Inflicting Unnecessary Harm

“The saddest thing for me about the education system, as I have witnessed it, is that it seems almost intentionally calculated to create anxious children, parents and teachers. Matt was only four the first time I was told he was “behind the benchmark”, which I still think is an obscene and revolting way to describe any child, and this emphasis on his shortcomings and failures has continued…

It’s a big, complex question, the matter of how we educate our children, and I imagine it feels overwhelming from the inside. I am not an expert. I’m just a parent and a lover of words and stories who feels deeply sad at all the unnecessary stress and missed opportunities and the avalanche of mental health problems in children and their parents and teachers. The bold thing would be to take a blank sheet of paper and start again. Could we not do that? Could we not ask how we want to educate our children, all of them, with creativity and joy?”

Fronted Adverbials Be Damned
Photo by Bich Tran on

On Writing


Writers make writing look so easy.  Is writing as difficult for them as it is me?  I’m certainly not an avid writer but I do write: journals, letters, notes, lists.  I seem to be more of a lister than a writer.  I have many lists of things I want to write about.  The problem is getting started and I’m easily distracted.  Of course any distraction could be considered a stalling tactic by the inner critic that seems to whisper disparaging remarks:

“What do YOU have to say?”
“Who wants to read THAT!”
“You can’t say that!”

And so, I find something else to do.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been reading about writing and writing about writing; taking notes and listing, of course.  I came across this quote by E.B. White:

Writing is for most, laborious and slow. The mind travels faster than the pen. 

I don’t know about my mind traveling faster than my pen but I do know my mind wanders.  As for writing being laborious and slow, I think the over all process, start to finish, is arduously slow but the actually physical writing, putting pen to paper, is almost art-like; pencil and paper meet in a series of lines and curves. (Flash backs of doodling in class comes to mind! A distraction, perhaps?). 

The physical act of writing is fluid and creative a lot like drawing.This notion reminded me of what I learned in Betty Edwards’ excellent book Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain.
(I highly recommend this book, by the way! We used it for our high school art curriculum.)

 But writing is an art form.  Using line, one of the most basic elements of art, handwriting can function as a means of artistic self expression. …letters of the alphabet have evolved into shapes of great beauty that communicate verbally. …linking writing once again to the esthetic purpose of drawing.

Without going into all the right brain – left brain detail, one of the main ideas in Betty Edwards’ book, is how to silence the critical verbal left brain by learning to make a shift to the noncritical nonverbal right brain.  It is here, in the right brain, where one looses track of time and where artisans, what ever their trade, get into “the zone”.

A surgeon once told me that while operating on a patient (mainly a visual task, once a surgeon has acquired the knowledge and experience needed) he would find himself unable to name the instruments.  He would hear himself saying to an attendant, “Give me the . . .the . . . you know, the . . . thingamajig!

This shift from left brain to right brain is a skill that can be developed by setting up conditions that will allow this shift to happen. As I was learning to draw following Betty Edwards’ course in her book, I learned some of her techniques that I think have helped me with writing.  Betty Edwards suggests finding a quiet place void of people talking so the left brain doesn’t focus on the task of decoding the verbal signals coming into the brain.  She also suggests listening to instrumental music only; again leaving the left brain void of any verbal messages.  Like with drawing, I’m finding this to be a good combination for silencing the verbal left brain critic so I can move on to the art of writing – pencil to paper, lines and curves.

So far, it seems to be working.  Doodles AND words!

NOTE:  This post took me about a month from start to finish. See what I mean…the overall process takes me so long. (I wrote this in January of 2012).


Life with Teenagers: A Few Good Reads

I wrote this post years ago when our children were teenagers:

Life with teenagers can be a tumultuous time. Many parents find themselves navigating through what seems like a myriad of minefields. Being a parent during this time certainly isn’t what it was when they were toddlers. At this pivotal stage, teenagers need their parents to be present.

I am a student of child development and so I read, read and read.  Currently, I am reading Nurturing Your Teenager’s Soul by Mimi Doe.

Of the many books I’ve read, all encourage parents to connect to your children, your spouse and your self.  In this hurry-up-and-go-go society, it is a very challenging thing to do – connect.  And, as my children spring into teen-hood, I’m finding it more and more difficult to connect with them.

