Oct 22

If You Can’t Say Something Nice: Learning to Keep Quiet About Others’ Appearance

Judging others makes us blind, whereas love is illuminating. By judging others we blind ourselves to our own evil and to the grace which others are just as entitled to as we are.
― Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Guilty.

Let me just start there. I’m not proud of it by any means, but I’m guilty. Someone will post something about some celebrity’s plastic surgery, and I join in the collective rubber-necking. I look at the pictures. I shake my head. I lament the obvious poor decision making skills of the individual, and/or the ethics of the doctor who would commit such atrocities.

Or on a more intimate – and shameful – level, I’ll do it at the grocery store. Assuaging my guilt by telling myself, “Well it’s not like I’m saying something to them“, I’ll make snap judgments about the skirt that’s too short, the top that’s too revealing, the fit that’s so unflattering.  It’s amazing the vast amount of ways your brain can tempt you (in just a fraction of a second!) into unkindness.

I’ve been convicted as of late to stop this.  To make a conscious decision to no longer engage in such an ugly practice. Ugly, by the way, is not a word I use lightly.  NEVER appropriate to use about someone’s outside appearance (I do honestly believe that everyone is beautiful in his or her own way), actions can be ugly. Thoughts can be ugly. Words can be ugly.

And feeling the need or the right to critique another person’s face or clothes or waist size or boob job?  That’s ugly.

The past couple of days my Facebook newsfeed has been awash with new pictures – complete with commentary – of a popular actress.  People can’t seem to leave her alone.  And it’s not her acting that they’re talking about, or her new movie, or her work at all.   No, her crime is at once more basic and more insidious.

She dared to go out.  In public.  Looking…. different.

Good grief, what is wrong with us?

Of all the things in all the world to discuss, we choose THIS?  Whether or not some celebrity we don’t even know has had plastic surgery, and how, and why, and to what effect?

I’m tired of it.  I’m tired of it in myself, and I’m tired of it in other people.  It’s not nice to criticize others.  It’s not nice to play judge and jury about someone else’s appearance.  I could sit here and talk about society and self-esteem and acceptance and what a bang-up job we’re doing at sabotaging ourselves… but sometimes starting with the basics needs to be enough.   It’s simply not nice, and I don’t want my kids growing up to think it’s okay.  I don’t want my kids growing up with a mom who inadvertently SHOWS them it’s okay!

And so, I’m challenging myself  - and if you’re reading this, I challenge you too – to make the decision to stop.  For 21 days (not only for 21 days, but because 21 days is widely regarded as the length of time it takes to form a new habit), I’m going opt out.  Opt out of reading the articles that focus on someone else’s appearance.  Opt out of the discussions about someone else’s looks.  Opt out of any mental commentary on someone else’s clothing choices .

We’re better than this;  I know we are.  We can have real discussions about important things. About kindness, about beauty, about joy….. not about someone’s lip injections.   We can laugh about life’s absurdities and foibles and whimsy….. not about someone’s haircut.

We can judge each other not based on:

dress size

body modifications

hairstyle

clothing choices

make-up technique….

but on character.

And those times when we catch ourselves?  When we’re tempted with unkindness, when gossip becomes too alluring, when we truly don’t have anything nice to say?  May we be the change we want to see, and not say anything at all.


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Oct 16

Book Review: Gentle Firmness by Stephanie Cox

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It is clear that fear is the main effect of spanking, no matter how it is done. Believing that God wants children to be hit often leads many children to struggle with their relationships with God or to be so afraid of Him that they totally reject Him.

~ Stephanie Cox

Gentle Firmness, by Stephanie Cox, is one of the most important new books to join the gentle parenting movement, particularly for Christians.  Thorough and well-researched, it takes an unflinching look at the history of spanking within the Christian faith;  why the Bible doesn’t actually say what so many well-intentioned pro-spankers think it says; the harmful and often long-term effects of spanking;  and finally, practical suggestions on what peaceful parents can do instead.

While there are thankfully a growing number of prominent Christians speaking out against spanking, this particular book stands out for a couple of reasons.  Though it is woven with personal accounts, it is rooted in research, history, and details.  The entire first section of the book clearly shows exactly how the practice of corporal punishment within the Christian faith comes from man, not from God.  Cox gives detailed accounts of the influence of Jonathan and Susanna Wesley, and the beliefs of Calvinism, had on spanking.  It goes on to illustrate the very real lifelong effects of this kind of parenting (I was happy to see that she thoroughly addressed the oft heard, “I was spanked as a child, and I’m fine!”)

