Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Our visit to Virginia Tech

Logan and I went to Virginia Tech this weekend. I decided Friday night that I wanted to go down. The fraternity I was a little sister in (Theta Xi) was having an alumni get together this weekend; it was scheduled before everything happened and they decided to go ahead with it. I wasn’t originally going to go but decided I really needed to see other Hokies and the campus.

We left the house at 8 am to make the 6 hour drive. This was a big deal for us as we rarely are out of bed before 10. Logan was great during the drive, he didn’t even need to watch any DVDs, he just listened to music with me and looked out the window. I guess with all the traveling we do, 6 hours isn’t that big a deal.

When we got to Blacksburg we went straight to the fraternity house for the get together. It was so great seeing people I hadn’t seen in 15 years! I’m ashamed it has taken me this long to get back in touch, I haven’t been to a fraternity function since I’ve graduated. I go back to Tech every summer but haven’t made a fraternity event. Some of the people I saw this weekend meant a lot to me when I was in college and I let them slip away after I graduated. It is so sad that it took something like this happening to motivate me to get back in touch!

Logan and I spend almost 5 hours at the house visiting. There was another 7 year old boy there that Logan hit it off with instantly. They spent many hours playing in the sand of the volleyball court. They also played volleyball with some of the brothers until Logan got hurt. He never got bored and was disappointed when it was time to leave (I was too).

After we left the house we went to campus. I wasn’t sure if we were going to go to campus when we went to Blacksburg. I wasn’t sure I was ready to handle it. However, all the reports from people that had been to campus said most of the media had left and it was pretty much just Hokies there. We were able to find a parking space right on the drillfield and walked around for over an hour.

It was extremely emotional! There are memorials set up all over the drillfield. In the middle of the drillfield are large boards for people to write messages on. I’m not sure if there was one for each victim or not, but there were a lot of them.

By the chapel, they had a small memorial set up with candles that were burning.

Also in that area were books to write messages in and large cloth banners that children were putting handprints on and signing their names. Logan signed his name on the banner and I left a message in the book.

On the other side of the drillfield were set up orange bulletin boards for people to leave mementos, things like pom-poms, football tickets, pictures etc.

On the edge of the drillfield closest to Burress, up against the wall that is there, they had set up individual memorials for each victim. There were flowers and pictures and messages and gifts for each victim.

These were arranged in a half circle coming out from the wall and in the middle up against the wall was a huge combined memorial with messages from other schools and tons of flowers.

There was a long line to walk by all the individual memorials, this was the hardest part of the visit. Everyone was silent walking by each mound and many people were crying, including myself. Looking up and seeing Burress and then looking down and seeing the offerings was somehow extra emotional.

Walking around campus there were little memorials everywhere. Most of them weren’t for anyone in particular just reminders wherever you went of what had happened. Very few people were anywhere near the building, they had police tape surrounding it and you couldn’t get anywhere near it. Most people were on the drillfield focusing on the victims and not focusing on the scene.

It was interesting walking around the drillfield, the memorials were all on the edges and when you went to those areas it was very quiet, everyone was in their own thoughts. However, in the middle of the drillfield, people were listening to music and playing frisbee, basically doing normal drillfield activities. I thought this juxtaposition was appropriate. While we are all grieving over what happened, life does go on and we need to focus on the joy of the life we have as much as possible.

It was a long, tiring weekend as well as emotionally exhausting but I’m so glad I went! I wish I had gone down earlier in the week to be there to help with support. Many people were giving out ribbons, or food, or bows to tie on trees. It felt that those things were comforting for most there and I wish I had been part of giving that comfort.

What was most important is I discovered that what my friend Jon said when he returned from his visit to campus is true for me also, “It still feels like home.”

"We are the Hokies. We will prevail. We are Virginia Tech."
--Nikki Giovanni

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

The Tragedy at Virginia Tech

I wasn't going to say anything on here about it, but I'm tired of all the finger pointing and blame. And apparently I'm in a introspective mood today.

I went to Virginia Tech in the early 90's, so I'm familiar with the campus and the student body. Many people are arguing the campus should have been locked down after the first shooting. Let's just say that this is possible to do at this hour of the morning and with the magnitude of students, most of whom are driving in from off-campus and most likely have not turned on the news or their computers. Let's just say that the over 20 entrances to campus were blocked off and the off-campus students were sent home.

