Featured

About Me

I have always been an odd bird, and believe me I take that as a compliment. I am so interested in the next thing that I have a difficult time sticking to things. (I intend this blog to be as eclectic as I am, so that should keep me going.) This short attention span is very well suited for some things. I do very well with theatre, just about the time I start getting bored with the show, the run is over. Same thing with school. I love learning, and spending about a semester doing something is a good length of time for me.
Luckily I have a lot of interests. I am a historian, but when people ask what period I focus on, I cannot say. I go through phases. In first grade I was practically obsessed with ancient Egypt, by middle school it was Civil War. When I was young I did melodrama, as a result I focused on the Victorian Era, now I am in the Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA) so I lean towards medieval.
I am very interested in new technologies, cutting edge research, and neuroscience, but also ancient cultures and technology. I will write about the failings of society and my thoughts on improvement, but also things that I love about the world and wouldn’t change for anything. Sometimes I may do nothing more than post a review of an old movie, but I will also post my books chapter by chapter.
I hope you enjoy reading what I have to say, I would like to create a lively discourse with readers and other writers.
Take Pride in Your Insanity!

KZ is a person of many interests.

What brings you here?

Books

Topics

Just For Fun

About Me

Chapter 21 – The Trip

When Jessica and Rodney continued walking, she could not contain her curiosity. “What was all that ‘it will all be ok’ stuff about?” Rodney just shrugged.

They walked along chatting like old friends, until they reached a staircase climbing down, like the most basic subway entrances back home in New York. To Jessica’s surprise, they went down. She was trying to figure out what this had to do with sustainability at all.

When they reached the bottom, they found a row of round cars. Most were small, a few were larger. One of the smaller ones was waiting for them. The doors opened automatically as they walked up to it. Inside, there was no steering wheel, no seat belts, no controls of any kind, only benches. Jessica hesitated, while Rodney climbed in. He held out his hand and led her in.

Inside it was much roomier than it looked like from the outside. A grown man could stand up comfortably, the benches could hold about two people each, but from the outside it looked like the size of a car with only one seat!

As she sat down, Rodney started touching one of the windows, which lit up to display a map. He selected a location, and switched to another display. In just a moment the black windows lighten and Jessica can see an underground highway maze with the little round cars zipping around every which way. Jessica wasn’t sure she wanted to join in that fray at the mercy of a robot.

Rodney reminded Jessica that it was all a dream. As the pod car started moving, he asked if she wanted to watch out the window. Jessica thought that was a rather odd question. There wasn’t exactly anything else to look at. But as the pod picked up speed she wasn’t sure she wanted to look. She hid her head in her hands.

A moment later, Rodney was sitting next to her, coaxing her to open her eyes. Assuring her that everything is ok. She nervously peeked between her fingers, and instead of seeing the dizzying, darting pods zooming around, the windows showed a peaceful green meadow dotted with flowers of every color. As she looked up she picked out the yellow hearts of daisies, the snow ball fluffs of white chrysanthemums and the splash of red poppies. Jessica knew they were moving, but it hardly felt like it. There was no rocking, or juddering. She could see out the window that things were moving. She figured they had gotten above ground at some point. She sat back and enjoyed watching as the meadow slowly slipped by. Rodney watched Jessica’s calm demeanor for a few moments before looking outside himself.

Me Time

It is a common enough recommendation for stress, “Take some ‘Me Time’.” Often it is accompanied by the word “just”. That word is a tangent for another day, but suffice to say, it is not that easy.

‘Me Time’ sounds all well and good and it is very well-meaning advice. But the problem is, some people just can’t. ‘Me Time’ is a privilege.

Yes, I, a cis, straight, white woman am talking about something that I do not have the privilege of doing. But that is precisely why I am talking about it. If I don’t get ‘Me Time’ working from home and living with 2 more generations of mothers, you better believe that their are a lot of less privileged people out there who also don’t have the ability to take some time for themselves.

But this is not just a tirade of complaints. (Although I am very good at that, if I do say so myself). Let’s talk about why this is the case, why it is not talked about, and what we can do about it.

Why Not?

Over-commitment.

But when I say that, people say, “You need to pick what’s important and cut out the rest.”

Sounds so easy when you say it like that. Let’s go over some examples of people who might have this problem.

Single Parents – It is no secret that being a single parent is hard. It is hard to split time with another parent. It is hard to ask others for help. It is hard to get after-hours daycare. It is hard to take a day off work. That’s all good ways to get ‘Me Time’, right? That is all well and good if you have that option.

There are many situations where the other parent does not take the kids; location of the other parent, loss of custody, death of the other parent, etc. Other people switch off so that the kids are with the other parent while they are at work.

There are many situations where there is not another adult able to watch the kids. They could be all burned out from watching the kids while you are at work. You could have moved away from family and friends.

If that is not available, just get a babysitter. Just kidding. Just to let anyone who has not had young kids recently. Daycare is prohibitively expensive for people working minimum wage. You literally make less than you pay for that single service while you are working. Never mind paying someone to take care of kids while you aren’t even getting paid. And that amount is a fee that works with other parent’s fees to pay the employees, etc. If you pay a sitter, they will expect minimum wage at least. So you are no better off that way.

Another option is to use the time when the kids are asleep. Hahahaha!!!!!! Yeah right. That time gets spent doing all the housework that no-one else takes care of. And sleep? Doesn’t exactly qualify as ‘Me Time’. And most adults don’t get enough of that as it is.

Women – This problem disproportionately affects women rather than men. Women are more likely to have custody in a separated family.

It is also well documented that women tend to earn less than men do. Women, on average, do not get as far ahead in their careers, glass ceilings and all. Even when a woman does have the same job as a man, she does not get paid the same for it. (We have the right to discuss our salaries for a reason. Don’t let your boss convince you otherwise.) This income disparity means that it is harder to find childcare to take that much needed ‘Me Time’, never mind pay for that Spa trip your single friend recommended.

