Unschool Improv: Not-so-great Expectations

friday untidy

Must-Reads of the Week
“Regrets of the Dying”, as written by a hospice nurse. Being with someone who’s dying was a deep privilege for me, and this article – though more about life than death – reminded me of this experience. Read and learn.

Grown Unschooler Cheyenne La Vallee: “Everyone has it in themselves to be passionate and motivated.” at Idzie’s blog. Out of all the stuff I’ve read and seen on the internet this week, this was the most stunning on a personal level. Reading an interview like Cheyenne’s gives me hope for our world.

Culture
“Play Nice” by Simon Rich from The New Yorker
I don’t know what’s more disturbing to me – the fact grownups think chldren are less-than-people so don’t feel, think, or notice the same stuff grownups do; or the fact some grownups recognize the personhood of children on some level but think it is their RIGHT to tromp all over them anyway.

Pop Culture
I got a monster dedicated to me on Monday, at Twisted Vintage. Which led me to searching up a color version and finding a thread full of awesome B-movie monsters, which are one of my favorite things, ever.

Some great points collated at Soc Images: “Gender, Boobs, and Video Game Characters”. It’s pretty funny how readers (well… maybe that’s the wrong noun, as some of them clearly did not read the article) instantly jump in and say, “But-but-but male figures are idealized too! It totally goes both ways!” First of all, hint, no it doesn’t, but nice try. Secondly, the post is meticulously linked to many arguments which delineate physical idealization (which absolutely applies to both genders) vs. sexual availability via tortured postures and under a consumptive gaze. Or to put it articulately: dur! The cited redrawn examples of the poses of male vs. female characters is particularly awesome and leaves me shaking my head but really reading the text and looking at the images and boggling at how so NOT “both ways” it goes. The original work (Wizard’s How to Draw: Heroic Anatomy) is a depressing one to fathom but I fear very representative of comic culture. “It’s the subtleties of this piece that make it sexy.” LULZLULZ

Here’s some adorableness from TheRealNimoy’s twitpic feed (which is great if you at all are a fan of “Star Trek” or Nimoy). The original ST was one of only two television shows I remember in the very brief time in my childhood that I was exposed to television in my home (or, bus, as it were). So these two were like half-assed second fathers, talking to me from a 12″ old-school box balanced on a narrow counter by the fold-up couches.

Professer goes on a rant (this is sort of an unpleasant watch, warning):

People like to toss out the phrase, “acting like a baby” or compare grownups who react in anger, in a social setting, to tantrum-throwing toddlers. However, of course, toddler emotional displays are developmentally appropriate and it is not children who have such thoroughly entrenched and fragile ego structures as so elegantly demonstrated here (note how the professor repeatedly demands the other students rat out the yawner – tattling FTW!). Incidentally I went to college and got a degree through a competitive and difficult program. It was grueling. I feel sorry for these students as to get the piece of paper they need (or believe they need) they have to put up with this guy. And lots of guys like him. And lots other bullshit. And no sleep. And etc.

Make/Craft
Self-Portrait Ski Mask at CRAFT
I’ll probably never be able to see a balaclava without a little titter about the balaclava perv who found me on my Flickrstream. This balaclava however is head and shoulders (uh…) above any I’ve seen before. Very fun, if a bit creepy!

Mexican Chicken Soup by Ina Garten; I believe I posted a picture of this earlier in the week. It is truly and amazingly delicious and perfect for the fuck-fuck-fuck-COLD some of us are experiencing!

Homemade Marshmallows, a recipe from my blog, which may or may not be Martha’s (I truly do not know). Any locals want in on these (or non-locals), shoot me an email at kelly AT hogaboom DOT org. I’m making them up on the 10th.

Random Excellence
From reader R. (you may see him as Kidsync), one of his occasional-but-always-golden comics:

Unschool Improv: Not-so-great Expectations

And from the BBC “My Blackberry is not working!”:

edification / disarray

Today Ralph spent about half his day working on the CD pressing and sleeve construction of “Mighty Holidays”, a compilation of SW WA artists’ – most of them our friends – seasonal music (more or less). He’s creating hard-copy albums for the artists who participated and any others who want to purchase a CD (the download is free, of course).

My husband is, to me, a deeply-energizing presence – yes, even as he struggles with fatigue and low-grade depression he still holds my interest and deep respect more than any other grownup I’ve met. He is not only talented (in many ways), smart, incredibly funny, hard-working, interesting, beautiful, deep, strong, an asset to his workplace, relentlessly ethical in almost everything he does, and deeply invested in family life – he also routinely is considering those in his life and how to help them or build them up, occasionally to the point of his own exhaustion. This particular album was a labor of love in part because he wanted to showcase his friends’ work and in part because he wanted to then gift this work to other friends. He spent many hours emailing, recording, meeting, and assembling (as a final touch our friend Ira donated the mastering – a big help). And now he’s offering the finished product for free because he’s a Creative Commons junkie. And I adore him for all that and more.