One complaint that I often hear from pro-spankers is along the lines of, “Well that’s all well and good.  But if you don’t spank, what do you do?”  It’s easy for a spanking advocate to make the leap in thinking that says that if you don’t spank, then you must not discipline at all. That is of course not the case, and Cox spends Part Four of the book discussing exactly that. It’s important to note that she isn’t advocating for swapping spanking with other types of punishments such as time-out either.  What she espouses is truly parenting in Jesus’s footsteps:  parenting – and by extension, disciplining – with kindness, compassion, and grace. Lots and lots of grace.

I am utterly thankful for this book, and for Stephanie Cox and the important work that she is doing.  My own personal knowledge of the history of spanking was spotty at best, and while I truly believed that the Bible did not advocate spanking, my responses to the contrary generally never got more in-depth than, “Jesus wouldn’t hit a child.”  This book, and Stephanie’s research, fills in all those gaps.  It provides the answers, it cites the research, it documents the history.  It exposes all the misinformation, and puts Christians firmly (but gently :)) on the right track of truly following the Bible when it comes to matters of parenting.

The tagline reads, “Conveying the True Love of Jesus to Your Children Through His Example,” and that’s exactly what it does.  This is truly a refreshing and encouraging book, one that should be on the bookshelves of churches and Christian parents everywhere.

You can follow Stephanie on the Gentle Firmness Facebook page here.

*I was given a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.  All opinions are my own.*

 


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Oct 15

Free To Be 2014 – Day Four

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Sunday, like the last day of pretty much any big event, was bittersweet.  There was still flood-related scrambling on Sunday because in addition to losing a couple of rooms that were still soggy, a  miscommunication had meant that a wedding was scheduled and taking place in the majority of our upstairs rooms as well.  Some talks and funshops had to move rooms,  and others ended up having to share space.  Our white-board was full of changes.  But we worked it out, and no one – at least to my knowledge – seemed to mind too much.

After taking Saturday morning off, I was so happy to teach a gentle yoga class on Sunday.  It was a lovely and fitting way to start the final day.

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Also on Sunday:  an important circle chat from Jen Andersen about what to do instead of punishment.

The moms panel.

The dads panel.

Photo by Alicia Gonzalez

Photo by Alicia Gonzalez

Circle chats for teens… demonstrations on dread locks… classes on essential oils…

A film canister rocket funshop

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Photo by Dan Omerza

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Photo by Dan Omerza

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Photo by Dan Omerza

My daughter’s favorite funshop, the Barbies and ponies:

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Photo by Alessia Mogavero

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Photo by Alessia Mogavero

A funshop all about hugging:

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A mother/daughter chat about unschooling with Pam and Roya (which, by the way, was the ONLY discussion that was led by three generations of the same unschooling family :))

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Photo by Chrissy Florence

And a main presentation by Allen and Laura Ellis:

Photo by Alicia Gonzalez

Photo by Alicia Gonzalez

A final word about the speakers if I may.  I don’t want to sound too self-congratulatory about my choices here, but I could not have been happier with the line-up of speakers!  They blew me away.  The biggest goal we had when choosing the speakers was to represent as many possible viewpoints as possible, and that’s exactly what happened.   I feel like they covered every perspective, assuaged every fear, addressed every concern.  They were inspiring, informative, and entertaining.    Pam, Roya, Erika, Tiffani, Laura, Laura, Allen, Matt, Jeff, Jen, Brian, Rachel… nailed it. TWELVE main speakers in all (even more when you count those who led single discussions, who were just as appreciated!), when we’d originally planned for seven.  They were amazing, each and every one of them, and set the bar extraordinarily high.

And finally, closing out the conference was the always wonderful Amy Steinberg:

Photo by Chrissy Florence

Photo by Chrissy Florence

I told this to Amy, and I will say it again here:  I felt like her concert was the perfect note which with to end the conference.  Her love, her positivity, her lyrics.  Perfect. Amy doesn’t have any children, but she’s an unschooler at heart nonetheless.  Her words capture, over and over, the very essence of how we’re trying to live and what we’re wanting to do as parents.  I could not have been happier as I listened to her sing.  (If you’re not familiar with her work, might I suggest you remedy that ASAP.  Start with Exactly.  You’re welcome)

And with that, the conference was officially over (save for the late-night drinks that followed), except… I still don’t feel like it’s over.  The past couple of weeks – hearing your words, seeing your pictures, re-living the memories, strengthening the connections – has kept it all alive.  I’m sure I’m not done talking about it, and I’m most definitely not done thinking about it.  So I can’t wrap it up, because there IS no wrapping it up.

The bubble lives on.

God bless the unschooling bubble.


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Oct 14

Free To Be 2014 – Day Three

Photo by Kiera Cook

Photo by Kiera Cook

Day Three – Saturday – is at once the hardest and yet most interesting day to write about.  It was the busiest of all four days, and arguably the most memorable.  Besides the violent monsoon and the subsequent flooding (I’ll get to those later) it was an emotionally taxing day for me personally, so very much like my feelings, this blog post will likely be a little bit scattered and all over the place as I re-live it.

