Thursday, December 26, 2013

But My Children Understand That Dogs Don't Really Talk

What if you talk about it with your kids and you swear that they understand the difference between fantasy and reality?

Maybe they do! Kids mature at different rates. That being said, most kids won't fail the "Now, Mary, tell me the difference between real trains and pretend trains" question the day they were exposed to the pretend trains, they will fail the question a week later, sometimes a month later.

It's the way our brains work. It has to do with information storage. (And this is about all fiction, not just fantasy fiction). I remember reading about an experiment done on adults in which a "psychologist" suggests a memory to the subject (that never happened, in this particular experiment it was "remember that time your mom lost you at the mall when you were little? She found you by the fountain.") A year later, when the subjects were asked if their moms had ever lost them as kids, almost all of them told the story they had been fed about being lost at a mall and found at a fountain.

Most people don't need a science experiment to tell them that their memories can be faulty. Most of us have had the experience of swearing something happened to us only to realize a while later that the memory actually came from a movie or book.

But back to children and fantasy.

Children becoming confused about reality is the biggest reason to question the idea of exposing a child to fantasy, but there are other reasons too.

One reason is time. A friend of mine, Andrew, pointed this out to me. He said he loved seeing what my two-year-old chooses to do with his time, like mastering how to make scrambled eggs, practicing jumping or trying to read. Every minute of his day is spent acquiring those skills he has judged as important for life. This is very different from the Standard American Two-Year-Old who thinks it is extremely important to learn the names of all the super heroes and then practices how they fight bad guys. The way I state this same idea in my Main Idea 2 essay is: the reason why children in the past were so much more mature/competent than ours is the same reason why hunter-gatherer children today are capable of so much more than ours--math. Time. They have simply spent more time learning real life skills than our children have. Eight years spent practicing being a princess or a superhero is a lot of time spent not acquiring other skills.

But perhaps real life skills aren't that important to you! Perhaps you find it adorable when Jonny pretends to be Batman and you would't trade that for the world. As a parent, you get to decide what makes parenting the most fun for you. (This is assuming the child does understand the difference between reality and fantasy though.)

Another reason, the main reason I personally don't expose my son to fantasy, is our relationship. I find my son very easy to relate to. I love hanging out with him! I love what he has to say about things. When we talk, I feel very connected to him. When I work with fictionalized kids who announce to me that their name is "Ariel" or tell me their friend Fluffy the Elf will be hanging out with them today... I don't know what to say. I lose connection with them. I can smile and call someone Ariel and I can offer someone's elf tea too, but... I am not connecting with a person. I am playing with / entertaining an adorable (stupid) pet.

For more information on this subject, see my Main Idea 2 essay. Also, John Holt writes about this well in his book Escape from Childhood. Maria Montessori writes about how children prefer to be taken seriously as well in her book The Child in the Family. Alison Gopnik writes about how children remember things (and the experiment on adults I mentioned above) in her books The Scientist in the Crib and The Philosophical Baby. 

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Book Review - The Leipzig Connection

The number one thing I got out of this book: send your kids to Montessori schools folks!

What a fun, easy, clear read. It is what it is. It doesn't have solutions. Its remark on Montessori is but a paragraph. But it was the most important paragraph to me because if the super evil dude who wrote Dare the Schools Build a New Social Order used the Rockefeller fortune to suppress Montessori... well, I just assume that's the school I want :)

I took off one star for how it ends: our schools are giant brainwashing machines but that only sucks because they are in the wrong hands, if only they were in the right hands..... Oh Paolo. I really hope that was a bad joke.

Best paraphrases:

Although today Dewey's views are in practice in the great majority of American schools, before the turn of the century they were revolutionary. The Wundtian redefinition of "education" to mean feeding experimental data to a young brain and nervous system, rather than teaching of mental skills, led to the abdication of the traditional role of the teacher as educator, Its place was taken by the concept of the teacher as a guide in the socialization of the child, leading each youngster to adapt the specific behavior required of him in order for him to get along in his group. Dewey called for a leveling of individual differences into a common pool of students who are the object of learning technicians devising the social order of the future.

This is the view of Dewey and other Wundtians--that man is a social animal who must learn to adapt to his environment , instead of learning how to ethically adapt the environment to suit his needs and those of society. Individualism and the developing of individual abilities give way to social conformity and adaptation; the product of education becomes "well-adjusted" (conditioned) children.... which creates a society that operates more on the basis of gratification than on the basis of reason and responsibility.

Rugg: through the schools of the world we shall disseminate a new conception of government--one that will embrace all of the collective activities of men; one that will postulate the need for scientific control and operation of economic activities

Gates through General Education Board: In our dream we have limitless resources and the people yield themselves with perfect docility to our molding hands

Monday, December 16, 2013

Book Review - Dare the School Build a New Social Order

Like I was saying in my last book review: do not under any circumstances send your child to public school.

And maybe have a backup plan for fleeing the country.

Book Review - The Deliberate Dumbing Down of America: A Chronological Paper Trail

This book can be summarized well with a loose quote from the preface: if a child can read, write and compute at a reasonably proficient level, he will be able to do just about anything he wishes with his life, able to control his destiny. Because providing such basic proficiencies is not and should not be an expensive or complicated proposition, it becomes obvious that it is only a radical social agenda to brainwash our children that is the costly proposition--and complicated to hide what's really going on.

I couldn't put this book down. But I don't think it is for everyone. It's extremely important and wow, what an immense amount of work and knowledge the author provides! But it's not easy reading. It's a paper trail of extremely annoying political writing and over-complicated attempts by person after person to first appeal to someone's emotional rather than rational brain and then slip in some tricky language so that everyone agrees with whatever he says. So... totally obnoxious annoying shit. But sometimes fun if you enjoy the puzzle. And just mostly horrifying. I have never wanted to leave this country more.

Crazy how the government documents would have me convinced for fifty pages that the idea came from a good place and would do some good for the kiddies (like getting rid of grades and apprenticeships) but then how it turns out to be totally evil.

When the government pushes for "no grades" what they are really pushing for is a different kid of grade, grading on things the government values. So instead of grades that measure work, the "grade-free" report cards are all about a student's timeliness, attitude, effort, cooperation, responsiveness to authority, etc. This is NOT what I think of when I think of "no grades." So here are the characteristics that a totalitarian government wants in its citizens. These are the traits that will get you ahead, get you into the good schools, the good jobs--not brain power, but obedience. The more obedient will be rewarded with jobs that give them power. It's brilliant. And totally Hiter-esque.

In the 90's teachers were required in almost all public schools to make behavior part of the kids grade--whether the teacher wanted to or not. It's all about baby steps.

When government pushes for "apprenticeships", it sounds so good! I totally support apprenticeships! That's what I want for my son! But reeeeally, when you make apprenticeships part of the school program, you put the government in control of jobs. Kids and parents aren't out there looking for an apprenticeship that their child wants, the government decides what the kid gets based on his grades in school (and remember his most important grade is obedience). A few more baby steps and now you can only get a license to work as a baker if you have done an apprenticeship and you can't get an apprenticeship with the government... the government controls the jobs and we are a communist country.

I used to think that the schools had been taken over by the Democrats and that's why most people couldn't graduate from college without becoming a liberal, now I know that I was really on to something--the schools were taken over by behaviorists (on the payroll of Carnegie, Ford and Rockefeller) with a brainwashing agenda to make the US fascist/socialist a long long time ago.

The fact that it took so long to shows the weaknesses of behaviorism and the strength of our old values. But baby steps, money, patience, "research" and 100 years and our country is pretty much socialist (but we call it freedom here!) Politics will follow ideologically. Don't worry about today's men. Just take over the schools, brainwash the kids and everything will fall into place!

I am super curious about brainwashing now. Fascinating that what is taught does not matter as much as how it is taught. It is the methods that make people automatons who cannot think for themselves, not the subject matter.

That's the problem with brainwashing and socialism and government--as long as you agree with what they are doing to everyone else, it's great! "Make them dumb religious folk turn to science! This country would be a much better place if we all supported abortion, gay marriage and evolution!" I can just hear people I know cheering. But then when those in power decide to "Make them horrible rebels send their kids to public brainwash school, make them horrible hippies vaccinate their babies, make them dissenters take mood-altering drugs, make people eat what we tell them to eat..." WHY DON'T PEOPLE SEE THIS? It's all the same! It doesn't matter what you are MAKING people do, it doesn't matter how good you think it will be for them or the world, the problem IS the MAKING.

Dear Would-Be Socialist Dictators, please read Non Violent Communication and Choice Theory. And John Locke. There IS another way. We don't actually all have to agree on ANYTHING except to respect each other.

My biggest complaint about this book is that I wish Charlotte wrote more. I want to know more of her thoughts about education and solutions. And, I don't need such a long paper trails. One or two documents per category would have been fine. And I gotta say, I wouldn't have minded if she held my hand a little more. This book is like Iserbyt got out here file of evidence and published it. I would like her to write a new book with short chapters based around each regulation or educational platform rather than chronology. It could accompany this book so that when she refers to "Protect INSTRUCT" I can flip open this book and read a one page summary about project Instruct, who started it, who is pushing for it, what its real agenda is, etc.

