Thursday, February 6, 2014

What's NOT Funny About Why My Kid Is Crying.

There's a meme going around entitled, "Why My Kid Is Crying."
It features about 30 photos of children crying in various situations.  The "reason" for the child's distress is chronicled in each photo. 

The meme is meant to illicit laughter as well as empathy.  The message seems to be, "Yes, my child cries at what I perceive to be silly, ridiculous and sometimes outlandish reasons.  Let's all laugh at them and nod in mutual understanding of how silly, ridiculous and outlandish our precious children can be."

At first I wanted to forward the meme on my Facebook with a quip like, "We may laugh, but let us not forget that when our children cry like this, their distress is REAL and the challenge to overcome this distress and return to a state of homeostasis is integral to their healthy development that we as parents must be mindful to offer the appropriate understanding."

I did it, and deleted it almost immediately.  The quip was just too inadequate to convey such an important message.  Most people will be entertained by this meme and not even think twice about the lost opportunity to improve our relationship with our children and get a better perspective on "tantrums."

The distress of the children in these photos are REAL.  Their tiny bodies are being flooded with stress hormones in exactly the same way our own adult bodies are flooded when we experience distress at our age.  So, what does real empathy for these children look like?

How about this:

This child's physical and emotional being is experiencing the same FRUSTRATION as this man, could not keep his marriage together and is trying to see his children and deal with the fresh wounds of divorce.

Or this...

This child's distress is doing to his mind and body what this man's is doing to him.  He can't find his children after the storm and flood swept through his village.  It's not funny or fair to DELIBERATELY put a child in this position and then photograph him at his most vulnerable state.

Laughing at the distress of others, especially the smallest and most dependent of our species is akin to a healthy woman perceiving a sick woman to be whiny and stupid (for not taking better care of herself.)  It would be unfathomable for the super-fit yoga masters in our society to post pictures sick people in distress with subtitles such as, "...never did so much as a sit-up and wonders why heart is enlarged and failing..."  That would be considered very poor taste and very not funny. 

What would we think if a super-wealthy individual were to post something like, "... No insurance?  Well say good bye to that 3 bedroom you just remodeled, because you can't pay for your cancer treatment!"  We would consider that person a sociopath, a selfish d!c%head.  Yet, with this meme, the parents get a pass, and even a pat on the back for the very same action.

Why are our children not afforded the same respect?  Perhaps we really don't realize the LEGITIMACY of their feelings.  Children need an appropriate amount of time and safe space to express their feelings.  They need the people they love and depend on to acknowledge that their feelings matter.  They need mom and dad, and grandpa and auntie to be understanding that they need a little more time to process distress, and to be that safe set of arms to hide in when the world gets occasionally scary and overwhelming.

I have a 5-year old that will occasionally scream in frustration at not being able to see the new LEGO movie right now!  The conventional parental response has been to try and force the little one to just stop crying, stop stomping and "be patient!"  Easy for us grown ups, and easy to forget how difficult it is for a 5-year old.  I've learned to acknowledge my little guy by saying, "I know you want to see that movie. It's not in theaters yet, and I SEE you are frustrated.  Waiting is hard.  I KNOW."  It's true.  Waiting IS hard.  I too have a hard time with it sometimes.

We can hold each other while counting the days (or the "sleeps") on the calendar until we can go see the movie.  I can sit with him and truly revel on the greatness of LEGO and how funny and exciting the trailer is.  We can sit and work through our distress over having to wait.  We do it together, with me offering my strength and love as the solid emotional base from which my son can safely express his feelings, with the knowledge that I truly value and respect him.

When we dismiss our children's distress because we perceive the cause to be insignificant, inconsequential or downright silly, we lose an important and critical chance to be an example of empathy and compassion, or of patience and understanding. The parents who made light of their children's distress in these photos did not consider, did not know or somehow forgot that fear, frustration, anger, and sadness are real for the minds and bodies of their little ones.  It is ironic how parents love their children so much and yet still capable of such dismissive behavior.

This is loss...

I relate with this picture because I remember vividly my first day of school and my own mother's words, "You are on your own now.  Don't cry!"

This too is loss and it feels the SAME.

Is it unfair to compare the two photos?  If the stress hormone surging through our bodies is the same when it comes to loss?  How can we NOT compare them?

