactly the lunch of champions… So we are trying to get better. This week I planned to eat all our breakfasts at home and planned out 3 lunches and 3 dinners. We have food for a little more than that, but I know I will be cooking 3 dinners at home this week. That will be the best since we moved (yeah.. there have been a lot of pizzas and burritos the last few weeks). Hopefully we can save a few dollars this was too, but the quality of the food I’m buying makes eating at home just as expensive most of the time.

We are also becoming more relaxed. That’s just how things are around here. The neighbor across the street runs a garage out of his…well, garage… and he works at his own pace. It was a little annoying how long it took him to look at my car, but I learned a bit about how Oregonians work and live and became a little envious of him. He said “I work on farmer time, but I’ll only ever change you book time, probably less” (in fact he did my car for free that day). Somedays he takes all day to get one car done, other days he’ll push though four in a few hours, but most days are the former. Its importnat to note that its culturally acceptable to drink beer or smoke pot pretty much anywhere at anytime, so that certainly helps people to relax. Our mechanic neighbor has offered me beer as early as 10am. This isn’t to say there aren’t busy people, but here in SE Portland they are sparse, and I like it.   I’m learning from the neighbors how to relax and not always be in a hurry, this is causing us all a lot less stress. Somedays we just sit around in the front yard. I’m take the bus places, which means walking (sometimes 6 blocks to the 19 route), waiting (up to 20 minutes), then riding (up to an hour), all opposed to a 20 minute car drive. Making life slow down a bit. But when you have time to spare its not a big deal. You meet interesting people and expose yourself (and your child) to new experiences. Our pace of life is just slowing down and I like it, a lot.

The last part the puzzle that needs to fall into place is making money, and becoming more self sufficient  I’ve already started by trying to do my own minor repairs and installations around the house. Some I’ve succeeded in, (refurbishing a table, installing curtains), some not so much (like that shelf for the bathroom that is now in the closet). I never leaned how to use drywall mounts or fix a toilet or make compost as a kid, but thats not going to stop me. With books and the internet I can do almost anything. Once I can buy a saw I’ll really be set. Its looking like Ace is going to get an awesome part time job teaching guitar and piano, between that and renter income we should be set. If I can make a few bucks here and there building or fixing something and then selling it, even better.  I’m considering trying to build basic skate ramps and selling them. In our neighborhood alone, I know that would be a hit.

Our lifestyle is changing a lot, but its for the better and I really like it. I’m hoping along with these changes means more writing and regular blog posts too, so keep checking back.

The Learning has no Beginning and no End

Everyday I observe my 23 month old son learn, and boy does that boy learn. He is more spongy than he’s ever been, sometimes saying a dozen new words a day. Today he learned a lovely one, “Suck” luckily he can’t say “S” quite right and it comes out “Luck” so only I (and Dad) know what he’s actually saying. Though he is getting that “S” sound better everyday so I’m sure soon he will be saying that and other not so great words (that he may have picked up from me) in a perfectly understandable manner.

I’m also learning a lot. I’m learning that I still have a lot to learn. I’m learning how to fit reading into my day of child-rearing. I’m taking that time to read about learning. Children and how they learn has always been of interest to me. I starten baby-sitting at a young age and have always loved kids and been involved with them. Being a mom is the ultimate fulfillment of that, and wanting to be a good mom I knew (many months ago) I would need to research schools and teaching methods pretty diligently to make sure my son got the best education he could. At first I thought “Anything but public school” then that morphed into “Anything but traditional schools” this then morphed into thinking Waldorf was the answer, while I still think its a step above public school, its still traditional in many aspects. Namely, the kids have no major say in the curriculum. If they want to read early (depending on which school they are at) it may be discouraged, or simply they aren’t helped along since that’s what the class is doing right now. Even though they are more relaxed in the younger years than a normal school, it is still scheduled: Now its play time, now its snack time, now its time for art, music, language, etc…  After I decided I didn’t much care for Waldorf I read up on Montessori.

I liked Montessori much more and still do. There is a curriculum, but besides a short lesson each day the kids are free to work at their own pace on whatever subject they chose (or don’t choose) so long as they aren’t disturbing other kids. Much of the curriculum is working though understanding each of the materials. They are not allowed to use ones ahead of where they are, but will always have several options across the subjects available to them. EG, they can’t use the brown stairs until they master the pink tower, but if they don’t want to work on the pink tower they can go work on their available language  or practical life activities activities. There are always lots of options, and most schools allow kids to choose not to work or to free read as well.