So, we've locked down the campus. Where is the killer when the lockdown occurs? Noone knows, is he in his dorm room? In the dining hall? In a class? Are we locking down everyone where they are? Are those in the dining hall locked down in the dining hall or are they sent back to their dorm rooms? At 8 am many, many people are in the dining hall. What is to stop the killer from killing whoever is locked down with him? If he is in the dining hall he has 100s of potential victims, he could do a lot more damage in a lot faster period of time in a dining hall. If he is in his dorm, what is to stop him from killing everyone in the dorm?

But, let's say he doesn't kill anyone during the lockdown. How long is this lockdown going to last? Until he is caught? They had no leads after the first killing. If he had stopped there, he may never have been caught. So, how long can a lockdown reasonably go on? I know as a college student, I would have taken the lockdown seriously for maybe an hour or 2 before I got bored and started thinking the whole thing was a huge over-reaction. I guarantee I'm not alone in this feeling, so we all start venturing out. Maybe we go to the dining hall to get food, or to McD's or a local bar. We aren't going to stay locked in our dorm rooms forever. So, what is to stop the killer from going out at this point and doing the killing?

Eventually they will have to lift the lockdown, this is a college, classes have to go on. So, if they kept everyone locked down for a whole day, by the next day the lockdown would be lifted and students would go on to class again. What is to stop the killer from doing the killings at this point?

Anyone set on doing something like this is going to do it. I truly believe at best they might have been able to delay what he did. Even with his body it took them hours to identify him, with no real witnesses to the first killing, they honestly may never have identified him.

I'm heartbroken about what has occurred and wish with all my might things like this never occurred. But I don't see how pointing fingers is going to help in this situation.

Unschooling - an answer to a comment

“I think that unschooling can work for some students, but I also am afraid that there will inevitably be a large number that will not thrive because those parents in particular just WANT it to be the right choice”

I got the above comment in answer to the My Ishmael post. I was going to answer it in the comments of that post, but the more I thought about it, the more I wanted to say. So I thought I’d do a post about my thoughts on this.

I disagree with this statement, I don’t see how it is inevitable that a large number of children will not thrive if unschooled. I actually believe that ALL children who are unschooled can thrive. However, I will admit that the thriving may not look how most of society defines thriving. Not all unschooled children will go to college and become doctors or lawyers, or some other career that our society considers successful. Of course, not all schooled kids will go to college and have a successful career either. But I do think the vast majority of unschooled children will thrive in the ways that I think really matter. They will thrive in ways that have to do with their health and happiness. Unschooled children will keep their sense of self and sense of worth intact. They will know what their passions are and how to pursue those passions. They will know how to think outside the box, how to come up with creative solutions to problems, and how to take initiative. They will know these things because these are all hallmarks of unschooling.

Should an unschooled child decide to go to college they will most likely go to college with a goal in mind, they won’t just be going to college because that is what you do when you finish high school. They will know where their passions lie and what college can do for them to further those passions. How many schooled kids go to college with no goal in mind? How many have no idea what they want to major in? Have no idea even what interests them? Schooled kids don’t have the time to pursue all their interests and so by the time they get to college they have no idea what does interest them, much less what their passion is. I went to college because that is what you do, I had no goals in mind beside getting a degree in something and then getting a job I hopefully didn’t hate. It took me 2 years and multiple majors to finally settle on one. I settled on that one because it was the least boring to me. Most of my friends in college did exactly the same. I met no one in my 4 years there that was there because they had a passion for a topic and college could help them pursue that passion. Because unschooled kids are able to keep their sense of self intact they have a much better idea of what interests them and what they want their future to look like.

I also believe school for many kids destroys their sense of worth. They spend every day being judged and at least sometimes being found lacking. This isn’t healthy for someone’s sense of worth. I was a good student, I got mostly As and never caused trouble, but by the time I got out of school I didn’t feel I was worth much. There were times when I didn’t do as good as expected on an assignment or didn’t behave perfectly. It was rarely taken into account that overall I was a good student, at that moment I was a failure and was treated as such. It is very hard to regain a sense of worth once it is lost. I’d prefer my son never lost his sense of worth. It is much easier to learn math than it is to learn to value yourself again.