Case in point: my husband performed today’s work with the assistance of C., a teenager and friend to our family who has been suffering illness and migraine; as a result of this his mother was being hassled by the school district for truancy under the Becca Bill (um… I’m not going to go into my thoughts on this, just pretend I ranted for a few pages instead mmkay?). During this arduous drama C.’s mother decided to homeschool C. and, since she was had been turned over to court at this point, was required to submit a homeschool “cirriculum” to the judge (major *eyeroll* here). To help the family, Ralph offered the young man an internship in the website management, promotion, and production of local music. So today we got to have C. as a guest in our house while the two worked together and Nels and C. talked about Minecraft (of course!). I loved listening to Ralph; he’s a natural leader and teacher and children of all ages (infants through teens) love him. I think Ralph and I have figured out by now that having children in one’s life (your own or other people’s) is an opportunity to empower, support, learn, and exchange, and we grownups get as much as we give, if not more.

As for me, I spent most my day yesterday and about three hours today helping my girlfriend J. in party preparations for her most ambitious party yet (among other things I fried LOTS of meatballs!). I enjoy cooking and I enjoy helping, so it was a pleasure to do – and unless I really miss my guess, the party came off beauitfully.

Long story short I am now behind on Christmas sewing – but I have hopes I can pull through. And Oh Yes, believe me I have photos that I cannot wait to upload and share, when it will no longer run the risk of spoiling surprises! Given how hard Ralph and I have been working our house is in an uncharacteristic shambles and I’m a bit frazzled. The weekend flew by and I felt I barely had a resting moment at home –

But it was a good, productive, hard working, and joyous one at that.

with that massive special effects budget you figure they could afford more convincing wigs for the male characters

I like living with little kids. Lots of blankets, warmth, laughter, shared food, good smells, snuggles – and our bandaids have Batman on them.

Tonight I walk into the living room and the kids are on the Minecraft server but they’re also getting ready for a bath. Phoenix and Nels are in an oddly grown-up vignette; she stands with her back to him and her eyes onscreen, her hand holding her slippery golden hair off the nape of her neck, as Nels gently unfastens the buttons at the back of her pinafore-style dress. Tears sting my eyes and I want to swoop them both up into my arms. I have this impulse often and the kids don’t always appreciate it so I do my best to refrain. Ralph and I are particularly incensed that Nels insists we do not pinch his bottom (fair enough) but literally runs around in his tiny little boxer briefs flaunting the most pinchable bottom you’ve ever seen (it’s not just us that thinks so; our friend Jasmine commented on this last night).

What a day we had together. We took our errands out around town and the kids helped wipe the incessant condensation off the car windows (hazardous!) until things were finally warm enough. I was innundated with a barrage of questions and conversation openers. Phoenix asked me about methods of birth control (this began with her query, “Mom I only want to have one kid – how can I do that?”, a question that didn’t seem to strike Nels with any particular implications), which then included a recap on erections/”boners”, ovulation, menstruation, etc; then she asked if there were any side effects to any of the drugs I mentioned (this is her first question regarding pharmaceuticals – yay!), and the differences between miscarriage and abortion. Nels listened in to all this and offered his own summaries and helpful suggestions. Phoenix told us she’d grow up and invent a side-effect-free birth control called The Birth Police Officer (FTW!).

A few minutes later as we sat down to snacks in the Safeway deli table section she and Nels began to innundate me with more questions while stripping off their coats and in between running to wash hands and procure napkins and an Odwalla juice to share. This batch of queries included the likelihood of observing and the cosmic mechanism inherant in a solar eclipse, what B vitamins were, which planet was the largest planet, and speculation on the atmospheric makeup of Neptune. I could have used a smartphone and the internet a few times, because not only do I not have all the answers, sometimes I have a shockingly complete lack of any answers. Fortunately I don’t have to put much faith in me as Knower of All Things when I put entire faith in my children as being enthusiastic and relentless Learners and we can just look it up when convenient.

Tonight on my mother’s suggestion Ralph, Phoenix and I went with her to watch Harry Potter and the Film of Interminable Duration. Nels was quite firm that he doesn’t care for the Harry Potter movies so he stayed home and our friend Laurena and daughter Sophiea came over to sort of house/Nels-sit (for a wee bit of Christmas money to boot). It was a great fourway date for us and my favorite part was leaning over to Ralph during the film and cracking wise and making him laugh, a lot. I’m glad he likes me. (Usually)

lizard hell valley

day late and a dollar short

Oops, Friday links!

