Friday, May 23, 2014

No Statistics Needed

I haven't written of our learning journey in a while. I am inspired to do so today though because of something I heard; an "alarming" statistic. Ready?
If a student is not reading at their grade level by the end of grade three, they have only a 25% chance of graduating. 

Are you not alarmed??!
I'm not.

I'll admit I felt a little surprised at first. Maybe even a little offended. Why you ask? Because this statistic is talking about MY children! After I digested it for a few seconds though; I realized that as unschoolers this study has nothing to do with my children or our values- it's rather arbitrary. I found myself asking a lot more questions.... Who did this study? What was their motivation? Was this stat designed to scare me, as a parent? Or to put pressure on schools and teachers? How does it apply to children with dyslexia, like my girl? And how does it apply to natural learners like us? And... does it matter?

It's funny, as a natural learning, unschooling family we trust the learning process to unfold as a part of our human nature, but occasionally we will read something or hear something about learning, or school or success that gets us thinking and talking. This statistic was one of those things.

Here's why this study doesn't scare me:
I know my kids best. I trust them to be the brilliant, learning creatures they were designed to be. Period. That means that if they learn something later than their peers, it's irrelevant. Conversely, they learn a lot of things before their peers, or even some things most people may never learn. Also irrelevant. Comparison, in my experience is fear driven, and only leads to negativity- even if one comes out ahead, negativity is often the result. Better to breathe and enjoy the ride.  Appreciate individuality. 
Fear is not a good motivation to learn anything. Joy and positivity nourishes learning! Not to mention, feels so much better- why not choose that?!

Next, this study is assuming we all believe that graduation equals success. Guess what? I don't buy it. Graduation does not necessarily equal success; it does not equal happiness. Graduation does not guarantee good communication skills, good relationships with people, good work ethic. Graduation definitely does not equal self-knowledge,(by far one of the most important things to develop, imo) or having a direction in life. It doesn't even mean having the basic skills one would equate with having graduated- reading, writing, spelling, and math. (Thankful for spell check, this high school grad's spelling is atrocious!!)

This study is designed to appeal to the group of people who value graduation as the standard goal for our youth. I am not one of those people. My goals for my learners are a little broader. My belief about success is a little different; success is knowing yourself, being confident- your strengths and weaknesses, your goals and dreams, your beliefs and values. Success is knowing how to be happy in life; how to have good relationships; how to breathe and enjoy the ride.

If my Learners graduate, it will be because they valued graduation as being an important part of their success. Certainly, it is valued by our culture as a starting point, and could serve some purposes. However, if they do not graduate, it will not be because they were "late readers", it will not be because we are poor financially (which evidently is also considered a risk factor), and it will not be because they have learning "disabilities". It will be because they have another way to measure their success; it will be because they know who they are and what they want. It will not be something that happens out of default; or fear driven by comparison to peers. As natural learners, their success will come from learning to work with their nature. Living joyously and true to themselves.

I have faith in our brilliant design. It brings to mind the words of John Holt:

"Fish swim, birds fly; man thinks and learns. Therefore, we do not need to ‘motivate’ children into learning, by wheedling, bribing, or bullying. We do not need to keep picking away at their minds to make sure they are learning. What we need to do, and all we need to do, is bring as much of the world as we can into the school and the classroom; give children as much help and guidance as they need and ask for; listen respectfully when they feel like talking; and then get out of the way. We can trust them to do the rest."

Just as I trust a fish to know how to swim, and a bird to fly, I trust my children to think and learn. I trust their designer to have given them gifts and abilities that will serve them well. No statistics needed. I can trust them to do the rest.


Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Wealthy with Gratitude

***This is the post where I cheese it up and write all the "typical" things poor people go on about. You know, all the stuff about how we're so rich in other ways. yup, that's what this is.***

But first, zoom out, go to big picture. On a global scale, we are not even close to poor. Not even close.

We own our home! Not a shmancy home. A town home, big enough for us to each have our own bedrooms. Big enough to house my art studio. Not huge, not fancy; but enough.
How many people do NOT have that? It's incredibly sad to be aware of; and we, here in Canada are considered poor. I have relatively new flooring, and freshly painted walls. We have indoor plumbing; a roof that doesn't leak, and heat. But we are so hard done by?