Thank you to the following for my enlightenment when it comes to my children, their education and their emotional well being:

Laurie A. Couture, Author of "Instead of Medicating and Punishing"

Dr. Shefali Tsabary, Author of "Conscious Parenting"

Dr. Gordon Neufeld and Dr. Gabor Mate, Authors of "Hold On To Your Kids."

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Firebenders, Avatars and Child Whispering: Teach Yourself and Your Children How to Bend the Elements!

I just finished “The Child Whisperer,” by Carol Tuttle.  Although I have been a fan of Carol Tuttle for a good 4 months now, since first coming across her “Dressing Your Truth: Discover Your Personal Beauty Profile” system, I was beside myself over her newest book.   What started out as a totally self-centered, selfish wish to be more appealing on the outside led to a deeper discovery of energy healing and Chakra theory.   It was just about the time I said to myself about Carol’s work, “This would make a good child-rearing guide…” when “The Child Whisperer” was announced for pre-sale on her website.

For those unfamiliar, Carol’s system is called “Energy Profiling.”  Since we are all some combination of Nitrogen, Oxygen, Hydrogen and Carbon, we can determine what energy or “type” we are from how each of those elements are expressed in our physical features and movement.  I found this system to be more accurate than the usual personality profiles around that determine types based on how one answers multiple-choice questions.

The Fun-Loving or Type 1 Child corresponds to the element of Nitrogen or Air.  The Sensitive or Type 2 Child corresponds to the element of Oxygen or Water.  The Determined, Type 3 Child exhibits movement similar to Hydrogen or Fire, and the More Serious, Type 4’s reflect the movement of Carbon or Earth. Click here to see the summary videos for each type of child:
In TCW, Carol suggests that parents involve the kids (if they are at the age that they can) in determining their own type.  This was the most exciting part for me.  I had been sharing the four types as I had learned them from Dressing Your Truth with my husband and kids, but never had them reflect on these attributes for themselves.  I had my ideas about which type each of my kids are, but I patiently waited for them to tell me.

After printing out the word list for each type, I gave them to my 11 year old and 9 year old to review.  My 11 year old immediately and easily aligned himself to the Fun-Loving or Type 1 child.  He is the Airbender.  My 9 year old hesitated for a bit, but with some gentle conversation determined himself to be the Sensitive or Type 2 child.  He is the Waterbender.  My 4 year old, unable to read yet, but every bit the Determined or Type 3 child is officially dubbed, the Firebender.

Prior to all this, I had introduced meditation, Chakra theory and energy healing to my boys in our homeschool.  We study the anthropology of nature religions as well as the modern applications for ancient theories that have been re-introduced into the mainstream in recent years.  This, along with other applications of mind-body medicine has helped with some health issues my children faced, that pills, shots and cognitive behavioral therapy failed to affect.

So it was all this that made it so fun and easy to employ “bending” with my children.  They understand what bending is from watching the cartoon series, “Avatar, The Last Airbender” and “The Legends of Korra.”  However, before you attempt bending with your children, it is wise to learn elemental bending for yourself.  Your children will learn and adapt quickly and could easily leave you in the dust.  So, for your own benefit, take some time to do the following first:

- Read “It’s Just My Nature” and "The Child Whisperer" by Carol Tuttle (Great for a proper foundational knowledge of Energy Profiling).

Watch a few episodes of Avatar, The Last Air-Bender or The Legend of Korra.

Be prepared to let go of all your old ideas of how things should be and be open to new ideas and experiences.

- Live in the moment.  If you don’t know how, learn.

The energy types can be found in the cartoon and comic series, but analysis of the literature is going to be reserved for a separate blog (or done by my uber-fan sister).  As is the message in TCW, determining the true or dominant type in each of your children is the main object of energy profiling.  The true goal is to recognize that all human beings have a dominant movement that reflects their true nature and that this is what must be honored in our children.

My Air-bender is cute, funny, animated and fun-loving by nature.  He is fully appreciated for the random element he brings into our daily lives.  He is quick and resourceful and his Airbending abilities are a great help to me when I am stymied by a problem or just feeling a little down-in-the-dumps.  Airbender is on his way to becoming an Avatar (a person with command over all four elements) because he also recognizes his secondary natural movement is Carbon, Earth or Type 4.  This amazing combination allows him to Earthbend in situations that require precise, logical and exact action.  Zombie apocalypse, come!  I fear not, as I have and Air/Earthbender in my nest!