And for parents like me who want to know what I concluded from this book without having to read it:
-absolutely no public school for your kids
-if you want to do private school, make sure the teachers are experts in their fields and do NOT have teaching credentials
-if you chose to homeschool, do not do it through the public system and be very careful about whatever system you choose. Probably best for you to be the teacher. Remember the quote at the top--with basic math, reading and writing skills your child will be able to do almost anything he wishes with his life. This is not a costly or complicated thing to teach your child.
-flee, flee the country. South America or Alaska.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

I Don't Try to Get My Friends to Parent Like Me

*You will get a lot more out of this blog post if you have read my 'Main Idea 1'.

'How should I go about talking to my friends about parenting?' and 'What is the best way for me to approach someone I see at the grocery store who is being mean to her kids?' are questions I get fairly often. They fascinate me.

Neither of these questions are about "talking" to someone else. What I want when I ask these questions, is not to "have a conversation" with someone. My goal is not to connect or empathize or philosophize. When these questions pop into my head, what I want is to help these people. They are bad parents! They need my help! Or maybe they are just average parents who need my help, but either way--they are not coming to me asking for help. It is my desire here. I want to help them because I don't like what they are doing.

The question I am really asking is: "What is the best way for me to get them to do what I want them to do?" These "conversations" that I want to have with the Bad and Average Parents mentioned above are "goal-oriented conversations" or "jobs." And the psychology of accomplishing a job is all about me. When I have a job to accomplish and that job is helping or changing or fixing another person, I am not present, I am not connecting, I am not relating to another human being--I am at war. And the other person is the enemy I wish to conquer.

I have a lot of empathy for people who find themselves pondering any form of the above questions. I find myself doing it all the time. I hate the way so many people treat their kids! I feel disgusted when I see how they talk to them! I feel desperate for people to change! AND I have an incredible expertise in this area! I would feel so happy if more people parented like I do! And they would be happier too! In fact, the whole world would be a better place if more people parented like I do. And if they ate like I do. And if they dressed like I do. And if they read as much as I do. If only I were the Supreme Dictator of the Whole World, everyone would be happier... right?

A lot of the time, when we want to "help" other people, we are not paying attention to what is really going on inside of us, we are not clear about what we really want and need. For me, when I desperately want to help/change/fix/dominate other people, what I actually want so desperately can be summarized as: I want people to be more like me.

Which means that I am suffering from feelings of:

-loneliness. If only there were more people like me out there.
-fear. If they raise their kids like that, their kids will be monsters when they grow up!
-anger. How can people treat children that way? Why is life so unfair and ugly?!
-sadness. That expression on that child's face makes me want to cry.
-hurt. I have so much to offer! Why don't these people ask for my help?!

Which means I am actually needing:

-validation. If my ideas are actually right, they will see that and agree with me.
-contribution. If I fix these people, I will have helped to make the world a better place.
-compassion. I wish life were more fair. Maybe someone could hug me while I cry about that.

These lists could go on and on. But I want to keep them short, because the lists are not point. The point is that it is easy to understand why I feel so desperate, why I don't want to think about what I am feeling, why I want to focus on the other person, not myself, why I want to go to war with an enemy rather than invite my intense feelings over for tea.

This explains something I have wondered for so long: people who want to "help" others are often quite miserable, angry people. If they are feeling all those things I just mentioned above... I understand why they are so miserable.

For me, the questions 'How should I talk to my friends about parenting' and 'What should I say to bad parents at the grocery store' are actually: What can I do when I am having strong feelings about what someone else is doing? How can I talk to that person about my feelings? Is it possible to connect with them so that I can feel heard? Especially if the person is my friend. What can I say? I feel so afraid of losing my friend but at the same time, when I see how she treats her children I feel like smacking her. What can I do to feel better? Can I connect with strangers and have empathy for them, even as I am disapproving of them?

This blog isn't about reinventing the wheel or summarizing or restating what has already been said so well elsewhere, so I'm afraid the answer is: read Non-Violent Communication: A Language of Life by Marshall Rosenberg. I cannot recommend enough. We don't get to control other people, but we do get to express our feelings and needs! If you have something very difficult you want to say to your friends or strangers, this book will teach you how to say it. The podcast Complete Liberty does a great job as well in explaining why domination psychology will never lead to freedom.

That being said, this blog is about why? And about what I might know that the above book does not say. I had an interesting conversation the other day with my friend, a psychologist. She became a psychologist because she wanted to help people. "What would be my job in the world that you envision?" she asked.

The simple answer is that psychologists have a lot to offer people who want help.

The more complex answer is that the best thing anyone can do to help other people is to follow their joy. Ayn Rand, Nathaniel Branden, Joseph Campbell and many others say it well but in this context I want to mention a book called, Connected: The Surprising Power of Our Social Networks and How They Shape Our Lives. This book explains the science that shows that the best way for you to get your friends to eat healthier is to eat healthier yourself. And to enjoy it. When your friends see you feeling good and looking good and loving life, they will chose to be more like you. You will never have to say anything.

Maybe physical health isn't what would make you happy--fine. It doesn't matter what it is that brings you joy, the only important thing is that you follow your joy! What people need to see more than anything is others living happy lives. Happiness is contagious, as shown in the book Connected. If you are happy, if you sparkle with joy, you will be a blessing to all those around you. Your happiness will rub off on your friends. That is the greatest gift you could give to anyone. The greatest gift you can give to the world! Want to help people? Go be happy. Most people don't know how to live happy lives. Many even doubt that it is possible. Show them how. Most people have no idea how to relate to children. You can show them!

When I talk to my friends about parenting--and I do all the time--it is never as as a hidden attempt to get them to parent differently. It is because I just learned something that excites me! I finish a book every week and I am always dying to talk it! This stuff is fascinating! And the results of how I am raising my son are fascinating! And how parenting is connected to history and society and education are sooooo interesting!

In these conversations, I want help processing something I have learned or I want to share information that I feel excited about--either way, I am talking to a person and what I am seeking is connection and relationship.

I don't want to be inaccurate or pretend that I am perfect all the time though so, in case it case I wasn't clear enough above: I engage in plenty of unhealthy thinking and catch myself fairly often attempting to relate in ways that I don't support.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Conversation with My 2-Year-Old

Last week: 
Anders and Mama eat lunch together. Anders begins banging his fork and spoon together, making a loud noise that pleases him greatly.

Mama: Anders, that's too loud for me. It's hurting my ears. Can you do that outside?
Anders: Outside!

Anders climbs down from the table and goes outside. Mama is happy. Anders is happy.

Anders eats lunch with his extended family on a patio in Palm Springs. He begins banging hands on table, making a loud noise that pleases him greatly.

Papa: Anders, that's too loud. It's hurting my ears.
Anders: Go inside.

Papa... cannot deny the logic of what his son has just said. Neither can anyone else at the table.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Book Review - Harmful to Minors: The Perils of Protecting Children From Sex

Read this book. And if you have the time, read it while you are reading Evolution and Human Sexual Behavior. They compliment each other very nicely.

Because this is a book I really think all parents should read, I am not going to review it too much here. This book will answer all your questions as to:
-how scared you should be of perverts
-how to deal with six-year-olds playing doctor
-what to do when you see your two-year-old masturbating
-how to talk to kids about sex, but more than that, how to talk to them about pleasure

The only downside is that the author is a socialist who does a lot of Christian bashing. (Anyone using the Christian religion to be an ass hole isn't actually practicing Christian values and I wish she would have acknowledged that just once.) So, her politics suck but otherwise this book is a MUST READ.

Book Review - The Bell Curve: Intelligence and Class Structure in American Life

This book is essentially about a fear the authors have about the future that they are terrified of expressing. They know (and rightly) that if they share their fear, most people wont be able to hear them or even consider what they are trying to say. Most people will just fly off the handle and attack.

Which is why this book in written in such a way that it is very hard to read. I felt like half the time the authors were trying very hard to not say anything. It seemed like the points they were trying to make were almost hidden and almost all were apologized for.

Because I believe above all in freedom and respect, and because I only think in terms of individuals, not groups, what the authors have to say is irrelevant to me. Interesting at times, but irrelevant.

But here it is, what Herrnstein and Murray worked so hard to not say over the course of their book:

1. IQ exists! Some people are actually smarter than other people! *The higher your IQ, the greater your capacity to handle complex mental work. [I often find that handling complex mental work depends a lot on one's interest in the work so I would be curious to know how IQ tests account for that.]

2. How smart people are affects every area of their lives!

3. Smarter people are better at everything!

Now here is something worth saying! Why I find this assertion interesting is that it is the opposite of the "10,000 hour rule" that everyone takes for granted as truth. Herrnstein and Murray claim that some people could put 10,000 hours into something and still not be a genius at it and possibly, if their IQ is low enough, would never reach the genius level. Other people, people with high IQs, could reach the genius level of a given field in far fewer than 10,000 hours. I am going to check this general idea off as "true in my own experience." This reminds me of how many people can be farmers, but how few think to farm like Joel Salatin.

4. Intelligence is not all nurture. In fact it's part nature (no less than 40% no more than 80%) yet all of our government policies are written as if intelligence were all nurture.

5. Smarter people have better lives.

It entertains me a little that H & M worked so hard to (over) prove everything they wanted to say and yet didn't really pay attention to this point, assuming that everyone would agree that more money, slightly less divorce and more degrees equals a better life. I know way more happy people who are not very bright than I know very bright people who are very happy. And, I will quote myself here: the top 1% of Americans have better college degrees and make a lot more money, but they are still overweight and unhealthy—lots of colds and even more medical problems, they are even more likely to be on prescription drugs and especially mood altering ones. They will spend just as much time watching TV and be slightly less likely to get divorced (as the bottom 99%). I don't care about money and degrees. Fat people on Prozac don't have "better lives". *I got my stats from some government website. I think the CDC.