We have healthy, organic food everyday. Three meals worth, and quite a few snacks too. I consider us so blessed. The poorest we've been was a few years ago, when we were down to a can of sardines, and a pack of crackers. Not even kidding. We gave thanks for it; and unbelievably, even the kids ate it. The next morning, not one, but two family members brought us food. No one knew we had run out; and yet now we had food. More than a little faith strengthening.

We have clothes. Not always new, not always the best; but a few times a year we do all get something new. And we're all pretty happy with that. Friends and family are kind and generous enough to hand-me-down to us, and we're thankful. Their giving helps make our life better. (I wonder what the appearance conscious teen I used to be would think of that?!)

I'm thankful to have spirituality in my life;
to guide me, provide hope and cushion fears -
helps us try to keep our priorities in order.
I'm thankful to be able to spend the majority of my time with my family everyday.

I get to be the one to witness my littles growing up.

I get to hear their questions, and search for answers with them. I get to see the moment it all comes together and makes sense. I get to play with them, and pray with them. I get to tuck them good-night.

Our family is blessed enough to have all our needs met; both spiritually and materially. So while some would definitely consider us poor, I feel rich with gratitude!

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

"I Could Never Do That..."

"I Could Never Do That..."

"I could never homeschool or unschool"

"I could never eat gluten-free"

"I could never have a homebirth, co-sleep, or nurse well into toddlerhood"

"I couldn't stand it if my husband were home all the time on a disability, while I worked part-time"

"I Could Never"
I've heard this phrase many times, have you? Sometimes I hear it in my own head. In fact, most of the above I have heard in my own head, at some time; and yet these are some of the things I have done that I am the most proud of, and the most thankful to have done.

This has me thinking, maybe "I could never do that" serves a purpose. Maybe it's us challenging ourselves. Maybe it's us saying to ourselves "Would I want to do that? Would I value that in my life? Would I have the circumstances to do that?" Maybe it's us, taking an idea and making a judgement on it for ourselves personally. And maybe some personal growth comes from that. Maybe whatever it is doesn't fit into what we would envision for our life; or maybe it could; or maybe it already does. Maybe "I could never do that" isn't as final as it sounds, if a persons mind is up to questioning it's truth.

When I hear my internal voice say "I could never do that" I tend to answer myself with a bunch of questions. "Is that really true? Could I honestly not do that? What would happen if I did?" And eventually sometimes the answer is "Well, sure of course I could do that." or "Maybe I just don't want to".

This is what I feel is the sad part; I think that sometimes when someone's internal voice says "I could never do that", and we believe it, and we are selling ourselves short.


We are each made so incredibly beautiful, capable of so many things. Why limit ourselves with "I could never"?


We've also been given this beautiful gift of freedom to write our own stories; sometimes "I could never" is stealing our freedom.


So these are the kinds of conversations I have with myself. (As if you needed that peak into Crazy-town!)
But here's the thing, sometimes, I hear "I could never do that" from others. It's as if they are hearing what I'm doing, and their internal dialogue of "I could never do that" spills out. Not to be offensive, but sometimes hearing that can feel a little, um, discouraging... yeah, let's go with that.

I bring this up because most recently I've been hearing "I could never do that" in relation to adoption. That's right. I said it: adoption. Go ahead a take a moment to digest that. Admittedly, it's HUGE. It's a gigantic, life-altering chapter that we are choosing to write into the story of our life.

Adoption is an active process of jumping through hoops, (and more hoops) to qualify. It means we are opening ourselves up spiritually, emotionally, and physically to welcoming a new member of our family.

When we began this process, I was feeling pretty private about it; not telling very many people because I anticipated all the variations of "I could never do that" that I could be hearing. I wanted to block out any discouragement coming my way. I didn't want to hear the not-so-great experiences people hear or have had. (Why are we so quick to share the sad stories? Is it a warning? Is it meant to say "Listen, you are investing and risking a lot, and you could fail"... as though we are not acutely aware of that already?) I wanted to protect my heart from those who would be unsupportive. But here's the thing, this process has involved my heart, mind and emotions. It's in my conversations and even my dreams.
This is me, taking the scary leap of openness. We are expecting! This is exciting news! So for goodness sakes, Please be happy for us! I feel so grateful to have many friends have been super-supportive.

