Processing Time

Lately, I’ve been feeling overwhelmed by all the things I want to do along with all the things I should or need to do. I have a small pile of books I’ve already read but I still need to sit and go through my notes before I completely forget I read them. And now I’ve already started two new books out of my ever growing stack of “must-read’s”. And that is just one little piece of the jumbled puzzle. I have a notebook full of ideas, podcasts I want to listen to, a list of projects I’d like to do around the house, places I’d like to visit, posts I’d like to write, not to mention the daily housework and such that comes with having teenage boys in the house. I run around thinking that if I stop looking at Facebook, reading a book, or listening to a podcast for one day I may miss something important. But when I stop to think about it every bit of encouragement or inspiration I’ve ever found has always come across my path by accident. I’m not going to miss something I really need if I stop seeking input for a few days. The key is to stay aware enough to see something in the path when I do come across it. At times I can be so focused on finishing my pile of books that I miss what’s in the one I have in my hand. I’m not getting anything out of my tasks but a checked off list. I’m not really learning and using anything. It feels so futile.

I was washing the dishes this morning and listening to a podcast when it dawned on me, I am missing “processing time”. I’m constantly moving from one input to the next, multitasking to collect even more pieces to the puzzle but I’m not retaining or using any of it because I don’t put the time in to quietly reflect on what I just read or heard. I need to rethink my daily routine to include some time to sit and think. The first step is going to be creating a space to do it. My usual spot in this house is the dining room table but I’m very easily distracted, so the boys watching tv or videos, or even walking through the room pulls me out of my thought process. At the moment I’ve escaped to my husband’s office but he works from a nasty old couch and the laptop bounces as I type. It distracts me! I’m going to need to create an office space in this house along with a part of the day to think and write. Now I have to figure out how to do that!

We are not home “schoolers”!

Sometimes I just want to yell at the top of a mountain to the whole world, “We aren’t ‘homeschoolers’! We just didn’t send our kids to school!”

We didn’t send them to classes or teach them a list of things. We just lived, played, and answered questions. We explored the world. We went places, watched tv and movies, read books and the internet, played games on boards, TV’s, and iPhones. We built forts, visited with friends, hung out at the park and playground. And they are decent people. Smart people. Fun people. People who are ok with who they are, who they are becoming, and are willing and able to go get what they want out of life. No, we did not “homeschool”. We left school behind entirely and embraced the world around us instead like natural human beings.  And it’s not just for “people like us”. It’s for everyone that wants to; rich/poor, black/white, city/rural, educated or not.  And it will look different for every single family out there. I wouldn’t change a thing and I can’t wait to see where this life takes all of us.

Public School Funding

When I started homeschooling ten years ago there were few “school at home” public charter schools. The one I was most of aware of was CAVA. You enrolled and they sent you a computer and boxes of the curriculum. And I mean BOXES! I received seven big boxes on my doorstep when I enrolled my son in the first grade. When I started pulling stuff out, I was instantly overwhelmed. There was one box of very fun stuff that the boys gravitated to immediately and were very excited about. It was filled with cheap toys, art supplies, and science experiments. When I began to pull out the books, teacher guides, and workbooks I began to think maybe this wasn’t a good idea. The stack of books would have been almost as tall as I was! Couldn’t I just buy the “toys” and not have to go through all these books? My husband and I talked about it and decided the answer was YES! I boxed it all up the next day and sent it back after calling the school and telling them we had changed our minds and were going to enroll him in a private school. That private school was very exclusive, only boys with the same last name! It was liberating and exciting. We’ve never looked back at public school at home.

But now charters are a lot different. CAVA is still around but there are several more with varying degrees of involvement. Some are very much school at home, much like a school district’s independent study program. And some of them are very hands off. They offer an account that parents can use to purchase curriculum and classes through approved vendors with a certified teacher to check in with each month for guidance. It all sounds so great and I’d love to fall in love with this new style of public education. It has a multitude of advantages over the old style, that’s for sure. So why do I feel so uneasy about it? What is bothering me? I think I found my problem.