I woke up feeling terrible on Saturday, burnt out and exhausted.  Recognizing that I would be crawling by the end of the conference if I didn’t do something about it, I cancelled yoga and took the extra hour to myself.  Some ibuprofen, a shower, some coffee and a proper breakfast – Yay!  Breakfast! – later, I was feeling a bit better, at least physically.

One of my kids was going through something difficult… something that would have been difficult under the best of circumstances, and was made almost unbearable by the conference setting.  As a parent, it’s always…. well, it was difficult (yes, I just used the word “difficult” three times in four lines.)  It was difficult, (4) and I share it just to give a fuller picture of where my head was at on Saturday.

So Saturday.

There was a chance of rain (Ha.  Foreshadowing is great.)  so we’d already planned to move the dinner inside, instead of on the pavilion.  We also had the talent show to think about, and Jungle Jill, and board breaking, and air brushed tattoos.  Mike also left at one point to go pick up Amy Steinberg from the airport, which left me somewhat… anxious.  While he was more than content to work quietly in the background, (“This is your conference,”  he kept telling me.  ”I’m your assistant.”) Mike and I very much worked as a team, each of us doing entirely different things.  There were questions that only he could answer, and vice versa.  All of that to say, whenever one of us left the hotel – which only happened a handful of times over the course of the four days – I got a little nervous.

But all was well.

The rain started when he was gone, and it wasn’t long before it was coming fast and furious, complete with the unrelenting lightning, rolling thunder, and gale-force winds that make Arizona storms so exciting.

Up until that point, everything had been going smoothly.  Jeff inspired everyone by opening up a conversation about passions. Sara & Matt Janssen taught us how to become gypsies.  Matt Jones talked about reconciling unschooling with a corporate life. Jen Andersen reminded us all to tune out the outside voices so we can better focus on our own kids.

My parents had come set up their air-brushed tattoos, and there was a line 10 deep.  There was button making and face painting and plastic bag print-making.

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Photo by Dan Omerza

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Photo by Jenna Boring

Everyone seemed to enjoy Jungle Jill despite the apocalypse happening outside:

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Photo by Chrissy Florence

And all the teens on the teen panel were wonderful and well-spoken:

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I don’t remember where I was when the flooding happened.  That sounds dramatic, doesn’t it? Like all those big moments in history, the ones where you always remember exactly where you were, and exactly who you were with.  (Where were YOU when you heard about the flood? :-D)  Anyway, I was in a lot of places, and it changed moment to moment, so I really don’t know where I was.  I just know that at some point, there was flooding, and everyone that was attending anything downstairs made a mass exodus for the second floor.

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Photo by Qarin Van Brink

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Photo by Qarin Van Brink

In typical unschooling conference fashion, people hardly blinked.  (Which is so, so interesting to me.  We got complaints over much smaller things, but flooded out conference rooms?  No problem!)  We had to shuffle around the rest of the schedule a bit, the whole evening starting with dinner had to get pushed back an hour; and Erika’s SSUMs, Laura Flynn Endres’s main presentation, and Matt’s board breaking funshop all graciously went along with the flow.  (See what I did there?)

The staff had to work harder than ever, there were some downed trees, and some definite scrambling.  But no one was hurt. It was not a catastrophe. And in the end it just made for a little extra excitement.

Oh and the kids?

Photo by Jenna Boring

Photo by Jenna Boring

Photo by Heather Kennedy

Photo by Heather Kennedy

Photo by Chrissy Florence

Photo by Chrissy Florence

I don’t think they were too broken up about it.

And even the big empty rooms that were drying out turned out to be a great place to play:

Photo by Chrissy Florence

Photo by Chrissy Florence

Once the excitement of the flooding had died down, we all gathered for the Mexican dinner.  It was the first time during the conference that everyone was really in the same place at the same time, and it was a little overwhelming to me.  Not in a this-is-way-too-many-people-around-my-hamster-ball-of-introversion kind of way, but in a “We did this!!  We created this thing, and people are here, and they’re happy and they’re chatting and they’re eating and they’re HERE and we did this” kind of way.

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340 people, all in one place.

Looking around that room during that dinner was an incredibly powerful, surreal moment for me, and it’s one I will remember above almost any other.  Granted, I was physically and emotionally spent by then, someone had just given me a hard time about something, and everything was a little extra…. raw.  Still, what I felt was real, and it turned out it was just a precursor for what I’d feel an hour later.

On the surface, the talent show that followed the dinner can be summed up like this:  a couple of skits, dances, music, and jokes interspersed between a whole bunch of little girls’ interpretations of Frozen’s Let it Go.