I'm finding this process very similar to pregnancy. We are bonding with the idea of our new child, as any family would be. Granted, it's a different process; we are opening our hearts to many outcomes: a boy or girl, of many races, and under the age of 5. A child who may have had something of a life before us. A child who needs a loving family. Evidently, this sounds crazy to some.
I'm going to be brutally honest, mostly the unsupportive responses consist of a mix of *silence* and concerns about money.... sometimes with a sad story about ministry involvement thrown in for good measure.... and of course no conversation about anything out-of-the-box would be complete without "I could never do that." *Please, don't think of me as being hostile about this. I just want to put it out there, that none of these are helpful responses.*

Our family has purposely built a very happy out-of-the-box life by doing what others swear they could never. And that's cool, cause we all get to participate in the writing of our own story. I'm sure I would have a really hard time living another persons story.... (one of school and curriculum, and full time work...) but I could, if I had to, or if those things were things I chose.

I do have one "I could never".

I could never close off my heart to a child who needs a family, if it was in my power and ability to give them one. I have never stopped imagining our third child coming to us through adoption. We have always, as long as we've been a couple, held that in our hearts and minds as being of so much value. It has always been in the works for us. So as much as you could never... I guess I have one too. And now it's in the open.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Through the eyes of a child...

Since becoming a parent, I have developed this pesky habit of seeing the world through my children's eyes. Unfortunately (or fortunately), it can sometimes inspire a passionate post such as this one, advocating for children.....

I have re-written this post I recently saw on facebook. When I saw this I felt deeply disturbed by it. Here is my re-write:
I have made a promise to myself that I will not be a spanking parent;
I will be a respectful parent.
I will try to see the world through your eyes and have empathy for your experience of life.
I will view my role as your parent as a sacred honor to be lived up to.
As the adult, with more experience I will choose to control my impulses to hit, yell, or humiliate.
I will be creative and learn to communicate my feelings and hopes.
I will try to understand and be respectful of your limits and my own.
I will try to create an environment of Love and Respect so that Love and Respect are what you know.
I will try to lead by example.
I will not blindly accept the parenting script passed down to me, I will question it,
and write my own.
I am sure you will make plenty of mistakes, we all do. 
You will have lessons to learn, we all do.
 I hope that you will trust me enough, to share your life with me.
That when you make mistakes, you will trust me to treat you with kindness,
so you will not be sneaky.
I hope that you will be open to receiving my guidance.
 I know that you will not always like what I have to say, and I will do my best to be okay with that.
I will be open to learning from you, because I have learned that you have a lot to teach me.
I purpose to live a mutually respectful life with you, because
my connection with you is so incredibly important to me.
My hope that you will choose for me to be a part of your adult life, because I am your parent (noun). And I love and respect you.

My mother told me that we were firstly God's children; that we were on lend to her AND that she would have to be accountable for how she treated His children. *That's wisdom*

I think part of the reason I feel bothered by the trend of posts humiliating children and condoning disrespectful treatment, is that I can't figure what the motivation is for this kind of thinking. The basic message seems to be "this is how I was raised, and I'm fine". Combined with an underlining feeling of frustration with one's children. This seems to be a call for parents to pat each other on the back, and give each other approval.

***I would feel ashamed if my adult children use the word "survived" in relation to the way I treated them; I would prefer for them to feel that they "thrived".***

Not so long ago, when Olivia was maybe 5 or so, a few of the unschooling mothers called me out on sending her for "time-outs." They didn't call it abuse, or anything like that. I had reasoned, at least I wasn't spanking! These Strong mothers did ask me some questions; I'm thankful that they were brave enough to speak up on behalf of my daughter.

*What was going in her life that she was struggling?
*What exactly did I think she was thinking about while crying in her room?
*Did I really believe she was thinking about the "wrong" she had done?
*Or was she wondering why the person she loved and trusted the most was sending her away, withholding love and attention from her?
*Did she have the ability to do what I was expecting of her?
*Did she feel loved and valued by the way I was treating her?

I felt terrible. I had been awakened to seeing discipline through her eyes; awakened to seeing myself through her eyes.


