July 29th, 2014 § § permalink
I was inspired recently to live just a little bit greener.
Many years ago, I felt overwhelmed by the prospect of living a totally green lifestyle. I used cleaners and detergents that had all kinds of fillers and chemicals in them. I had no idea how to maintain a garden. I used paper products and didn’t recycle. It felt a bit overwhelming to change habits that I had grown up with. But one day, I realized that all I had to do was start with one thing.
Years later, those “one things” have turned into many things. I recycle, I garden, I make a lot of my own cleaners and detergent. Those little changes have morphed into big lifestyle transformations. My family is living a much greener lifestyle. I feel a little more connected to the earth. And I just added “one more thing” to the list.
I visited a friend recently who doesn’t use them. We ate. We cleaned. We created all kinds of things in her kitchen – ALL without using paper towels. It may seem silly, but I was genuinely astonished that you could live, cook and clean without grabbing a paper towel at every turn.
When I came home, I began to notice how many of these tree killing, carbon dioxide producing towels we mindlessly went through every day. I bought the giant sized package every two weeks, using them for everything from drying our hands to cleaning up dog vomit from the floor. When I became conscious of how many we were using, I talked to the family and we made the decision to quit buying them.
Instead of buying the bulk sized paper towel bundle, I bought cloth napkins and kitchen towels. I gathered up all our old rags and created a community of them underneath our kitchen sink for cleaning up the nastier messes.
It was working well. We were doing it! But to my dismay, we were creating more laundry. No one wanted to use the same napkin twice because we could never quiet decipher who’s napkin was who’s. So they went to the laundry each time. I was diligent in keeping them washed, but knew we needed a better solution.
Then I visited another friend. I was helping her unpack some boxes and saw that she had some beautiful napkin rings. This wasn’t a matching set, but several uniques rings – not one of them the same as the other. My friend told me that she put them all in a pile and had each family member choose one for the week. That way, they could always put their slightly used napkin back into the napkin ring until it was dirty enough for the laundry.
I took the family the next day and let everyone pick out their favorite napkin ring. We bought some brightly colored cloth napkins and came home and set our places with our new table attire. It truly personalized our table and helped us to be more mindful about throwing things into the laundry that might not really need washing. Better for me. Better for the earth.
We’ve lived a whole month without buying paper towels. My hope is that this month will turn into two months and then a year and then years. It’s a small thing, but it makes me feel so much better when I’m being nice to the earth.
What’s “one thing” you can change in your daily life to live a bit greener and feel more connected to the earth? Can you challenge yourself to make the change and see how it goes? Who knows, it might be easier than you think!
If you’ve made a change that’s impacting the earth in a good way, please let me know about it. I’m always looking for that next “one thing” I can add to my list.
July 23rd, 2014 § § permalink
The Homeschooler magazine is a great tool for homeschoolers or anyone looking for different perspectives around education. The practical tips and inspirational flare will support you at every phase of your alternative learning journey.
Until now, it has been a print only publication. Recently, however, The Homeschooler has made issues available as pdf files for only $5 per issue.
Well-respected homeschooling advocates including Sandra Dodd, Michelle Barone and Pam Sorooshian contribute thought-provoking and inspirational wisdoms in The Homeschooler. I also have had the honor of contributing my thoughts in a column entitled, “Getting Tech Savvy,” where I have shared my ideas about the popular game called Minecraft.
Following are excerpts of my articles in The Homeschooler. I hope that you will check it out and consider either a 1- year subscription to the magazine or the purchase of one issue as a pdf to read on your smart phone, iPad or computer.
Excerpt of my article published in the Winter 2013 Issue of The Homeschooler:
Minecraft and the Three R’s
The first full version of Minecraft was released in November 2011 and since then has taken the world by storm. In less than two years, this game has grown by leaps and bounds. Currently, Minecraft has upwards of thirty three million users and is growing at a rate of about 17, 000 new ones every day. Chances are, if you have a child, he’s been exposed to Minecraft.
Despite the popularity of the game, many parents express concern over the amount of time and energy their children spend on Minecraft. Much like the parents of old, who were appalled at the youthful fascination with Elvis Presley, the Beatles and Rock and Roll, they are resisting the hold that Minecraft has on their kids, to no avail. Minecraft is changing the way kids interact in the world, how they learn and how they communicate. Minecraft is a springboard for a change that wants to happen. Like a tidal wave, there’s no holding it back.