Best parenting culture article I’ve read in a long time: Alfie Kohn “Spoiled Rotten: A Timeless Complaint”

“Scholars have no idea how many parents these days are permissive, or punitive, or responsive to their children’s needs without being permissive or punitive. (The tendency to overlook that third possibility is a troubling and enduring trend in its own right.) … [N]either logic nor evidence seems to support the widely accepted charge that we’re too easy on our children.  Yet that assumption continues to find favor across the political spectrum.  It seems, then, that we’ve finally found something to bring the left and the right together:  an unsubstantiated critique of parents, an unflattering view of kids, and a dubious belief that the two are connected.”

“Unjob Yourself! A New Paradigm for Work and Life” by Wendy Priesnitz

women and girls in mainstream media (video)

My Son is Not a Poodle Hey, are you a white lady? (probably, if you’re reading here) Are you a white lady walking around THIS close to totally misbehaving? Read this.

I’m more like my kids than I’m like adults at the Enjoy Unschooling Project (I relate – having met exactly zero non-schoolers around these parts)

“How to Tour in a Band or Whatever” by Thor Harris; a polemic of nuance and relevancy for our times

“Unlimited Sweets Project” at tranquilparent

“An Immodest Proposal” at Scarleteen
“By all means, not a one of us can somehow erase or alter all of the barriers we have right now when it comes to real sexual agency for all women. But there are no barriers beyond the limitations of our own imagination when it comes to rewriting the scripts of our sexual ideals, our individual sexual lives, and what we present to ourselves, our sisters and our daughters.” Yeah. I hope my daughter (and son) have far better “first times” than I did – and lots more awesome times beyond.

Golden Age of the Moustache, another excellent Flickr group (and YEAH, I’m a member)

"Heeellllllll naw!"

In this moment: we had a few dinner guests tonight and two of them are staying late with their new video game system (a Wii, if you must know). The game played now is loud and intense and highly active and imaginative. I’ve never been very good at video games and the noise-intensity of the game and the fervent self-competition my children are evidencing is a bit off-putting. Quick blog-post them I’m going back to the living room to see if I can learn something new.

friday link-up!

Culture
“Accounting for What Matters” by Wendy Priesnitz:

“Aside from allowing academic and personal freedom, life learning is about living more mindfully – acting altruistically (instead of earning gold stars or the approval of authority figures), respecting individuals for who they are rather than how much money they make or how many degrees they have, overturning discrimination, working cooperatively, and learning about and improving the world by living in and acting on it. The kids who are growing up in that way should be able to solve many problems.”

“The false and harmful rhetoric of family life vs. work life” by yours truly

Cute Overload on the U.S. elections

Craft
How-To: Linoleum Print Cards & Invites at Craft

budgeting for your creative habit” at Scoutie Girl. I have to squint real hard on this one… For one thing, the “budget” and notes thing isn’t how I roll (It’s how Ralph rolls though, and it appears to work okay). Also, those mentioned “cash-eating demons” for some people I know are things like rent and utility bills. And maybe this is why I’ve started thinking a lot more about gifting and donating some of my work – I want to create opportunity for other people to feed their souls. I do, however, wholeheartedly agree wtih this: “When your expenditures don’t line up with your values, you get that icky I-ate-too-much-ice-cream feel in your stomach. And it’s hard to shake.”

calaveras, dia de los muertos – beautifully-done in polymer clay with hand-painted detail.

Viewing/Reading/Listening
New on Masterpiece Theatre – “Sherlock” (can watch online)

Good documentaries (links go to the titles on Netflix instant): Awful Normal, Man On Wire, and I Have Never Forgotten You

Cat Owner’s Home Veterinary Handbook (but I will be getting my copy through Jackson Street Books)

“One Kiss Can Lead To Another” – a great mini-anthology!