My Waterbender is magical.  Truly.He is sensitive in the truest sense of the word. Before I recognized his power, I thought he was afflicted with “sensory processing disorder,” and “obsessive compulsive disorder,” and even “juvenile depressive disorder.”   None of that was the actual case.  His waterbending ability had just been unrecognized.  An Empath, he is able to feel emotions that other people have as if they were his own.  Since he had this ability since birth, but did not have the frontal-lobe cognition to understand despair, jealousy and other adultish emotions, his brain and body managed it through physiological expressions such as nausea, eczema, nervous ticks and nightmares.

I quickly gave up on the usual mainstream snake oils like, 9-day Novenas and cognitive behavioral therapy and absolutely refused the recommendations to try Aderall, Lexapro and Paxill.  Once he discovered how to ground his Root Chakra, honor the feelings that come to him, and shield himself in universal healing energy, all the “disorders” went away.  Even his nausea, eczema, nervous ticks and nightmares went away.  He simply does his waterbending every single day.  This entails reflecting on the amazing, subtle, yet immense and permanent  transformative power of water.  When there is an obstacle in his life, he simply takes a deep breath and waterbends, becoming the river instead of the rock.  Silly rocks (obstacles) don’t stand a chance and will be eventually, inevitably and permanently dissolved by the river.

My Firebender is a force to be reckoned with.  Being a Type 3 myself, he is my kindred element.  However, because we are of the same assertive, energetic movement, our challenge is to find peace when we are swiftly moving in opposite or different directions.  My answer was to let go, and hover close-by just in case.  I’d take credit for such successful parenting of a Type 3, but Firebender potty trained himself, learned to pour himself glasses of milk and has even attempted to cook scrambled eggs on his own.  No big deal, but this was all before the age of 4.

My first child, deserves his own blog entry, so I will just leave it to say that he is my Earthbender and the soul responsible for saving my life.  He is no longer in my nest as he is 25 years old and living on his own.   His constant, poised energy came into this world during a tumultuous time in my life.  The moment I saw his face was Beatific Vision.  It was the moment I felt I belonged on this earth, felt I was solid and real and the moment I finally became my true self.

In our meditations, I will sometimes ask Airbender to reflect on the characteristics of the all the elements, and not just one that are his primary and secondary nature.  Although he aligns with the movements of Air and Earth readily, he can also find power in reflecting on the movement of water and fire.  As he recognizes these modes in himself, he can more easily call upon the power of water.  For instance, when a slow, subtle influence is needed to successfully change a situation.  Or call upon the reactive, swift movement of fire when that is what is needed.

When we recognize and honor our children and their true nature, they honor and respect each other.  My Waterbender does not feel the need to do things as his brothers do them, nor does he ever fear being compared to them.  Grandparents, who are unfamiliar with peaceful parenting will blurt out hurtful words like, “Why can’t you be more like……”  The simple, confident answer comes from my Sensitive, Type 2, who has found his voice as our Waterbender, by replying, “That’s not in my nature!”

If you want to understand how your Airbender child moves in and relates to this world, go jump on the bed with her.  Take pictures of yourself and your child jumping in the air.  Look at and meditate on the photos of you "flying."  Look at your faces in these pictures.  Do you sense the elation?

Take time to listen to what your Waterbender has to say.  If he can’t say the words, then hold hands and look into his eyes and let him beam it to your heart.  If you slow down, take full deep breaths, open your heart, and let the power of his subtle, fluid energy "flow" between you, you’ll get the message loud and clear. Doubting the power of the soft, fluid, subtle movement of water?  Look up "sinkhole" on Google. 

During fire season in Southern California, my kids were riveted by the method of "fighting fire with fire."  The forestry service actually put out a fire by using a controlled burn.  The process is fascinating and can be a powerful meditation and reflection on the transformative power of fire. When your Firebender has forward momentum, try not to get in her way.  Be thankful for that determined, industrious streak.  It will serve her well all her life and may even save the world someday. 

I had a dream about my Earthbender that had to do with how his soul came to the world.  I dreamt that he was as immense as the universe and over the course of 9 months within my womb, he slowly compacted enough to fit into a 8 lb., 1 oz. baby.  Honor your Earthbender by recognizing him as the whole, complete and amazing individual that he is.  He will see things most people miss.  He will never fail you.  Truly.  He deserves honor and respect because he holds you in the palm of his hand.