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Photo by Chrissy Flornence

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Photo by Chrissy Florence

Photo by Jenna Boring

Photo by Jenna Boring

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Beyond that though, it was So. Much. More.   It was a whole roomful of people offering genuine love and support to every child who got up on that stage.  It was parents encouraging – but never pushing! – their children into trying something new, and feeling their joy with them when they did it.  It was people accepting and celebrating the uniqueness and beauty and perfectly imperfect quirkiness of each and every person in that room.  It was people who knew they were free to…. well, free to BE.  It was the whole of gentle parenting and unschooling and the conference all in that one moment.

And that’s what made me lose it.

I was admittedly on the precipice of tears the entire night, but the exact second they finally spilled over was when this lovely little girl was singing:

Photo by Alicia Gonzalez

Photo by Alicia Gonzalez

This is Tegan’s new friend, and Jennifer Andersen’s (of Our Muddy Boots) little girl. It was a big deal for her to get up there, but she did it. I looked at her, and I looked at her proud mom, and I looked at Tegan who was doing all the hand motions with her off-stage in solidarity (Let it Go is ALL about the hand motions). In that second, all the stress and the anxiety and the wondering and the worrying and the relief culminated in a sudden unstoppable rush of tears.

I was very grateful for the previous rain, because when I slipped out the door onto the walkway, it was cool and comfortable outside.  There were a few kids running and laughing nearby, but it was otherwise silent and still.  I stayed for but a minute, all by myself (there was too much of the evening left to totally check out) but I stayed long enough to cry, to breathe, to pull myself together, to feel gratitude…. gratitude for that moment, gratitude for the conference, and gratitude for all the people who came and made it a conference.

Until two days ago, even my husband didn’t know about that moment.  In two minutes I was back in the room, and back to business as usual.  And an hour later I was drinking white Russians and serenading everyone with Wrecking Ball.  (Wait what?)

I share it with you now mostly because I’ve received so many really lovely comments of gratitude over the past two weeks, and I want you all to know what it all meant to me too, and what YOU all meant to me.  I don’t know that I can truly put it into words, so my hope is that a glimpse into a vulnerable, private, tear-stained moment might give you some idea.

It meant the world to me, truly.  And I thank you.


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Oct 12

Free To Be 2014 – Day Two

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Photo by Jenna Boring

Like Thursday, Friday started (at least for me) bright and early at 6:00.  I sadly missed breakfast again, but I did get to grab some coffee before yoga.  I also got to hide in the art room for almost an hour until I was called away, while I helped kids fancy up their fingernails. Bliss. I’m not exactly sure what the scheduling gurus (us) were thinking when they scheduled me to do yoga at 8 followed immediately by fingernails at 9…. but I made it work.

Friday also brought us improv instruction, string painting, bubbles, and duct tape.

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Photo by Laci Omerza

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Photo by Jenna Boring

It brought in-depth dad discussions with SSUDS, circle chats about relating to your teenagers, unschooling and diversity, an FAQ panel of grown unschoolers, a discussion about unschooling and parenting

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Photo by Jenna Boring. We did this talk rather on the fly, but it went well! Lots of great discussion from the audience, and I had a surprisingly good time.

and main presentations by Brian Curtice

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Photo by Jenna Boring.

and Tiffani Bearup

Photo by Jenna Boring

Photo by Jenna Boring

Friday night was my favorite night of Happy Hour, because the fabulous Craig Davis was warming up the crowd with his strolling magic before his show.  Mike and I adore Craig Davis, but I’ll admit that there was a small amount of “Will people think this is too hokey?”  And indeed, there were a couple.   But he won over so many of them with this card tricks. I especially loved hearing the skeptical people squeal and laugh with … shock, maybe is the word? at some of his reveals. And yes, I know intellectually that it’s all an illusion, a slight of hand, and that it’s simply a skill that he practiced over and over and over (and he was awesome enough to give a couple of us some insider tips and even showed us how to do a simple trick).  But still.  Some of that “mind-reading” stuff FREAKS ME THE HECK OUT. He’s genius.  He’s also a living unschooly example – even though he went to school – of someone who followed his passion and made a lifestyle out of it.  He’s never supported himself in any other way than doing magic, and he clearly loves what he does.  Awesome.

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Photo by Jenna Boring

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Photo by Jenna Boring

After Craig’s show, I actually got to hang out at the pool until they closed it down.  Have I mentioned the pool yet? So much of a conference’s magic happens in and around the pool! (figurative magic, not magic magic :))  My kids logged many many hours in that pool with new and old friends.  It brings people together.  The connections, the play, the relaxation, the quiet late-night chats over drinks.  Sometimes there’s just nothing on the planned schedule that can compete with the pool.

Photo by Heather Kennedy

Photo by Heather Kennedy

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Photo by Chrissy Florence

Magic.