Quotes
This one comes via Mamapoekie:

When we adults think of children, there is a simple truth which we ignore: childhood is not preparation for life; childhood is life. A child isn’t getting ready to live; a child is living. The child is constantly confronted with the nagging question, “What are you going to be?” Courageous would be the youngster who, looking the adult squarely in the face, would say, “I’m not going to be anything; I already am.” We adults would be shocked by such an insolent remark, for we have forgotten, if indeed we ever knew, that a child is an active participating and contributing member of society from the time he is born. Childhood isn’t a time when he is molded into a human who will then live life; he is a human who is living life. No child will miss the zest and joy of living unless these are denied him by adults who have convinced themselves that childhood is a period of preparation. How much heartache we would save ourselves if we would recognize the child as a partner with adults in the process of living, rather than always viewing him as an apprentice. How much we would teach each other… adults with the experience and children with the freshness. How full both our lives could be. A little child may not lead us, but at least we ought to discuss the trip with him, for after all, life is his and her journey too. – Professor T. Ripaldi

it’s Friday so that means linkage

Actually that’s not true. I’ve never been one to do any kind of ritual on my online journal with any kind of regularity. But here’s some good stuff.

Trigger warning: the first section of these links discusses bullying and education.

American Culture:
“Why I Think Unschooling Is The Best Option… For Everyone” by Idzie

Today on Twitter Idzie wrote:

People are terrified of a lack of control. Utterly terrified. Of other people giving up control over them, of giving up control over others… Or at least that’s the way it seems to me, from the reactions you get at any suggestion of freedom! … It seems so many ppl have felt excluded & judged in unschooling circles or by other unschoolers… This makes me so sad every time I hear it. & also makes me really hope I haven’t contributed to it myself. I try to be welcoming to all ppl interested in/supportive about/considering unschooling, while still expressing my own opinions honestly & authentically, despite the fact they might upset some people.

I really relate to what she’s written here; and I know I myself I’ve likely caused offense while trying so hard to communicate my own reality as well as ideas and worldviews that have changed our lives in the most amazing fashion.

Yet it must be pointed out that many who react with anger and accusations are reacting to ideas that upset them, oftentimes for reasons they have not yet examined; many were hostile to these ideas from the second they were first exposed but have not taken the steps to unpack that hostility and fear. Given that environs when discussing consensual living, punitive-free parenting, and autodidactic education, I’d like to remind those of us writing (and talking and singing and living) it’s almost impossible for us to not elicit angry reactions.

Do people in life learning/unschooling/attachment parenting groups say exclusionary, insensitive, dogmatic, harmful, ignorant, or incorrect things*? Absolutely! Especially that latter group – at least in my experience. No group or ideology is above committing wrongs. However is is hard for me to engage at length with the words of those who are already hostile to my ideas and have dismissed my body of work and research without their own investigation. If they won’t give me the respect of entertaining my “expertise” (such as it is) they can learn little from me – although I don’t mind learning from them.

Aristotle said, “It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.” It is surprising to me how few people can even entertain my thoughts (which weren’t mine originally, usually), although conversations with those who can – and their individual interpretations, whether supportive or critical or additive – is one of the rich pleasures in my life.

***

“Opinion: Sometimes It’s OK To Let Your Kid Be Bullied” on parentdish
OK, first I’m not even going to get into dissecting the “THAT MOM” trope (overinvolved, controlling, elevating her child to sainthood – mostly just another strawlady), or the chills that ran down my spine at the stalwartly unreflective “we sometimes fight battles that would be better solved on the playground or by the people who are paid and trained to educate our children”, OR to weigh in to claim this parent (mom) did something wrong or went amiss in how she handled her daughter’s scenario.

The article starts to go wrong for me here: “Stepping in to micro-manage every aspect of your kid’s life is a mistake. It robs children of the ability to deal with conflict and rejection. It saps their independence. It labels them, in the eyes of their peers, teachers and administrators, as weak.”

“Micro-manage every aspect of your kid’s life”. In my experience observing parents/carers this is far more rare than pop-psych anecdotal “truthy” pieces would have you believe (this fable usually exists parallel to much pearl-clutching and table-pounding about “helicopter parents” and “useless” “kids today”). Interestingly Life – that “real world” people are always talking about? – is FULL of adversity and hurdles and stumbling blocks. Parenting compassionately means we usually get to watch with joy how our children handle these episodes, knowing we have their trust and they have their self-trust – because we have their back. I can know my children’s lives will be filled with difficulties and limitations, I don’t have to make more of them nor artificially create them (Example, my daughter wants a pony, guess why we can’t get one? No need whatsoever for me to furnish false “natural consequences”, see also some pieces on “sheltering” and “adversity” in numbers #15 – #17 on this list). Helping our children when they’re being fucked-over is not the same at all as “micro-managing” NOR is it done (in my case) based out of a trembling Mama-Bear “hysteria” so many like to snark about (in fact, from reading this author’s self-stated feelings regarding her children’s sufferings, I am in comparison entirely unflappable to my child being “hurt” – because I know she can handle it until she can’t, and gee, how do I know this? Because I know she knows she can get help from me if she needs it).