If you are open to some timely education and self-discovery, you will find "The Child Whisperer" to be very practical, and accessible, even if you think you don't have an esoteric bone in your body.  I also want to point out that the subtitle of Carol's book is: "The Ultimate Handbook for Raising Happy Successful Cooperative Children."  The only thing I disagree with there is that I think "The Child Whisperer" is so much more.  Generations of Child Whisperers raising and nurturing children honored for their true natures and learning to be Avatars, are changing the world.

 = = = = = = = = 

Here are some other sources I found helpful in honoring my Airbender, Waterbender, Firebender and Earthbender:

Mid-life Crisis Begins in Kindergarten by Mariaemma Willis, M.S. and Victoria Kindle Hodson, M.A.

Instead of Medicating & Punishing: Healing the Causes of Our Children's Acting-Out Behavior by Laurie A. Couture

Hold On To Your Kids: Why Parents Need To Matter More Than Peers by Gabor Mate, M.D. and Gordon Neufeld, Ph.D.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

When You Are Homeschooling and Your Kids Are Better Than You At Something

So our 4th year of homeschooling comes to a close.  Yes, it’s September, but we were busy riding out the summer crowds.   Now that everyone else is back in school, this is the time we bust out and take over the parks and beaches.  Even though we don’t follow the normal routine of waking up to be somewhere by a certain time or hurry and pack up to go home at a certain time, it’s still a good idea to take a break from what we have been “working” on in the past couple of months.

Of course the idea of taking breaks is a purely conditioned one that I inherited from my traditional schooling and working background.  We are embarking on our 5th year of home school and my kids still ask, “Why?” When I suggest they take a break from whatever they are doing.   Why indeed?  What is it about our daily task-doing and learning mechanisms that seem to require breaks?  I discovered upon a theory from our last couple of months of home schooling that may answer this.

Ever since our discovery of Meditation as a tool for health and well-being, I’ve struggled with a contradiction.  I consider meditation, and other related modalities, like energy healing, Reiki, Shamanism, and other nature based practices, to be a really underestimated and underutilized tool for learning and living in our modern world.  So, true to my own nature, I set to work learning and reading as much as I could about it.  I really felt that only with enough knowledge and frontal lobe understanding of this could I be any good at it, let alone teach it to my children.

So the past few months have been spent learning techniques as well as history and philosophy of meditation and it’s related modalities. My kids have totally and completely excelled. They are very good at meditation.  They are very good at re-aligning their energies.  They are very good at visualization.  I, on the other hand, seem to be the remedial student of the bunch.  I was struggling.  I was supposed to feel more relaxed.  I was supposed to clear my mind.  I was supposed to feel more energy afterward.  None of that was going on for me.  I was overjoyed that it was happening for my sons, but why didn’t it take for me?

I figured that more reading would show me the way.  More research would enlighten me and I reasoned that once I understood enough history and technique from books and DVD’s that I’d be much more proficient at this ancient science.  Then the dreams came.  I started to dream and dream and dream.  At first they were memory dreams.  Scenes and people from my past, my very early childhood, and things I had not thought about in decades.  The dreams also included times when my kids were babies.   One dream in particular, answered my question about why I was so much less progressed in meditation than my kids.

I dreamt of a time when Harpo was about 4 years old.  He spoke late.  When he was 4, he still had a very heavy baby drawl and it was a struggle, even for me, to discern what he was saying.  This was a time way before I had discovered anything about alternative modes of parenting or home education, so we had set to task constantly correcting Harpo pronunciation of various words.  For example, he would ask, “I want my lelo hey-caca, puhweez?”  So I would jump in and correct his pronunciation by saying, "No. Say, yellow, helicopter, please."  He would try a few times and then give up or just beg for the toy.  I would always give in to his requests, but it became a routine between us in which some form of correcting his speech was involved.

In my dream, we were looking out at the ocean.  I think we were at The Monterey Bay Aquarium.  Harpo was up against the rail and suddenly exclaimed,

“Mama, look!  THE OCEAN IS WAVING!” 

When I woke up I contemplated his words.  “Mama, look!  The ocean is waving.”  I would have jumped in with my correction of, “No, you say, look at the waves on the ocean.”  But, that somehow also seemed inadequate to describe what we were looking at.  Neither was completely accurate.  The most accurate thing to say would be, “The ocean is being affected by the wind, which causes a disturbance on the surface of the ocean and that interaction is called, waves.”

Ugh.  Really?