I can't help but I wonder how this kind of parenting will look through the eyes of our children as they become more aware?

I wonder if they will wonder why so few people spoke up on their behalf?


Monday, December 17, 2012

The Beginning of Liv

My daughter, Olivia, is nearly 12, and I have never written her birth story. I have written countless birth stories for other families. But I've not written my own.

My son's birth story I'll save for another day. His story I remember in great detail, and have told and re-told to him with pleasure. Putting Liv's story down, quite honestly feels really scary to remember, and to share. 

Perhaps, it's because I was a very different person then.

Perhaps, it's because what I remember was not at all what I believe birth to be about. Perhaps, it's because what I remember most

is a mish-mash of doctors, nurses, drugs, IV bags, clocks and fear.

I was 19 when I got pregnant. I knew nothing really about pregnancy, and even less about giving birth. Some of my friends had had babies, but now that it was going to be my turn, I felt terrified at the thought of birthing. I was convinced it would be unbearably painful; a belief that was confirmed by many a horror-birth story.

My pregnancy was far bumpier than I had imagined. I had 9 months of morning sickness. I took small doses of gravol the whole 9 months; except of course for the 2 weeks I took a stronger prescription drug! A drug I knew nothing about; all I knew, was that I liked my doctor, and hated feeling so sick.

I didn't think much more of it than this.

This is who I was,

and where I was,

in my mama-growing.

It's Ironic to think I felt SO guilty over not taking pre-natal vitamins; but felt alright about taking these drugs. Almost all I could keep down was gatorade, simple sugars, poutine, and ice cream! Oh, and the meds of course...

I had the routine ultra sound, and it showed something to be concerned about. It was something called a Chorioangioma. I was told it was a growth on the placenta. A growth made up of blood vessels. A growth that would keep on growing. A growth that could steal blood from my baby; it meant that the baby and I could possibly bleed out at birth.
But of course I was also told not to worry.

I saw an OB for some follow up visits; and was sent to many more ultra sounds to track the tumors growth. I was so scared of a poor outcome; I felt like all I could do was pray.  

Pray for a healthy, strong baby.

Pray for healing.

And pray that we would both come out the other side alright.

Secretly, we knew that we were having a girl. I started to call her LIV, meaning "Life" in Scandinavian. In some way, I thought it would keep me focused on giving her Life.

Around the same time, I started having intense pains after I ate. Yet another ultra sound showed that I had developed Gallstones. I was told that often this problem would settle down after the baby was born, but there was a chance I would need surgery after her birth. *sigh* I started needing to take painkillers for the attacks; and was told to avoid all fats. This didn't leave much nutrition-wise, and far more drug-wise than I would have liked; but I knew no other way.

Sometime before 37 weeks, I started having preterm labor and so spent my fair-share of time on bed-rest. At around 38 weeks, there were no signs of labor, and I was now dropping weight. This feels like a big deal when all you've gained is 19 pounds, and you started at only 123 pounds. Our doctor suggested inducing labor and we agreed to it. We had planned on having a natural labor and birth; but at this stage I felt so afraid, and sick, and exhausted.

Somehow, I imagined that the induction would be the only intervention; 
somehow I thought having her now would mean we would be okay.
Our doctor advised us that interventions are usually like a set of dominoes, one leading to the next.
I thought, or at least hoped, we would be the exception.

It's really hard to type this, exactly as it truly was because now I can imagine it happening so many different ways. I can imagine making different decisions at every turn. I can imagine re-writing the story as it could have been. But that wouldn't be the real story. That's not how it happened.

We went into the hospital on a Thursday morning,

and I had the gel to induce labor. I was monitored for a bit and then sent home. When I say "home" what I mean is a friends house. We were staying with friends cause our home was an hour away. Now here's where it gets blurry. I'm pretty sure I got gelled a second time, and sent "home" for a few more hours.... when we returned to the hospital, not much was happening. I had been having contractions; to me they felt painful. Strong isn't the word, just sharp, and spuratic. I was hooked up to an IV for fluids, antibiotics and a pitocin drip. 

I was able to walk around, bathe and shower. 
I think I was managing the pain alright.
I was breathing, and listening to music I had brought with me.
I remember the nurses being refreshed that someone was actually using the cd player!