Even for a couple in a relationship, women tend to take on more of the child care and household duties in addition to their jobs. Sorry men, if you think you are doing your fair share, I encourage you to take a closer look. You might be right, but chances are that while you are in front of the TV, or on the computer, or reading the paper, or whatever you do in your free time, your wife or girlfriend is probably cleaning or cooking or working on something with the kids. This is true even for men who believe that the workload should be shared. I am really trying to make this not stereotypical, or based solely on my own experience, but it is often easier to just do what needs to get done than it is to point it out and then argue about it. It’s hard to get away when you have a whole lot of things to take care of. I get that you might be more productive after a break, but getting to that break can be a real struggle.

It is also well documented that people of color tend to earn less than white people do. People of color on average, do not get as far ahead in their careers, racism and all. Even when a person of color does have the same job as a white person, they do not get paid the same for it. (We have the right to discuss our salaries for a reason. Don’t let your boss convince you otherwise.) This income disparity means that it is harder to find childcare to take that much needed ‘Me Time’, never mind pay for that Spa trip your white friend recommended.

These problems are similar, but not the same. I get that. There is more at play here with systemic racism. Not to mention that Women of Color get screwed on 2 fronts.

This is a good place to discuss the necessity that many people have of having multiple jobs, just to keep themselves afloat. Here is the obvious statement of the year: If you spend more time working for others, you have less time for yourself. (And if you work more you pay more for child care, if you got ’em). Many people end up in an endless loop of needing more money to pay for child care, getting a job, and ending up needing more money than they are making again, just to cover the additional child care!

I am fully in support of businesses paying overtime when needed. What I do not support is businesses only hiring for part time so they don’t have to get benefits. I do not support businesses paying less than a living wage. The means that the employee who needs to work more than 40 hours, but has is spread across two jobs, is not getting overtime. We talk about these horrible before times when people had to work 80 hours a week and only had one day off, etc. That was terrible. But it was with one employer. When you need to balance two jobs, you end up juggling them to make sure that you are not scheduled at the same time for both. Many businesses will not hire people without an open schedule. Even more have a policy of making each week a different schedule. With a routine, you could get it set up and be good. With changing schedules, every week requires mental gymnastics, negotiating with employers, and stretching your good will with them closer and closer to the breaking point. You have to run across town, get changed, etc. All time that you are not getting paid for. And that one day off? You don’t get that. Many jobs, even part time, do not give full shifts. Employees will work for 4 hours here, 3 hours there. The hours that you work get spread out, meaning that rather than working for 5 days and for 40 hours, you could work 7 days and only get 25 hours!

And these people are not lazy. They are some of the hardest working people in this country. And they do it, because it needs to get done. Despite knowing that they have a dead end job, and all of this hard work won’t get them out of where they are.

These people are not stupid. Many of them would be much better at running the businesses where they work than the CEO is. Many of them have diplomas, and even degrees, that didn’t get them a better job.

These people aren’t trying to take advantage of the system. They are victims of the system.

So yes, people know they need ‘me time’. People know they should also spend more time with their kids. They don’t want to be on government assistance. They want to go to school to get a better job. Some want to start their own business. Some have an idea that could stop global warming. Some wish they would run for office. Some just want to be a stay-at-home parent. Everyone has dreams. And you know what? If these people could get that ‘me time’ the whole world would probably be better off.

Wow

Two days ago I wrote a post where I ended by saying that the massive divisions in this country would, at some point come to violence. The next day, the capital building was taken over.

Yesterday was supposed to be dominated by Georgia’s election results and the counting of the electoral college. But we knew that there was a planned pro-Trump rally. This was the thing that made me write that post. I’m not a great prophet or anything. As many people have said, while this has been shocking, and sobering, it was not a surprise.

Many people have pointed out the extreme difference in reactions between this and when the Black Lives Matter demonstrations were going on in the capital. There was an immediate military response to BLM. Not just in the capital, but in cities all over the nation, while Trump supporters were welcomed inside by the police! BLM marches were demonized for a few bad actors damaging buildings. But the Trump rally turned into an actual invasion of our halls of government by, while I have not seen actual numbers, seems to be hundreds, if not thousands of people.

Now the people I listen to are calling for punishment. They are calling out leaders who encouraged this behavior. All of that needs to happen. But there is another thing that needs to be considered.

What are the Trump supporters thinking? They clearly see themselves akin to storming the Bastille, or throwing tea into Boston Harbor. They see themselves as victims. While we see them tearing down our democracy, they are being told that democracy is already dead. If we arrest then and impeach Trump, who they see as their only hope at salvation, what will they think? I don’t want to give Qanon any more traffic by looking to find out what is being said, but I have a pretty good guess.

They believe they are being oppressed and they must fight to take back their country. I suspect this was nothing more than a call to action for others that the battle has begun. Every attack we make to punish these bad actors, will make a martyr for their cause. They will only get more motivated in their right against what they perceive as tyranny. But if we let it slide, we are only telling future leaders to go ahead, there are no consequences for this action. We have to make sure that there are consequences for their actions. Go down the political line. Each congressman and governor that supported this needs to be held accountable too. But as we do this, we need to demonstrate that we show understanding and mercy. We need to do our best to show that we are not bullies. And we need to understand that our actions also have consequences. There will be fallout from our attempts to hold these people accountable. They will keep fighting. They have been told this story for so long that many have spent their whole lives waiting for the chance to fight to bring back what they feel they have lost. This did not start with Trump, nor will it end with him.

New Normal

Since March we have all been living under a drastically different ‘normal’. And we have all been asking “how long will it be until we can go back?” But what I have been asking is “can we go back?”