I could write pages on this, and maybe I will soon.

I recently heard a local parent talking about how there’s a natural “pecking order” on the playground and we adults should stay out of it. I don’t have room or energy to write the many ways I think that sounds like a terrible idea (new reasons occur to me daily in fact). Incidentally this man’s own son – who is often at my house, this summer spending more time with me than his own parents – used to often try to bully my own children (unsuccessfully), occasionally attempts to extort money from them, tells falsehoods when confronted and won’t make eye contact (lying is not so much an inevitable child behavior as could be better described as one most parent/teaching regimes wholly facilitate by their oppressive tactics). He’s reformed quite a bit in our household since he’s realized I’m not about to “punish” him or ream him out, although I can’t allow him at our house if he keeps breaking our chicken eggs purposefully – for example. Outside my kitchen window, when he thinks no adult can hear him, I hear him shouting at other smaller children they are “retards” and they need to “get off [his] property… or [he’s] calling the cops.”

I know many children who behave one way around adults and other ways when they think they are unobserved. It isn’t the children who’ve initiated this regrettable state of affairs, either.

And both for this author and the local parent; really? This “pecking order” is OK or a “natural” and relatively harmless part of social life? I completely disagree. Sadly, this story was just posted regarding a 16 year old boy’s bullycide – a semi-local school, where with sickening familiarity I read: “The school says it never received any complaints about bullying from the boy or his parents.”

Right. Let’s continue to let “kids be kids” on this bullying thing.

***

Two great articles from Australia (but relevant, IMO, to similar discussions in the US) on health, fat, obesity, dieting, and body image: “Talking Fat” by Elizabeth at mymilkspilt and “Health Hysteria: Helpful or Harmful?” by Dr. Samantha Thomas at The Discourse. Great posts and analyses I can add nothing to.

Mamapoekie’s brief post on stalking deserves more than just my comment. The topic is in my thoughts right now – for reasons I can’t divulge in this space, sadly.

Inspiring:
My sister says some of these were so beautiful they made her cry. I feel the same way.

I’m currently reading: Whipping Girl: A Transsexual Woman on Sexism and the Scapegoating of Femininity by Julia Serrano. This is a pretty amazing book. I’m sad it’s likely under-read as many cisgendered people don’t understand it’s hardly a “fringe” topic or treatment at all, but at the heart of human right questions entirely salient for us today.

“the dangerous spiral of criticism & how to claw your way back out” at Scoutie Girl: “Instead of reaching for big, bigger, biggest, we reach for safe & allowable. Self-consciousness refuses to let you create art. It only allows for ‘nice.’ Ew.”

Shop:
Support an awesome homeschooling mama with some uncertain financial “adventures” ahead of her. Also: handsewn, so you can’t go wrong there!

I want to buy this for Phoenix, so bad. She loves creepy 50s horror comics times ONE MILLION.

Who wants a sexy little rockabilly dress homesewn? Fuck, who doesn’t?

Fun:
Twisted Vintage
Lovely images and weirdness (Ah… this image from The Postman Always Rings Twice, some real sexiful there!), some altered and some as they were; lots of great Halloween content! Um, don’t read the comments. At least the one comment thread I clicked on was full of misogyny, including comments by the post author, and a bit of homophobia, etc. Gross.

Please provide a caption for this picture.

Craftzine is having a Halloween contest. You got the chops for it?

***

* Recent example: an unschooling group brought me an email wherein a member called another person’s daughter an “illiterate, foul-mouthed slut.” This went unchecked by the moderator (as have a few other problematic incidents); I may not stick around this community much longer.

Comments: For any new readers today: I don’t want to hear word-one about “controlling” parents (moms), go anywhere else on the internet and discuss it, you’ll find entirely receptive audiences.

the littlest giant

Today the children and I went off for a lunch date and then swimming as soon as I’d done the laundry and made all the beds blah blah blah. We got sandwiches together at Subway (all three of us eating for $11; can’t beat that) where I saw then introduced myself to one of the excitable soccer parents from last weekend.

The kids were a delight to have lunch with. They were very hungry (well, for them – the kids and I are all three kind of light eaters), splitting a ham sandwich on flatbread and judiciously divvying up a milk between them, followed by a cookie apiece. I can’t always know when they are hungry and I’m glad I took them out first because we ended up playing quite vigorously in the pool.

It felt wonderful to be back in the water again. Now that it’s school season we often have the pool to ourselves which is incredibly peaceful.