However, in this book Mimi suggests acknowledging and accepting disconnection:

“Spiritual practice isn’t about always being connected with Spirit; it’s about continually reconnecting.  We all have moments when our nerves jangle, impatience surges, or we feel low and alone.  Pretending otherwise perpetuates these feelings; acknowledging them diminishes their hold on us.”

I had to read that again and again.  Wow! How true for me right now.  Spiritual practice is about continually REconnecting.  Parenting  is about continually RE-connecting.  I must keep reminding myself of that . . .it reminds me to be present for my kids.  If it didn’t work one minute it will the next.

How to Talk So Teens Will Listen & Listen So Teens Will Talk by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish

Well, what can I say…we have teens in our house and I’m not adjusting to it very well. Our means of communication has changed dramatically. This book offers the following:

  • assures me that this is normal
  • gives me the tools to communicate more effectively (Post It Notes*)
  • reminds me that no matter how well we think we are communicating, we will still have our ups and downs

* Post-it Notes are a wonderful invention! The book simply suggests to use notes (my choice, of course, Post-it Notes) as gentle reminders to pick clothes up off the bathroom floor, take the trash out, feed the dogs, cats, fish etc., or even to arrange some time together. The use of the notes is very non-confrontational, non-nagging and if used with a sense of humor can be a fun way to communicate with your teen:

  • “OMG, how long must we (the clothes) lay on the gross bathroom floor!”
  • “I’m going to melt if I’m not put back in the fridge.”
  •  “I’d like your company while fixing dinner!”
  • “The cleaning fairy has died (gone on vacation, is on strike etc.). Please pick up your____.”

Wonderful Ways to Love A Teen . . . even when it seems impossible by Judy Ford 

Short and sweet.
Neat little things a parent can do to connect with their distant teen.
So far the best advice I’ve read is:

  • “Teenagers often resist OVERT attempts to have “quality time”.
  • “Take every opportunity to hang out . . .it can happen in the backyard, the kitchen, or the car.  It can be a few minutes . . .or an entire day.” 
  • “The key is to DROP EXPECTATIONS, roles, rules and notions about what is supposed to happen.”


Between Form and Freedom: A practical guide for the teenage years by Betty Staley reassures me that what we are going through as a family with teens is normal and we are trying to do all the right things; being patient, loving, flexible, forgiving, supportive. Betty points out, interestingly so, that teenagers spend hours upon hours in their rooms not because they don’t want to be with the family but rather the teenager is working on his or her inner self, oscillating between childhood and adulthood. There is an inner challenge where the teen tries to balance his feelings and emotions with their emerging identity. Their newer awareness of themselves in relation to the world begins to move to the forefront of their consciousness. To paraphrase the author, ‘teens lose the world to find themselves’. Thus, a reason most teens seem withdrawn from the family. Teens are searching among their physical world and their spiritual world feeling pulled in both directions which can cause great tension within themselves and not to mention within the family too.

“They need to move inward, to offer the world something of value requires time for introspection.” says Betty. This move inward may be mistakenly seen as rejection, aloofness and tempermentalness. It is difficult not to take this personally. Moving inward and given space to reflect, question, explore points of view, wonder, read, draw, listen to music all “offer the young person an opportunity to enter into a dialogue with his own soul. Such dialogue is the furnace in which ideals are forged.” Teenagers are in a stage between form and freedom.

For more parenting books check out my post: Books! Oldies but Goodies








Books! Oldies but Goodies


Upon making the decision to home school, I read everything I could get my hands on.  Below is a list of books I found most helpful.