To me, the old style of public education, i.e. taxes are taken by force from everyone to fund schools run by the state and all the area’s children are forced by law to attend, seems a bit communistic. The system is slow to adapt and change to the people that attend it. If I find that the school in my neighborhood isn’t doing what I think is best for my kids, I’m generally not allowed to choose another one. And even if I could, the schools are all very much the same anyway. You are allowed to choose a private option, but you must pay extra for that and because of the “free” school in the market, those other options have become pretty expensive. Mind you, they aren’t more expensive than the public schools. The public schools are paid for through taxes on everyone, so it seems they are free. Free to use, but not free to the state.

A private company providing an education for a child usually charges around $6K a year. The state schools get an average of $9K a year. I can’t find a chart that tells me how much California spends on schools exactly. The information isn’t readily available in a form anyone but a trained bureaucrat can understand. I’d like to know how much money each school really gets per child and how much money do these charter schools get but I can’t find the information online and my emails asking about it go unanswered. There are charts for how much they spend on several different aspects and charts about who gets what, but none of it is definite or a complete picture. If I had months to spend on figuring it out, I might try. And I’ll certainly keep looking but right now I just don’t know. Most people would agree that private schools typically do a better job of providing an education and it seems it costs less. Where does that extra money for the public schools go?

This new way of doing public school is very interesting. A company forms and makes a contract (a charter) with the state to offer education to students for free. The company gets a certain amount of money from the state and spends that on its program. Whatever it doesn’t spend is its profit. That just doesn’t sound right. It sounds like “crony capitalism”.

Think of this example for another product everyone “needs”. What if the government decided how much the average family should spend on household goods, then took that money by force in the form of taxes and decided to grant Walmart and Target the privilege of providing those items to each family. Each store would receive those taxes each month according to how many people were coming into their store and receiving goods at no cost to them. Walmart and Target would not charge the patrons, they would give each patron a certain amount of money in the form of vouchers that they were allowed to spend in the store. Whatever the store didn’t spend on products or business expenses they were allowed to keep as profit. There would be some things this store isn’t willing or able to provide, so they would contract with “vendors” in the area that you are allowed to use the stores vouchers at. For instance, maybe Walmart doesn’t want to carry furniture anymore because it costs them too much in overhead, so they go out to a couple local furniture stores and contract with them to provide the items. You would be allowed to buy the products elsewhere if you want to spend your own money. But how many companies would be able to compete with the “free stores” and how many companies would be able to get those government charters? If this happened with this market people would lose their minds, why is ok for it to happen in education?

The biggest red flag I’ve seen is that there is no readily available data about who these companies are. How much exactly are they getting from the state? How much profit are they making? How much do regular school’s get? All of this I wouldn’t care about if it were a regular private school but since I, and the rest of the state, are being charged for it every year, I believe we have a right to know how our money is being spent. I feel like I’m supposed to be an investor in a company reaping the profits of their mission, but I feel like I’m being robbed and then told to relax about it because “it’s for the children”. I’m still searching the internet for information about these schools and our old ones as well. I realize I’m not making groundbreaking progress. I’m hoping someone out there has already researched this and has made some kind of report I can read and trust!

Unschooling Garden

Yesterday I had coffee with a friend while my son was at Crossfit. I’m totally going to keep doing that. I feel like I’m “holding court”. I posted to my Facebook homeschool group that I would be there at a certain time and day every week, so anyone was welcome to join me. Yesterday, a member of our group that I hadn’t seen in months came. We aren’t good friends. We’ve only met once before. But it was great to sit and talk and get to know each other. My only regret is that I talk SO STINKIN’ MUCH! I swear I’m trying to turn it down. Work in progress, you know. Our conversation was great, though.

