Living Life & Learning!

Monday, May 25, 2015

Choosing Home!

I was asked to participate in this wonderful book highlighting the many paths moms take to making the decision to stay at home with their kids.  It's a quick, interesting and enlightening read.  Download it today from Amazon.  

Choosing Home - 20 Mothers Celebrate Staying Home, Raising Children, and Changing the World

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Unschooling Conference Recharge!!

We are just back from the Unschoolers Waterpark Gathering at Kalahari Water Park in Sandusky, OH having had a wonderful week connecting with, watching and interacting with other unschooling families.  I love doing the conference circuit, I always meet interesting people (adults and kids) and I get a chance to recharge while sitting in a room of many other parents with whom I don't have to explain what our lives look like at home.  It's cathartic.

Both Edwin and I got to do yoga every day and attend many of the discussions together. We made a bunch of new connections with other parents who have followed this path.  I was able to re-connect with some folks whom I'd met in the past and I was able to forge some new relationships.  My daughter made a friend within minutes of entering our hotel room and as is common for an unschooling conference, we hardly saw her for more than 10 minute intervals for the rest of the week.
Two of my children, however, didn't attend any of the many conference activities or funshops. One of my sons enjoyed the waterpark and hung out gaming with a long-time Skype friend whom he had never met, in person, before this week. And my other son avoided the water park and kept the home-fires burning but rarely ventured out of the room. Although I expected my boys to pick and choose the activities in which they'd participate, I am still sometimes surprised by the realization that big social "to do's" (even those with kids who come up in a similar family life) are not where they gravitate at this time.  But that's ok.

I choose to do mini vacations at the various unschooling conventions/events for just this reason.  The venues are very kid friendly and the participants are all very respectful of honoring kids where they are an not forcing them to "engage" for engagement sake.  Like me, other unschooling parents don't get all upset or fearful when a child opts to stand apart instead of join in.   And I knew we were not the only family who had kids who chose to lay low.  I love that I am part of a community that understands that each kid interacts with the world in their own way and I love that my son who stayed close to home wasn't made to feel shame or lack in his choice.

What I do walk away with, every time I come home from an event like this, is a firm reminder that we are doing exactly what is right for our family.  I am bolstered in the fact that my husband is fully on board with our decision to follow this journey and we get to walk the path together as our kids find their authentic voices.  Nothing could be better, we are so very lucky.

Friday, May 15, 2015


Many of the challenges that we have being urban folk revolve around creating community.  Add to it that some of us chose to forego public school (or any school) which becomes a key "community" for most parents in any city or town.  I've spent much of the past few years really thinking about community and trying to understand how we find our tribe, how we connect to more folks in our city and how I can help others leverage that network.

One success I've had personally was started back in 2012 when I wanted suggestions from other moms about piano teachers in my town.  I knew I could ask my friends, but I also knew that many of my friends were far more "strict" or "rigid" about what they'd expect from a teacher, so I wanted to throw a wider net and see if I could find someone who might fit our family's needs better.  I chose to start a Facebook Group called NewtonMoms.  I added all my local mom friends and I told folks to invite their friends to the page.  Fast forward 3 yrs and we now have nearly 1,200 members with about 25 or more new members requesting access each week.  Many members are very happy to have such a resource available to them and we share not only recommendations for local service offerings, we sell gently used items, discuss topics relevant to raising kids and help inform some people who are looking to move to Newton of the local flavor, neighborhoods and schools.

As administrator of the group, I have been sure to allow only parents who live in or around Newton to join.  I personally vet each member request and make sure that we keep the solicitations to a minimum and I actively keep an eye on conversations that might be a little wonky so as to ensure no one gets their feelings hurt.  So what started as a way to network some local moms has resulted in a wonderful community of members who rely on the group as a valuable resource.  Some staunchly defend the goals of the group and support decisions that have had to be made regarding what's allowed or disallowed on the page.  But what's interesting is that the group has taken on its own personality that I could never have envisioned back when I started the page.  I love that.  I have been pulled aside in the grocery store by strangers who recognize me from the group to thank me for setting this up and I get lots of positive feedback when I post out announcements.

Yesterday I added a page called Newton Babysitting to leverage the Newton Moms network and local babysitting resources.  With all the college kids coming back into town, it seemed an appropriate step to take to connect sitters and parents.  In less than 24 hours we already have over 150 members on that group.  Folks are very excited to have a grassroots, free way to connect with local sitters who can help them out.  It just makes sense.

I decided to write about this because even though I tend to socialize with other home or unschoolers locally, there is a huge benefit to having connections with the local moms in my area.  There are so many things we have in common outside of the choice of how to school our kids.  And on occasion, I post links to some approachable and informative articles that show how our schools are failing our kids.  In the end, I love that this small idea I had back in 2012 is now a staple forum in our community.  The barrier to entry is small and the payback is big.

Any person out there can create a similar page in their own community.  And in the end, isn't it this that our world needs more of?  If parents feel more connected to their towns and more connected to the other parents there, won't we have more compassion and empathy when we are faced with those folks in the real world?  Changing the world does not happen by launching BIG ideas with BIG launch plans -- it happens one day at a time with one small step toward bringing people together and over time, the seeds of change begin to happen.

Here's to one small step in changing the world!!

Wednesday, May 6, 2015


I spend a lot of time thinking about unintended consequences.  I look at the seemingly innocuous actions that our government, schools, communities and parents take and think about the implications of these actions in the aggregate or "macro" over time.  I am often horrified by the wealth of bad ideas that are perpetuated upon people and wonder why these smart, mostly highly educated, people either miss the unintended consequences or if they just choose to ignore them because it's easier.