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Oct 09

Free To Be 2014 – Day One

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Life is not a bubble (which, by the way, if you’ve never been to one, an unschooling conference is exactly that:  a giant, 4 day, unschooling bubble) so the time since the conference has been quickly ticking away on me… one appointment, one bill, one trip to the grocery store at a time.  Like most big and surreal events in my life, it exists on some other strange space-time continuum, simultaneously feeling like it just happened, and like it happened a whole lifetime ago.

In real life, it’s been two weeks.  In fact, the first day was exactly two weeks ago today.

Photo by Alicia Gonzalez

Photo by Alicia Gonzalez

That’s me giving the opening welcome and announcements.  This picture kind of cracks me up because I look so serious.  In reality, I was giddy.  Nervous.  But giddy.  I don’t remember what I said (though I am pretty sure I did announce “I’m so nervous”), and I know for a fact that I left out at least 65% of what I’d planned.  But I got up there, and I kicked us off.

Day one was a whole lot of running around, setting up, checking in, and introductions.

I had to keep checking in with myself to confirm that the conference was actually happening… that there were real-live people there… that it was not in fact yet another pre-conference dream (I had a LOT of them, especially in the last couple weeks)

It was exciting and nerve-wracking – in the best possible way – to meet and hug and talk to so many people that until that moment I’d only known on the internet.

Day one was busy and lovely and validating.

There were ice-breaker games.  There were gnomes and fairies.

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Photo by Sandra Jessop

There were fantastic main presentations by Pam Sorooshian

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Photo by Alicia Gonzalez

Erika Davis-Pitre

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Photo by Alicia Gonzalez

Roya Dedeaux

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Photo by Alicia Gonzalez

and Jeff Sabo

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Photo by Alicia Gonzalez

A little aside about the laptop in the picture with Jeff.  It’s my own personal laptop (the one I’m writing on at this very minute), and it performed very well in its conference duties, despite the fact that it was essentially limping along.  I dropped it a couple weeks ago – bad shoulder – and each day is bringing more and more side-effects from said drop to light.  Anyway.  The sticker on the right hand side was a treasured gift from my friend, Jess, that says, “Going down the road less traveled” and it made me happy to see it up there at every talk I attended. Also, I was slightly embarrassed that I hadn’t had the forethought to change my wallpaper before the conference.  For those that didn’t happen to catch it when it was up on the screen: it’s a meme that resonated with me strongly that reads:

My spiritual teachers, in order of importance:

1. People who annoy the living shit out of me
2. All other spiritual teachers

A little crass perhaps, but oh so very true.  Our challenges are some of our best teachers, are they not?

But I digress.

There was also parkour.

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Photo by Jenna Boring

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We were thrilled with the turn-out, in 102 degree heat no less!

And a dance….

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That red-headed blur in the front right is Tegan, who looked so cute all dressed up for the dance (which I sadly never got a picture of), and who, like so so many other kids, completely came into her own in a whole new way during the conference.

And a teen dance.

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Getting the privilege of playing DJ for the teens confirmed for me that they are truly some of my favorite people on the planet. Teens are awesome.

And through it all, there were the quieter, more important things.  The things that unschooling conferences exist for:

The connections, between parents and kids, new friends and old.

The gentle examples of kind and respectful parenting.

The answered questions, the moments of “a-ha” clarity, the new nuggets of wisdom.

The joy.

I could have missed it all (and, admittedly, I missed a lot of it). I was running on adrenaline for all four days… there, but not really there…

But still, I saw.  I witnessed.  And it was beautiful.


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Oct 03

Free To Be 2014, Part One: It Was More

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One week from yesterday, we woke up bright and early at the Embassy Suites, and began the first day of our conference that was over a year in the making.

I really believed that I wouldn’t want to talk/write/or think about it for a good long while after it was over.  I need to rest, I said.  I need to be process, I said.  Well… I do need to rest, and I do need to process.  But I pretty much haven’t shut up about it yet.  And it turns out that I won’t really process it until I write about it (which should not surprise me, because that’s just the way I operate.)

Without having ever done anything remotely like this before, we were going into it somewhat blindly.  Still, we had put in a LOT of preparation, and I felt like we had a fairly good idea of what to expect.

I expected stressful.

I expected busy.

I expected exhausting.

I expected high highs.

I expected low lows.

And it was all of those things, but it was more… of all of it.

Stressful – This was truly one of the most stressful things I’ve ever done.  Someone compared it to planning a four-day wedding, and while I suppose it’s a fair comparison, I don’t like weddings and I sort of hope all my kids choose to elope.  I’m kidding.  (No I’m not.)  All of it, from the scheduling to the decision-making to the ordering to the fire-extinguishing to the millions of little details that were all threaded together into one big elaborate web… it was more stressful than I ever could have anticipated.  Was it fun and exciting?  Unequivocally, YES!  Oh but the stress.  I couldn’t have fully appreciated it until I actually experienced it.