Then, the lesson of mediation hit me.  My son and I were experiencing the exact same scene.  Our eyes were seeing the same ocean.  Our skin was feeling the same wind.  Our noses smelled the same seashore.  It was only our words that were different.  The ancient sciences were employed by people long before the printed vernacular, so learning and teaching it HAD to employ everything else but written language.  Even as I write this, I know that my telling of this same story using my voice and gestures would convey the very same story in a very different way.

I realized that I was very good at telling the kids to feel the wind on their skin, see the glow of the candlelight, and smell the scent of the grass, but I was terrible at doing them myself.  I was more concerned about completing the meditation process and following the steps one by one to the conclusion that I completely forgot to be in the moment. 

This is where my kids succeed, and I struggle.  Children naturally live in the moment.  They are less concerned with steps or completion and put themselves completely in the process.  This is true whether they are learning something new, repeating a favorite technique or messing one up.  Especially since my kids have had nearly no experience with the production-mode environment of traditional classrooms, they are far less concerned about completing a meditation as instructed, as they are about experiencing it and all that they may come across during it.

Recently we did a simple sensory meditation in which we sit outdoors and take each sense in turn.  The general idea is to first look at things around you and notice the variations in texture, color and shadow that you see.  Then you close your eyes and listen, and time to notice the loudness or softness of each sound you hear.  Then, onto the sensations of your skin, etc. 

The kids will usually never “complete” this mediation.  They will become absorbed at looking at something or listening to something.  One son will start to see tree auras from staring at the leaves of the oak tree.  One son will fall asleep listening for the caw of the cockatiel that lives 4 houses down.  One son will be lost in plucking blades of grass.  From the ancient sciences, perspective, these are all successful meditation practices.  And from a home education perspective, these are all examples of a very productive day.

Consider this next time you are trying to read a book to your child, but they keep stopping you to ask questions, like “…are there Wild Things in our city?”  Forget the rest of the book.  Put it down and explore this tingly combination of fear and curiosity that Wild Things are only found on far away islands, and even if you come across them, they just like to dance and will not harm him.  Or when they are told to fix their beds, but must jump on it for a few minutes first.  Let them jump. It will look no worse for wear after you straighten out the sheets.

Children naturally live in their joy, sadness, fear, anger or excitement.  They don’t shake themselves out of it unless they are told to.  Tragically, we were all taught and conditioned to stop living in the moment to go to sleep, or get up, finish our work, or go back to work.  This continues for decades, starting from about 5 year old, and daily until we seek help from doctors, therapists and professionals who help us re-learn how to live in the moment.

The most important message of the dream was how I felt that day at the beach with my son.  I was happy.  I was at peace.  I felt proud of him and was still and present in the moment.  I remember noticing his jubilation at seeing “the ocean wave.”  I remember that I allowed myself to forego the rules and habits that would have called for me to stop this mode of thinking and talking to bring him back to a more practical, mainstream and accepted way of speaking or being.  My message to you is to do the same.  Just stop.  Just listen.  Just see.  Just feel. 

And if you see the ocean waving, just wave back.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Encourage Entrepreneurship, Stop Teaching Math!

Encourage Entrepreneurship, Stop Teaching Math!

My homeschooled kids can’t get through a math worksheet.  No, really.  Not one single worksheet. If they solve one algorithm or word problem, that’s it.  My 10 year old will even get bored 75% through reading a word problem.  He’ll blurt out the answer, and never even bother to write out the solution. This issue lasted about 3 days in our first year of home education before we employed the solution:  I stopped teaching math.

Instead, our kids just lived alongside us, as we lived our lives as business people and entrepreneurs.  Luckily we took to home education freedom very quickly and soon abandoned all things schooly – especially when it came to math.  Though not our initial intention, abandoning conventional math opened us up to real-world entrepreneurial internships that our kids relish.

We played many games together.  We did it just for fun, not for homeschool.  But because we didn’t have to report to a ringing bell every 55 minutes or need to show up with no. 2 pencils at any particular place, we sort of gave in to our board game vice and played constantly.  Besides Monopoly, we played The Wonder Number Game, Sum Swamp, Dino Math Tracks, Pay Day and Money Bags.

My 6 year old could make change.  Well, of course he could make change! The boys loved to play with play money, and when the play money got lost or torn up, we started using real money from our wallets and piggy banks.  The irony was not lost on me the one occasion when a stranger, who noticed my kids not in school in the middle of a Tuesday, expressed her concern about “socialization.”  Luckily, I actually had a moment to engage her in conversation, because I was still at the table waiting, as my poor, unsocialized child navigated the social process of paying the cashier for our breakfast at the cash register.