Between the biological virus rampaging the world, the bitter divide in my country, (and many others), and the political corruption, it is clear we are in strange times. But I want to explore how I think things got this bad, and what will happen next. Clearly, I cannot say with certainty, but I can tell you things as I see it, for what that’s worth. I’m just another person on the internet after all.

Let’s start with the ideological divide since that’s kind of where it all began. I first noticed it when George W. Bush was elected, but I was in middle school then. That’s the time when people start paying attention to these things, I guess. But it goes back further than that. Many people start it with Reagan or blame it on social media, but I think the roots go back much further than that.

White people who were bent on profit, fame, and power were the ones exploring the seven seas. It was easy for these people to convince other white people that they were better than the other peoples that were ‘discovered’ on these explorations. It’s only too easy to believe it when you are told you are better than someone else. This was the group that started settling this land.

They were followed by another group. This group is the one seeking freedom from oppression. But these people also believed they were better than other races. There is no escaping that.

This country was founded largely by the latter group. This is why freedom is so central to our constitution. But even in politics at that time, there was power hunger. When there are powerful people, there will be power hungry people. This group, so focused on their own freedom, had only a few people who had any thought for the freedom of other races. But there were some.

Eventually, the government was so full of power hungry men, they tore the country apart. This was hardly about abolishing slavery, but rather a fight for what states would have more power. Slave states had a disproportional amount of power to the number of voters. Non slave states didn’t like that, but slave states didn’t want to give it up. Eventually it became clear that while the south had the electoral power, the north had the military power. Abolishing the institution of slavery was kind of an afterthought.

Time marches on. The rich continue to get what they want from the government, while the poor are ignored. More people come to escape oppression, danger and hunger. The poor are told to blame the newcomers. People like the Irish are prevented from getting employed, adding to the existing racial struggles.

Native Americans have been massacred, Blacks are systematically murdered, Asians are left to be destroyed by plague, Hispanics are poisoned at the border.

The rhetoric of the power hungry gets better and better at convincing people who can vote (white men) they should blame minorities for their present misfortune.

When other people finally one by one gain the right to vote, the established technique won’t work as well, so blame starts to shift. Eventually the parties are blaming each other, and rather than each party holding a stance on a few issues while others vary within the party, every issue becomes aligned with a political faction. It becomes harder and harder to be in the middle.

The fact that one party shifted to political blame more and tried to court those minority voters, meant that the other party kept the people who still blame them. This is where we see the increasing division between the people who blame minorities, and the people who want to help minorities. All because one party didn’t actively blame them any more.

Meanwhile jerrymandering becomes so efficient that winning in these areas is less about competing with the other party, and finding middle ground, and more about catering to the extreme parts of the party.

Add into that firestorm the social media echo chambers, and you have a massively divided country. Each only listens to their own side, freedom and patriotism have been twisted to mean a very specific kind of opinion is considered American, and showing any sort of national loyalty is seen as having certain beliefs. This, in turn, means that some people avoid showing any patriotism at all even though they are, which fuels the opposing argument.

Because both sides listen only to their own sources and believe the other side cannot be trusted, it doesn’t matter to followers what atrocities their leaders commit. They probably won’t hear about them, or will only hear things blamed on the other side, maybe a defense here and there. Either side is primed to start a war. In traditional wars, each side controls its own media and spreads terrible stories about the other, during and often before actual fighting breaks out. Each side believes that they are on the side of right and will die to defend against tyranny, corruption, terrorism, and to protect their families, freedom, and beliefs.

This is the precipous upon which we stand. Both sides have been primed for war. Can we avert disaster? When will it start if we can’t? Will we even know in the moment when it began? Can we be sure it hasn’t already?

Today we have attacks by government employees on minorities nearly every day. These attacks are clearly racially motivated, but since these people also tend to be on the side that has been labeled as not patriotic, this also has a political component.

We have massive marches supporting or denouncing both sides in an endless parade. We have people on both sides literally taking up arms to defend themselves against the other side, who they have heard is stockpiling weapons. We have government officials stoking distrust in the very institutions and systems that make this country what it is. We have leaders deliberately spreading false information that costs lives.

This distrust will not go away after January 20th, just as it did not go away after the election. If we manage to avoid all out war, there will still be millions of people who will continue to believe that the election was stolen. Even if Trump does not set up a shadow government, these angry people will not trust the elections for many years to come. These election disputes may become a normal part of our elections. As we have seen, just because one side wins, it does not change the mind of the losers. The fallout from the civil war that has recently come to light shows these tensions can last generations.

Other people have explored what would happen if we devolve into open war. The short version? The people who have been training and stocking up tend to live in rural communities. Cities are very vulnerable because of all the systems it takes to keep so many people living in one place.

Is there any way to avoid this? I hope so. We need to find a way to make sure that people are hearing from both sides. But the government is not going to make that happen. That change needs to start with us. We need something to bring us together. The coronavirus had the potential to be that thing. But it was used to add to the division, to the point where walking out your door and what you wear when you do became a political statement. That unity will not come from the government. That change needs to come from us. In short, we need a drastic bottom-up transformation. We need to increase communication between people. By unfriending people you disagree with, you are increasing their isolation and your own echo chamber.

First they came for the Communists
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Communist

Then they came for the Socialists
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Socialist

Then they came for the trade unionists
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a trade unionist

Then they came for the Jews
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Jew

Then they came for me
And there was no one left
To speak out for me

Today we can a few more verses to this dark poem. The Muslims, the Mexicans, the Blacks, LGBTQ+, the homeless, the addicted. All of these groups, and more, have been incarcerated in some fashion in response to supposed threats.

I will fully admit that although I vehemently oppose these attacks, I am one of the many who has not done enough to help. I have many reasons, but in a sense they are all just excuses. This should be much higher on my priority list. Not the least of those reasons if because my time is so occupied. As I have discussed before, in a real sense we do not need to work 40 hours a week. But by keeping people underpaid, the government keeps us too busy. More recently, by keeping the pandemic out of control, fewer people are willing to protest for fear of falling ill. Note that supporters are told not to fear, so they are able to gather in support.