Original posting Fall 1998

  • And What about College?: How Homeschooling Leads to Admission to the Best Colleges and Universities by Cafi Cohen
  • Better Than School by Nancy Wallace (intro written by John Holt)
  • Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling by John Taylor Gatto (who was voted NY’s best public school teacher!)
  • Family Matters: Why Homeschooling Makes Sense by David Guterson
  • Freedom Challenge : African American Homeschoolers Grace Llewellyn (Editor)
  • Getting Started on Home Learning: How and Why To Teach Your Kids at Home by Rebecca Rupp
  • Home Learning Year by Year by Rebecca Rupp
  • Homeschooling: The Early Years by Linda Dobson
  • Homeschooling: The Middle Years by Shari Henry
  • Homeschooling: The Teen Years by Cafi Cohen
  • Homeschooling Book of Answers by Linda Dobson
  • Home Education Rights And Reasons by John W. Whitehead, Alexis Irene Crow
  • Homeschooling Handbook:From Preschool to High School~A Parent’s Guide by Mary Griffith
  • Homeschooling on a Shoestring: A Complete Guide to Options, Strategies, Resources, and Costs by Melissa L. Morgan
  • Homeschooler’s Success Stories by Linda Dobson (15 adults share the impact of homeschooling in their lives.)
  • Books by John Holt: Learning All The Time, How Children Learn , How Children Fail, Escape From Childhood, Freedom and Beyond, Teach Your Own
  • Natural Childhood General Editor: John Thomson
  • The Beginners Guide to Homeschooling by Patrick Farenga
  • The Hurried Child By David Elkind
  • The Successful Homeschooling Family Handbook by Dr. Raymond & Dorthy Moore
  • The Unschooling Handbook by Mary Griffith
  • The Magical Child by Joseph Chilton Pearce
  • Trust the Children: An Activity Guide for Homeschooling and Alternative Learning by Anna Kealoha
  • Waldorf Education: A Family Guide edited by Pamela Johnson Fenner & Karen L. Rivers
  • You Are Your Child’s First Teacher by Rahima Baldwin (From birth to age six: What can parents do with and for their children that will enhance their development.)

~ Parenting Books~

If your three year old has you over a barrel or your seven year old has you flummoxed, check out this series of books by Louise Bates Ames and Frances Ilg:

  • Your One Year Old by Louise Bates Ames, Frances L. Ilg, and Carol Chase Haber
  • Your Two Year Old by Ames and Ilg
  • Your Three Year Old by Ames and Ilg
  • Your Four Year Old by Ames and Ilg
  • Your Five Year Old by Ames and Ilg
  • Your Six Year Old by Ames and Ilg
  • Your Seven Year Old by Ames and Haber
  • Your Eight Year Old by Ames and Haber
  • Your Nine Year Old by Ames and Haber
  • Your Ten to Fourteen Year Old by Ames, Ilg, and Baker
  • A Good Enough Parent By Bruno Bettelheim (he also wrote: On Learning To Read and The Uses of Enchantment )
  • Children: The Challenge by Rudolf Dreikurs, M.D.
  • Everyday Blessings: The Inner Work of Mindful Parenting by Myla and Jon Kabat-Zinn
  • Natural Childhood Edited by John Thomson
  • Raising A Son and Raising A Daughter by Don & Jeanne Elium
  • Raising A Family: Living On Planet Parenthood by Don & Jeanne Elium
  • Reviving Ophelia: Saving The Selves of Adolescent Girls by Mary Pipher, Ph.D

~Curriculum Enrichment Resources~

  • Afterwards: Folk and Fairy Tales with Mathematical Ever Afters (grades 1-2, grades 3-4)  by Peggy Kaye
  • Games For Writing: Playful Ways To Help Your child Learn To Write (K-3rd) by Peggy Kaye
  • Games For Learning by Peggy Kaye
  • Games For Math by Peggy Kaye
  • Games For Reading by Peggy Kaye
  • All Year Round by Ann Druitt, Christine Fynes-Clinton, Marije Rowling
  • How The Weather Works A Reader’s Digest Book by Michael Allaby
  • Literature-Based Reading: Children’s Books & Activities to Enrich the K-5 Curriculum by Mildred Knight Laughlin and Claudia Lisman Swisher
  • National Geographic Animal Encyclopedia Edited by Marshall Editions Ltd.
  • Science Arts: Discovering Science Through Art Experiences by MaryAnn Kohl and Jean Potter (for ages 3 and up)
  • Science Is . . .A source book of fascinating facts, projects, and activities. By Susan V. Bosak
  • The Spirit of Childhood: The Waldorf Curriculum  by Douglas J Gabriel
  • The MAILBOX: The Idea Magazine for Teachers (  Check your local library for the magazine!)
  • Treasured Time With Your Toddler by Jan Brennan (My absolute favorite book. I highly recommend this book to parents of toddler!)