6. The lowest of the low generally have IQs bordering on mental retardation, but there are plenty of people with just as low IQs who do fine in life. 

7. School does an excellent job of funneling the best and brightest into top colleges.

I really think H & M should read The Deliberate Dumbing Down of America or The Underground History of American Education or anything that would help them to understand the true purpose of public education so let's just be clear here: school does an excellent job of funneling the brightest "soldiers" from the rest of the pack. Bright children with high enough self-esteem to not want to teacher-please for 30 years are not funneled. 

8. High IQ folk are the best workers. [Again, I would be curious to know what roles motivation, interest and passion play in  the "best worker" contest.]

9. Our country has a high IQ elite running the place, who, because they are so comfortable with complexity, make the legal system overly complex for the rest of us.

Woo hoo! Let's simplify! Does anyone else think these guys would have gotten more supporters for their argument if they had said our legal system was one big ball of bad feng shui instead of that the average American is just too dumb to function within it?


10. Low IQ people have more children than high IQ people. H & M think we need to figure out a way to get smart women to have more babies.

11. But more importantly, they want us to stop messing with evolution. Because right now, we subsidize the babies of the low IQ folk, causing them to have more babies, and causing the survival of those who are not actually fit for survival.

For 100 years, we as a culture have been at war with death. Death is not a part of life. It's not okay. It's bad. It's failure and we can't accept it. We can't allow people to die. Even if they want to die. Even if they have serious health problems. Even if our best and brightest have to devote their entire lives to the cause--no one can be allowed to die!

12. Black people have a lower IQ average than white people but there are plenty of black people with very high IQs and plenty of white people with very low ones. 

If you believe in freedom and respect like I do, you judge individuals not groups and an individual's intelligence is irrelevant to the fact that everyone gets equal opportunity to pursue happiness to the best of his or her ability.


First, this book is tragic. Great atrocities in history have been committed by people just trying to force other people to do what they believe is right. And, at its core, this book is no different: how can we make them nasty poor folk be more like those lovely middle class folk?

Herrnstein and Murray say it well at the beginning--they can't tell you anything about John Doe by knowing his IQ. There is too much variation and nurture is too important. All they can tell you about is groups. And the only reason anyone wants to know about groups is to control them. This book is only useful information to those "in power" who wish to force those not in power to be something other than what they are.

Second, I have empathy for H & M and all those who think they have to "save" the world. It must be so scary to think that our nation's average IQ is declining and that we have to get dumb people to behave differently. What a daunting task. I imagine they are quite angry at American policies that enable dumb people to have more children than smart people. And I imagine they are even angrier that they are forced to spend their money on things they consider to be morally wrong.

Third, this book reminds me of what I have read about Hunter-Gatherer--that they have very low IQs. This fascinates me. We all know that average American probably couldn't last a day in their shoes and also that researchers continually assert that Hunter-Gatherers are very happy so.... who is better of? I value genetic diversity and cultural diversity; I am so glad there are people who can survive in the wild in addition to people who can study philosophy. 

World governments are always claiming that Hunter-Gathers need to be saved from being themselves. We see this on television constantly--pleas for donations because the "rural poor" of some place needs schools. Hunter-Gathers just need education and then they would have "better" lives! Most people don't know this is all cover-up for the real agenda of every government in the world that can't stop terrorizing its native inhabitants (and if you think the US has stopped terrorizing our natives, think again. Canada is even worse.)

Hunter-Gathers and the rural poor are not banging down the doors of government buildings and wealthy people's houses asking how they can be more like them. Hunter-Gatheres and the rural poor usually *but not always* exhibit a level of physical health not known to Westerners. Imagine 500 people all with perfectly straight, white teeth, never having had braces and never having had cavities despite their failure to even own a toothbrush. Not to mention all the other Western health problems they don't suffer from. These people DO NOT need to be more like us. In fact, we have a few things to learn from them. We may have lower infant mortality, but they don't have homelessness or heart disease!

The reason our governments are always trying to "educate" these people is that Hunter-Gatherers and the rural poor don't need us. They are not part of the system. And our governments want them to be part of the system. What governments really want is for these people to not exist. Our governments are the Borg, seeking to assimilate everyone. They sell it as education, but our type of education destroys more lives of Hunter-Gatherers than it ever helps. Why do we think we have the right to force people to do what we think is best for them? Until people are ASKING for help, no one should be "helping" them. 

Thursday, November 21, 2013

How Does Halloween Work with Children Being Raised in Reality?

I don't personally care about Halloween. I researched the history of it on the internet and read a book called Halloween: From Pagan Ritual to Party Night and I concluded that Halloween is, above all, a holiday about revenge. Keeping in mind that the history of Halloween is actually far more complicated, here is a summary:

From the middle ages through the 1920's, Halloween was the night the dead got to come back to the realm of the living and take revenge upon those who wronged them. What this meant, in reality was that Halloween was the night when people could dress up as ghosts or witches and go kick down the fences and trample the flowers of people who they believed wronged their dead friends and relatives. Ghosts took the blame for a long time but in the end it became apparent that it was actually teenaged boys who were doing the damage. In the early 1920's the angry young men began giving people the option to not have their windows broken: they would knock on the doors of wealthy people's homes and say, "Trick or treat?" They meant: give us a treat (money) or we will do a trick on you (break something). Pretty soon younger and younger boys joined in (and some girls, of course). It was through community efforts that Halloween was changed into the more "wholesome" holiday it is now.

Today, Halloween is no longer about revenge but I can't say that I am very into anything that it is about. It's a superficial celebration of scary things--horror movies, spiderwebs, decrepit old houses, grave yards, evil creatures that don't exist. Below the surface is a celebration of fear and ugliness. These are things that don't really do anything for me. And of course the candy turns me off as well.

If Halloween were more a celebration of death and less a celebration of horror, I would be more into it. Americans, with their terror of death, with death seen as "losing" rather than part of life, And of course I would also prefer if it were a holiday everyone could enjoy together, rather than the separation we have now with people of various ages doing their own "age appropriate" thing.

Here is what I would like to do for Halloween: the party takes place in a forest where leaves are falling from the trees or perhaps a campground or a cabin in Yosemite. There is a half-hour lantern walk through the forest. The path is walkable by moonlight but it is quite dark. Each person goes alone (except small children go with parents). Every 5 minutes or so the "walker" arrives at a person in a dramatic looking cloak holding a lantern. The cloaked person poses a question for the walker to ponder during the next stretch of his journey. At the end of the walk, there is a bonfire where people are celebrating letting go (along the style of burning man, perhaps?) There is dancing, pumpkin carving and food like hot apple cider and lacto-fermented small beers.

For me, the above sounds spiritual, dramatic and really fun!

But what about those people who love Halloween as it is? My question for them is: what is it that you love? Could you still love it if you had children? Could you still love it if you thought about what you were doing?

If you love the idea of taking your kid trick-or-treating... would you still enjoy it knowing that your child will likely see a costume that frightens him or her and could give him or her nightmares for months?

If you love your yearly sugar binge... do you really want to do that with your child? Experiment with it at home and notice if you and your child end up fighting or not getting along after a sugar binge as that is very likely.

If you love candy... how much do you know about sugar? If you knew that sugar was a drug, would you still enjoy candy so much? How would it make you feel to give your child the very same drug that you yourself are addicted to?

If you love dressing up... could you dress up in reality-oriented costumes? Nurses, cowboys, bikers, cats, bats, bunnies--all of these are costumes based on reality. Or could you feel comfortable not giving your child a straight answer when he asks what you are? For example, if you are dressed as a vampire you could say, "I am dressed as a vampire. Which means I represent my own fear of death."

If you love your friend's party... could you take your five-year-old knowing someone else's fictionalized six-year-old might tell him something that really confuses him like that there are little fairies hiding in all the trees? Would you be okay with your child hunting in every tree for fairies, wondering why the other child sees them but he does not, and not understanding what you mean when you say that fairies are not "real" because he has no concept of that idea?

If you love your friend's party.... could you take your five-year-old knowing that someone else's fictionalized child may say something that traumatizes him like, "I'm an angel from Heaven. If you aren't a good boy you are going to Hell." There is a great book on how that simple statement traumatized a women for her entire childhood called Dying To Be Me.

If you love your sister... could you take your child to her house knowing that her fictionalized children will teach your child violent super-hero behaviors and disrespectful Disney Channel behaviors?

These are the questions I pondered this year before deciding to not go to my friend's Halloween party. I am sure I will ponder these questions again next year and the year after and the year after....

I also want to mention that any of the above scenarios could also turn out fine. Maybe your child won't even ask people what they are dressed as and it will be a non-issue. Maybe your child will notice that other children behave in strange ways, hitting each other and pretending to hit each other but your child wont understand and wont try it out at home. Maybe your child will enjoy a yearly sugar binge but wont have a sugar addiction!