Ace has always talked about homeschooling, but I often dismissed it thinking it would be nice, but that I couldn’t do it. Why I dismissed myself when I taught years of mixed age children in our church I have no idea, thats much more difficult than one child. I always told him I’d see what our child was like and decide from there. Well I’ve noticed this, my son is bright, curious, and will seek out knowledge with no pushing from anyone. He is naturally curious and is learning a lot of things with only basic work from me. Things such as, providing him books and reading them when asked, aswering questions as best I can or looking up the answers, finding videos and turning them on, taking him to lots of different places when we are able.

Before we moved I listened to a lot of Unpluggedmom.com and it really challenged me to re-think my responsibility as a parent. It also challenged my thought that private schools were significantly better than public. I decided to look into it some more and read “Teach Your Own” by John Holt and that is what convinced me that I can and should homeschool. Homeschooling and specifically unschooling makes sense for me for many reasons, more than I can talk about here. But I’m going to tell you the first and most practical one and that is that learning has no beginning and no end.

Years ago Rob Bell challenged the idea that we have a “Spiritual Life”.  He argues that there is no way to separate our spiritual life from the rest of our lives and that is how the hebrew people lived (and still do). Many unschooling advocates  point out that separating “learning or “Education” from the rest of our lives can be very damaging, especially when children are forced to “learn” (rather memorize long enough to keep the teacher happy) something they don’t want to. They quickly learn that “learning” is something that is boring and not fun, a necessary evil, or a means to an end and often separate “learning” (something done in school and in homework) from the rest of life;  having fun, doing stuff, making things, etc…. When you are told what to do 8 hours a day (then told to do MORE of it at home) 9 months a year for what seems like your whole life,  you often learn to dislike school. There are high points to school for most kids for sure, for me it was band. I lived for band (and for skating after school) and I trudged though the day so I could do well enough to get to what I really wanted to do, play trumpet and go skate.

After reading and a lot of reflecting on what the school system is really like and what its true purpose is (to create obedient workers and soldiers, just skilled enough to be able to work the machines, but not smart enough to really think for them selves and to mess up the system for the elite) I realized that my only real choice to let my son realize his own potential is to home school. Right now at home he generally pursues what ever interest his little heart desires. Today he colored pictures of food, animals, and farm equipment at the farmers market. Unfortunately we had to stop him before he wanted to stop (in general I try not to do that) so we could get some lunch (or breakfast, or brunch… whatever). When we got home he needed a bath (after a big poop accident) and he played in the tub for a long time. Then he picked out his (hilariously mis-matched) clothes and a book to read before taking a nap. When he woke up we went out to eat where, as much as possible, he chose his own food. When we got home he rode his bike for a long time, and played with his tucks making a parking lot in the driveway, then he and the neighbor kid and I moved heavy chairs to the back yard. The boys learned how to use a skateboard as a tool to help move the chairs and moved the last two with out me. Later he rode his train while looking at a book about trains, then he got out coloring supplies and colored (on his own). As Mark gets older he naturally is exploring things developmentally appropriate and I just don’t see a good reason to hand over the majority of his waking hours to a stranger in the name of “education” at whatever age the state dictates.

In short the way he learns won’t radically change at any given age so the way he is taught shouldn’t either. Homeschooling is the perfect extension of attachment parenting, libertarian/anarchist politics, and living in community, all things that our family highly values. For us homeschooling makes just makes perfect sense.

Portland: Nearly 1 month later.

Well its been 3.5 weeks since we moved in here and we are quite settled already.

Today we are getting our fence finished. The yard was fenced around the perimeter, but with no gates. Now our front and backyard will be fenced and gated. 🙂

We have 90% or more of our stuff unpacked. The living room is all set up, the kitchen is set up (but needs a dining room table), the bedroom has 4-5 small boxes in the closet that need to be unpacked, the bathroom just needs some under the sink organizing help, and Mark’s room still has a few boxes left, but his furniture is all set up and his toys and books are all out.

We do have a BUNCH of stuff in our gigantic garage that needs to be organized/donated/put away.

We love a lot about Portland, the food options, the great outdoor spaces, the weather (Chicago ain’t got nothin on this), the community, the culture, and more. Babywearing is rampant here. I mean everyone here has an ergo. You do see ring slings, wraps and the like more often too, but seriously, everyone has an ergo. Its kind of crazy. Even though babywearing dads are more common, babywearing is here is respected and not looked on as weird. Ace got a lot of “awwww”s trying to get Mark to sleep in the carrier at a recent street fair. Speaking of street fairs, the events here…. There are fairs, concerts, and outdoor events galore, more things than one human could ever experience. I’m torn between TWO great dog events next month, like I said there is simply too much to do here. Not a bad problem to have.