Phoenix and I played many games together. This was a welcome improvement from the last few months we’ve visited the pool. Phoenix loves to swim with me but often we have to stay close to Nels or risk being admonished by the capricious lifeguards and this limitation has frustrated us both in the past. Today she figured out a few new games we could engage in together: we performed a syncrho-swimming waterdance using hoops formed from those styrofoam noodles in the pool (she challenged herself to see how long she could stay under and quickly swim in back and forth in the hoops; she got up to three). Then she had me hold her straight out from my waist, her legs around my body, while I spun her like a fan blade through the water (now that was a workout for both of us!). I get dizzy easily now (ever since I had kids, and I’m not making that up) so I had to rest between goofy games like this. She helped Nels improve his kick. She tickled me and swam in and out around my legs with a grace and a lack of kicking-me-in-the-face which was delightfully new and appreciated.

My son has been a bit fragile today. It is truly a wonderful experience for me to be able to be available to them for their needs. Today from across the pool my son swam out from the little winding river and I saw the set in his shoulders and the sadness in his eyes. And I swam over to him and asked, “What is it baby?” He told me he had hiccups and they were hurting his body. He said, “But I feel better now you’re here,” and wrapped his arms and legs around me. And there’s probably nothing that smells and feels better to me than my children.  And sure enough a hiccup jerked through his little body, his frog-like limbs and tender little ribcage and his little belly. And I showed him how to hold his breath and tighten his eyes up and plug his nose and ears and he tried this many times, his little body convulsing now and then. The hiccups seemed too big for him!

Later at home he lay on top of me and we played “I Spy.” He made me laugh about eighteen times. For instance when he said, “I spy something BLUE… It’s outside.” I laughed and told him the whole point of the game is that you could SEE the thing from where you were. But I got it anyway (answer: the sky). A minute later it was my turn and I told him it was something that looked like a breast… he looked and looked and finally I had to tell him it was up high, at which point he saw the hemisphereical-with-nipple-fitting center light in our room and pointed triumphantly and then looked down at me and shook the hair out of his eyes and said knowingly, “Eas-y,” as if he hadn’t been guessing for minutes! I laughed and wrestled him and grabbed him up and we kissed and hugged times One Hundred.

I played a game with him, one he hadn’t remembered but I had. First I took my hand on his bare big toe (the right one) then pretended The Toe was sojourning on his body on its way to see The Head (I perform the role of The Toe by dancing my fingers along his body). So The Toe would stop and introduce herself to The Ankle, or whomever (as played by Nels) and they’d have a little talk, with The Ankle directing The Toe on further to her destination. Et cetera. We played this when the kids were little – I mean littler. It’s one of those simple but amazing games because it involves a lot of touch but a total respect by the grownup, since the child is in control of directions. We play similar games where the children will tell me where to kiss them, or stroke them or squeeze them, or (if they want to scare themselves) bite them or pinch them.

It really is an honor to be trusted and loved so much by my little ones.

In other news I have the perfect Halloween costume idea (finally!). I do not have money to garner my supplies!  Very upsetting. I am hoping (against all hopes) to set up a little display and sell a few of my wares. This would be a miracle (by “miracle” I mean something kind of nice that no one could possibly give a shit about, and thusly deserves a less auspicious descriptor) as I do not have my items ready or a display ready and also, by the way, I’m being a total coward about the whole business. Halloween approaches and I have three semi-elaborate getups to assemble and I’ve made no headway and can’t even sell our last running car without a few repairs that I’m not even going to type about as one of them makes the vehicle un-street legal.

“I used to know it by review tests, and restlessness.” *

Today I received a wonderful query from Formspring:

Q. You often link to a *lot* of fascinating web-content. How do you find/keep up with all of these bloggers/sites/etc? Are you magic?

A. I have a feed reader and two tweetstreams. Anytime I run across a blog or newsite or humor site I enjoy or am challenged by, I add it and it automatically aggregates the stuff. On Twitter I have a personal account (kellyhogaboom) and my… I don’t know, “social justice” account (underbellie). I follow (mostly) friends and/or awesome, funny people at kellyhogaboom and I follow (mostly) other friends or sites or groups in activism, social writing, etc. I use a program where I can see both these tweetstreams (also search terms I am interested in too).

The problem isn’t growing a crop of great information, that’s easy. The problem (for me) is not getting fatigue from it all! Obviously one can OD on too much horrible news about homophobia and bullying and rape of Congolese women and girls, etc. Occasionally I go clear my feed reader without checking some posts. I can also just skim my more intense tweetstream. It depends on what resources I have. In general though, I do read a lot online.