As I remember it, I had some visitors. My parents, Auntie and some other family. My mom stayed and my friend/doula stayed. The combination of pain, exhaustion and what felt like so much time passing made the nurses drug offerings more welcome. "Inductions are harder," I was told, "no need to be a hero."  Sometime Friday morning, my waters were ruptured by the doctor. I was at 3 cm, after 24 hours. It's probably a good thing I didn't realize that this rupture meant the clock was started; I would have 24 hours to deliver this baby according to hospital policy. I continued right on laboring, as I had been, only now I was SO tired, and not allowed to use the bath tub. Something about "bacteria", I was told. My husband was so wiped, that I remember the nurses bringing HIM heated blankets and telling HIM to rest. **Still makes me smile.**

I had felt really against having an epidural. Even then, I realized that epidurals increased my chances of needing a cesarean; and I didn't fully "buy" that it didn't affect the baby. Sometime around 5am on Saturday morning, our doctor was in to see us again. She was very motherly and kind in the way she spoke to me. She told me that I needed to accept an epidural so that I could get some rest. She feared that when Baby was ready to be born, I would be too tired to birth her. I heard nurses muttering something about "Baby's heart rate" and "cesarean" something, and "24 hour mark."

I remember having to let the drugs wear off while waiting for my epidural.

I remember feeling contractions with only gas to help. I remember that, and my friends eyes and voice, 

"Look at me. Look right here. You are doing so well, and you are so strong. You are so strong." 

I was glued to her eyes, and her breathing;

and it felt like an echo "You are so strong". 

It echoed and I sent the wish inside to Liv

I was telling her "You are SO strong." 

I remember begging to know how long until she would be born; I was convinced everyone knew except me and that they were all keeping it a giant secret! It's funny the things you can believe in labor-land!
The pain I felt at 4 cm was worse than anything I felt with the completely natural birth of my son 5 years later. This pain was coupled with fear and exhaustion. So much fear. Fear that our Baby might not be okay. I think I must have prayed for most of my labor.

Finally, epidural in place, I slept.

Saturday morning, around 10 am, I was fully dilated. The nurses and doctors had been turning down the epidural; I was told that I could start pushing anytime I felt the urge. I felt no urge. I felt... Nothing. Only numbness and anxiety. Again, I heard someone mumbling something about a "c-section" and "too long", and "within the hour." It was as if I had been slapped awake. "C-section...." echoing.
And so with the All-powerful, All-knowing Clock staring me down, I announced "I feel like pushing". I was lying, of course.

I watched the machine to tell me when I was having a contraction and I pushed. And everyone in the room counted to 10. And it repeated this way until our Baby was born, at 11 am. At the time I felt blessed to be spared from the pain of crowning; the pain that I was sure would be unbearable. I was also so grateful to have at least been able to feel the contours of her face as she was born. ***I didn't have the energy or the sense to wonder if I had missed out on anything.***

I got to hold her for only a couple of seconds.

She was early, and not really ready for this world yet. 

She was quite full of mucus, and was hard to suction; her jaw clenched shut. She needed oxygen and help to get breathing. The pediatrician and nurses fussed over her. While I feared for her still. She had that gunk they put in babies' eyes, put in her eyes; and a shot of vitamin K shot into her leg.

I was directed to "cough" out the placenta. When the staff looked over my placenta, it looked fine. It looked like a healthy placenta, and the place where the tumor had been was healed, a calcified lump. No signs or trace of extra blood vessels. This was a phenomena they hadn't seen before. I stared at it for a moment, reflecting that this is what all the fuss had been about.

I thanked Jehovah for healing us,
and allowing Olivia to come safely into this world. 
We had many, many more lessons to learn,
and Olivia has grown me into a Mama I'm proud to be.
I will be forever grateful to Jehovah for her;
and grateful to Olivia for teaching me the meaning of Love, Courage and what it is to be truly Strong...
(among other things...)

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Simply Learning

I HAD written a very long, wordy post... I erased it in favor of LESS. We are Simplifying our life style; and finding that LESS is, indeed more. Less stuff. Less mess. Less crazy running around due to a less crazy schedule. And finally Less words...

Above is my son's room, mid-simplifying-sort; as I ditched Anything: broken, age inappropriate, or limiting to the imagination. Check out how many books are on that book shelf!