Another time, a child of mine negotiated the best rate for our dinner.  He had reviewed the menu and after listening to all of us give our orders to the waitress, he spoke up and switched things up.  Instead of 2 child’s chicken strips meal (which only had 2 strips each), he changed it to one adult’s chicken strips (which came with 6 strips, unlimited fries and a side salad).  He continued to adjust the order for the rest of the family, leaving us with more food and almost $20 saved from our original order.  This child was 9 at the time.

Why am I irritated when my husband rearranges our restaurant order to maximize savings, but burst with heavenly pride when my child does the exact same thing?  What does a 6 year old need with the ability to calculate the economic loss of mortgaging vs. selling?  How does understanding the velocity of money allow an 8 year old to enjoy his passions?  Why did I waste 3 whole days of homeschooling with math worksheets?

Ok, not all parents, homeschoolers or no, are entrepreneurs.  However, kids interacting with you in your daily comings and goings, or spending time lounging, cooking, watching TV or Facebooking, can be a valuable entrepreneurial internship that parents can give their kids.

My husband will point out to the kids the kinds of ads he gets when he is logged onto his FB account as opposed to the ads I see when I am logged onto mine.  Social networking as the hottest new advertising model, as well as the record-breaking, Facebook IPO were all discussed.

We analyze why the kids love the Jack-in-the-Box, “Jumbaco” ad, while I have a strange admiration for the screaming JC Penny commercial.  Last month, my son asked why I was fast-forwarding through the football section of the Super Bowl that we DVR’d, just to stop and watch the commercials.  So, we explain 30-second prime time media ads in detail, while laughing through the commercials.  This fun-filled way of learning marketing, advertising and demographics in business has actually made my kids less susceptible to ads, even ads aimed specifically to children.  They can see right through them.

Volunteering, fund-raising and charity drives are fantastic entrepreneurial internships.  The kids understand the business structure of charities as well as the basics of charity R.O.I. because I volunteered as Secretary of a cancer charity this year.  Last year, the kids wanted to become micro-lenders through,  after seeing mine and my husband’s enthusiasm for granting small interest free loans to entrepreneurs in 3rd World countries.  The boys now lend their own money to people in Asia and Africa. I wrote about this activity in detail in a previous post.

Besides living alongside us, the kids have informally interned with their martial arts teacher that owns and operates his own dojo. I've done some marketing consulting for him, and my kids have made flyers, hung signs and other odd and ends.  Exposure to these owner-operators gives the kids insight on the entrepreneurial paradigm known as, “living above the store.”  They see how  people are accountable and invested, as opposed to the “entitled” attitudes that are often displayed from factory-model employee types.

Now 4 years into homeschooling and my kids still can’t/won’t do math worksheets.  However, on any given week, they are either lending to a new grocery store owner in Kenya, or selling their old toys and clothes on consignment, or brainstorming with their Tae Kwon Do master on how to get new students in the school, or trading properties with high equity with properties with high rental income, or criticizing the choice of spokesperson for the newest car insurance ad on TV.

Finally, the most important entrepreneurial internship we offer our children is “failure.”  My son attempted to earn some money for himself by setting up a gumball machine at his father’s office.  He used M&M’s because they were a lower cost, but the candy clogged the machine.  Fail. Great lessons learned.  Last year, my other son wanted to sell giant pumpkin seedlings, but he planted too late to market them for Halloween, and the pumpkins weren’t impressive enough for Thanksgiving.  Fail.  Great lessons learned.  March 1st of this year, he planted seeds for another run at “Grow Your Own Giant” for the 2012 fall holidays.  Stay tuned!

Give and Learn with

People are always talking about bringing education to life, literally, by living their lives and letting their children learn the ins and outs of living in our modern world.  Home Educators and Unschoolers are expert at this.  Those in the conventional education world are sometimes incredulous that simply living ones life is enough of an education for children.  So, I thought I'd take some time to illustrate our paradigm with just one example - Being KIVA Lenders. 

My husband and I got involved with KIVA in 2006. is a non-profit that networks worldwide to provide micro-loans for business and housing.  That sentence alone started a conversation with my children about micro lending and the state of business and housing in the world.  To be a lender, one can start with as little as $25.  You can connect with a borrower anywhere in the world.  Simply log on to and browse by loan type or country.