The other big reason I have not joined marches, is because I have never seen them create change. Something happens, people march, politicians pander to their supporters, make a few overtures at change, people lose interest and nothing really happens. But this could be its own post.

We have to remember that both sides are being told that they are the victims. We need to stand up. But not against the other side, against the system that has led us to this point. Republican and Democratic voters and people are not the problem. The problem is the power hungry puppet masters at the top. In both parties. For all the good they claim to do, those who need help are never getting it. Politicians agree on more than they let on. They agree to keep the people down. The people are on more than we are told. We all want to make sure our families are cared for and that we maintain our rights and freedoms.

Chapter 20 – Make the Best of It (WIP)

Rodney led Jessica to the diner where they had first met. On the way, Jessica was trying to be okay with all the happy smiles and waves from strangers. She even tried waving back a few times. One couple stopped. Every instinct told Jessica to put her head down and slink away, but she stayed with Rodney.

“Hello! You must be new here.” Jessica was wondering what gave her away.

“Um, yeah.” She paused as she realized she had no idea of how to start a conversation with someone she knew nothing about and had nothing obvious in common with. She said the only thing that came to her mind. “How are you doing today?”

“Well, I worked in the garden this morning, so my back is a bit stiff. We decided to take a walk to see if that helps, – but never mind that. Where are you from?”

Jessica was taken aback. She was not used to people actually answering the standard greeting. As she composed herself she tried to answer their question, “New York originally but now—-“

Rodney stepped in as she trailed off. “Jessica here is visiting from the midwest. She came to see the sustainability overhaul before they get underway there.” Jessica was so glad that Rodney had answered instead of her.

“Yeah, I’m curious how things will be once they do…what…they are gonna do.” Jessica realized it might have been better to just stay quiet when the lady raised an eyebrow at her.

The eyebrow went back to where it belonged quickly though, and the lady just said, “Well take a good look around, we are just loving it! We were a bit hesitant at first. I mean, what happens when I want to go somewhere I can’t walk to, right? Or what happens if the weather doesn’t co-operate? But we have been happily surprised! We have been able to go on trips more, everything keeps working even when the weather didn’t seem like it would ever behave, and the best part is all this wide open space that we can use and enjoy!.”

“I have been loving it so far! Thank you, I have heard a lot of those concerns too, so neat that it actually works out!” Jessica exclaimed before remembering that this is a dream. Physics doesn’t really apply.

Rodney and the man shook hands and exchanged pleasantries. They both pulled out their phones and tapped them together like they were giving a toast. The woman introduced herself as LuAnn before looking Jessica straight in the eye, and telling her in earnest, “I know everything looks bleak right now, but everything will be all right. There will always be things that make it hard to move forward. There will always be things that help your world get better. Just focus on finding those things and hop between them like stepping stones. Avoid the negativity if you can. You are strong enough to get through everything going on in your life. Find your rock and stand on it. Use it to guide you, Use it to guide the world. You will know what to do.”

Jessica had no idea what to say. The lady seemed to be talking about the detectives and the Rodney look-alike, and the insurmountable debt, but she couldn’t be. Was the world of the Midwest really so dire in this world that it required all of that? Or was this dream lady speaking to the real-world Jessica, just telling her what she needed to hear? Jessica was beginning to doubt what was real and what was a dream.

Table of Contents

What is Homeschooling?

Here we are. In a pandemic. Home. With our kids.

WHAT ARE WE SUPPOSED TO DO???? THESE KIDS ARE DRIVING US CRAZY!!!!

And just like that parents all over the country, and indeed the world, are trying their hand at homeschooling for the first time.

But are they really? What is this distance learning thing? Is it really homeschooling, or is it still a public school education?

And the question all parents are dying to have an answer to – How do I make my kids do what they are supposed to do and LEAVE ME ALONE?

Ok, I’m not going to answer that last question. Because it is the wrong question.

So, let’s deconstruct this a bit. Kids who are used to a highly structured school environment are being put into a situation where they (and their parents) are suddenly being held accountable for their own education.

This experience is hard enough for someone like me, whose child is way ahead of where he needs to be (In fact Little, who is 2 years younger is actually giving the answers and Big is checking them before he puts them into the computer.) I can only imagine how much of a struggle this must be for parents whose children are behind and need the teacher’s more direct assistance. And for parents whose own education does not help them to help their kids. And for parents who don’t have the time because they are still working, be it in the home or out in the real world (thank you so much essentials. You need a permanent raise and a massive bonus! And lots and lots of hugs…as soon as we can.) And for parents who have lost their jobs and are just trying to get through this with their lives intact.

I have always struggled getting either of my kids to be interested in a sheet of paper. They love books, but they don’t really do drawings, have no interest in coloring, and puzzles are only worth a few minutes.

So how do all those homeschool parents do it? Trick question. They don’t. Ok, even that is not completely true.

This ‘homeschool’ experience you are going through is more similar to those “Public School from Home” or “Homeschool curriculum” ads you see on Facebook.

Confused yet? That’s because the phrase “homeschool” means different things to different people. The idea that homeschool is similar to what you are struggling with right now has led to the phrase, “Unschooling”. OK, so now we have two terms we need to define, so I guess lets do that.

Homeschooling – Structured system of education at home mimicking the structured school environment.

Unschooling – Letting kids do whatever the heck they want.

Ok, just kidding. Yes, I’m struggling to explain all of this, because it is really hard to pin down.

Let’s try from an historical perspective instead, shall we?