Busy – I envisioned myself doing a lot of running around, a lot of fetching, a lot of answering, a lot of facilitating, a lot of working.  I just didn’t envision the right amount of running around, fetching, answering, facilitating, and working.  I didn’t sit.  I barely ate.  I think I made it to the bathroom once a day.  And I loved doing it!  That’s what I was there for.  A year’s worth of work had culminated in my doing exactly that.  The level of my own personal amount of “busy” was just even higher than I’d thought.  In my head, the conference would sort of run itself… and it DID, in many ways, with all the amazing speakers, prepared funshop hosts, scheduled entertainment, etc… but I wasn’t exactly in a position to sit back and enjoy it.  And don’t get me wrong:  I was completely happy to be doing what I was doing.  Very happy. But I’d be lying if I said it didn’t also make me very tired.  Which leads me to:

Exhausting –  Conferences in general are just exhausting.  And the exhaustion that comes from hosting a conference is its own animal, for sure.  I hit a wall on the morning of the 3rd day.  It was 5:30, I’d slept for around 3 hours, and everything hurt.  I didn’t think I could get out of bed.  I cancelled yoga, took the extra time to take a shower and eat breakfast, two things I hadn’t gotten to do yet.  (That’s gross.  Sorry.) But I rallied.  Even now, a week later, I’m still more exhausted than I’ve ever been in recent memory.  I’ve been an insomniac for most of my adult life, but I have had NO trouble sleeping for the past week.  I’m more or less slipping into a coma every night. I go to bed fully intending to watch a TV show or two before I go to sleep, and I wake up six hours later…. the remote still in my hand, and the TV still on its menu screen.

High highs – So this is the part where I get mushy.  I want to give some specific examples in subsequent posts, but to sum it up as much as possible:  I think the goal of any unschooling conference is to get connected. Refreshed. Recharged.  Inspired.  To gather together with your “people.”  To talk to others who understand.  To witness the sweetness and magic and love that is unschooling and gentle parenting.  To strengthen and heal.  To feel supported.  To feel empowered.  I saw all of that, and so. much. more.  Good grief you guys.  You’re incredible.  I feel so, so unbelievably grateful and lucky to be a part of this awesome community.   It seems cliche and almost… self-serving… to say it but I gotta:  THIS is what makes it all worth it.  This is what makes the stress and the exhaustion and the work all fade away.  You Are Incredible.  And the support and encouragement that I personally received from those of you who took the time to share your thanks, and your kind words, and your positive feedback mean more to me than you’ll ever ever know.

Low lows  - Yes, there were a few.  I’m a sensitive person, and an introvert, and an empath, so…. conference hosting (and blogging for that matter) was an odd choice, as I knew it would be.  There were some big, big emotions.  Big letdowns.  Big hurts.  And again, I was expecting it.  But whew.  I really shouldn’t have ended with this point though, because it’s the highs that “stick.”  The highs that will sustain me.  The highs that will remind me why I did it in the first place.

At least they will after I get caught up on sleep.  :)  And by then I’ll have some more (happy!) tidbits and memories and favorite moments to share.

I LOVE AND THANK YOU ALL for an indescribably amazingly awesome experience for our first foray into the conference world.


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Sep 16

Q & A – Algebra, Geometry, and Essays… Oh My

algebra

 

Every Tuesday, I’ll choose a question or two to answer here on my blog, as long as the questions last. Want to ask me about unschooling or parenting or anything else I write about (which is, uh, pretty much everything)? Send them here, or post on my Facebook page.  

Here’s today’s question, and it’s another one that I get a lot:

 

How do unschoolers learn advanced math like algebra, geometry, etc, and proper writing like essay writing, MLA format and the like? I’m starting my unschooling journey in a few months and my hubby is concerned about these things.

First, I need to start out by asking:  Do you use advanced math in your daily life?  Because I don’t.  I use very basic math and algebraic concepts for things like shopping, baking, figuring out tips, etc.  For many, many people, that’s the only math they will ever need.  Even my husband, who went into a math-related field largely because it was a strength of his and as such was always pushed as a career path, rarely uses more than the basics.

If something is a must-learn in an individual’s life, it will present itself… and along with it, an opportunity to learn it in  a real and applicable way that makes sense for the learner.  If it’s not necessary in life, and it doesn’t present itself, why would you need to learn it in the first place?

If an unschooler wants or needs (for example: for a certain chosen career path, a college plan, or just an innate desire) to learn an advanced math, there are a literally unlimited number of ways for him to do so.  There are free websites such as Khan Academy.  There are online courses.  There are family and friends and mentors.  There are college classes (lots of unschoolers choose to take classes well before they are “college age”).  There are books. There are DVDs.  There are moments of play and discovery and epiphanies with calculators and other tools.  Just try and stop an interested and engaged child from learning about math! Can’t do it.

