Monday, February 13, 2017

Book of the Week "Teach Your Own: The John Holt Book of Homeschooling"

"Teach Your Own: The John Holt Book of Homeschooling"
by John Holt

This book.....  oh this book...  is just amazing. It's taking me longer than a week to read because the author says such amazing things, such profound things....  about children, about child-rearing, about learning,....  that I have to set it down and process for a bit before I can return and take in more.

For example last night, in the chapter titled "Learning in the World", he shares stories submitted years ago to his newsletter by people who are experiencing learning in the world. What does that mean? We tend to presume, based on experiences, that learning only happens in classrooms under the direction of teachers, but that's just not true. And once you open up access to the world to people (little and big) who are enthusiastic about learning, have curiousity, the possibilities are endless.

I feel compelled to share one of the stories with you because this, to me, is a perfect example of learning in the world:

We live in Washington, D.C., on Capitol Hill about two miles from the museums of the Smithsonian Institution. Susan and her mother walk there almost every day, observing, playing, meeting people, going to movies, listening to music, and riding the merry-go-round. They see a fantastic variety of nature movies. . . . They know art and history museums exhibit by exhibit. Susan can drag you through the history of the universe, through natural history, on up to the latest mars landing. They eat lunch near the water fountain, see the latest sculpture, take pictures of their favorite spots, marvel at the beautiful spring and fall days. They attend mime shows, tape record jazz concerts, ride the double-decker bus to their favorite "explore gallery" where things can be played and jumped in. Tuition is very cheap, we all have fun, and we all learn a great deal.

Susan lives in a world of marvelous abundance; her resources are unlimited. She has not been "socialized" by school to think that education is a supply of scarce knowledge to be competed for by hungry, controlled children. She doesn't play dumb "Schlemiel," . . . Our home and neighborhood are like a garden full of fresh fruit to be picked at arm's length by all who want to.

As it should be! Life and learning are inseparable! That we believe they can be compartmentalized is our biggest error! We are so focused on specializing that we're missing the big picture.

Teach Your Own: The John Holt Book Of Homeschooling by  Pat  John; Farenga - Paperback - 2003-04-01 - from CHG-PMD and

For anyone who has children in their life, in any way shape or form, I HIGHLY recommend this book. Children are little people with their own interests, their own thoughts, and their own learning. And this book can help you to recognize and facilitate that learning.

What are you reading?

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Is Frugality Bad for the Economy?


This topic comes up fairly regularly in certain frugal circles I'm in, and there is a fair amount of debate about it. So  this evening when I came across this article in Amy Dacyczyn's book "The Tightwad Gazette II" I was inspired to share.