The place I feel unschooled kids will thrive the most is in their ability to think outside the box, find creative solutions, and take initiative. These are things schools most definitely don’t encourage and in fact actively discourage. In school, children are taught to sit quietly until they are told what to do, then they are told to follow those directions exactly. They are punished by getting bad grades or being disciplined for taking initiative and beginning an activity on their own, or thinking outside the box and looking for a creative way to do the assignment. There is one right way to do things in school. How many students have had a math problem marked wrong, not because they had the wrong answer but because they didn’t do the problem the way the teacher wanted it done? I had it happen to me many times. My dad would help me with my homework and show me a different way to do things, upon turning that assignment in, the problems would be marked wrong because I didn’t do it the way I was “supposed” to , never mind that my answers were right.

I have a good example of this from last week. Logan, who is 7 and I were at Toys R Us, we were buying something for him and a present for a friend’s birthday. The 2 items cost $14.99 and $16.99, Logan wanted to know what the total price would be, but he wanted to figure it out himself. So, I set to work trying to figure this out in my head. I was adding the columns of numbers as we were taught to do in school and carrying my ones. I find this is a hard process to do in my head despite over 22 years of schooling, including a PhD in biochemistry. Logan actually came up with the answer faster than me, also doing it all in his head. So, I asked how he came up with the answer. He said first he figured out that 2 99’s must be 98 in the cents since each was 1 less than a dollar so the answer had to be 2 less. Then he rounded 14.99 and 16.99 up to the nearest dollar (we’ve never talked about rounding) and added those together, so he added 15 and 17, we’ve never covered added 2 digit numbers or carrying so I have no idea how he knew how to do this. Since he rounded up he knew his answer had to be less than 32, so it had to be 31.98. I was amazed at his process, it may not have been the easiest way to solve the problem, but it worked for him because he came up with it on his own and he did it quicker than I did doing it the “right” way.

I’m not trying to say Logan is a genius or anything, I’m actually saying the opposite, that given the freedom and encouragement to think outside the box, children will come up with their own ways of solving problems. It isn’t until school that they learn to do things as they are told and become leery of trying things a new way because it may not be the “right” way. This makes them good employees because they will do as they are told and not rock the boat. And this is actually why school was started in this country, to train our children to be good employees when they are adults. This is good for the economy of the country, but I don’t feel it is good for the people of the country. How many people go to jobs they hate, feeling they have no choice? They’ve been trained to do this job, so do this job they must. I want more for Logan, I want him to know he has choices. I never want him doing something he hates because he has been told that is what he needs to do.

I believe we are going to start feeling the effects of peak oil in the near future and that our society is going to change dramatically. I believe we are going to need free-thinkers and people that are willing to take initiative to help our society through those changes. And I don’t believe the majority of those people are going to come from schools, or at least they aren’t going to be the “good” students. Good students do as they are told, they aren’t the ones that are going to look for creative solutions (as a former good student I can say this with confidence). I think the children that are unschooled are going to be the ones that thrive in our new society because they are able to adapt and find new ways of being. If you don't believe peak oil is going to be a problem in the near future than your opinions on this will probably vary.

(Aside: My opinions of school are based on my 22 years as a "good" student, as well as my 3 years teaching high school science and my 7 years teaching college science.)

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Honey Whole Wheat bread

I made my first loaf of totally homemade bread this week. I've made bread in the past with the bread machine but that doesn't really count. This one I kneaded and let rise and all that stuff. It was a simple recipe and turned out pretty good. It was better than anything the bread machine ever made! Mark really liked it, the picture is of him buttering a slice. The bread was really soft with a crisp crust, just the way I like it. I got the recipe off the yeast packet. It would be interesting to try the recipe with different honey. See if you can taste the difference in the bread, I just got a really good local wildflower honey that I think I'm going to try in this recipe.
Honey Whole Wheat Bread
1 1/3 cup warm water (100-110 F)
4 tsp Active dry yeast
1/3 cup honey
1/4 cup softened butter
1 tsp salt
3-3 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
Place 1/3 cup warm water in large bowl. Sprinkle in yeast, stir until dissolved. Add remaining water, honey, oil, salt and 1 cup flour. Beat 2 minutes at medium speed. Stir in enough remaining flour to make soft dough. Knead on lightly floured surface until smooth and elastic, about 8-10 minutes. Place in greased bowl, turning to grease top. Cover, let rise in warm place until doubled in size, about 1 hour.
Punch dough down, remove to lightly floured surface. Roll dough to 12X8 inch rectangle. Beginning at short end, roll up tightly. Pinch seam and ends to seal. Place seam side down in greased 9X5 inch loaf pan. Cover, let rise in warm place until doubled in size, about 30 minutes (mine raised for over an hour at this point because I had to run out and pick up DH).
Bake at 375 for 30-35 minutes.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007