Many people have claimed that until recently kids were homeschooled unless parents could afford to send them to school. And that really depends on your definition of homeschooling. Did parents sit down with their kids and formally teach them the things they need to know in a highly structured way? No. Did they let their kids do whatever they wanted? No. The real answer is that they did something in between. From the genesis of humanity to the dawn of the industrial age most people (excluding the gentry, we’ll get there later) did homeschool as I see it. They taught the kids what they were doing, if mom is cooking and the kids (ok, girls) were in, they would help. That is how they learned to cook. If dad was building kids (boys) would help. But it didn’t end there. Children would be out in the real world, hunting, farming, selling newspapers, etc. They would be engaged in helping the family in any way that was needed. The problem with this is that it limits the children’s education to a similar experience to their parents. That is a huge limitation, and still needs to be addressed in homeschooling today.

The gentry would be educated by a tutor or private school in whatever was considered important at the time, philosophy in Greece, music and French for girls in the last several centuries, military strategy for young men in politics. This allowed parents to focus on their own work, and make sure that the children got the best of everything. This was what the rest f parents wanted for their children that brought about the public education system.

And for all of its problems, and no matter how much I rag on it, the public education system is an amazing and vital institution. This is actually the reason I criticize it so much. It is far too essential to let it fail this badly! But that is a story for another day.

All of this brings us to a modern understanding of what homeschooling actually is.

If we force kids to do the same stuff they are doing in school, there is almost no point to homeschooling. The advantage in that case is just in the lack of a commute and minimizing distractions of other students. (And don’t get me wrong, for some people, those are essential concerns). This method makes sure that children get all of the skills that they need in order to keep up with their public schooled peers. This has become the idea that the general public has of homeschooling, peppered in a little bit with some of the other groups, like the religious, and the extreme unschooling.

For some people it is about making sure that your kids get the information that you want them to have, and yes, sometimes that means not getting the information parents don’t want them to have. I understand the desire for this, but it really gives children a false sense of the world, and denies them the opportunity to learn the vital skills of evaluating information themselves. This is where you get the stories about kids with no social skills, and sometimes even concerns about cults.

But for others, like myself homeschooling is just making sure that children get the ability to learn what they need and want to know. And for all this jabbering, that’s really all it is. This is the category where you get those amazing stories of prodigies and young people doing things that only people twice their age would normally be doing, starting businesses, following their dreams.

And then there is unschooling. Unschooling is a movement against the overly structured school regimen that teachers have to use because they have so many charges. And since that has become the pervading idea of what homeschooling is, many parents feel that they can’t use that term to describe what they do. But really, the unschooling movement is just what homeschooling used to be before parents felt the need to be told what to teach. Basically, teaching the kids what they need without the formal riggers of a school environment.

The last major group is what the unschooling movement has come to mean in some circles. This is the “let your children do whatever they want” group. This unfortunately results in children who are woefully unprepared for the real world.

Let’s focus on the middle ground. That group that produces the prodigies. How does that work, I think we would all like to know. I will tell you, I do not think that it is all about parents who magically have amazing kids. But this method is the hardest. It takes a lot of work, planning, and creativity. You don’t get to farm out the planning to a company selling you curriculum, and you don’t get to just tell the kids to go outside. You have to be proactive. You have to be in tune with your children’s interests, and not put your own goals for them first. You need to get really good at seizing the opportunity.

For instance, the other day I took a hike with my kids. In the course of this walk we discussed, and indeed, experienced geology, archaeology, traditional and modern mining methods, climate change, biology, UV radiation, tiny homes, needs vs wants, driving, train travel, simple machines, map making, photography, viruses, broken bones (Yes, I took a hike with a broken toe), city planning, decomposition, elevation, meteorology, physical exercise, wood carving, acoustics, industry, community, litter, erosion, company towns, combustion, and more that I cannot remember. My kids are 4 and 6. This is not things that I had on a list of things to discuss, this is not just arbitrary topics pulled from the sky. Each one of these things was brought up organically by the place we were in and the things we were looking at and touching.

Field trips are a vital tool for homeschooling. Take advantage of the resources in your area. That is a really hard thing to say right now, I get that. I am so grateful that so many zoos, museums, and other resources are making their information available online. I hope to see that continue, because not everyone has access to these things. But it is very important to not only take opportunities, but to make opportunities. Many organizations are willing to go above and beyond for a curious kid.

But what if a child struggles with a certain subject? Why make them sit and read something they are not interested in? No, I’m not saying those things should be ignored, because they certainly should not. They take the most conscious effort, because the child is less likely to just stumble across it.

Little wants to be a firefighter. That gives us the opportunity to talk about safety, chemistry, self-sacrifice, strength (emotionally and physically), bravery, and the environment among other things.

Big wants to be a doctor (in the ambulance on Little’s team of course). We can learn about the human body, mechanics, technology, optics, healthy diet, exercise, more chemistry, selflessness, and sanitation for a start.

They of course have other interests we take advantage of too, but this gives you the idea. That said, we can also cover the grade-level appropriate material as well. It’s easy with reading, they can find a book that really interests them and learn to read based on that, memorize it (one of the first phases of reading), kids like to hunt for a specific word every time it pops up in the book, and it can go from there. Numbers can be harder. They aren’t seen as frequently, and they take a bit of effort to tie in. But we have been counting bones. That may sound weird, but Big’s favorite anatomy book tells us how many bones are in different areas. So we count and try to figure out where they are. Little is the one benefiting from that now, Big has it down. But there are also just fun books for kids about numbers, so not too worrying.

Ok, yeah I hear you, the stuff that little kids need to learn is easy to incorporate, but how am I gonna do that to teach fractions to my Middle Schooler who just wants to be a pop star? Thank you for asking. It takes engaging them to be the best pop singer ever. I am not very good with music, but I do know that it has a massive amount of mathematics to figure out patterns that are pleasant to the ear, and beats are nothing if not fractions.