I'm sort of a politics/economics junkie. Every weeknight I forgo Wheel of Fortune to tune into The MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour on PBS. The show's format includes a panel of experts on a given topic--who sharply disagree. When the topic is the recession, typically you can see a professor of economics from Harvard Business School duke it out with some guy who won the Nobel Prize for economics.
Though I'm not an "expert," one question I have been asked to comment on it "If I'm frugal, isn't that bad for the economy?"
It's true that plenty of economists believe we need to get that American consumer confident and spending again. This thinking, that we can spend our way to economic prosperity, leads some to believe that those people who don't spend money but save it instead, contributre to recession.
In fact, the reverse is true. Spending too much, and spending badly, got us into this mess. Frugality, in the long run, will get us out.
Here's why:
1. Former senator Paul Tsongas points out that business in America has suffered because of a lack of venture capital. Most businesses need capital to start up or to reinvest for greater productivity. This kind of borrowing is good debt, because in the long run it will create economic surplus.
Currently, there is a shortage of capital for two reasons. First, Americans save very little money, and second, what is available is sucked up by the federal government to pay for overspending. Americans typically save 4 percent of their total income, compared to Germans, who save 10 percent and the Japanese, who save 18 percent.
2. The average American has huge debts. To ask him to spend more to get the economy rolling is silly. It increases his economic vulnerability.
If that American declares bankruptcy, we all pay for it in higher costs from companies that had to eat the loss. If that person goes on public assistance, we all pay for it through higher taxes. And if chicken-hearted politicians are afraid to raise taxes, the government will have to borrow more money and. . . (see point#1).
3. The focus on spending our way to prosperity denies much deeper underlying reasons for the recession, such as the laws that make relocating manufacturing jobs to Mexico attractive for business. Consumer confidence will not bring back the thousands of manufacturing jobs we've lost in the last ten years. More people unemployed means the government pays out more unemployment benefits and--you guessed it--(see point #1).
To claim that we must borrow and spend our way to prosperity is shortsighted. We tried that to recover from the recession of 1982. The short-term economic gain was clear: More money was in circulation, which meant more jobs, and that meant more money, and that meant more jobs.
But that was false "prosperity." The government "created jobs" through military buildup and expanding its own bureaucracy. Developers borrowed money to build office complexes when there was no market for them. Confident consumers bought CD players and snowmobiles on their credit cards. By trying to accelerate a recovery artificially, by going into debt on a government, business, and personal level, we eventually lost economic efficiency, because a larger and larger percentage of our money has had to be siphoned off to pay interest on our debt.
I'm not saying that debt is always bad. But debt must give you value; it has to save you money in the long run.And I'm not saying you should never spend a dime. Clearly, some spending is essential for the economy. We all enjoy a higher standard of living because we understand the benefits of trading goods and services. Imagine if we all grew our own cotton to weave our own material to sew our own clothes. It's more beneficial to trade our labor with those in our economy who have learned to make clothing more efficiently. Even if everyone were a tightwad, there would still be an exchange of goods and services, but this exchange would be sustainable over the long term.
If you're not impressed by economic theory as expressed by a housewife from Leeds, Maine, I refer you to two books that say the same thing about our need to save to rebuild the economy. They are "United We Stand" by Ross Perot and "A Call to Economic Arms" by Paul Tsongas, which is available for a suggested $5 donation from the Tsongas Committee, 20 Park Plaza, Room 230, Boston, MA 02116. By the way, this is not a political endorsement of either of these men.
So don't rationalize spending because it's "good for the economy." And don't feel guilty about being frugal because it's "bada for the economy."
A healthy economy is made up of economically healthy citizens. If you make choices that are financially sound for you, they will probably be financially sound for the economy in the long run.

Another perspective, was given by Mr Money Mustache in his blog post from April 2012 --

What do you think?

Monday, February 6, 2017

Book of the Week "The Tightwad Gazette II"

The Tightwad Gazette II
by Amy Dacyczyn

Amy was the Frugal Zealot who came on the scene in the early 1990s with her monthly newsletter, was interviewed for a local newspaper, and had her big break through when she appeared on the Phil Donahue show. That one appearance boosted her subscription numbers from 1700 to 40,000.

By the time she closed up shop, she had published the newsletter for 6 years, had published 3 books, and wrapped it all up with The Complete Tightwad which combined all 3 books and included highlights from the last year of the newsletter.

So it's all ancient history (oh that hurts to write). Why read it now? Because her ways of thinking about money, about reusing, about being frugal are gold. Sure, her references to technology are dated, and who writes letters to manufacturers anymore, but the techniques she used and shares in the books for making wise financial decisions are solid. And that's why she shared them, so we could learn to think for ourselves rather than just taking her word for what is a good deal.

The Tightwad Gazette II by  Amy Dacyczyn - Paperback - First Edition - 1995 - from Top Notch books and

And so yes, I do recommend this book or any of the Tightwad Gazette books you can get your hands on. I picked mine up at the library book sale and the thrift store.

What are you reading this week?