Likewise, “proper” writing like essays is something with a very limited application that not everyone is going to want or need.  I haven’t written a proper essay since college, and I’m not ashamed at all to admit that I don’t even know what MLA format is.  I’ve made it forty years on this planet without that knowledge, and I’m doing okay.  ;)  But just like with math, when or if a child (or an adult for that matter) wants to learn something writing-related, the answer is never more than a click or a Google search away.

And it’s not that I’m minimizing the importance of learning certain things, because yes - absolutely - some people are going to need to know advanced trigonometry.  Some people are going to need to know how to write a killer essay. Some people are going to need to know what MLA format is.  But what I need to know as a mom, a writer, and a yoga teacher, is going to be vastly different from what my husband needs to know as a budget and payroll director.  Which is going to be vastly different from what our oldest, who’s studying small engine repair, needs to know. Which is going to be vastly different from what our fourteen year old, who’s interested in computers, needs to know.  Etc.

No one knows what knowledge, skills, or tools are going to be useful for another person on their particular life path. And the beauty of unschooling is that you don’t have to know!  Your job as an unschooling parent isn’t to impart a certain set of “must-know” facts.  Your job as an unschooling parent is to help provide the people, places, tools, and experiences that enable them to learn what they need to know, when they need to know it.   Your job is to nurture and foster their natural and intrinsic desire to grow and learn, so that when they DO need or want to learn something – whether it’s geometry, writing an essay, or baking a cake – they can do so.  Easily, naturally, and in a way that makes sense for them.


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Sep 15

Hitting is Hitting is Hitting

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On March 27th, 2014, an NFL player named Ray Rice was indicted by a grand jury for third-degree aggravated assault on his then-fiancee, Janay Palmer.  This past week, the website TMZ released footage of him punching Palmer, which led to the Baltimore Ravens terminating his contract.

Also this week:  Adrian Peterson, another player with the NFL, was indicted for child abuse when his child’s mother noticed whipping injuries on their 4 year old son’s legs, and took him to a doctor who contacted the authorities. Peterson was benched by the Minnesota Vikings, but was reinstated three days later.

Like most people, I’m angry and saddened and frustrated by these stories of violence in the news.  In this instance though, the disparity of the public’s reaction to these two similar cases has left me particularly cold.  I would say I was shocked, but sadly I’m not.  This is 2014, and children are still seen as second-class citizens.

While few are defending Rice – people overwhelmingly, and rightly, realize that it’s not okay to use physical violence against your partner – many are rising up to speak out in support of Peterson, who was just as violent, only against a small child.  

“He should be able to discipline as he sees fit.”

“That’s just the way people are raised in the South”

“People need to butt out and let him parent however he wants.”

“I don’t get why he’s in legal trouble for disciplining his own kid.”

“Someone explain what Adrian Peterson did that was considered child abuse?”

“I don’t see what the big deal is.  I got my ass whooped as a child, and I turned out fine.”

Let me be very, very clear when I say this:  There is NO defense for what he did.  There is no defense or justification or excuse for hitting a small child, ever.  What he did was wrong.  It pains me to have say it out loud, but that doesn’t make it any less true.  It is wrong.

And to the people who are out there saying, “Yeah, he took it too far.  There is a difference between spanking and beating.  There’s nothing wrong with spanking/some kids need it/they have to learn, etc,”  I humbly offer that you are indeed part of the problem.

Stop.

Stop making it a game of semantics.  Stop pretending that it’s okay to hit children if you add certain qualifiers.  Stop refusing to see spanking for what it is.  Stop believing that children are lesser beings than other humans.  Stop perpetuating the cycle of violence.  Stop ignoring the fact that if you’re still advocating for hitting people smaller than you that you are not fine.  Stop equating DISCIPLINE with PUNISHMENT.  Stop defending people who hit their children, and start speaking out for the people who can’t speak out for themselves.

And to my fellow Christians?  Stop using misinterpretations of the Bible as an excuse for hitting children.  It’s an unending conversation, and I’m not having it anymore.  I will no longer publish, acknowledge, or respond to any comments that claim the Bible commands us to spank.  Read Jesus the Gentle Parent.  Read Gentle Firmness. Read Thy Rod and Thy Staff They Comfort Me (this one is a free download).  Read the words of the people who have put in the time and the research and the study that shows that the Bible just doesn’t say what you think it says.  Don’t let ignorance be an excuse.

As a Christian (and just as a caring human being), I believe that relationships should start from a place of love and respect.  I believe this to be true of ALL relationships, but especially the relationship between parent and child. Hitting has no place in any loving relationship.  Our children look up to us.  They learn from us how to navigate the world.  How to solve problems. How to get along with others.  How to deal with conflict.  Hitting our children, for any reason, raises them to be people who believe that hitting is a reasonable, acceptable way to interact with others.  It raises them to be people who, unless they fight to break the cycle, will hit their own children.