I am a big fan of enjoying life! And bringing your children to life with you, and especially to those parts of life that sparkle for you! I imagine that those people who love Halloween as it is could examine in depth what need of theirs is being met by their current celebration and then find a way to get that need met in a way that also meets their children's needs.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Book Review - Evolution and Human Sexual Behavior

This book was awesome. Answered some questions that I have been wondering for a long, long time. Also easy to read and easy to understand. Quick--doesn't suffer from the "too much info" problem so many books do. There was a ton of stuff that was same-old info I have heard before. But there was also a ton of fabulous new things I didn't know--here are my favorites:

-If you give a female lemur hormonal contraception she will no longer be attractive to lemur males.

-There is substantial evidence that humans, by nature, are monogamous with some polygamy. There are many factors that lead the authors to this conclusion, one is the size difference between men and women: the more polygamous a species, the greater the size difference between the male and female. The more monogamous, the closer in size the male and female are. Another factor is sperm count. Humans have relatively low sperm count which means a guys sperm probably wont have to be competing with another guys sperm to fertilize the egg.

-Many mammals commit infanticide if they don't think it is a good time to raise a child, humans included. The main reason human women commit infanticide is uncertain paternal investment i.e. they know they can't raise the baby alone. Other big reasons are low infant quality (birth defects) and twins (where a female cannot afford to care for both).

-Almost all humans will engage in same-sex sexual activity if that is the only sex that is available to them. Heterosexual guys in prison will have sex with men. Heterosexual concubines living in a large harem will have sex with women. There were many other examples but I can't remember them off the top of my head.

-Female hunter-gatherers are ready to be married when they are around 18. They are proficient enough at gathering and are capable of raising offspring. Male hunter-gatherers are ready to be marred around 25 to 30. Building strength and learning to hunt so you can provide for a family takes a longer. What ends up happening is that young female hunter-gatherers get their sexual needs met in marriage. The male hunter-gatherers have sexual needs but no one to have sex with since the girls their age have married older guys who can provide them with meat. Different societies had different solutions to this problem that, over the years, became culturally ingrained. In quite a few societies older men (possibly because their wives were breast feeding and uninterested in sex) would have sex with the younger men. In other societies post-menopausal women would have sex with the younger men. Over time these practices become highly ritualized with lots of rules and customs to follow. I FINALLY UNDERSTAND ANCIENT GREECE!!!!!! Another way the older males of a society dealt with the 15-25 year olds who kept trying to seduce their wives was to ship them off to war.

-Ancient pottery shows pictures of women holding babies while having sex

-In hunter-gatherer societies, children practice having sex with one another, so do young (infertile) teenagers. This is an expected part of development and preparation for adult life. All monkeys do this as well. Chimpanzees require sexual learning as part of childhood or they wont be able to mate properly when they are grown.

-In almost all societies the sexual practices of children mimic those of the adults--our society is quite strange that we expect our children not to have any sexuality whatsoever.

-Orangutans are known to grab at and and attempt to sexually molest human researchers.

-Nursing offspring (humans and monkeys) will try to prevent their mom from mating--it is crucial for their survival. Since humans used to nurse for 4+ years it makes sense for human children to protest when they see their mother engaging in mating activity (like kissing their dad). Makes so much more sense than Freud's theory.

-Incest taboos began so that societies had access to the resources of others. These taboos exist in most societies. But science shows that incest among first cousins will only increase mortality of offspring by 4%.

-The youth culture we see now would not exist if women still got married and had families soon after they got their periods.

-The Lepcha of India expect girls to have sex by the time they are 11 or 12. It is thought that this is what makes puberty start.

-Human males have small sperm reservoirs, suggesting that human males were designed to ejaculate a couple times a week rather than daily.

-When Asians first saw Europeans kissing they thought it was disgusting.

-There is a notable lack of loud coital vocalizations in the cross-cultural record. It is a fact though that female vocalizations of pleasure will make a male come faster.

-Women's vaginas will "lube up" for sex whether the woman is into it or not. The vagina must do this to protect itself from tearing and other damage.

-Evolutionarily the authors disagree with the idea of sexual dysfunction. They "disagree with the very notion of classifying variation as dysfunction." The average postpartum women will be severely "sexually dysfunctional" by the current definition. The authors disagree with defining what is normal as dysfunctional.

-Hunter-gatherer women will not get their periods for almost 2 years after the birth of a baby. (Depends on how many calories are available to them though)

-The only reason human live past 50 (past making sure their offspring survive) is to help care for their grandchildren. Diminished interest and ability to have sex is adaptive. Older folks are supposed to use their energy to care for their grandkids, not mating. The presence of a grandparent helping to care for the kids is positively associated with survival of children. *Hunter-Gatherer Childhoods addresses this much better than this book (in more depth and this book claims it is only grandmothers while HG Childhoods shows that is not the whole story).

-In some societies it is even taboo for a married couple to continue having sex after all their children are married. Their priorities should be elsewhere.

-The word testimony refers to the practice of holding a man's testicle in your hand while making an oath.

-Today about 1/3 of Americans are single. Just 100 years ago it was aberrant to be single and single people were treated as inferiors.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Science Experiment Update

Raising my son this way is something I have been planning for ten years, he is the sole subject in this study I am doing about how children would behave if raised differently so I enjoy reading Standard American Parenting books about how he would be behaving if he were being raised "normally." Here are some "normal" behavioral phases that my son never went through--

-The "no" phase. Anders didn't even use the word "no" until he was 23-months old. He uses no to answer questions I ask him about whether he wants something or not and to dislike reality (when he hurts himself he sometimes says with great sadness, "Noooooooo." "No" is not a power word for him the way it is for some children.

-The running-away-from-mom-straight-into-danger phase. My son knew about "hot" things when he was around 10-months-old. He knows when a stove is hot and when it's not. If you tell him that a stove (or fireplace) is dangerous and hot when it's not because you think he can't tell the difference--he will immediately seek to touch it to ascertain what he suspects: that you are lying. After that, it's over. He won't trust you anymore and will seek to find out for himself whether things are dangerous or not. (I discuss this more in my post

Still waiting to see if we ever get a "mine" phase, a "I do it myself" phase or tantrums or basic rebelliousness/meanness/expressions of personal power (My son will is currently 23 months.) Will keep you updated. 

Toddlers are NOT Dangerous by Nature

My son knew about "hot" things when he was around 10-months-old. He knows when a stove is hot and when it's not. If you tell him that a stove (or fireplace) is dangerous and hot when it's not because you think he can't tell the difference--he will immediately seek to touch it to ascertain what he suspects: that you are lying. After that, it's over. He won't trust you anymore and will seek to find out for himself whether things are dangerous or not.

Children are not dangerous by nature. We make them dangerous by lying to them.

And by not trusting them, by not putting them in charge of their own safety. I have seen this time and time again, whether it was the two-year-old I saw on vacation trying to touch every stove because her parents wouldn't let her near them and told her they were hot even when they weren't or the two children constantly running at a rushing river (one who eventually fell in) because their parents wouldn't let them anywhere near it saying it was dangerous or the girl I saw at the park running from her mom straight into the road: parents create these problems.

An example of what I do: with the rushing river I told my 18-month-old son it was not safe and showed him how he could lay on his belly and put his hands in or how he could stand on the bank and throw rocks in. Because he trusts me so much he actually wouldn't go near the river to do either of those things unless I was with him.

A great thing to read on this subject is Bulletin Number 14 by Dr. Emmi Pikler

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

How Do I Get So Much Reading Done?

People keep asking me how I get so much reading done while having a toddler at home--here is the answer:

1) I always have a book on my iPhone to listen to while I am in the car (but only books that I don't think I will need to refer to later in lectures or blog posts as those I need to read and underline all over)

2) I always have a book with me for all those times when I am ready to go and my toddler isn't. 95% of the time I don't mind staying longer at wherever we are if I can be reading. Many times when I arrive somewhere my son is asleep. I like to let him wake on his own so I can often be found sitting in my car in a parking lot happily reading.

3) I don't own a television. It's kind of insane how much time it frees up! I watch a lot of documentaries--while I am cooking in the kitchen. When I am relaxing I generally turn to my books.

4) I read whatever I am reading out loud to my son. Most of the time he is not interested for more than a few pages but... a few pages every day adds up.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

What to do When Your Toddler is Acting Like a Spoiled Brat

A friend of mine texted me today: "I need advice on how to get my daughter to walk on her own. I simply can't and won't carry her everywhere. She cries and appears to be a spoiled brat about it. I'm starting to get mad at her. Her dad carries her everywhere."

There are many issues going on here:
1) Mom wants to know how to get toddler to walk more on her own
2) Mom doesn't want to carry baby anymore
3) Baby wants to be carried and is protesting
3) Mom thinks baby is a spoiled brat

My response:

It is authentic for mom to refuse to carry her toddler--she doesn't want to. We never have to do what we don't want to do and shouldn't--sacrificing in our relationships causes resentment.

It is also authentic for the toddler to protest. She wants to be carried and she should not be made to feel ashamed of her desire to be carried nor should she be made to feel ashamed of the sadness and anger she feels when her mom refuses to carry her. Her feelings of anger and sadness are absolutely valid. It sucks when we want something from someone and they won't give it to us! 

When mom labels her toddler a "spoiled brat" she is using "battle" language--judgements that allow people to treat other people without empathy. This is the kind of "enemy" thinking that enables us to do things to people we wouldn't do otherwise. Relationships are a challenge but they are not a battle and the minute we turn them into a battle we have lost.