The loans you give are interest-free and will be paid back to you by each borrower.  No other guarantee is made.  We started with $100 to lend and have added more money to our account each year.  Although you can lend anonymously, we can correspond with the borrowers and they can send messages to lenders.  Their stories are posted as well as updates on their loan repayments and progress. As the loans are repaid, we have an opportunity to re-lend as many times as we want.

Each Christmas, my kids receive a certain amount of money through gifts.  By watching our example, the kids have chosen to lend some of their own gift money on Kiva.  We sit with each child and choose the borrowers that they would like to lend to.  They also follow their borrower's progress periodically throughout the life of the loan.  Lending is a cornerstone of the world's economy and our children now have a firm understanding of the consumption economy from being micro-lenders on Kiva.  

Esther Gire, Sudan, owns a general store on the refugee trail
Last May, 10 year old son chose a borrower named, Esther Gire, from Sudan.  Esther needed a micro-loan to stock her general store.  My son contributed $25 of his money, and along with other Kiva lenders raised the $425 that Esther needed. We tracked Esther's progress online and can see that she is able to repay her loan in increments of $25 per month.   However, this past October, Esther missed her last scheduled payment and is now delinquent for the remaining $10.12 of her loan balance.

Seeing this, my son became curious about the economic climate of Sudan to see if he could determine why Esther is late on her payment.  This led us to discover the awesome, albeit tragic history of Sudan.  At the tender age of 10, my son not only grasps the complexities of micro-financing and world economics, but has now also gained an appreciation for the struggles of families in Southern Sudan, the plight of refugee children and how he has a direct impact on the life of one Sudanese woman trying to rebuild from war. 

Of course, one could teach all this math, geography, world history, culture, economics, business and altruism with a few worksheets and a couple hours of homework a day, but I doubt it would have the same staying power.  Plus, my 10 year old in that class would have lost interest in 3 minutes and moved on to get himself in some kind of mischief.  Kiva lending is the alternative that my children chose on their own and with their learner-led interest in the endeavor have gained knowledge and been enriched with the experience.

 This month, my son is interested in lending to people with businesses in Jordan and Palestine.  Sharia (Islamic Law) prohibits the inclusion of interest or fees when lending, so we are now also exploring the Islamic Banking System.  A subject increasingly relevant, yet hardly covered in formal higher education, let alone elementary school.  

Let me conclude by saying that although my kids are exceptional for their age in their knowledge of economic systems, it is not something we intended to be so lofty when we started out as Kiva Lenders.  My children simply absorbed mine, and my husband's enthusiasm for micro lending in the Third World from our many conversations, and huddles around the computer gazing into the faces of entrepreneurs around the world.  My children love to be lenders because it is something they can do.  Of course they do spend some of their Christmas money on video games and toys, but I can honestly say that lending on Kiva gives them no less pleasure.

Alternative Education Reading List

Whether your kids are home educated or conventionally educated, or you are on the precipice of one or the other, it helps to know that there are alternatives.  Especially if your child is distressed or has lost the love of learning that they once had, take it seriously, don't ignore it and explore the alternatives to education that could save the sanity and restore the soul of your young ones.  

These books are just some of the wonderful resources available.  The first 3 books on the this list are MUST-READS for every single person responsible for a young person.

DISCOVER YOUR CHILD’S LEARNING STYLE Children Learn in Unique Ways – Here is the Key to Every Child’s Learning Success - by Mariaemma Willis, M.S., & Victoria Kindle Hodson, M.A.

Instead of Medicating & Punishing Healing the Causes of Our Children's Acting-Out Behavior by Parenting and Educating the Way Nature Intended by Laurie A. Couture

Hold On To Your Kids Why Parents Need To Matter More than Peers by Gabor Mate, M.D. & Gordon Neufeld, Ph.D.

Beyond The SlingA Real-Life Guide to Raising Confident, Loving Children the Attachment Parenting Way - by Mayim Bialik, PhD

The First Year of Homeschooling Your Child: Your Complete Guide to Getting Off To The Right Start by Linda Dobson 

Brain Based Learning The New Science of Treaching & Training by Eric Jensen 

The Brain Gym: Activities for Whole Brain Learning - by Paul & Gail Dennison

Feel-Bad Education: And Other Contrarian Essays on Children and Schooling by Alfie Kohn

The Edison Gene ADHD and the Gift of the Hunter Child by Thom Hartmann 

The Flat World and Education How America's Commitment to Equity Will Determin Our Future by Linda Darling-Hammond

Learning All the Time How Small Children Begin to Read, Write, Count, and Investigate the World, Without Being Taught by John Holt

Radical Unschooling: A Revolution Has Begun - by Dayna Martin

Scattered How Attention Deficit Disorder Originates and What You Can Do About It by Gabor Mate, M.D.