Some things are going to be easier to incorporate than others, that is just a fact. That is why I say this is the most challenging homeschooling method. But it is also why it is the most successful. So many kids ask why they need to study certain things. This method builds in the why in an intrinsic way that gives each new subject value. Each subject can be tied in to the child’s interests, and even things that seem disconnected, and really challenge the child can, and should be incorporated. It means that everything has an emotional connection, which inherently makes them more memorable.

Ok, back to the question: What is homeschooling? The confusion stems from the fact that people use the word to refer to a wide range of experiences, and even use different words to describe the same thing. Just because your kids are getting their schooling at home, does not automatically make it home schooling. This is a great opportunity to give a few activities a try. Simple things like putting a water bucket outside with a whole bunch of different things to see what floats or not. Or finding one of a multitude of artistic uses of mathematics in action. Or getting your kid a novel that you think they will get lost in. Or learning a new creative skill. Or taking a deep dive into learning about their life goals.

I feel your pain trying to get your kids to spend their precious time sitting on a computer doing math and English worksheets that have been re-labeled as ‘games’. Just know that you don’t have to rely on that to educate your child. And their just assignments might get easier if you can engage what they are working on in class into their hobbies. I challenge everyone to take advantage of this strange situation we find ourselves in, and try something new and different. See what ideas you can come up with to engage your kids into their challenges.

Edit: All that said, I am not against computer learning systems. In fact, my kids do use them. But there is a difference. Usually they are treated as a privilege. The kids have to earn the games and shows they watch, which are all educational. But now that Big has a requirement to do these things, I have noticed that the exact same activity has become a chore. When it is a privilege, it is enjoyable, when it is a job, it is not.

Puzzle 3 – Animals

I’m playing with creating these using digital means, but I am still struggling to find a program to allow me to fill in the blanks on the screen. So It’s still a printout thing.

Zebra
Camel
Tiger
Cat
Dog
Lizard
Rabbit
Frog
Squirrel
Owl
Bat
Bird
Penguin
Snake
Lion
Cow
Horse
Pig
Sheep
Buffalo
Bear
Coyote
Roadrunner
Crocodile

Shark
Fish
Jellyfish
Lobster
Dinosaur
Chicken
Panda
Human
Moose
Elephant
Mammoth
Reindeer
Dove
Clam
Seagull
Turtle
Wolf
Goat
Alpaca
Llama
Bobcat
Racoon
Beaver
Ferret

Armadillo
Skunk
Kangaroo
Koala
Ostrich
Porcupine
Rhino
Spider
Ant
Ladybug
Butterfly
Worm
Bee
Giraffe
Hippo
Monkey
Gorilla
Deer
Whale
Dolphin
Octopus
Starfish
Seahorse
Walrus

Chapter 19 (WIP) – Investigation

Jessica spun around wildly, “No!!!!” She banged on the door behind her. “That is not…”

Before she could finish, the door was casually opened by one of the officers. “Please come back inside.”

Jessica collected herself and followed him back in the room she had just left. The men in the lineup had already been led out, and it was just Jessica and the officers.

Suddenly Jessica felt like there was a giant spotlight on her as she stood in the dimly lit room with all of those faces staring at her, looking for an explanation of her outburst.

She stood in silence, trying to gather her thoughts. She couldn’t tell them where she recognized number 4 from. They would think she was crazy. Maybe she was, maybe that was the kid, and she just put his face into her dream. Dreams are funny that way, maybe Rodney didn’t look the same every time she saw him. She couldn’t really remember what the kid looked like.

But somehow she knew that number 4 was not the robber. And now, because of her crazy dream world causing her to linger over that familiar face, she had gotten some guy she had never met into a lot of trouble.

And what was the deal with him watching her? Wasn’t it supposed to be one-way glass? He couldn’t have seen her, right?

After going through all of this in her mind, she finally said quietly, “The robber was not one of those men.”

The detective stood up and walked toward Jessica. Suddenly he seemed about twice as tall as Jessica was, and very intent on getting this over with as quickly as possible. “He wasn’t here, was he?” He walked around behind her back, “Then why did you look at number 4 for so long?” He walked back around her other side, “Has he threatened you?”

Maybe they did know that she had pegged the wrong man in a lineup before.

“Does he have something he is holding over you?” By now the detective was directly in front of Jessica, looking her in the eye, towering over her as she continued to shrink like a raisin.

What could she say? “No. I don’t know who he is, I have never seen him before, he just kinda looked familiar.”

“Like someone you saw in a panic and couldn’t describe even if he was standing right in front of you?”

Jessica couldn’t argue with this. She was seriously beginning to doubt herself. “No! I have never seen that man before in my life!” she blurted out nearly incoherently.

“Are you really so sure?” The detective continued to pace around her, as she could hear her heart pounding in her ears. She had no idea how she knew, or why it was so important, but number 4 could not get in trouble for this.

“He looks like someone I met in dream!” She finally blurted out, before realizing that this will probably not help her case.

“You know that you only see faces in dreams of people that you have met before.” The detective was talking to the officers assembled in the room, and not to Jessica.

Jessica responded meekly, “I had the dream before the robbery.”

“There, you see, you must have met him before the robbery, dreamed about him, and then he showed up and shot Kenzie in cold blood before cracking open the safe and leaving before the authorities showed up.”

Jessica was amazed by this blatant disregard of the facts. “He didn’t mean to shoot her!” She said to the officer sitting across from her, then she turned to the right, “He was scared!” And to the left, “She opened the safe, not him!”

The detective had continued his slow stroll around Jessica until he stopped, facing the officers, “Man, I have heard some whoppers in my day, but wow. First she says it wasn’t him, then she tries to say that it wasn’t that bad!” The officers laughed in chorus. “It was so ‘not bad'” he said in finger quotes, “that she was in shock in hospital for week with no injuries. What do you all think, is she brainwashed or crazy?”

Jessica was past nervous now, she was mad. “You are supposed to be impartial!!! You aren’t supposed to interrogate the victim!!!” She turned around and stormed out of the room.