Boxes and boxes went to the second hand store, 2 big garbage bags went to the trash. Two more boxes of things I thought he might notice were missing, went into storage.

What you see above, is a tub of dress-ups, and a basket of marbles and marble run supplies. Baskets covered with a cloth.

His shelf holds a basket of musical instruments, a basket of cars, and a handful of his favorite books. 

The closet holds a tub of lego and pirate ship set. 

                                     ***Neat, AND easy to keep it that way.***

 This whole Simplifying thing is Waldorf inspired. 
I am amazed and grateful for coming across these resources at exactly the right time for us.

My Daughter got a Simplified version of her room that allowed her to focus on what she loves. Surrounded by dance costumes, her photography, her violin and books...

.........And her new Fish.

For years we have been riding the swinging pendulum of Radical Un-schooling; and the pendulum was always, ALWAYS swinging. I was beginning to feel kinda dizzy! 

It was beginning to feel like Someone's needs were always being left unmet; and often my husband and I felt absolutely exhausted.

Perhaps  Probably, as a reflection of our dizziness and exhaustion, our Littles were so dis-content.

There's no other word for it. I took this as a sign we needed a change.
One of the greatest discoveries about LESS is that it has opened up MORE space for LEARNING!

Letting go of the "box" of the Unschooling label, has opened me up to using some Waldorf curriculum; which by the way, is SO BEAUTIFUL! 
          It is so honoring of Childhood,
                                                                                       Nature and Imagination!

It is astonishing to me to witness my children SO engaged in their learning! Every game, every story, every movement, every art project! (*Still very child-led*)

Above he is learning about pulley systems...

I remember last year, when my son's sole passion was video games, and his mood was miserable. The kind of miserable that comes from not feeling satisfied, valuable, or successful. He would lament that he had no gifts, and that he wasn't good at anything. It broke my heart, as I scrambled around, in vain, trying to find various "things" for him to try. 

*This year he is THRIVING!* Actually, we all are :)*

The things 
I felt so resistant to; routine, curriculum, sharing the daily responsibilities, limiting screen usage; were ALL things that have benefited our family more than I could have imagined!

Simplifying has felt like a Fresh Start.

So it would seem Simplifying has OPENED the space for me to learn some great lessons too!

*Google Simplicity Parenting by Kim John Payne if your curious to know more.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Slow Roasted Teenagers ~ Yummy ~

** Okay, here's my preface: if you think you're going to feel judged or offended, stop reading now. If you're going to have an open mind, please carry on :)***

I have terrible news: Our children are being slow roasted.

There's an old adage about cooking frogs. If the frogs are dumped into boiling water, they will jump out. However, if they are put in the pot with the cool water and slowly brought up to a boil, the frog won't notice. It doesn't struggle, or jump out. It's cooked.
This is what is happening to our children. And the scary part is, we are allowing it. Defending it. Even supporting it.

We recently had a teen suicide due to "cyber-bullying". As I watched her youtube video, I couldn't help but think this young girl is was no different from so many young girls. She made the kinds of "mistakes" that are common to the teen years. Flashing, fooling around with boys; some poor choices perhaps... But nothing uncommon to growing up.... and LEARNING about life. She was also victimized and taken advantage of by boys. Again, sadly, not uncommon at all. What's new, is that thanks to the internet, thanks to social media, and thanks to cameras on every cell phone, and a cell phone with every teen, her "mistakes" were immortalized online, for all to see. For all to mock, and ostracize. Her "mistakes" were on display to follow her from school to school. And somehow, the children in every school felt entitled, maybe even justified to bully her. As a whole they felt okay about participating in tearing her down.... to the point of finally beating her with a crowd of support. Eventually, leading to her suicide. And sadly, her experience, is not uncommon at all.

It's shameful. I feel heartbroken for her family. And I feel haunted by questions... Where are the parents? Any of the parents? Are people to busy to monitor the online safety and activities of their children? Why were they not acting like people who had learned morals? Empathy? Kindness?
I'm sure a lot of things factor into this... but basically, I believe they've been cooked. And that's not justification. It doesn't make it okay. It makes me wonder, what is wrong with families? Why are we allowing this?!