A week and a half ago, before it got cold again and I started worrying about everything I'd planted dying, Logan and I went outside to take pictures of what was blooming. I did say I loved taking flower pictures!

1 of 3 daffodils we have blooming. They didn't bloom for 3 years in a row, so I ripped all the bulbs out, looks like I missed a few.

Our forysnthia which is blooming nicely despite the cold.

Grape hyacinth, this is a funny story. I also ripped these bulbs out because they never bloomed and I threw them behing the azaleas because I was feeling lazy and I forgot all about them. This year a bunch of them came up behind the azaleas. The bulbs aren't even in the ground! I think I don't understand bulbs at all!

Logan smelling 1 of the 3 daffodils we got this year. Here they all are.

Friday, April 6, 2007

Things to do in April

Here is my list of things to do in April

Sew 4 pairs of shorts for Logan (2 DONE)
Sew 3 tank tops for Logan
Sew 2 T shirts for me (1 mostly done, the other will probably end up being a tanktop)
Get fabric for 2 more pairs of shorts for Logan (DONE)
Plant potatoes (DONE)
Plant sweet potatoes
Plant rest of seedlings (DONE)
Make mason bee house (got wood for this)
Make solar cooker (have all the materials)
Bring car in for recall (DONE)
Drop stuff off for Forgotten Cats yard sale (DONE)
Go through boxes in basement and purge, purge, purge
Go through Logan's clothes and figure out what he has for summer
Make at least 2 loafs of bread (DONE, although the second loaf wasn't very good)
Order composter and start composting (DONE)

Thursday, April 5, 2007

My Ishmael

I wrote this a couple of weeks ago and never got around to posting it:

I read My Ishmael yesterday (yep, the whole book). Logan was sick so we cuddled on the couch, he watched cartoons and I read. I found My Ishmael to be a more optimistic book than Ishmael. Maybe because it was told from the point of view of a child? I particularly liked this book because he gave more details about tribal culture and how they handle things like laws and education. I think I found the book more optimistic because in my family we handle rules and education in the same way the tribal people do.

Tribal cultures don’t have laws that they know people are going to break (according to the book). They know there are things people are going to do and if you make a law against it, you are setting people up to fail. Instead, they have a plan of what to do when someone does a certain thing, a plan that minimizes the damage done. Take for instance physically fighting, instead of having a law saying people can’t fight since sometimes people will fight, they have a plan to minimize the damage to all parties when a fight occurs. It makes so much more sense to me than what we do here. We make laws we know people are going to break and then we have to punish them for breaking them. Nothing is really learned and people don’t really take responsibility for making moral decisions for themselves. So, we end up having to make more and more laws that get broken, so we have more and more people to punish. And now we have this huge prison system that still isn’t big enough to handle all the rule breakers. Now, I know our culture is more complicated than tribal culture, but is it possible some of the reason for the complication is all the laws we have and not the other way around?

In our family we don’t have rules for our son. Rules are things you know are likely to be broken and so you then have to have a consequence for when the rule is broken. To me having rules is saying I don’t trust you to behave the best you know how so I’m going to come up with all these rules to tell you how to behave. With Logan, we believe he will behave the best he knows how, so we don’t have any rules about behavior. Sometimes he does do stuff that we aren’t thrilled about, but we ask ourselves, is this a behavior he didn’t know about? Did he forget? Or is it unrealistic to expec t a child his age to be able to do this? We’ve never had some of the problems friends of our have had. People at my husband’s work will ask him how we handle when Logan does a certain thing and mos t of the time my husband’s answer is Logan would never do that, it doesn’t make sense. I t hink that is a big part of it, we expect Logan to do things that make sense and most of the time he does. I don’t believe Logan is naturally better behaved than most kids. But he has been treated as an equal partner in our family. He knows his opinions matter and that he will be listened to. He doesn’t need to act up in order to get attention, all he has to do is speak and he has our attention.