As the door closed she heard a few whispers, “Mad,” “Crazy,” “Stockholm,” Once it was shut she broke down into tears and leaned against the wall, sliding down to sit in a heap on the floor.

Chapter 20 – Make the Best of It

Table of Contents

Just a Day (or two) in the Life

Lest you think I am exaggerating about my way too hectic life, let me tell you about the past couple days.

Halloween: I’m still trying to finish costumes. Big got up and got dressed a little quicker than he has been lately.

(Which is not very ‘quick’. It’s really hard to convince yourself to get up early enough to catch the bus an hour and a half before the sun comes up.) They said no full face masks, so I decided to work on that later.

I also had to get Little up to go to the bus stop since Grandma was out of town.

I had just enough time to finish Little’s Robin mask before we had to go into town.

We got to the school just in time to watch the costume parade. There were several Batman’s, but Big was the only Adam West Batman.

Then Little and I had to take off, just in time to make it to my dentist appointment. Yes, I am crazy enough to see a dentist on Halloween.

After that we had time to get lunch, but Little was not hungry. And adamantly against buckling his seat belt.

(My kids have been having a prolonged battle with Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease. This means that when they had boils on their hands and I had to keep them home, they were not behaving sick at all, but now we are dealing with appetite loss, crabby behavior, tired, coughing…)

He was willing to put it on to go to the thrift store, so yay! But after that stop, OMG I have never had such a seat belt battle before in my life. For starters, both of us are red heads. We are Very stubborn. He is dealing with all the aforementioned things, and it was just about naptime. He is getting big enough that physically putting him in against his will is not really a viable option, he knows what parts never to bend, and he knows how to wiggle out the other arm, etc. I ended up having to loosen the straps, get him in and tighten it down. And he still wiggled out, so I got him back in and tightened it more. Then he feel asleep before I even got out of the parking space.

I then stopped to get lunch, obviously I had to go to a drive thru. I hate fast food. I know I’m not alone, but I just don’t enjoy it.

After lunch I had to go to pick up Big from school. This also included picking up Winnie-The-Pooh.

A small battle over Little’s seat belt ensued. Then I had to rush to the train station to pick up my mom and grandmother. We have a small car and had to fit three adults (one wearing a walking boot), two kids in car seats, a suitcase, two pumpkins, a walker, and the stuff from the thrift store. Luckily I am very good at Tetris.

Then we rushed home to join the costume parade. We were just late enough that the traffic through town was stopped for the parade. Since we were stopped anyway, the kids and I (yes, from the middle of the backseat between two car seats) jumped out and walked to catch up with the parade. (I grabbed my Alfred coat, but that was all of my costume I grabbed, and couldn’t get Big’s cape or mask either.)

After that the day calmed down. When mom got to the costume contest I went back to the car to get the missing costume pieces, and got back just in time for the family contest. Afterwards we went to dinner at The Holler. Awesome, as always! After dinner we tried to decide whether or not to go to Cerrillos for Trick-or-Treating. Big was super excited and was annoyed when I said he needed a coat. I had just overheard someone saying that it was 16 degrees (Fahrenheit) when they got up. Yes, he needs a coat to go out. Little decided it was too cold before the coat argument even started. We only got around one block before Big decided to go back to the car, skipping over any houses on the way. (Granted this is a rural community, the blocks are big, with only a couple houses on each side.)

Day of the Dead:

Got up crazy early to get big on the bus. I don’t think I got back to bed that day, but we had to get to the gallery and get ready to move furniture. Yay. At two we were expecting a group of people to take a fridge to the ballpark. So we had to empty it, and then started working on clearing off a desk so we can move it.

So right around two: Big got home on the bus, the fridge movers came, the propane guy came to move a giant propane tank, we got a phone call about merchants association dues.

So mom goes to show the propane guy the tank, my grandma writes the check and waits for the guy, I get the kids settled and go realize that the door frame is too small for the fridge. We consider taking down the drywall covering the door that it was probably brought in through. But that goes through the rental unit, and would need to go out through a gate that’s probably also too small, or out the back door and past the propane tank. So we determined to just force it through the too small door. The fridge door came off with a little challenge. The kitchen door came off pretty easily. It’s still too big. So the door jam came off. That didn’t solve it. We had to remove screws because the head of the screw was too thick. That helped, but still did not solve it.

I ended up climbing over the refrigerator into the kitchen, including one of those ‘why women live longer’ in reverse. I stepped onto the dolly that was under the fridge I was trying to get over. I looked around all the places that my mom wearing the walking boot couldn’t get to. Nothing was stopping it, but I could see where it was wedged so I used my shoulder as a battering ram. Finally got it through.

Meanwhile the kids want snacks, so mom made corn dogs and passed them over the top of the fridge. The propane guy determined that he couldn’t move the tank, it was too far, so we need to get people and carry it. He capped off the gas line it was connected to. And the merchants association guy came to get the check.

Ok so we got the fridge to the truck, and roped in more help from the bar across the street. We had the dolly rolling up a ramp of two beams. I pulled it to the point where I had to get on the bed or get squished. I got up, I pulled to the point where the ramp pieces would flip up under the weight of the fridge. One flipped and the other didn’t. The fridge nearly slid off the side of the dolly, except that my arm was in the way. I don’t know what happened at that point, but it seemed that everyone thought they were done, but I had most of the weight on my arm. I had to call out to get them to get the fridge moving again. Everything turned out ok, but my arm has a rather significant bruise.

Ok, so then I went to get the kids because we were going to the Maize Maze in Albuquerque. Only Little took a nap. We went in, got a map, and stepped in to the maze. I decided to let the kids choose turns at random.