I am currently looking for humor-only or uplifting-only content for those times I need some nice, positive feelings. Problem is even on humor sites there is no escape from the crappy stuff I read all day and the work I am committed to. For instance I remember I was looking at cakewrecks and having a great time laughing. Then there was a cake with a naked woman on it giving birth. You can imagine the negative and horrid comments people were making about women, their bodies, birth, etc. It really killed my “fun”.

So far cuteoverload is doing well as a recharge. Talking to my husband, snuggling with my kids, going running, and having four cats is also helpful. At times cooking takes me out of the reading-funk although I am known to cook and be thinking and reflecting the whole time.

I take some pride in the fact many people find my writing (my own and shared) influential and helpful. It *is* work, in case anyone was wondering!

The query was a good one because it allowed me to take my bearings and once again consider how much reading I do daily – reading that could easily overwhelm me. I’m a passionate person and I use my brain, mind, soul and body to live out my life. I sneer at the concept of “balance” as I know it from all the laydee magazines because they’d have me doing yoga every day in my cute little outfit and making sure to get my “date night with husband” each Friday all tidy and take vitamins first thing in the morning with my balanced breakfast and make sure to have an hour to myself before sleep, [snore]. Now I admire a routine with that kind of regimented “balance”, don’t get me wrong, but it’s not my life today. I work and play and run and rest in fits and starts and it works very well indeed for now.

Here are two inspiring pieces I found today:

The first, an article called 70 Ways Unschoolers Learn to Deal with Frustration at Bonnie’s blog Follow That Dream – a delightful series of work as evidenced by the About Me and Notes On Language pages (the latter of which is so incredible I want to crib it).

This particular post of Bonnie’s (read it. No read it. Do it. DO IT) hits me deeply because compared to most anyone I know, Ralph and I are staggeringly “permissive” parents. We are mindful of their health and safety; in their desires and lifestyles we are helpers, not interference or dictatorial Adults who Know Better. Thus, for examples in how this plays out, our children do not go to school, they are not required (anymore) to do household chores, we do not make them eat some things, we do not limit the consumption of other things. We do not punish them if they do something “wrong” or behave badly. We do not take things away from them to solve problems. We do not manage their friendships and their schedules (although we help them with anything and everything when they want it). All of this is a constant ongoing work and we make mistakes and slip-ups, when our behaviors do not support our ideals. Personally, sometimes I’d love to skip to the part where I’m getting it Perfect. It ain’t gonna happen.

From what I’ve seen, many people tend to read about these strategies and – depending on whether they’ve met us – react quite strongly in opposition. I’ve heard many claim parents who employ such methods and eschew mainstream ones are “permissive”, “neglectful”, “naive”, “irresponsible”, “lazy”, “goofy”, “crazy” – etc (I notice those who’ve met us, when they offer an opinion it’s to compliment our children and express admiration, if a bit of confusion). The list goes on. It’s hard to speak about parenting when you really are doing it differently than lots of other people; one reason it’s hard to encapsulate our non-mainstream parenting strategies and the incorrect assumptions about our life is that the attacks come from all angles (I mentioned at Underbellie how our family choices vis-a-vis television and film could be tasked as overprotective and isolationist or neglectful and far too worldly, depending who’s doing the judging).

So I write about family bliss and I write incident by incident, I guess, although I am always happy to get in a larger-scale conversation with an interested party and I’m honored to be asked for advice by families who live differently (and if you think about it, all families live differently from one another).

Bonnie’s article spoke to me because lately I’ve been thinking about how many people work so very hard to make their kids learn this or that on their (the parents’/carers’/school’s) timeline, or to require them do specific “character-growing” work X or Y (again, according to the adults’ wishes). It’s all done in the name of loving and caring for children, as are many great and not-so-great practices. In addition there’s a lot of fear involved; our parenting culture contains trace elements of the poisonous pedagogy; people really truly believe if they let their kids have freedom during the day their children would do nothing but grubby television-watching and eating terrible food (for. ever.) – and by the way “television” and “junk food” and “video games” and a variety of other Vaguely Defined but Terrible Institutions are feared like the Bogeyman and, by some, regulated like radioactive material.

In my peer group (white, working-to-middle class Americans) many people truly believe the only way to prepare kids for Adulthood involves making them do prescribed housework (called “chores”). Alternatively or additionally, some parents/carers make their children do chores because they themselves have a dread and hate of this work (gee, wonder where that came from?) and believe the only way to manage these bad feelings is to require the children shoulder some of the burden (see previous parenthetical). People truly believe it’s OK to force/make kids do what they want because in their view adults know better, including when and how to entertain the children’s wishes and desires; sure, many adults feel icky about this but figure there’s no way around it. Some adults seek upbeat and stern and loving and “in control” methodologies which convince them they’ll get Good Results however deep-down repugnant the means are at times.