If we are going somewhere where certain behavior is expected, like tomorrow we are going to brunch with my whole family (grandparents, aunts etc) at an officers club. Logan will be expected to behave a certain way. So we will discuss what is expected of him and come up with a plan for if he is having trouble behaving that way. The plan may include me reminding him of the expectation, or taking a break and going outside for a bit, or maybe just going to the bathroom and letting him run around in there for a few minutes. But we will discuss it and have a plan for if it is becoming hard for him to fulfill the expectations. And if it doesn’t seem worth it to him we will skip whatever the event is. The expectations will be pretty high tomorrow but it is worth it to him because he adores his grandpa and his aunt and they will both be there. We may, however, end up leaving early.

Tribal education is also something I find interesting. Education isn’t separate from life for them, life is education. Children learn by living along side the adults, by watching what they are doing and imitating them. Children learn what they need to know when they need to know it. No one decides all children need to know how to do blank by a certain age. All the children learn at different times, but they all learn what they need to know when they need to know it. And their education is never done, they keep learning new things when they need to know them. The thing I found interesting is that the goal of tribal education is for a person to have all the skills they will need to survive. So that if they found themselves totally alone, they could survive. They know how to build a shelter and find food and make a fire. Our education system is so different. We aren’t trying to prepare children to survive, we are preparing them to enter the job market at the bottom rung. And I think this is a problem, because most of us don’t know how to survive we have no choice but the enter the job market, earn money, and buy food. We don’t know how to find our own food, or most of the time even how to grow our own food, so we have to work.

We unschool Logan, meaning he learns what he needs to know, when he needs to know it. He lives along side us and learns through life. We have no curriculum for him and there is no forced learning. I trust he will learn what he needs to know when he needs to know it.

Since I wrote this, I’ve also read The Story Of B which seems to be the last book in the Ishmael series. It wasn’t as good a book as the other 2, but it was a very good conclusion to the series. I don’t really feel anymore optimistic about the hope for our culture, but I do believe man will go on. I think it is all a matter of how painful the downfall of our culture will be. There are some really good ideas in these 3 books and a lot to think about. I highly recommend the whole series! I’ve got Beyond Civilization, another book by Daniel Quinn on hold at the library and will share my impressions when I’m done with it. I’d love to get other book recommendations along the same lines, anything that others have found life-changing.

Oh, and the brunch went great! Logan had no trouble behaving as expected and even had a good time. We brought some things he could do quietly at the table if he got bored. I was prepared to leave if needed but we stayed the whole time with no incidents. No need for rules or threats of punishment.

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

A busy few days

Things have been busy here the last few days. My in-laws were visiting and we were busy doing things with them and I've been getting most of my seedlings into pots and outside. I've spent many hours mixing soil for the pots with all the appropriate additives and getting seedling planting. In the last few days I've planted tomatoes, beans, peas, onions, lettuce, cilantro, basil and potatoes. I still have a few more things to plant, but most of it is done. Unfortunately, it is supposed to be below freezing for 3 nights this weekend. I'm not sure what I'm going to do with everything I've planted. I've got about 15 pots out on the deck with stuff growing in them. Oh, and I planted a bunch of marigolds and tulips in the front flower bed.

Today I cut out the fabric for 2 pairs of shorts for Logan and a T shirt for me. I'll start sewing them tomorrow. I need to get fabric for another few pairs of shorts for Logan. And I have the fabric for another shirt for him. I'm thinking about making it into a tank top instead. The pattern I have for T shirts for him is weird and I would want a new pattern, so I may just get a tank top pattern instead. They would be much easier to make.

I also made pitas for the first time today. They turned out pretty good, but not perfect. I burned the first few because I rolled them out too thin, the later ones were better but didn't poof as much as I would have liked. The did taste good though and they were whole wheat. It is the first time I've ever made a bread I had to knead.

So that is my current update. I have a bunch of pictures of flowers I want to post, hopefully I'll get to it tomorrow.