We succeeded in getting lost to the point where the map did not bear any resemblance to the maze. Since we got there kinda late, it was getting dark. Unsurprisingly the kids got cold and antsy after awhile. I decided to go back to the entrance just to get out and maintain the fun. After I made that choice we got out pretty quick…out the exit no less!

But the kids didn’t want to hang out, they wanted to go home. Which is fine since it was bedtime. But on the way to the car, Big threw up. Little had done that a few days before, I chalked it up to the cough from the Hand Foot and Mouth.

On the way home Big woke up screaming that his stomach hurt, the seat belt was too tight and that he couldn’t take it. I was really close to home, just had to go over the mountain. But I pulled over and took the seat belt off. He has had some stomach aches for the last several days. I wasn’t sure if it was just how he was sitting and squirming, but his stomach looked distended. I knew that could be a really bad sign and that I didn’t have a cell phone signal. So I had to buckle him back in (looser of course) and get home ASAP. I got home, brought him in, thankfully my mom was sitting right in the front room so I asked her to look at his belly while I got a sleeping Little out of the car. She agreed that Big looked distended, so we called 911. The first responders were helpful, but couldn’t tell us anything. The medical guys were able to tell us that it probably was not life threatening his vitals all looked good, but that he should probably go to the hospital just to be safe. My mom told them the story of my grandfather’s older brother who died of appendicitis before my grandfather was born. The doctor had said that everything was fine and was wrong.

So I drove Big into town while my mom stayed with Little. (So proud of Little: with all the chaos and being woken up getting out of the car, Little put himself to bed.) There is a new hospital in town, thankfully. The old one had a monopoly, so they never cared that everyone called them St. Victim’s. The new hospital is amazingly nice. I have had to accompany three people to the ER/Urgent Care since they opened about a year ago and I have never had a wait. Not that we got in before anyone, but that they just never have people waiting. They get you in right away. It is amazing.

So they got him triaged and into a room. The nurse who took the vitals seemed to think it was a stomach bug that has apparently been going around. But when the doctor came in and looked at the big belly, he was immediately concerned. He left immediately to order X-Rays. After that adventure with a very tired, shockingly co-operative child clearly in pain, they gave him an IV and waited for the results.

Big learned that there is no kids TV on at night. A strange concept to a child with access only to Netflix, VHS and DVDs

Turned out it was just a stomach bug, But it was a scary situation I never want to be in again.

If it’s Not One Thing, it’s Ten Thousand Others

Is it just me, or is it just a thing that right when you think calm in life is right around the corner life comes up and smacks you upside the head?

Cuz that prettymuch sums up my life. And it can never wait until you are actually done. The snack always comes when you are close enough to completion that you are looking forward to the after party. You are starting to consider what the next thing you need to tackle is on your to-do list that is as long as your phone can handle a list to be, and a few extras that you keep forgetting every time you try to write them down.

So this time… my mom was working on the the finishing touches for the catalog of my grandfather’s paintings and other art works. I was working on fixing the glass at the front of the gallery. (More on that when I get it done.) Suffice to say say I was only one day away, the next project was lined up, and that one had a deadline.

Big had a fever overnight for a few nights, but was fine during the day. I was gonna send him to school and pull him out for his dentist appointment, but something told me not to send him in at all. His fever had made him a little more restless the night before, so I let him stay. We went to the dentist, everything went fine, and was so fast that that we had time to get to reading time at the library, so we did. I let the kids play for awhile after as usual. When we got into the car, Little was protesting the seatbelt, and I happened to see Big’s hands.

Sorry it’s such a bad picture, but he had little blisters all over his hands and feet. I figured it was chicken pox. He has had the shot, but sometimes kids can still get it, but it’s not as bad. I decided to postpone any other errands, and head home. I did have to stop at the school to pick up his folder. I called the school to see if someone could bring it out so he didn’t have to go inside. But the they couldn’t. I’m glad I stopped by. The secretary had told the nurse, and she was able to look at him. I was told that it looked like hand foot and mouth disease. I had never heard of that, but was very glad to have the information. I called the library and let them know so they could clean the toys he was playing with.

Long story short, that’s what the doctor said it was when we went in the next day. Since then we have been scrambling trying to get the kids to limit the things they touch around the house.

And my grandmother is 84. My two kids an and I had been sitting on her bed the day before the sores appeared. My kids have not been in the gallery since. We cannot have her get sick.

This has been an extra challenge because that next project I mentioned earlier was cleaning out the yard at the gallery. The yard had gotten out of control due to long term health problems taking precedence for several years. The urgent things were being dealt with, but anything that could be put off was.

So my mother and I brought the kids down and had them play in a clean area while we gathered scrap metal and garbage. This weekend was the one time when our community had set aside to collect these things and had provided dumpsters and scheduled someone to collect the scrap metal. So even though the kids are going through this thing, we had to deal with the yard this weekend. Yesterday we spent most of the day organising. We did take one load down which included a broken washing machine we had just replaced and a big water heater.

Getting the washing machine into the truck involved a hand truck (that needed the tires refilled), ramps, blocking a side road with a truck that is a challenge to drive as it was purchased with the power steering removed, chocks under the wheels since the road goes up a mountain, and a good dose of “I can’t see where I’m going as I back up this bear of a truck down the mountain.

Getting the water heater into the truck involved getting help from a passing family friend who soon felt superfluous when he realised that the women could do it by themselves. My mom let him feel helpful by going away and doing something else whilehe and I lifted the thing into the bed of the truck.

Getting the things off the truck was a whole lot more fun. Out of four trips we eventually took to drop stuff off, three of them involved me shoving giant appliances off the back of the truck with a very satisfying crash.

This has been a crazy, unpredictable week, but luckily, even though my kids are sick, they don’t seem to feel it. They are behaving like normal healthy kids, they just happen to have blisters on their hands and feet. I can complain about the crazy all day long, but at the end of the day, all that matters is that my family is doing well. Having a little fun throwing things of trucks is just bonus!