thinking thursday

mind “Because as soon as we liberated ourselves from a concept of what our son’s education should look like, we were able to observe how he learned best. And what we saw was that the moment we stopped compelling Fin to sit and draw or paint or write was the moment he began doing these things on his own. It was the moment he began carving staves of wood into beautiful bows and constructing complex toys from materials on hand: an excavator that not only rotated, but also featured an extendable boom; a popgun fashioned from copper pipe, shaved corks, and a whittled-down dowel; even a sawmill with a rotating wooden ‘blade.’ In other words, the moment we quit trying to teach our son anything was the moment he started really learning.” Ben Hewitt writing about the unschooling of his two sons. “Everyone we know who unschools, in fact, has chosen autonomy over affluence. Hell, some years we’re barely above the poverty line. But the truth is, unschooling isn’t merely an educational choice. It’s a lifestyle choice.” Is empathy–accessing and making sense of self-other emotions and perceptions–central to healthy, social, human life? Here are five resources for finding out. body Confessions of a Ramen Master: “When you focus on the smallest details of a craft, you start to notice little things and that can keep you interested. For instance, a customer might come in to the store regularly and feel he is drinking exactly the same soup, but as a ramen master, I can taste minuscule differences in flavor. It’s like any job: when you become an expert, you focus...

I am not raising a badass Marine

I want to share something in this safe space, with one request – that in any discussion we have about this, we not denigrate the person who sent me these messages. Obviously this is a lot more about her than about me. I am sharing it because I believe many parents of kids with special needs get messages similar to these (if not as random and from total strangers, like this was), and, frankly, they are hard to dismiss in our hearts, even if our minds recognize them for what they are. I was taken aback by a post on my Facebook wall a month ago by someone on my friend list. Not someone I’ve met or know, but a relative stranger asking if I had ever been tested because some of my behaviors seemed to indicate I, too, had Autism. As if that was a bad thing. The particulars of that elongated and odd interchange are really unimportant; suffice it to say that it was off-balanced and presumptive and passive aggressive: “Please don’t take this the wrong way…” And out of the blue. I took the conversation into private messages because what I needed to say wasn’t public fodder. And here is the conversation that ensued, verbatim:   Me: Hi – thanks for your note tonight. I think my Facebook messages bother you, given your note tonight and earlier responses you have had to me. Given that, I think it is best that we disconnect on this medium. All the best for the future. -patti Her: I am unimpressed with you. And I am VERY unimpressed with your parenting your...

tuesday book stack : free to learn

The importance of play—crucial for children’s healthy psychological development and ability to thrive in life—is woefully underestimated by parents and educators, according to Peter Gray, a Boston College developmental psychologist and author of Free to Learn: Why Unleashing the Instinct to Play Will Make Our Children Happier, More Self-Reliant, and Better Students for Life. “Play is how children learn to take control of their lives.”  All children are born with an innate curiosity, playfulness, sociability and deep desire to learn, but at some point after they enter school, what was once fun and engaging begins to feel forced, he explains. And, anxiety and stress levels among youths are at an all-time high: they are bogged down with homework, over-scheduled with extracurricular activities, deprived of free play, and faced with the pressures of getting into a top college. “How did we come to the conclusion that the best way to educate students is to force them into a setting where they are bored, unhappy and anxious?” Gray asks. “Our compulsory education system features forced lessons, standardized tests, and seems specially designed to crush a child’s innate and biological drives for learning.” The traditional “coercive” school model, he adds, was originally developed to indoctrinate, not to promote intellectual growth. Free to Learn outlines the difference between structured play (Little League) and free play (a pickup game of baseball) and emphasizes the need for the latter in society worldwide. Gray’s descriptions of trustful parenting resonate so deeply with me. This is not about being a good parent or a bad parent by sending kids to traditional school or choosing to unschool them, though regretfully...

poetry wednesday : she’s not gone

Neither is the poet gone, though he died last week on Valentine’s Day. “You met a lot of unpretentious people in Philip Levine’s spare, ironic poems,” Dwight Garner wrote in the New York Times on Sunday. “Come as you are, this important and emotionally committed poet told us.” She’s Not Gone Philip Levine Someone enters your life on a day you no longer remember. The years pass, and she becomes the mother you never had, the older sister smoking before breakfast, the first friend. She lies back on the worn sofa in the heat of summer and shares a season of baseball. When you are twelve she explains the world, how the people were sold down the river, how someone will always work and waste away to these essential bones, muscles, and tendons. She explains your brother, who at sixteen needs two clean shirts a day and will grow to command, she explains you, who will never, and she blesses you with a hand mussing your hair. One day she is gone, over forty and she has fallen in love again, and love has taken her off to a man with one leg and no prospects. A postcard from California and then a silence that lasts. The ironing board waits in the corner, the worn black shoes are kicked back into the closet, her yellowing slip sags on the back of her chair until your mother, cursing, tears it into rags and garbage. You will look and find her in the long jaws of other women, in the hard eyes that can gleam without hope, you will find her again and again because with...

strong offer friday

“We re-engineer the behavioral and developmental gaps that are prevalent among youth in public housing.  We use bicycles, hard training, and tough love to accomplish this monumental task.  From top to bottom, we operate in a different way, with a different approach, in a unique style.  It’s hard to articulate this ‘style,’ but it’s made from holding our youth accountable, expanding their world, constant evolution of our programming, infusion of our distinct personalities, and broadcasting a knuckles down work ethic.  As an organization, including our youth, our battle cry is ‘Can’t Stop. Won’t Stop.'” Every once in a while, I get a glimpse of people who understand kids and who know how to mentor them, challenge them, and support them. That’s what the Richmond Cycling Corps does best. Mix all that with physical fitness and outlets for all the energy of youth, and you’ve got magic in the making. They are 24 hours away from the end of a fundraising campaign that will allow them to hire a young man named Matt Kuhn to continue his works with the kids. Matt has made his mark; he has earned their trust, and if you know kids, you know what a huge deal that is. These are kids from housing projects in Richmond, Virginia, whose trust is dented daily by people who don’t show up for them, by programs that are short-lived. If enough of you give just $4.50 today, they will reach their goal. If you can, please help this program–and these kids–thrive. Life is a Verb Camp We have almost $10,000 in scholarship money, much of it raised by...