One of my most favorite things about portland are the food carts! Chi-town is really missing out because of big government on this one! I could go to a cart “pod” for every meal and be very happy. Cart pods are basically parking lots (or other similar spaces) with 2 or more food carts in the same place. Near us we have “A La Carts”, “Cartlandia”, and “Carts on Foster”. The food options at each are varied, from carts dedicated to vegan food to those dedicated to deep fried food. Good cart pods have beer tents and entertainment on top of a huge selection of great food. The food cart scene here is just amazing! I could go on and on about how much I love food carts. What makes carts great is that they are usually run by one or two people passionate about their food. There is a cart run by an old black man that makes amazing BBQ, there is Dave the guy who puts his passion into his seafood creations, there is the dessert lady at “Cake on a Hot Tin Roof” who makes the BEST creme brule I have ever had. These people pour their passion into their food and its amazing.

Sorry about the delays in posting, we are keeping ourselves very busy unpacking, organizing, cleaning, and of course checking out all Portland has to offer.

The next big thing is the first visit by the Mark’s Grandparents for his birthday! So we are gearing up for that!

Rain

It took 13 days, but it finally rained in Portland. People don’t realize that this is totally normal for Portland summers. They are very dry, often sunny and 75 for weeks on end. The grass is brown but they have barely been affected by the drought. Portland summers are dry, and sunny, and beautiful. When it rains it rains much like today, a nice morning drizzle. Its not a down pour (though they do come though on occasion) but more often a mist. It was the same last summer.

The rain comes in the winter. Many locals say Halloween to Easter it rains. Other more dreary, or perhaps realistic, people say Halloween to Memorial day. But again, the rain is rarely a downpour but more often mist or drizzle with cloud cover most of the time. Annual rainfall for Portland is only 2 inches more than Chicago, but the annual snowfall for Portland is 36 inches less than Chicago at only 2 inches per year. That’s a trade-off I love. You can basically replace all of Chicagos annual snowfall (38 inches) with Portland’s rain (37 inches), then Chicago still has 35 inches of rain each year on top of that snow! Which city is wetter now?

5 Dogs in Portland

Our trip went fantastic! The dogs took it all really well considering their whole world was turned around! In the car they all slept. I would forget they were in the car they were so quiet.
Luther was the funniest as he would watch out the windows all the time just looking at stuff. He was very quietly intrigued by the scenery.
We tried to get them some good exercise each day in addition to quick walks every few hours. The first day we were lucky enough to find a forest preserve near the mississippi river that no one else was at. We let all the dogs run off leash in the woods, they had a blast and then slept for hours. The second day we found a Cabela’s and played fetch off leash on their huge property. Then let the dogs chill in there outdoor kennels (our traveling buddy stayed with them) while we went inside to buy them some new toys and treats. They chewed the “chuck-it” in the back of the car before we ever got to use it! Lol!
The third day we took them for a long walk in city park where Aiden was a super star!
The last day was all driving and by the time we got to our house they were ready to run! We had a lot of fun playing in our new huge back yard! They very quickly settled into our new house and we’ve only had one major issue so far, Simon fell out a window! It was our bedroom window on the first floor but the only reason we knew is because the other dog were standing at the window acting weird! They kept making little barks and we kept telling them to lay down, then I realized there was a bark outside and simon was gone!! Ace had to go outside to rescue him! Besides that the dogs have done great! We are rotating who gets to go to all great dog friendly places with us and they are loving it here!

We have Arrived!

We arrived in our new house and are settling in. Sunday we got here around 6:45 Pacific time as we pulled in the driveway Mark yelled “NEW HOW (house)”! I was promptly interrogated by the neighbor but I brushed it off and we played in our back yard with our dogs. Soon the realtor arrived with the keys and we saw our house in person for the first time. We didn’t know the layout at all! It was really fun (and scary) exploring it. It was overwhelming. We only had a few things with us, and now we had this big empty house too. 

We both had some serous fears and doubts the first night, but soon enough we were passed out on the floor of our new house. 

The next morning we went to a great breakfast place (in that time we missed the appointment for the gas to be turned on) I ran some errands then picked up Mike and some lunch. We ended up going to a mall because it was so unnaturally hot we got some awesome, but WAY too expensive dinner before our ordeal of a night then involved losing my keys, forgetting things all over and eventually getting to take a shower….

Today was great because we got the truck unloaded and I got a nap! Seriously awesome. After I finally woke up we got lunch at a local food cart pod (more on these awesome places in a later post), then bought appliances! We won’t get our appliances till monday so I may need to go to the Laundromat soon. We managed to get our bedroom mostly set up and put away and we picked up a few groceries. 

Tomorrow we are probably going to IKEA to get a cheep couch and desk.