Adults employing these strategies often (but not always) don’t want to hear about ours. Ours make them feel worse about things they already feel kind of bad (and usually helpless) about. Our strategies make them angry because they sound overly- … something (permissive, naive, “hippie”, “thinky” – take your pick). Our strategies leave them confused because even if they could see their strategy isn’t a very good one, they literally have no better ideas to get what they want. They are fearful if they abandon what they know they will only be further lost. They don’t want to let down their kids, even if they know deep down they already are.

Discussion of our strategies often triggers fear, anger, and resentment in many adults, most of whom weren’t treated all that well as kids themselves (either by school, parents/carers, or their community – often all the above). I can often tell when these painful feelings are being triggered: it shows in body language, tone, avoidance, loaded words, “you” statements, thought-talk (instead of feeling talk) and large-scale predictions of imagined failure (ours and other families like us) instead of examination of current lived realities. Examples, “Well YOU have to make kids such-and-such or they will so-and-so.” The friend who studiously ignores ever discussing parenting with me even though he knows it is my deepest passion and an area of decent expertise (no really!). Statements of nostril-flaring shut-down such as, “Well there are lots of different ways to do things” or “Different things work for different families”. I dislike those statements tremendously and here are a few reasons why: first, it is self-evident not only that there are many, many ways to raise children (including destructive ones!), but also that there is no one Whole Grain Jesus pundit, mama, or papa who has All The Answers for Everyone. Secondly, when this is said during discussions of parenting what the speaker often means is, “I am upset/angry/scared and I no longer want to talk about this.” And I wish more people could say that instead. Trust me, it is an amazing stepping stone in self-awareness and a tool to move forward with clarity.

For my sake, I’m grateful I’m not – today – too scared, damaged, or lacking resources to have been unable to listen to other points of views and other strategies. If I had, we wouldn’t be where we are today; and I’m so grateful for where we are today.

Bonnie’s post refutes some of the fears I used to have and gives me gladness at being able to move past them. Because there was a time I did indeed fear “spoiling” my kids by raising them the way we have been (and I’m not past these fears entirely, they crop up now and then – but they have largely subsided). I did believe that unless I required “chores” and school attendance (and “success”) they would become (or remain?) helpless, “backward”, sheltered, “spoiled”. What I see instead are two amazing, capable, richly-happy, well-exercised, well-loved, joyful, passionate, intelligent (oh. my. goodness. for realz), friendly, comfortable, clear-eyed, opinionated, fierce, funny, and courageous little people. What I see in a lot of other children is fear, confusion, despondency, duplicity, fear (yeah, I know I said that one already), restlessness, dullness, repressed anger, “manners”, pack behavior, manipulation for leverage – and fear. If I had to come up with one word endemic of many children I meet today, it would be Suppressed.

Of course, children are incredible and I have not met one whose bright spark has been entirely crushed (we do, tragically, know this happens). It is my unique and much-honored joy to have many children in my life; my own and their friends and the neighbors. It is amazing how well children respond to better treatment, no matter how poorly or carelessly they may be being treated elsewhere. I truly hope, although I don’t think of it very often as I’m usually very busy just, you know, living, that I am a bright spot and a loved and trusted adult in their life. I’m so glad too I got to live long enough to un-learn some of what I learned as a kid, and to experience children without the fear and anger I used to – a fear and anger and resentment that churns inside all-too-many adults.

“Children are not our own art products to be turned out well, but their own life work in continual process.” ~ Jan Fortune Wood

In other wonderfulness, here is a a poem I read today by Mary Oliver:

When Death Comes

When death comes
like the hungry bear in autumn;
when death comes and takes all the bright coins from his purse
to buy me, and snaps the purse shut;
when death comes
like the measles-pox;

when death comes
like an iceberg between the shoulder blades,

I want to step through the door full of curiosity, wondering:
what is it going to be like, that cottage of darkness?

And therefore I look upon everything
as a brotherhood and a sisterhood,
and I look upon time as no more than an idea,
and I consider eternity as another possibility,

and I think of each life as a flower, as common
as a field daisy, and as singular,

and each name a comfortable music in the mouth
tending as all music does, toward silence,

and each body a lion of courage, and something
precious to the earth.

When it’s over, I want to say: all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.
I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.

When it is over, I don’t want to wonder
if I have made of my life something particular, and real.
I don’t want to find myself sighing and frightened,
or full of argument.

I don’t want to end up simply having visited this world.

***

* Taken from a wonderful quote by Lisa Asher, an unschooled teen.