What Does It Mean To Be Well Educated by Alfie Kohn

Wild Things The Art of Nurturing Boys by Stephen James & David Thomas

The Minds of Boys Saving Our Sons from Falling Behind in School and Life by Michael Gurian

The Successsful Homeschool Family Handbook A Creative and Stress-Free Approach to Homeschooling by Dorothy Moore & Dr. Raymond Moore

The Schools Our Children Deserve Moveing Beyond Traditional Classrooms and Tougher Stardards by Alfie Kohn

The Waldorf Education Teaching From the Inside Out by Jack Petrash

Weapons of Mass Instruction A Schoolteacher's Journey Through the Dark World of Compulsory Schooling by John  Taylor Gatto

Guerrilla Learning How to Give Your Kids A Real Education With or Without School by Grace Llewellyn

The Unprocessed Child Living Withoug School by Valerie Fitzenreiter

On Being a Teacher by Jonothan Kozol

The Homework Myth Why our Kids Get Too Much of A Bad Thing by Alfie Kohn 

The Unschooling Handbook How to Use the Whole World As Your Child's Classroom by Mary Griffith 

Punished by Rewards The Trouble with Gold Starts, Incentive Plans, A's, Praise, and Other Bribes by Alfie Kohn

Fun Places to Go With Kids Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego and Santa Barbara by Susan Peterson


A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything
by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner

Beware of National Financial Literacy Month - April 2011

Folks in Washington have announced that April is National Financial Literacy Month.  The highlights of the movement include such things as, "Teach Children to Save Day," "Money Smart Week," and "Credit and Debt Awareness Week."  Although ubiquitous among the 50 states, few are aware of National Financial Literacy Month's nefarious true nature.

 Proclaimed as official days, weeks and months of observance by governors throughout the U.S, Literacy Month is founded, managed and sponsored by banks.  Now ask the question, "What is the value of the financial literacy education given by financial institutions when these institutions specifically make their profit from issuing debt to the very people they mean to educate?"


This is of grave concern to me because I've observed the flood of 15 second PSA's during prime time news hour of banks coming into schools to teach children about financial literacy.  This usually involves giving the kids free plastic piggy banks sporting the institutions name and logo, and admonishments about the value of "saving" one's money.  Thus another generation of 2nd graders is thankfully indoctrinated into the consumer economy!

Consider instead getting for yourselves and giving to your children the true financial literacy education of knowing HOW MONEY ACTUALLY WORKS in today's world.  Unfortunately, this crucial information is sadly lacking in our school systems and we are left with only that which is spoon fed to us by entities that earn their living from our willingness to pay them interest each and every month.

Please check out the resources listed below.  The following list of books and DVDs are produced and written by non-financial institutions.  They are written by actual historians and economists.  It's simply an alternative source of information on the ever important, yet ambiguous subject of MONEY.

Did you know....

* ... that the amount of money in circulation today is made from someone willing to lend to someone willing to pay interest on a loan.  The less people willing to lend, the less money is in circulation and visa versa?

* ... that you are actually penalized for saving your money.  The modern economy requires money to be spent, either by paying taxes or by spending.  That's why you are taxed on the interest you make on cash you have in your savings?

* ... if you cut the massive government debt or curb government spending, so much money will be taken out of circulation that an employer will not have the money or credit to make the next paycheck, which means someone won't be able to get that Nintendo 3DS, which means, Nintendo won't sell as many, which means they will have to lay off people that normally get their clothes dry-cleaned at your laundry, which means you'll have to close your business and lay off your mother-in-law, which means, she'll have to move in with you, which means you'll have to get rid of the 4th car, so you can make her an apartment in your garage?

* ... the tax code changes every time Congress passes a law, even if the law has nothing to do with taxation?

* ... teaching your kids to save coins in a free plastic piggy bank from Wells Fargo Bank may be the worst thing you can do if you want your children to have financial literacy?

Is a bank visiting your child's school this month?  Well, just beware...