Talking this story over with people, something interesting happened. Stories of bullying came forward from each person. Bullying from both teachers, and fellow students. Bullying stories that took place 40 some years ago, right up until now. Let's start with the stories of teachers bullying. (Please Understand, this is not meant as an offense to all teachers, surely there are many, many wonderful, positive teachers who keep children save and have a beneficial effect on their students.) The stories I heard were all from elementary school; they included teachers pushing children down stairs; strangling a child against a wall in front of a class; shoving a child to the ground in front of a class; not allowing a child to use the washroom, and having him wet himself in front of the class; and locking a child alone in a classroom for 2 hour detention after school closed up. These stories are multi-generational, and from varying towns and cities. The children in these stories experienced Fear, Hurt, Embarrassment, Shame, Humiliation, and HUGE Injustice and Violation of trust at the hands of people entrusted to care for them. In all of these stories, no significant consequences came to the teachers; and yet the one's telling the stories, tell them like they were yesterday; flushed faces, and shaking voices.

Do you think these kinds of experiences might have an influence on our children's development of empathy? or Kindness? I do. I think it teaches them it's okay to treat people badly. And what's more?.... the parents were told about these situations. The parents rightly complained, and nothing came of it. So what do our kids learn?? What are WE teaching them? We're the teaching them that if you are big, or in power, this kind of behavior is okay. If you're at school, this behavior is okay. If you get caught, even as an adult, you won't be held accountable in any major way. If you are a child, you are power-less. And if you are a parent, you are also power-less to help. The School has the power, the System has the power. And right from elementary school on, the lesson is bullying is okay. Of course we would never say that, however it's true.... although, terribly inconvenient.

In fact, in some schools it is true right from day 1 of Kindergarten. One mom recently told me of her schools new policy that on the first day of school, parents were not allowed to enter the school. Period. She said children were crying, parents were crying; and they were told, "No. No parents in the school. We'll take care of them. This will encourage their independence." And parents accepted that. Oh, I'm sure some protested, or maybe felt inwardly worried; but this mom reported that overall, parents just allowed the school to have that much say! Again, what is the message?! What is the lesson?!
The message is "We, the school, are big and powerful, and even your parents can't help you or even access you here." Intimidating at the very least. And what does this teach (a 5 year old) about empathy? About the importance of feelings, and caring for another's experience? Or the connection of parents to their little ones? The importance of family?.... all secondary to the prerogative of the school.

Yes, into the cooking pot they go.

For 12-13 years, we as parents support our children participating in this system. Slowly roasting. And let's face it. We're busy. We trust that the learning happening in Our school is good, at least mostly good. The problems of drugs, alcohol, sex, bullying, and so on "don't happen at our school"; "it's a private school"; or "we live in a good area of town"; or "we're in such a small town".... "We're trying to earn a living; to make ends meet. We try to have regular family dinners, and enjoy some weekend events together... taxi-ing to and from friends houses, the mall, soccer practice and so on...."

And then, one day they are in high school and these kinds of things happen. It is all too common. And then people around us wonder, and maybe We wonder how these things could possibly happen.... people like myself wonder why these teens have no empathy.... why they are vicious.

They've been cooked. Slow roasted by the school system. By the climate of this world. By Video games about war, stealing cars, hookers, or .... By social media.... By popular male and female performers also teaching anything but positive morals, or good qualities; and often promoting unhealthy views on sex and attitudes that de-value women.... Wow. I'm sounding awfully judgmental; awfully down on a lot of things. What is my point anyways?!

My point is:

I hope that when my children come into contact with the boiling water, they will hop out!!

For our family, this hope is a lot of work. It's meant following a path of natural learning, at home. It's meant making financial choices that support time together over many other things. It's meant being really specific about entertainment. And mostly, it's meant keeping our purpose of a trusting, close relationship foremost; one that models empathy and kindness. A relationship that is protective of their innocence, childhood, and feelings.
It means, (forgive my rudeness) raising them. It means doing our best and hoping. Reading stories like this, reflecting, and hoping.

I hope that as these tragedies happen, some people will go further than saying "What a shame... so sad." I hope that at least some people will start thinking deeper than that. And figuring out how these events are connected to their own families, because they are.  
~We are all connected.~