I had an epiphany while I was explaining my sons’ passion for motocross racing. The truth is that I’m not a fan of the sport. That’s not quite right either. I’m not a fan of THEM doing it. If I had my way, they’d be musicians and rocket scientists! But that’s what my big thought was about. A lot of people think they can find a way to educate and raise their kids that will make them into the people they want them to be. They want to mold and shape their kids into their version of a good person. One of the biggest problems I see people have with the concept of unschooling is when they ask the question, “How do I get my kids to…?” or “How do I stop by kids from…?” while using unschooling principles. The answer is that you can’t. That’s the whole point. You aren’t there to make them into “good people” or “educated people”. You are there to support them and help them grow into the people they were born to be. That might be something entirely different than what you had planned.

Kids aren’t like a cultivated garden. You don’t plant a row of these here and a row of these there and then train them up into what you want. It’s a lot more like a wildflower patch. Yes, they will grow on their own but if you tend it a bit, water it here, throw some mulch there, and watch what comes up, you’ll have a beautiful natural place for birds and bugs to live. You’re supporting what’s already growing. That’s what unschooling is like.

I may not have made the choices my kids are making. I may be able to see the path that those choices will lead down from my perspective. But that would be through my experience, my eyes, my life, not theirs. Their experience with the same world might be totally different for them because they are different people. And who am I to tell them or hold them to what my version of the world is? I’m here to support them, maybe not with all my money and time, but at least with all my heart and mind. I may not like their choices. I may think it would be better for them to do something entirely different. And if there was a way to get them to do what I think is best, they may never find what it is they were meant to be. I don’t want to be that wall in their way.

Positive Attitude & Progress

How do we reconcile having a “positive attitude” with “progress”? I’ve always heard that progress comes from dissatisfaction. No one who is completely satisfied wants anything to change. But being dissatisfied always sounds like such a negative space to live. When I try to remain positive about my situation, I feel like I’m trying to live in an alternate reality. As I was walking from my RV to the laundry room the two ideas became one in my mind. It was like a thunderbolt, an epiphany. You can be dissatisfied and positive at the same time!

Here’s an example. “This job sucks! I quit!” is a negative way to deal with dissatisfaction. It doesn’t help anything really. There are good reasons to not quit. But living with a job that sucks without doing anything about it, just humming along like everything is just as you would like it to be, isn’t positive either. It can damage your well-being after awhile. You’re not living with the reality. How can I handle dissatisfaction with my job (or other situation) in a positive way without denying the reality of its “suckness”? I can think to myself, “This job sucks! What can I do to make it better?” The reality is that the situation is not what you would like it to be but sometimes you just don’t have the freedom to change it, but you can change how you view it in relation to other situations or seek to change something about that situation that would make it better for you.

In the online world, it seems there are loads of people pointing out what is not good about the world but there are few that are actually doing anything about it. I don’t mean you need to go out and start a foundation to feed the hungry in the whole world. I mean that, instead of pointing out that there are starving people that need to be fed, we could try feeding one person one meal. We could build a “Little Library” in our neighborhood instead of complaining that no one reads books anymore, or start a book club that meets for lunch once a month. Instead of complaining that kids these days aren’t respectful of others, we could try being more respectful of the people around us regardless of how they treat us.

I guess that’s just another version of “Be the change you want to see in the world.” but it is such a potent statement. There really is nothing we can do about what is happening to people halfway across the world, or even halfway across our state, but we can seriously affect the lives of the people around us every day. If I make the people around me happier, they make the people around them happier, and they make the people around them happier. It’s like the ripples in the pond idea. Sooner or later, those people halfway around the world are touched by the ripples I set in motion by being kind to my own family.

War Deaths & Inspiration?

“Shocking and inspiring. Very much worth ten minutes of your day. Please watch the whole thing before you react. It’s painful but leaves room for hope in the big picture.” This was what I posted on Facebook this morning even though I generally leave my own news feed for family events and excitement, much like an online scrapbook. But this video touched me and I felt compelled to share its message of hope.