With that in mind, perhaps we can investigate what the attraction is and how Minecraft might actually be the tool that your child needs to learn and grow in these ever changing times.
Many of us are so concerned with our child “learning” something that we lose sight of what they already know and are building upon through play. I have observed my own children and countless other children (myself included) as they play Minecraft and have come to the conclusion that the spectrum of learning opportunities is vast. Let’s start with the basics – the 3 R’s, something we all want our children to be proficient in.
Read the rest of this article by purchasing the The Homeschooler Magazine’s Winter 2013 PDF here.
Excerpt of my article published in the Spring 2014 Issue of The Homeschooler:
Minecraft and Social Skills
As homeschoolers we are inevitably asked the question, “What about socialization? How will they learn to socialize in the world if they’re homeschooled?”
We as parents have learned to laugh it off and find comfort in knowing that our children have numerous opportunities for socialization, perhaps more than those of their schooled counterparts. We’ve come to realize that socialization is much broader than what happens in a classroom and we take full advantage of it.
But what about when a child is playing Minecraft, seemingly all of the time? Are they getting those socialization skills? Or are they turning into glazed eyed recluses who don’t know how to communicate with real people? Are we doing them a disservice if we allow them to play Minecraft as much as they like? What about park days and homeschool events? What if they’d rather play Minecraft than go to those social building activities?
At first glance it may seem as if our children are falling prey to a fad; a fixation that not only limits practice of social skills, but also inhibits their ability to interact in the real world. Mass media and many educators would have us believe that we are doing our children a grave disservice if we give our children freedom to explore Minecraft or any other media fully. But is that viewpoint an absolute fact?
Perhaps not. How might Minecraft actually be improving your child’s ability to maneuver in the real world of people, groups and conflict? How might creating on Minecraft actually stimulate self-confidence, problem solving and communication skills?
Read the rest of this article by purchasing the The Homeschooler Magazine’s Spring 2014 PDF here.
Here’s an excerpt of my final Minecraft article found in the Summer 2014 edition of The Homeschooler.
In the past two articles we’ve explored the many ways that children learn as they play the blockbuster hit, Minecraft. We’ve examined how the game can enhance reading, writing and arithmetic aptitudes as well as how it builds self-confidence, problem solving and communication skills.
There is no end to the learning opportunities playing Minecraft affords. And if the game itself is not enough, the addition of modifications has filled in the gaps. Just about every subject can be explored with the addition of mods. Plus, they are free for download from the Internet.
Let’s take a look at a few categories and see what Minecraft Mods have to offer and how they might expose your child to ideas and subjects they might not otherwise consider interesting.
Read the rest of this article by purchasing the The Homeschooler Magazine’s Summer 2014 PDF here.
If you would like to write for The Homeschooler, please find their submission guidelines here.
July 15th, 2014 § § permalink
We all crave human connection. The parent/child connection is one of the strongest of all.
But how do we really connect with our kids? Let’s explore a few ways we might tighten the bond.
Be In The Here and Now
How many times have you found yourself thinking about your kid’s future? If you’re like most parents, it’s pretty often. Will they be successful? Get a good job? Be in a good marriage? Develop the skills to maneuver through life’s challenges?
Many of us react to these thoughts, attempting to shape children into who we believe they should become and many times don’t even notice who they are – right now, in the present.
What if, for just a moment, we could let go of what their future might look like and be present with them right now? What kind of world could we create if we confronted our own fears and inadequacies and didn’t bequeath them to our children?
Being present with our children means being mindful of what is, today. Resisting the fact that he doesn’t like math for instance doesn’t make him better at math. Insisting that she dry those tears when she’s sad doesn’t magically make her happy. When we notice the “should” and “should not’s” that invade our thinking, we realize that our thoughts have hijacked this unique moment with our child. Perhaps instead of reacting we can ask, “If there were no tomorrow, how would I be with my child right now in this situation?”