Our toddlers are not trying to trick us or manipulate us with their crying. They are crying because they feel sad. When I want my husband to take me out like he said he would and he announces that he is too tired, I feel super hurt and I cry. I am not crying to get him to change his mind or to get my way or to make him feel guilty. I am crying to release my sadness and it is imperative for my health that I do so. If the fact that I feel sad makes my husband feel guilty, then he might call me names like "cry baby" or accuse me of being manipulative but what he really needs to do is to allow himself to feel sad that he cannot give me what I want, it is also likely that he needs to acknowledge a certain level of shame for feeling tired, shame for not fulfilling an imagined duty of making me happy. But these are HIS things, they are not my things.

Sadness isn't bad. Anger isn't bad. We are not bad moms when our babies feel sad. In our culture it is quite common for people to feel ashamed when they do not feel happy and especially if they feel sadness or anger. We have been given the message that we should not feel these things so when we do feel these things we hide it from ourselves and blame the other person, calling them names and punishing them. When we find ourselves name calling or reverting to battle thinking, we are usually tired, nor asserting our needs or feeling ashamed.

Lastly, it's important for us to question why we cannot meet our child's needs. If we don't want to carry our children because our back hurts that is legitimate. If we don't want to carry our children because of a "should" idea (Two-year-olds should not be carried anymore! They should walk!) we need to reframe our thinking. There is a great saying in AA "Don't should on yourself." That applies here--don't should on your kids! There are no shoulds. There are only feelings and needs (or values). 

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Do Our Stories Prime Us for War?

According to Joseph Campbell all mythologies are "someone else's religion." The stories we call myths  were truths to someone.

Hunter-gatherers all had religions based around the primary emotional thing they had to deal with: killing animals. Their religions involved stories of how it came to be that humans ate buffalo and why it was okay with the buffalo for us to eat them. Hunter-gatherers usually worshipped the animal that was their main form of subsistence. Their myths, religion and/or fictional stories instructed people in how to deal with what they were doing, how to feel about killing those animals: we are all one; the buffalo gives himself to us willingly and when we die, we become the grass for the buffalo (gross simplification). In these societies people shared the most political equality mankind has ever seen because of the simple fact that if anyone didn't like what anyone else was doing, he could "vote with his feet" i.e. he could move elsewhere.

Farming cultures on the other hand worshipped the main plant they ate, the earth that brought them their food, the celestial patterns that controlled their food production. They were obsessed with everything about fertility and most of their myths, religion and/or fictional stories instructed people in how to deal with a sedentary farming life. These societies saw a great deal of equality between men and women but there were more social pressures and rules and people could no longer move as easily. It was more important that they learned to get along.

And then came the war religions--the Jews, the Christians, the Muslims. The purpose of their myths, religion and/or fictional stories was to help people deal with killing one another. These religions create an "us versus them" kind of thinking. They say, "We are right and good, they are wrong and bad, it is okay for us to kill them." Because in battle men were so much more useful than women, women saw themselves fall miserably in status until for more than a thousand years, they were little more than property. But war worship doesn't just create inequality for women, in war worship we conquer our friends, our lovers, our businesses--status, winning, that's what we do.

Why am I writing about this? Because it is important to understand that the main culture we grow from today is based on war worship. It is based on "us versus them". It is based on victim thinking followed by the worship of the hero who "saves" the victims. It is based on competition worship (since that is a kind of war).

So a couple things:

-We wonder and wonder and wonder why it is so hard for us to have healthy relationships with one another yet it makes perfect sense to me that, having spent a lifetime thinking in terms of good guys and bad guys, winning and losing, the art of relating and treating people well... is nonexistent. Isn't the only point of treating people well to get them to like you so you can... get something? It's not actually about relating.

-We wonder and wonder and wonder (as a culture) why we are sexually oppressive but it is obvious to me. We worship war. Sex is a distraction. Unless sex is being used for the war in some way (to create more of us or to distract a bad guy) sex will never be what it was for the hunter-gatherers (something so normal you barely notice it) or what it was for the ancient farmers (something so important it was worshipped).

-We wonder why women can't seem to get on an equal footing as men but it is obvious to me that when women as useful in battle as men, they will finally be equal. But in a culture that worships war and wars heroes, women will never be equals until they are the war heroes.

-I wonder about organized sports. The government started pushing organized sports after the civil war so that they would have better soldiers in the next war--not just more physically fit but able to step into that us versus them, "go fight win" mindset that is so important to win a war.

-The history we teach our children (hypothetically so that they are not doomed to repeat it) primes them for war. It primes them for us versus them and hero worship. The fiction we read and watch is almost always a war story--bad guys versus good guys. We even think about stories that way--a story without a protagonist and an antagonist wouldn't be a good story, right? Not shockingly, you will find no protagonists and antagonists in stories before war cultures came into being. And it's not because ancient people were less smart or not good story tellers, it was because they couldn't conceive of thinking in that way, that way of thinking that we take for granted as normal.

-Children's fiction was invented in the 1800's (simplification) to illustrate to children how to be. Fiction back then was very clear about the morals and values it was teaching. Today fiction is the same. Fiction is no different from any myth or religion--it offers a way of seeing the world, it rewards certain behaviors and punishes others, it sells a certain vision of hero to the reader that the reader will then internalize and strive to become more like.

-Does the fiction we expose our children to prevent them from developing authentically? How well does it succeed in selling a certain version of hero to them so that they strive to be more like the hero in the book and less like themselves? Most importantly, do the stories teach war thinking because we wonder and wonder and wonder how we can have a free and peaceful society... but it makes perfect sense to me that as long as we think in a war-worship paradigm, we will be a war-worshipping society.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

I Don't Make My Son Share

It gets pretty awkward when my son is around other kids who have been made to share. My son feels entitled to want what he wants and he goes for it. He has no insecurities and he doesn't wait to seek my approval. He has been trusted to make most decisions for himself and so he does. When he plays with other children who are also being raised this way, it is peaceful and quite lovely. Both children grab toys from one another at will, neither are bothered when a toy is taken from them (for the most part) and immediately look for other things to do, when one is bothered and protests, the other listens and often gives the toy back! It is a marvel to see. There is almost never a need for adult intervention and, the truth is, these play dates are peaceful in the extreme i.e. though I have seen a child protest every now and then, the protests are rare.

Sound crazy? IT IS. It is crazy to watch these playdates and wonder what on Earth parents are useful for. If you think of toddlers as I do, as distinguished visitors from a far off land who don't quite understand out customs, and you watch them interact it is clear that toddlers are often from the same land... and have a natural understanding for certain customs like grabbing.

I feel fascinated when watching children who are being parenting the Standard Way with lots of talk about sharing since the moment they are born. These children don't feel entitled to want what they want. When they see something they would like to investigate further, they hesitate and wonder what the rules are and whether they are good or bad. They look insecure in moments of disagreement with other children and seek an adult to tell them what is right and wrong. At the same time, they are sneaky when adults are not around, immediately doing what they know they are not allowed to do when the adult is there.

I have never noticed my son trying to be sneaky. He doesn't make the "I'm ashamed" face and he doesn't make the "I'm going to get away with it" face.

Today my son played with three children aged 2, 3 and 4. All three were required to share, more or less. I noticed that my 21-month-old was less bothered when the other kids took things from him and at the same time, more generous with the other children. If he noticed one wanted something, he was happy to get it for them, and happy to give it to them (as soon as he was done with it). The most interesting thing was how sensitive he was, noticing when other kids got upset and also how independent.

When children are forced to share they learn that when another child comes up to them and takes something from them, they have been wronged. They get upset and look for an adult to solve the problem. A scenario has been created in which one child is the victim and the other is the bully, one is good and the other bad. Both children must do their best to win the favor of the arbiter, the adult. This was the case today and it was fascinating to watch. Anders never came running to me to complain of a wrong.

This is what I have noticed so far. I am curious to see what happens as they get older!

Monday, July 15, 2013

Is Fantasy-Fiction Bad For Kids?

Wanted to share this great article!

Peter Gray is right on about control, external motivators and depression, but I want to know more about the role that adult-created-fantasy-for-children plays because I believe it is significant. Take a kid, let him have all the free choice he wants, but spend hours reading stories to him about people with magic and watching movies about dogs that fly and rather than using his own brain and working out his creativity muscles, he will spend the rest of the day (or week) digesting what you just read to him, trying to figure it out, the way a traumatized child would.

A child who experiences something traumatic, like seeing a car accident, will reenact this scene over and over trying to make sense of it and understand it. Processing. The child previously thought that cars don't hit each other or fly through the air but now he saw that happen and he needs to understand. So he "plays" the car accident over and over.

A child who is read a fictional story that doesn't agree with his current understand of reality reacts similarly. Children who previously thought that dogs don't fly but now saw a dog flying also need to play over and over this scene of dogs flying. Or witches casting spells. Or people with magic powers killing bad guys. The child "plays" these scenes over and over until he "understands".

Maria Montessori wrote about the detrimental effects of fiction on children in The Child in the Family. Ayn Rand echos these concerns in her essay "The Comprachicos". Many huge businesses would lose a lot of money if they are right so I can understand why the initial research on this topic was never repeated. I would love to know the role that understanding reality plays in creativity. Don't you have to understand reality in order to recreate it? If you are genuinely confused about reality... how "creative" can you be?