Animated Data Visualization of World War 2 Fatalities Is Shocking

Recently, it seems so many people are mired down in negativity, anger, and outrage at the world around them. Humans seem to have the tendency to want to see the worst of the world. Ugly sells, right? Everyone slows down to see the car crash on the freeway, but no one even turns their head at the little girl giving a hug to an elderly woman or the man feeding the homeless on the side of the road. It’s not something we can change really or want to. It probably has some ancient purpose to our survival. But we need to remember that when the majority of the world has the ability to report to the rest of the world what it is seeing, ugly is what you will see most. But that isn’t what is really happening in the big picture. If we all reported the positive things that were happening around us, even the ones we don’t see because they don’t command our attention, I think our news feeds would look much different. There is so much greatness, kindness, and love in this world. We just aren’t looking for it.

What if every time we saw something negative we thought, “Compared to what?” Compared to the past, we are all rich, healthy, and brilliant! Compared to previous generations we live in some pretty relative peace. Can it get even better across the world? Probably. For now, I’ll be looking more intently for the good in the world and passing that along. I’ll be lighting millions of candles with mine!


Processing Power

I feel like social media takes up too much of my processing power and slows me down, frustrating me and causing a lot of stress. I feel obsessed with scrolling through and reading little tidbits of information that don’t directly relate to anything I’m doing. Seldom is there anything I can do with the information I find there. Sometimes I read things that make me angry and I feel like something should be done or said. There isn’t anything I can write in those comments that would change anything really. I’m only putting more information in my mind to process that I can do nothing with. It just runs around in there, raising my blood pressure and feeding my mouth with negative things to say.

But there are positive things there too! I’d hate to throw the baby out with the bathwater. There are positive posts to inspire me, great articles that make me think, invites to events around the area, and don’t forget updates from friends and family. And then there is the person I answered a question for or inspired with my insight into a situation. I really don’t want to lose those things about social media. So I have to find a way to balance this all out.

Yesterday I had time to think and talk some of this out with some friends. We all agreed that a comment thread on Facebook isn’t like a conversation with real people. There is a lack of body language or tone with this medium. You can’t tell if someone is in earnest or being a smart ass. The other thing is that in a conversation we all talk back and forth for a while and when one or more of us has to leave the conversation everyone knows it. It won’t go on for hours or days because no one has the time to sit together and talk that long. On Facebook it can go on forever. One heated conversation can go on for days. I see a post, give my comment or answer, and then walk away. When I get back there is a thread a mile long with all kinds of nonsense in it, some of it directed at me. They don’t know I’m not there to answer. Once I do, all the thinking people have probably moved on. It seems to me that only the angriest and most unreasonable people post multiple comments on a thread, pushing out all the calm and thought out replies.

The ones that have brought me the most satisfaction are the ones I don’t really get involved in. I see someone ask a question and I comment my answer, then walk away. Another thing I really enjoy and see doing a lot of good in the world is blogging here and on my homeschool site. Those out there looking for information seem to find people wanting to help. Social media just seems more like a place to gather a mob of people from a larger pool than to gain insight or detailed information.

So my effort for the next week will be to only check in twice a day. Once in the morning to see if anything cool is going on or if anyone has messaged me. Once in the evening to see if anyone has answered me. I’ve pared down my newsfeed to positive people that I really want to keep in touch with on a regular basis. I’m still going to blog on both my pages on a daily basis. And I will still post something to my Facebook feed when I want to share. I’ve printed my Facebook feeds off each year as a kind of scrapbook and I’d like to keep doing that. I just don’t need to follow the comments on everything I post as if I’m sitting with friends sharing stories. That should free up my mind a bit.

I already feel better today. It’s so strange how busy my mind can get working through information that cannot be of any service to me. You’d think I’d be able to just toss the unusable stuff away, but I just can’t. I think I am but I’m not because I realize at the end of the day I’ve read less of my book, interacted less with my sons, gotten less housework done, and feel overwhelmed because I’ve taken on this “job” of monitoring social media.

I’m off for the day. I’ve done what I needed to do and now I’m off to harass my sons about Forza. I tried playing it yesterday and it makes me ill. First person games. Yuck. Lots more on my list to do today and with my mind clear of extras, maybe I’ll feel like I got something done!