What if our kids come with their own blueprint? Could our love and confidence in them be all they need to flourish in life? Can we have faith that what makes them tick now will lead them to the perfect tomorrow? If we challenge their every move and make demands on them because we’re caught up in their future, we lose something very precious; this moment in time, being with them just as they are. Meeting our kids today becomes an opportunity to know them and accept them here and now. It gives us a chance to embrace gratitude and discover gifts in the present. It puts laser focus on what is good today.
When we sincerely see our kids and value this day as it is, they know it. Only when we unconditionally accept them now – their thought processes, their interests, and their dislikes – are we making real connection with them. Connection builds trust. Trust establishes authentic relationship. We all want genuine relationships with our kids. And what’s more, they want it with us. Relationship now equals a future that will take care of itself.
YOUR KIDS ARE NOT A REPRESENTATION OF YOU
Every human being is born unique, with distinct thoughts, ideas, creativity, gifts and fears. We may know this, however; many of us unconsciously view our kids as extensions of ourselves.
If we disapprove of their ideas, actions or lack thereof, we are embarrassed or ashamed. We might think, “Where did I go wrong?”
If we’re proud of their ideas or actions, we tend to take a bit of credit for raising them right. “I did good raising that one!”
Why do we do this? Why do we put so much of the focus on ourselves? In our society we tend to view our children as representations of “our” values, beliefs and goals. If our kids project the “appropriate” values, beliefs and goals, we feel we’ve done our job as a parent. If they don’t, we tend to feel that something is wrong with them or that we’ve somehow failed in our parental duties.
But what if our children were born with distinct ways of moving in the world? What if left alone with love and acceptance from us, our kids’ ideas could morph into concepts that change the world for the better? Is it possible that we’re focused on who our kids should be, rather than who they are, in an attempt to appear favorable in the eyes of society?
When we attempt to shape, form and yes, even force our children into certain behaviors or ways of thinking, they tend to shut down. They either comply with our ideals out of fear or the need for our approval or they rebel against them out of anger and confusion. We all know that fear and confusion are not the ideal emotions in which to operate our lives. And yet so many children grow up sacrificing their own unique gifts and ideas for the sake of their parents, their peers and their society. Their voice is lost to a confused world.
Our kids are not a reflection of us. It’s okay to let them explore the world and come up with their own unique style, values and goals. Our relationship grows stronger when we accept them just as they are, relieving them of the duty to project a good image of us.
BE STILL AND LISTEN
Parents have more life experience than their children; this is true. But do we know all there is to know about life? Can we be sure that we know what is right for another human being?
We have our perspectives to go on but the buck stops there. When we assume that we know more than our children, that we know what our children should be doing, feeling or pursuing, we cut off communication. If we know, we don’t listen. We shut ourselves off from further query.
Living in the question of life is magical. It sends the signal into the world that we are open to new perspectives, new ideas and unique problem solving techniques. When we listen to our kids, really listen, we are open. Open to the possibility that they know something about their own lives. We shut them down when we already know how or what they should be, act or pursue in life. If we open up to the possibility that they just might know more about their lives than we do, we connect with them on a deep level. We inspire them to look within rather than chase approval or direction from the outer world.
Can our kids teach us if we let them? Perhaps if we find ourselves judging our kids, we can pause and listen. Maybe instead of responding with our own knowledge we can ask open-ended questions. “What excites you about that video game, Johnny? I’d like to learn more.” or “I see that you’re angry, Sara. How can I help?” If we choose to be present and listen – put the focus on how we can assist rather than change – our child feels heard. He feels as though he has a voice and his most intimate partner, you, is listening. Open dialogue is established and the child feels empowered rather than managed and judged.
Our kids don’t need fixing. They need experienced partners in life who believe in them and value their wants, needs and desires. They need calm human beings who can empower them to find answers within. If we can’t listen honestly and openly, we negate any chance of connecting with them on that deeper level.
Many of us believe we have our children’s best interests at heart. We don’t want them to be hurt, fail or look stupid. We want them to thrive. But sometimes hurt and failures are the springboards to living a life filled with meaning. If we focus on the possibility that our children might be hurt or fail, we rob them of finding their true passions and their own unique voice. We cut the cord of relationship in favor of fear. Be present; envision that children are here with their own gifts to present to the world. Listen to what they have to say. True connection will be born and thrive in the parent child relationship if we only dare to let go and trust that all is well. Right here. . . Right now.