There is something that really doesn't make sense about a billion kids all acting the exact same way and re-enacting the exact same stories... that just can't be how creativity starts.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Health Note: Cayenne Pepper Stops Bleeding

Yesterday I chopped off the very tip of my finger--the chunk of skin that I found on the counter was about 1/4" diameter. The bleeding was impressive for such a small cut and it wouldn't stop. I wrapped my wound in a paper towel and twenty minutes after it happened I was shocked to see blood still rolling out of my finger. I googled it to see if I should go to the ER and get stitches. What I found was a site that recommended sprinkling cayenne pepper on the wound to stop the bleeding. I didn't like the sound of that but after fifteen more minutes decided to give it a try.

I sprinkled barely any cayenne pepper, sure that it would sting and not work and I would be sorry. But what happened was AWESOME. My wound was still producing a large droop of blood every half second. I sprinkled almost no cayenne on the wound. It stung; I swore. And then I watched as a scab formed. In about five seconds I was no longer bleeding and my finger was covered in a shiny scab. It was insane to watch since it happen so fast.

Anyway, cheers to the internet and free, natural cures!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

When My Toddler Won't Get In His Car Seat

When my toddler, Anders, doesn't want to get in or out of the car, I don't make him.

The other day my husband, our friend Ryan, my son Anders and I went out to eat. When we parked at the restaurant, Anders wanted to hang out in the car. I explained the situation to Ryan thus: "If Anders were another adult friend who turned to us and said, 'Hey guys, I need a few minutes to collect myself before we go into the restaurant. Would you mind waiting?' We would say, 'Sure, no problem.' And we would all wait. I see no reason we should not wait for Anders." Anders hung out in car for about five minutes and then told us he was "all done" and the four of us went happily into the restaurant.

At the peak of Anders's desire to spend time in the car (17-19 months approximately) about half an hour before I wanted to leave to go somewhere, I would invite him to get into the car. When he was done researching all the nooks and crannies in the front seat, he would climb into the back, get into his car seat and call me. Then we would leave. I loved this as I got a lot done in that time!

Often we when we did errands, he would want to get into the driver seat and do some exploring before heading home as well. At first this annoyed me, and then I thought, "What am I rushing home for? So that Anders and I can be together... at home? So that we could go to the park? There is nothing more important that I need to be doing than being with Anders."

It was an easy switch: before we went home, Anders would sit in the front seat pressing buttons, happy as could be and I would sit in the back seat, getting my email on my phone and reading, happy as could be.

Because Anders gets to go at his own pace so often, he is very respectful of the times when I want to rush. Whenever I tell him we are in a hurry, he gets right into his car seat or right out with no issues.

To be clear, I did forced Anders into his car seat about twice in his life. Both times I felt horrible and both times involved me choosing to use force against my toddler rather than to "disappoint" someone by "being late." Though I am rarely late for things, if given the choice today I would choose my relationship with my son over the imagined offense of tardiness.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Non-Coercive Parenting: When My Toddler Bangs on the Table

When my eighteen-month-old bangs on the dining room table during a meal, I bang with him! This delights him and we often invent some pretty cool rhythms. The banging usually lasts for one to five minutes and it creates a fantastic connection between us. It also brings me into the present moment--banging on the table is an activity that, surprisingly, I find enjoyable.

Because banging on the table is a fun activity we do together, my son has been 100% cooperative (so far) about the times I prefer we don't bang on the table--like when we are at restaurants. On rare occasions at home I also request that we don't bang on the table--like when I have company over. Most of the people I have over enjoy banging on the table with my son as much as I do. More people makes it even more fun! But some people don't.

Because banging on the table is an accepted activity, my son has also allowed me to teach him how I prefer we bang on the table (flat sides of forks and spoons so as not to damage the wood).

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Book Review - Tears and Tantrums & Connection Parenting

I don't have time right now to post anything in depth but I just finished two absolutely stellar books Tears & Tantrums: What To Do When Babies and Children Cry and Connection Parenting: Parenting Through Connection Instead of Coercion, Through Love Instead of Fear.

Both are fantastic books that I wish all parents had read. Tears and Tantrums explains how healthy it is to allow our children to cry and how important it is to be present with them while they express their strong emotions rather than banishing them to their rooms or teaching them a control mechanism like eating or distraction.

Connection Parenting has some problems (namely that the author read the Continuum Concept which as I have said in my review is written in an emotionally traumatizing style with the goal of forcing parents to parent a certain way by painting vivid (though inaccurate) pictures of what will happen if they don't. Even as I read it, knowing that what she was saying was false, I was still "traumatized" by this book! Meaning, connection is key, healthy relationship are key. You can have great connection with your child and a healthy relationship with your child while not carrying them around or practicing other overly-exaggerated and sentimentalized ideas from Attachment Parenting (AP has a lot of good ideas too).

Back to Connection Parenting--fabulous! Especially the first two chapters! Says very similar things to what I say in my thesis statement and soon-to-be-book.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Cool, Sexy, Fun Anarchy - part 2

I often wonder if I should be directing any energy at this blog. There is so much fabulous AMLOV (anarchist, minarchist, libertarian, objectivist, voluntaryist) thought out there--is there really a need for yet more thought, however awesome? I do think it is important that I continue to write about the connection between our parenting styles and the society we create but I keep thinking that AMLOV's lack:

1) AMLOV businesses to support: AMLOVs seem themselves as a persecuted people always in danger of being outed, like Jews before WWII. For the most part, they don't feel safe admitting their political identification. This is understandable, but tragic. It does not serve us to hide from one another. Especially financially. AMLOVs, despite their sound economic principles, are not a wealthy demographic. Given the choice, every time I hire a worker, I would rather hire a like-minded person. So would most people. I spent the last ten years working for the uber-wealthy of the Los Angeles area. Every family that I worked for attended some type of religious service and had a church or synagogue directory that they kept on hand. Whenever it was time to hire anyone for anything, they first turned to their directories. I wish I had the opportunity to do the same. I wish there were an airbnb for freedom lovers to crash at each other's houses. Perhaps even just an international magazine--you know all those little ads in the back? Maybe that would be enough.

2) Ways to enjoy life and community with one another: the Free State Project and the Blue Ridge Liberty Project and the gulches being started around the world are doing this but I would also like to see private AMLOV dining clubs in the five major US cities. I'd also love to see (in the major cities) housing situations that would inspire community. Here in LA I would do a Twenties Dorm. It would be styled just like a college dorm but would be for people right out of college that have the financial savvy to know that they need to spend a few years saving before they should splurge on furniture and entire apartments. Imagine graduating from college and being able to rent a room in a dorm with other hard working twenty-somethings. It would be a great place to meet people, extremely affordable and since most twenty-somethings are working long hours there is no need for them to also maintain entire houses, or even purchase furniture. There could even be a health-oriented dining hall on the first floor where they could eat, they could live on the really cheap floors with communal bathrooms or splurge and have one of the apartments with a kitchenette and its own bathroom. There could be a business office on the bottom floor with fax and photo copy machines and entrepreneurs to give advice. There could be philosophy lectures.... I imagine the same set up for young families. Modeled after the state-supported Family Hotels in Scandinavia, there could be an apartment building designed specifically for families. Same idea, healthy dining on the bottom flood, parenting advice and classes, even a RIE style daycare to show parents how to treat their children respectfully. There are enough books about how to respect children, what we need are businesses!

3) AMLOV entertainment: there is almost no philosophically sound entertainment out there. There are almost no children's books that I don't cringe at for some reason or another when I want to read to my son. On YouTube there is some stand-up comedy but no fiction. Fiction is what reaches our emotional brains and mythologizes our values and belief-systems. I'd love to start a Cool Sexy Fun Hip magazine. I'd call it Freedom Culture or something like that. It would serve much the same purpose as many of the blogs out there--it would be a treasure trove of information about what likeminded people are thinking and doing. Perhaps there would be a YouTube morning show so that AMLOVs could get their current events infotainment from each other. Perhaps the SchoolSucksProject would have a weekly or monthly article and Stefan would host an evening interview.

If anyone wants to give up their blogging and go into business down any of these roads, email me :)

Saturday, February 2, 2013

How to NOT treat children comedy sketch on youtube!

Health Note - My First Cold in Nine Years & Primal Experiment Update

My last cold was in 2004. I got sick in 2004 because I had just finished taking a course on nutrition at Wesleyan University. That USDA approved-course convinced me that processed meats, non-fat dairy, diet sodas, sugar and white flour were not bad for me. They weren't good, but they weren't bad either. So for the first time in my life, I started eating them. The six months following my nutrition class I gained fifteen pounds and finally understood cold-medicine commercials. Those commercials had never made sense to me before--sneezing, runny nose, not resting, coughing, pounding head, stuck in bed--OMG this is what it feels like to be sick!?! I was in bed for three days and it was a revelation. I went back to eating the way I had grown up eating--if mother nature made it, I ate it; if man made it, I didn't.

From 2004 until last year I worked with children. They were sick all the time. Their parents would catch their colds, the other household employees would catch their colds, but I never did. I was reckless and cocky around their germs too because--why should I care about germs if they never made me ill? I had no real appreciation of how fabulous it is to be healthy because, over time, I forgot how much it sucks to be sick.