I'm sure I'll write about many examples of unintended consequences in this blog, but today, the main theme that comes to mind is helicopter parents.  Certainly, helicopter parents have been vilified by the media and some parenting gurus and every parent wants to think that they don't belong to the species, but I go to playgrounds and play spaces and I see these people every day.  So let's talk about unintended consequences of helicopter parenting.

~~You are not capable~~
The most insidious outcome of helicopter parenting is the message it sends to our kids:  "You are not capable."   Now, no parent would believe that they want to send that specific message, but often with parenting, what we do, how we react and how we interact with our kids communicates subtle clues to our children that we may not intend.   A parent who dutifully follows a child around the playground, with one hand out and fear exuding from his/her pores in anticipation of a fall or stumble is doing their child a gross injustice.  That same parent should sit to the side (within sight) and watch, with a supportive energy, their child do the dance of experimentation and challenge.  Allow the child to freely execute their check-ins and dive back into the fray.

Having watched so many kids freely explore a playground or play space, I can attest that kids, given the freedom, will approach most all new experiences with a level of excitement and caution.  Kids will step toward the new challenge, and often come running back, to check-in, then run back to go just a little farther and repeat the check-in again.  This is how kids acclimate to their world and it is the key to building confidence and competence.

~~The world is a scary place~~
Another unintended consequence of staying too close to our kids when they explore is communicating the message that the world is a scary place.  Communicating that pitfalls and danger abound at every turn can be easily accomplished if we have fear or anxiety in our own energy while our children explore.  You see, children are very attuned to the energy and emotions of their caregivers.  If a caregiver has fear about an activity, the kid will assimilate that fear and either abstain from trying or try and have conflicting emotions around the experience.

Playgrounds are so much safer now than they ever were when I grew up, but kids seem to have more issues and less competence around them.  I attribute this to the fact that few children are granted the ability to play at the park alone without caregivers close at hand.  Kids need to challenge their own mettle to understand, deeply, what their limits are and what they can feel confident about.  Practice in this area hones a child's intuition and lets them experience all the emotions that come from pushing oneself outside of their comfort zone.

~~An adult must help you, always~~
We grant way too much power to the "adult-in-the-room" when we raise our kids.  Our children are with us for around 18 years.  The first fourteen of which are malleable years where we can influence our children's' view of the world and their confidence in interacting with it.  That is a very short time in which we need to prepare our kids for existing in the real world.  However, when I say "prepare" I do not mean "telling" kids how to speak and behave.  I view this time more as modeling the behavior that is important for success.  Modeling is the parent's responsibility to show kids how they interact with the world.  But more importantly, it involves granting kids the freedom to experiment, try and fail at interacting with the world themselves with no repercussions but with a large net into which to fall.

Too many parents are way too involved in the everyday lives of their kids.  Some of this is a result of the school demanding that parents step up and ensure that a child meets their expectations.  Some of this is a result of the fact that we fear failure and shame so much we believe we can help our kids avoid failure and shame if we step in and demand their compliance.  I think both of these common outcomes deliver the unintended message to our kids that adults (or any authoritative power) are far more knowing than us and as a result, we grant others power over us throughout our lives, never recognizing that we can claim this power over ourselves.  Living in a world where someone lords power over you creates apathy and disillusionment, kind of like what we're experiencing in the current state of our government and society.

~~Adults are required to solve conflict~~ 
We have a culture that has lost its ability to resolve conflict amicably.   As we've allowed more and more adult management of children, we have ended up with a belief that conflicts are either resolved by someone else (aka: the adult) or we believe conflicts are unresolvable and people must pick sides. Conflict resolution skills develop young and it's important to recognize that it takes two (or more) kids to tango and that rarely does an act of aggression go unprovoked.  It's also important for the adult either not to step in and resolve the issue, or to help facilitate and model correct conflict resolution skills.  Punishing kids for disagreeing or disallowing both sides to feel heard (validated) only models that no one wins in conflict and that's not beneficial nor a true model of reality.

When adults step into our kids' disagreements and conflicts, we rob our children of the chance to experiment with resolving issues on their own.  Kids are amazingly capable of resolving conflict when granted the opportunity to do so, but rob them of this skill early on, and they will never develop the understanding of negotiation, meeting needs and figuring out win-win outcomes.   In general, all kids want the play to continue, so they will work to resolve issues to ensure that they can all still play.

Unintended consequences plague our world today.  Actions we've taken that have perpetuated unexpected outcomes happen in our families, our communities and our world.  I believe that we can change the world by recognizing that the way we raise kids fundamentally affects their ability to interface with the world, to feel confident, to feel self-reliant and to have success navigating personal relationships.  Conventional wisdom for raising kids in the US has had detrimental affect on achieving these outcomes.  Fight convention and instead, provide a safe landing pad for your kids to test out different ideas, experience differing levels of success and safely hone their personal guideposts.  The impact on our society will be long-lasting and profound.

Video Gaming Addiction??

Peter Gray has a new article out dispelling the belief that video gaming is addictive.  I completely agree with his assertions and wanted to send this along in case you haven't seen it.

Peter Gray: Video Game Addiction - Does it Occur, If so, Why?

Professor Gray's main point is about how different video gaming is from gambling and how many people want to liken excessive video gaming to gambling addiction. He argues this point well.

But in case you missed it, he hits on one key point that I often see when our family interacts with the general population; the War on Fun.  For some reason, anytime kids seem to be having fun in some way that is not "sanctioned" by the adults around them, this fun becomes suspect. I also see parents trying to "calm" their kids when their kids are exuberant or noisily enjoying themselves, I see parents mis-interpreting what their kids are doing and interfere in play all because the joy is getting a little too amped up.

What happened to us all that we distrust joy so much?  Something to think about.