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Project of the Week - blue shawl

Project of the Week

Crocheted Blue Shawl

While visiting my grandma, she invited me to take a look through her yarn collection and if there was anything that caught my eye, I was welcome to take it. And not being one to turn down that kind of an offer, I gladly browsed through probably 5 large bags of yarn to come across these beautiful blue and coordinating multi-colored yarns which I thought would be perfect for a shawl I had in mind. I'm very pleased with how it turned out.

What are you working on this week?

Monday, January 23, 2017

Book of the Week: "Parenting a Free Child: An Unschooled Life"

Parenting a Free Child: An Unschooled Life
Rue Kream

Written in a question & answer format, Rue explores unschooling, helping many parents answer questions they may not even know they have.
I found the book interesting and helpful as we travel down the road further away from traditional homeschooling. Rue's approach is more of a radical unschooling which incorporates a parenting style as well as a learning style for the child. And that is further into unschooling than I want to go. But I didn't know that until I read this book.

For anyone who is considering or already home educating their children, I do recommend reading this book. Or even for anyone who just is looking for a different (better) way of relating to children.

What are you reading?

Monday, January 16, 2017

Book of the Week "The New! Six-Point Plan for Raising Happy, Healthy Children"

"The New! Six-Point Plan for Raising Happy, Healthy Children" by John Rosemond

John Rosemond is an old-school parenting guru and psychologist. His book is full of advice and stories of how using his advice has played out successfully for other parents. And I'm happy to say he has helped us when we were at our wit's end. That said, I don't always agree with him, but most of the time, yes, he is spot on.

I do recommend this book if you're looking for parenting advice, but only if you're committed to following through. One of the biggest mistakes we parents make is looking for the easy solution. We try a method for a day and when the results don't come right away, we give up. Or we get distracted and lose focus. I know I do.

Child-rearing should be simple and it's temporary. The marriage is forever. Raise your children to be adults, and keep your marriage front and center.

What are you reading?

Monday, January 9, 2017

Children and Sports

An excerpt for discussion from John Rosemond's "The New! 6-Point Plan for Raising Healthy, Happy Children."

     "Organized sports would seem to be an ideal complement to the needs of this age (6 - 10 y/o), the perfect medium in which to nurture both the inner and outer self. Not so. The primary problem is adult involvement. Adults organize these programs, raise the money to fund them, and draw up the playing schedule. Adults pick the teams, coach them, referee them, decide who plays and who doesn't, give out awards, and make up the biggest share of the audience."

     "I'm aware that children rarely play pickup games anymore. Somewhere along the line, someone (big business) got the brilliant idea that sports would be more of a meaningful learning experience for children if the games were managed by adults. The adults could see to it that rules were followed, that play was fair, that the children's skills improved through proper coaching, and that conflicts were resolved properly. The end result of all this well-intentioned meddling is that children don't have the opportunity to discover and work these issues out on their own.
     I voice my objections, but people respond by saying things like, "I know, I know, but, John, sports are so competitive these days that if you don't start the kids out young, they won't e able to  make the teams when they get to high school." Hogwash! The same lame argument is used to justify teaching reading skills to pre-school children. Studies show that the earlier you push reading at children, the less joy they bring to the task and the less successful they ultimately are. I suspect the same may be true of organized children's sports. Let's face it. Joy, not parental pressure, is the essence of success, whether that success is in the classroom or on the athletic field.
     I say let the kids have their games back."

(Parenthesis and emphasis is mine.)

Organized sports for children younger than 10  y/o benefits no one other than big business. Big business supplies the uniforms, equipment, water bottles, snacks, fuel, transportation. Small children grow out of all the equipment before it is barely even used. Many children who are joyfully playing soccer at 10  y/o drop out by 13 y/o because they are burned out. I've even read accounts of a year-round soccer 13 y/o soccer player headed for the high school varsity team his freshman year who dropped out to take up snowboarding because his dad couldn't yell at him from the sidelines when he's on the slopes.

Let the children be children. Allow them to play their own games at the park, in your backyard, even at the rec center. They can't learn how to manage themselves and their relationships if the adults are always in the way.

What do you think?