When I met my husband, Tom, he got sick all the time--usually something I brought home. Our first Winter Solstice together I was working for Reese Witherspoon. Both her kids, her ex-husband, the other nanny and her mother who was visiting came down with a terrible 24-hour-stomach bug. I didn't get it, but Tom did. It was comical.

When Tom moved in with me and started eating the way I eat he stopped getting sick and neither of us ever really thought about it again until this January when Tom went to Nicaragua for ten days. He lived off of pizza and burgers and then he sat next to a sneezing, nose-blowing person on his plane flight home. Five days later, he had the whole Sick Experience: sore throat, sneezing, itchy eyes, nose blowing, aching body, dead-head, super tired. This lasted about five days. I didn't worry very much because we both knew why he got sick and we both knew that I wouldn't get sick.

But I did. I didn't get as sick as my husband, but I got tired and sneezy. I even had to blow my nose. Did you know that if you blow your nose too many times in one day it gets raw and uncomfortable? I had faint memories of a similar realization back in 2004.

So why did I get sick? Well, during the month of January I had done a "Primal" experiment, altering my diet to see if I would feel even better than I already do most of the time by not eating grains, legumes or tubers. From my research I had concluded that the Weston A. Price Foundation diet recommendations that I follow regularly are superior to the Primal diet, but I am a sucker for science experiments and every body is different and so many people were swearing by the Primal diet... I figured I had nothing to lose. Well, I did have something to lose. The good health I take for granted! I guess there is something in those soaked/sprouted/fermented grains, legumes and tubers that I normally eat that keeps my body healthy because OMFG being sick sucks!!! How does the average American deal with this four times a year? I am totally pissed off.

You know who else got sick? My toddler. His very first cold. And granted it's amazing that my child did not get sick for the first time until he was fifteen-months-old, I'm pissed about that too.

I concluded my post about my Primal experiment by saying that the Primal diet was a good way for people to kick the Standard American Diet. Now I think: the Primal diet sucks. 

Ugh, okay, in FreedomSpeak: My Primal diet experiment did not meet my need for good health nor did it meet my expectation that I would find something to share with people I like. I feel disappointed. And annoyed.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Cool, Sexy, Fun Anarchy

How does calling yourself a Voluntaryist, Anarchist, or Libertarian make you feel? Do those ideas with which you identify empower you?

To put it another way: if you want people to support a certain cause (peace and freedom, for example) if you want people to take on an identity, what will it feel like for them? How can you make a certain identity an empowering one? Or at the very least--cool, sexy and fun.

Right now, the realization that one identifies with Anarchist, Minarchist, Libertarian, Objectivist or Voluntaryist views (which I will shorten and call "AmLov" views for the rest of this article) is a depressing, horrifying realization. To be a Regular American is way cooler than to be an AmLov. AmLovs are the freaks on the fringes of soceity. They wear a lot of black but they are rarely sexy. They complain a lot about government conspiracies to keep them sick, but they are rarely healthy. They complain about people stealing from them, but they don't look like people who have anything worth stealing. They mostly seem angry, unhappy and lonely. Perhaps that is because that is how they are portrayed on television, but perhaps there is a grain of truth in every stereotype. Either way, who wants to feel angry, unhappy and lonely? 

What if identifying as an AmLov felt empowering? What if identifying as a Libertarian felt as cool as a car commercial, as sexy as a fashion magazine and as fun as a summer blockbuster?

This is what I see as largely the difference between the new and old generation of AmLovs. Old-timers are all about neo-cortex conversion politics. The new AmLovs know that the best way to convert anyone to anything is simply by modeling it, modeling how awesome life is, how confident, happy, healthy, wealthy and wise we are now that we identify as Freedom Lovers. But... are we? Because I don't want to seem anything, I want to be all of those things.

My favorite video on this subject is:

I was thinking about this because of a similar topic: Cool, Sexy, Fun Health

There are some ideas that sell, catch on and catch fire in the public imagination and have the potential of changing the world. Most of the ideas that do change the world are not good ones. There is so much amazing information out there that has a tiny audience.

I was so frustrated with all the bad health advice being given that in my twenties I started a company called Nutritionally Perfect Meals--and then I found the Weston A. Price Association. Their views were exactly what I had discovered after years and years of research. How was it that they had existed that whole time while I was doing all that reading and researching but I had never heard of them? How is it that today, the Paleo Diet, so similar to WAPF yet so inferior, is the one that has captured the public?

My theory is marketing. Check out these two magazine covers:

This is the quarterly journal of the Weston A. Price Association. Incredible information. Very dense. But look at this cover compared to the one below for the Paleo Magazine. Who would want to identify with this MESS when they could identify with the COOL, HIP Paleo cover below.

I read both magazines cover to cover and the inside of the magazines are the same as the outside. Paleo sells sells sells. Their articles are not long and are fairly shallow but they are upbeat and always make being Paleo cool.

The Wise Traditions (WAPF) articles are long and packed with scientific research, number, graphs, experiments. The information is awesome but it is is just your friendly, local health-nut, librarian with tons of information that you can take or leave. They are above selling themselves.

Whether or not you know anything about WAPF and Paleo, the first magazine cover is the current Voluntaryist, Anarchist, Libertarian movement. The second magazine cover is where I would like us to go.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

My Ideal Unschool Community Here and Now

I don't consider any form of schooling currently offered to be viable options for my family. There are many alternative options to traditional school but, as Bret says on his SchoolSucksProject podcast--they are just hacking away at the branches of a Tree of Evil. The only real solution will require starting from scratch.

And it all starts with philosophy. Here are is what I would like to see in an Unschool created Here and Now:

Revolutionary Idea #1: INCLUDE children in life rather than exclude them from it. 

In most of human history, there was no separation between the world of children and the world of adults. There was one world. In the middle ages Big Religion came on the scene and denounced society as evil, immoral, sinful, gross, wrong, etc. Many people who despised society left to live in monasteries. They got up before dawn, prayed all day and lived the life they were told was "good" by their "god." They were such obedient, peaceful little servants that their leaders looked down on them and thought--if only all people were like this! (I am skipping a great deal of messy history here, if you want to read the longer version, I highly recommend A Social History of Family Life.)

Big Religion's big idea was similar to the idea of all conquerers throughout history: if you want to control the culture, change the culture, turn free people into slaves, whatever it is you want to do, do it to the children. They won't know any better. They will grow up thinking that however it is that they are living is normal. Big Religion wanted children to be kept away from the adult world of alcohol, sex and gambling (these were the specific vices they complained about). They thought if only children were sheltered from these things, sheltered from real life, then it wouldn't be real life! Children would never grow up to gamble or drink or have sex if they didn't know those things existed.

And so children began to be removed from the adult world. Over the centuries (there was a lot of resistance, this change took hundreds of years to make happen) Big Religion took many routes to see this accomplished. Sometimes it was because children were pure and fragile and needed to be protected from the big, bad adult world, sometimes it was because children were sinful and bad and needed to be controlled, and then finally it was because children were empty slates and needed to be trained and prepared for life (and not living life, not working alongside their parents, despite the fact that all children in the history of the world had worked along side their parents--a hundred years ago some zealots managed to convince an entire country of people that children should never be allowed to "work". Keep in mind that "work" is defined as paid work since what children are required to do at school is still work.)

In order for children to be removed from the adult world, guess who else had to be removed? Women! Someone had to stay home and police all these children into turning into The Right People. And so two separate worlds started to exist--home and the workplace. Pretty soon there were "family" activities and "adult" activities. Children, deprived of learning about real life, were told instead to learn about Fake Shit. Children moved out of the real world and into a fantasy world filled with fairies, princesses, and magic spells. 

I'd like to reiterate how new this all is. The puritans (the religious zealots who founded this country) spoke frankly with even their youngest children about sex and death. Children's books from this time period made it very clear what sex was and what would happen to children who partook in it. Standard American Parents didn't start hiding sex from children in the 1800's. Death wasn't hidden until the 1900's.

My point being: these ideas we have about who children are, about what they can and cannot "handle" are new and FALSE. Modern hunter-gatherer children live happy lives surrounded by sex and death. I'm not idealizing the lives of hunter-gatherer children, but I am saying kids can handle real life. And in fact, there is a lot less of a power-struggle dynamic between parents and children when parents welcome children into their lives rather than try to keep them out or try to get them to do "children" things rather than "adult" things, when parents model a life-well-lived instead of going to great lengths to invent a world for children that doesn't actually exist.

What children actually can't handle (without a loss of self-esteem and personal development) is being lied to or being encouraged to live somewhere other than reality.

Revolutionary Idea 2: Don't lie to children. Ever.

Magda Gerber, Maria Montessori, Ayn Rand and Nathaniel Branden (among others) all say the same thing in different ways: from the minute they are born, children work their butts off to understand reality. Their self-esteem depends on their ability to feel competent at understanding reality. Infants talk to everything they see in an attempt to find out what talks back and what doesn't, to understand what is alive and what isn't, what communicates with them, etc. They do these science experiments a thousand times before they make conclusions about life. When well-meaning parents give them talking stuffed animals... the confusion starts, the feeling of incompetence, the loss of self-esteem. "This talks? Hmmm, I had concluded that dogs don't talk back, but this one does! I guess some do…." Then there are the other stuffed animals, the ones that have never talked back to the baby, but then one day the parents make them talk; they put them to bed and invite them to tea; they show their kids movies and books of animals doing all kinds of things that humans do and then think it's so cute when kids start believing totally nutty things. Kids don't want to be nutty! They don't want to be cute! They want to know about reality, and they have no idea that their parents are misleading them.