It raises them to be individuals who defend people like Adrian Peterson.

Stop the justification and the word games and the Bible-verse-slinging.  Spanking, swatting, switching, popping, tapping… paint it any color you’d like.  It’s all hitting, and it’s all wrong.


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Sep 08

An Explanation

So, last week I vanished from Facebook.  For a few days I even pulled down my blog.  And while I admitted that the whole thing made me incredibly sad,  it also felt extremely liberating. Just the idea that I could do it – that I could walk away if I wanted to, that the option is always there – made me feel infinitely better.

It was a fairly easy decision to re-publish my blog itself, if for no other reason than the fact that keeping it down made entirely too much work for me.  I was getting a ton of emails, people were asking me about individual posts, I was wanting to share things that I could no longer share, and I’d created a whole bunch of broken links all over the place.   The rational thing to do was to bring it back, a whopping three days after I’d announced that it was down.

The Facebook page is another matter altogether though, and I feel at peace about taking a good long break.  I never gave any sort of explanation for that…. partly because I don’t feel I owe any explanations, but also because I didn’t yet really have an explanation, other than that I knew I needed to step away.

Today though, I have an explanation, and I thought I’d share it for the people who are still wondering.

First, I’m sure there’s an appearance of something akin to a child’s playground tantrum:  “That is IT.  I’m taking my ball and GOING HOME!”  And sure, that’s part of it.  I mean, I was hurt, and frustrated, and burnt out, and had had it with everyone and everything.  Given the timing of my exit, a lot of you assumed that I left because of the last couple of conversations we’d had on my wall, but that really wasn’t it.  I’d been a hair’s breadth away from making this decision for months, and that just happened to be the impetus that pushed me over;  not the reason itself.   I was not feeling heard, and that’s really one of the worst feelings in the world, isn’t it? Don’t we all just want to be heard?  I verbally vomited shared a little bit of that in the Things I’m Not Saying post, and while it was a very true representation of how I was feeling at the moment, in hindsight the full truth is a little bit different.

I received another email this morning wondering what had happened to the Facebook page.  It wasn’t one of the sweet ones, telling me she missed me, and that she hoped everything was okay (and absolutely, I got those too, and they were appreciated.)  No, she was almost…. indignant.  Angry.  And she wasn’t particularly nice about it.  Why did I leave?!  Why didn’t I tell her what was going on?!  She was wanting to share a specific post, and she couldn’t find it, and what was she supposed to do now?!

I literally read it as I was walking out the door.   I was frustrated because I was supposed to be playing Minecraft with Tegan, and I had to postpone to go the doctor.  The surgeon’s office had just called to tell me that they’d had a ton of cancellations (half of the valley is flooded right now), and if I could come in right then, they could get me a cortisone injection, as a way to sort of cross every t and dot every i before we decide that a revision surgery is the right next step. Spencer wasn’t feeling well, so I was doting on him;  I felt bad for bailing on Tegan; I was off to get what I knew would be a painful injection that would render me out of commission for the rest of the day; I had a million little things to do when I got home…

and all I could think about was a stupid email from a random stranger.

I realized at some point during the 8 minute drive to the doctor’s that the issue was NOT the email.  It was not the other person at all.  All this time I’d made it so easy and convenient to blame others for what had been happening, when really it was my own issue all along. Somewhere along the way, I’d failed to set appropriate and healthy boundaries for myself.  It wasn’t that I simply got the email (and others like it), it was that I’d allowed them to take up any space in my head.  In my day.  In my life.

I allowed that to happen.

Every day I went to my own Facebook page, and I’d read the comments and while I KNEW intellectually that I’m the same me no matter what; that what others say to me reflects on them, not me; that I don’t have to give any attention or weight to any negativity;  that I don’t have to even blink an eye about not living up to anyone’s expectations but my own… while I knew – and KNOW – all of that wholeheartedly, I was letting it creep in.  Letting it create that tiny dark spot on my day.  Letting it make me tired.  Letting it get me down.  And over time, it all just got to me.  But it was ME, and not the “haters”.  People are allowed to think whatever they want about me. People are allowed to call me whatever they’d like.  People are allowed to email me. People are allowed to expect too much of me.

And I’m allowed to protect me.

So that’s why I took down the Facebook page, and why it will stay down for the time being. Because of what I’ve allowed it to do to me. When I figure out what I need to do to stop the negativity from digging its way in (and to be clear, I’m not asking for advice),  I’ll be back.  And I’ll be glad too, because I do miss it.   A lot actually.  But I’d be lying if I said that it hasn’t been really really nice to go a whole week without being called names.

I’ll figure it out, and I’ll come back.

In the meantime, I’ll be nursing a shoulder and playing Minecraft with my girl.  Because priorities.


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