July 10th, 2014 § § permalink
Ever have one of those days?
Tired. . .
Busy. . .
Frustrated. . .
Off kilter. . .
Ever let that tired, busy and frustrated Self take it out on your child?
Well I have. Too many times to count, I’m afraid. It may just be an, “I don’t have time to listen right now!” in a curt tone. Or, “I can’t watch you play one more video game! I’ve got to get some work done!” in an exasperated sigh.
Or. . . not doing something I said I would do.
Or. . . being distracted, when my child really wants to share something with me.
What ever the case, I’ve learned that when I have one of these days, where everything my child wants me to look at, play or do with him seems like an insurmountable chore, it’s time to stop and follow these simple steps.
Step 1: Take Care of Myself
Probably didn’t see this one coming in as number one on How to Apologize. But for me, when I can get myself calm and have compassion for myself for feeling overwhelmed or being tired, I can remember what’s important. My relationship with my child. If I try to apologize when I’m grumpy the apology seems inauthentic or forced. There’s little space for true connection. Allowing a little empathy for myself goes a long way towards making a genuine apology and my kids know the difference.
Step 2: Forgive Myself
Parenting and partnering with my children is such an important job! I want to do it right. I want to be present with them Every Single Moment. I want to see them happy and free and confident. But some days, I’m just not feeling it. I am human after all. One of the biggest things I can do for my kids is to forgive myself when I make a mistake. If I operate out of guilt or from a place of not being “good enough” my kids feel it. I’m back to being inauthentic and trying to gain their approval rather than just being with them for the joy and pleasure that it really is. Guilt damages the relationship, perhaps more than our orginal transgression, because it sends the signal that we’re not really worthy of being forgiven. Our kids feel responsible somehow for our underlying unhappiness, perhaps unconsciously. When we forgive ourselves, we provide a clean slate to begin again. And our kids learn that we are all worthy of forgiveness and deserve to start over.
Step 3: Take Ownership
Apologize. Explain to my child that my acting out had NOTHING to do with HIM. It was all about me. I was tired or my mind was busy. My kids are 27, 13 and 11. When they were younger it seemed all I had to do was give tickles and hugs and all was forgiven. But now that they’ve gotten older, they are much more likely to internalize my words and actions – the good and the not so good. When I’m grumpy and respond to them from my tired or overwhelmed place, I see them shrivel just a bit. When I can communicate to them that my actions were not a response to their being bad or wrong or “too much” but rather from MY feeling out synch, it opens a door way for mutual compassion and helps them to see that we all have bad days and sometimes respond in less than loving ways.
Step 4: Listen
Listening to my kids has been one of the best forms of apology that I can give. Sometimes my apology is not received right away. Sometimes one of my kids needs to vent about ALL the times that I didn’t live up to their expectations. This can be difficult. I mean, here I am, trying to apologize and wanting to be forgiven and I get whacked with even more of my less than perfect parenting skills. But listening provides a portal into the unseen world of my child. When I listen without being defensive or feeling guilty, I learn a whole lot about how my child sees the world. When he says, “You are always busy and never listen and never want to play with me.” I can really take that in. This is how he’s feeling, right here and right now. Rather than try and prove how RIGHT I am, reminding him of all of the times that I DID play and listen and was present, I can see from his perspective. I can validate his feelings and talk about how I might improve. This models for my child effective ways to handle conflict. It helps him to feel heard and honored and eliminates the need to internalize his feelings.
Step 5: Do Something Fun
After we talk, I always try to do something fun with them. Play a board game, a video game or go for a bike ride. This seems to dissipate some of the “drama” that has unfolded. Having fun together and replacing a good action with a not so good one, always brings laughter and silliness back into our day. It lightens the load and brings us back to what is most important. Our relationship with each other.
Mistakes happen. Even the most present and authentic parents have their days. But our mistakes can always turn into discoveries about ourselves and about our children. I have discovered a lot about my kids by making mistakes. They’ve learned a lot about me. Good parenting is not about never making mistakes but about being conscious of them, communicating effectively and moving through to the other side – The joy of spending my days with the most awesome people in the world. . .my kids.