Here is a rant of ideas: instead of dressing babies in clothes that look oh-so-cute, how about dressing babies in whatever would best enable them to move in the only ways they can so that they can learn about the world? Instead of giving children toys that light up and spin and dazzle them as if by magic, give them household objects, things they have seen you use. You will be shocked at how much they have been paying attention--before he was one-year-old, without me ever having me directly shown him what to do with these things, my son knew that spoons were for putting in bowls, that toothbrushes go in mouths, that hairbrushes go on your head, that when we spill water on the floor we get a towel, etc. These are useful things to know! When Standard American Parents come over, they try to get my son to brush his hair with a toothbrush, to wear a towel like a scarf and things like that, but he looks at them like they're nuts. And they are. They don't brush their hair with tooth brushes, why would he want to? Instead of drilling children with the names of a bunch of animals that don't matter to them and have nothing to do with their lives, take them into the backyard. I promise ants, rollie-pollies and all the other bugs and plants I wish I could name are far more interesting to toddlers than giraffes and lions they will never encounter in their lives except behind bars at the zoo.

At my ideal Community Unschool Center, there would be a local naturalist who could teach all of us, including the kids, about where we actually live, what we can actually do with the plants and animals that grow in our backyards and on our hillsides. Can one eat rollie-pollies? Or moths? Instead of indoctrinating children into this idea of girls wearing gowns and boys slaying dragons, read books about REAL LIFE. Wait... there aren't any. It has been impossible for me to find books for my son that aren't instructing him to move into his imagination and stay there. And yes, older children, specifically older than seven, can understand and enjoy the idea of animals talking and acting like humans--though I am unconvinced they would if given the option to live in reality instead. I bet seven year olds who never moved into a make believe world would prefer to socialize and do various work activities than read books about animals that talk.

Hunter-gatherer children are never asked to help out or contribute to their villages food supply, yet they do. In those tribes where food can be gathered nearby, all children will spend part of their day "playing" gathering and hunting. Most four-year-olds can catch small prey (like lizards) and roast them for a snack. Hunter-gatherer children also spend time running around and playing various games that have something to do with life as they have seen it. Without adults cramming a make-blieve world down their throats... hunter-gatherer children don't move into one. They remain fully in the real world and are considered competent (though weaker) members of the tribe by the time they are eight-years-old. (This is obviously a generalization. For exact numbers read Hunter-Gatherer Childhoods.)

Some Unschool Visions or Life Being Well-Lived:

THE UNSCHOOL ON THE FARM: find a local farmer who likes the idea of children being a part of life and likes the idea of his farm being a community "center" i.e. the heart-beat of a community. Then find the community. How many people work on the farm? Let's say 25 doing various things: some man the small vegetable garden, some move the animals from pen to pen, some milk, some gather eggs, some prepare these things for market, some go to market and sell them, etc. The farm is a business. Children of all ages can learn the entire business by spending time on this farm. A RIE daycare is run out of one of the rooms in the house that has 6 infants. (RIE is a great non-cercive, highly respectful day-care model.) There are 6 toddlers running around in the vegetable garden and helping prepare lunch and do other things with food. The older kids are free to do as they like. There would be about a dozen kids ranging in age from 3 all the way to 12. They could help with whatever they want on the farm, learn whatever they want, bond with whatever adult they happen to connect with, or run around together playing hide-and-seek or start their own farm-related-businesses. This is just life, these people make a community together. By the time any given child is 12 (or even 8) there is no reason why he could not do any job on the farm he was strong enough to do. By the time he is 12 to 16, there is no reason he could not start and run his own farm or be a valuable employee on someone else's.

THE RESTAURANT UNSCHOOL: Perhaps the restaurant is in a city. It has a vegetable garden on the roof or in window-boxes. It has a large play area / RIE daycare on the top floor of the building. The food preparation area is designed for both children and adults to work. This is not a high-stress, high-pressure restaurant we are used to. This a family restaurant, a place where ten-year-olds can wait tables if they want to and thirteen-year-olds man the cash register. It's the same basic idea as the farm--it's a family business, a place where kids are welcome, a place where teenagers can start their own thing (selling a special tomato sauce perhaps). It's a place where 30 adults come to work every day and 30 kids come to work and learn. There is a room for reading and with good internet for when a kid or an adult wants to study something. There are adults present who are dedicated to child-care and making sure the kids' needs are getting met. And then there are all the other adults, just going about doing their jobs--that the kids can help with or not. Children passionate about food can be competent cooks long before they are 12. They can have their 10,000 hours of cooking and restaurant experience before they are 16. Instead of being 22-year-olds just starting out in the world with no real-life skills and massive debt, they can be 18-year-olds opening their own restaurant with a lifetime of experience behind them. And if you think that children are "not safe" around stoves… please watch my YouTube video of my 2 year old making his own eggs.

THE ENTRPRENEURS UNSCHOOL: This also takes place in a city, but it doesn't have to. It's an office building, let's day two stories with 30 offices. It has a courtyard and many different professionals doing many different things. Let's say this is a health-centered office center. The businesses include: a birthing center, a naturopath's office, a physical therapist's office, a massage parlor and day spa, a krav maga center, an NVC therapists's office, a small coffee shop, etc. Same idea! Turn one of the offices into a RIE daycare center and turn another into a Kumon learning center. Now you have your client base for the Unschool. Get everyone in the office building on board with inviting children to join them in their lives. Now the 30 kids that spend all day at this office center can learn about many different things, bond with whatever adult they happen to connect with and end up helping and learning about different careers! Maybe Ana has been obsessed with the midwives and babies since she was seven and by the time she is sixteen is a highly qualified midwife's assistant seriously considering medical school. Brian started bouncing around doing photo copies and answering phones for pretty much everyone in the building since he was five. Now he is ten and he spends all his time in the cafe, he can practically run the place. Catherine is two and spends her day at the RIE daycare. She has already bonded with the older, childless NVC psychologist who stops by to hang out with the babies on her lunch break. Danny is a newborn. His parents have no intention of unschooling him, but they like this daycare center. Ester is fifteen. She has helped at many of the different establishments, but now she mostly likes helping out with the babies! Frank works in one of the offices. He lets the kids come in to see what he is doing three days a week and the other two days a week, he takes meetings. He is a single man in his forties and really enjoys having this opportunity to bond with some children since he doesn't think he will ever have his own. Ginger is a young woman fresh out of college who runs the vegetable garden. She is constantly swarmed with toddlers... and loves it that way. Harry, one of the caregivers at the daycare, is always there to make sure the toddlers don't cause too much trouble. 

ANARCHIST STUDIOS: It's like the old studio system--a community of people who work together on many film projects instead of just one. The studio is in Nicargua (to avoid all the laws and unions here). This is a larger community, maybe 1000 people, 200 of which are children, all living and working on making entertainment products for anarchists in this small village in Nicaragua. Of course, there are many other jobs--there is a farm and people who cook, there are set builders, electricians, writers, camera men, actors... Everyone hangs out together all day working. Children included. That is a life well-lived.

Everyone Benefits

It doesn't matter what business this "unschool model" is designed around--it can work with pretty much anything. Children could easily run an inn or a hotel, they could run a root-beer making business or a magazine publication. It would be an incredible opportunity for everyone involved, not just the children.

The parents of these children: when faced with knowledge of what most daycares and school situations are, most unschooling parents are forced to have one person stay home with the child. This is a lonely often miserable way to raise a child. Instead, the mom brings her baby to a daycare in the office building and she either works at the daycare herself until the baby is older or maybe she works in the cafe and visits her baby all day long or maybe she is a masseuse and works at the spa--she doesn't have to chose between being at home with her baby and going to work--she can do both.

Productivity is a definite factor that all involved would have to learn about over time. It is hard to get things done with young children around, but, the very young children are in the daycare center and the older ones are very competent and have many different people with whom they can spend time. Perhaps their parents pay a monthly fee to the office building (after all, everyone in the office building is technically providing day care for the child). Perhaps by the time the child is eleven he is so competent that the person he usually spends his days helping out feels he should be earning a wage... they discuss it and now a parent that would normally be a) not working to stay home with her kid or b) paying for childcare... now she has a kid making money! Most children should be money-earners by the time they are 8-16. Most children will finish up at this Unschool Academy with money in their bank account and business experience to boot.

To Rewrite Your Brainwashing, Study History

Most people to whom I propose the above are shocked. They learned in school that children working is the evilest thing in the world, a form of child abuse. But they are seriously confused. The problem was never children learning productive work, the problem was not about upper or middle class children i.e. the problem was never the child of the carpenter working with his dad. The problem was the children of the poor, the children of factory workers working alongside their parents in factories. The problem was not the wanted and beloved children of the upper and middle classes, the problem was the exploited children of the poor. In order to deal with the exploited small percentage of children, laws were made for all children.

And even then, the problem may not actually be children working in factories, but philosophy. The child working in the factory did not own his body or his earnings. His parents did. Desperate parents basically treated their children as slaves. But with philosophy this is impossible. If the child knows he is not a slave. If the child owns his body and his wages, there may not have been any problems in the first place. Doubters of this ought to read Escape from Childhood, Harmful to Minors, and The Case Against Adolescence.

*I have not explain this that well I think.