Monthly Archives: March 2013

Stay-at-home mom discovers secret to reading success, makes curriculum publishers furious

Stay-at-home mom discovers secret to reading success, makes curriculum publishers furious

I made this up (My son says I’d better say so up front):

READING: a skill that will MAKE or BREAK your child’s chance of success in the world!

Will Johnny be a doctor? A lawyer? A software developer or real estate agent? Or will be be consigned to the ranks of low wage workers THE REST OF HIS LIFE, on government assistance UNABLE TO MAKE ENDS MEET?

“Mom mom couldn’t afford reading therapy for me, or expensive learn-to-read packages, so when I grew up, I couldn’t read most of the job applications,” says Hubert, “I had to take what I was offered. Now with this method, I can help my kids to a better life. Once my mom uses it on me, that is.”

Do you have to threaten your kids to crack open a book? Have they failed all their standardized reading comprehension tests, refused to write their book reports at school?

When you decide your kids are worth it, that they should have every chance in life, send your payment of $9.95 a month for six months, and we’ll send you detailed instructions on how to teach your children to read fluently and with comprehension. As a bonus for customers who sign up before September 3rd, we will include a booklet on how to actually enable you child to ENJOY READING.

“Anyone can do it,” says this mom. It’s a ______ process; just ___________ to them a lot, even from birth, _____ until they’re _______, and then, _________….

We are authorized to provide you with all the secrets of this REVOLUTIONARY reading method only to the responsible parents who SIGN UP TODAY.

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Posted by on March 28, 2013 in Education


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And then there was light, but all I saw… men, as trees, walking

Family–to be face to face with people all day long, for most of our lives. Beautiful, awful human beings that we are, all together in a covenanted unit. Whatever that looks like for each one of us, it definitely heats up the growth and learning. Can’t help but face up to all those sins of error and omission the liturgy brings up for us to confess. No, that’s not the right phrase-that’s a liability insurance expression. But it’ll do, basically the same as “what we’ve done and left undone.” Yeah, errors and omissions. But the insurance in this realm is grace, from God, and from family and other folk. Thank God for that.

Back when we were newlyweds, we hosted a church home group with some other young folks–a couple and five singles. Two marriages came out of that community. Including Linda and Bob. “What? Oh, we’re just friends! Me and Bob? Ha ha ha!” Mark was the one who asked, saw it before I did. They were in their early thirties, a few months into marriage, when Linda shared up front how she was learning so much, had realized how selfish she really was. After a year or so, they conceived a daughter, and then Bob, a truck driver, was crushed when a truck rolled on him. Before he even met his little girl. Linda, grieving, was soon sharing again of God’s mercy. Severe mercy, C.S. Lewis would say.

I’ve never suffered so. Is that because the Divine Creator has a different kind of learning process for me? One with just the right balance of bringing me near my limits, and letting me get the point of the exercise? More light, please, but how about not all at once, like Linda had. Light shone in the darkness for her, and the darkness did not put it out.


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A new generation cuts teeth on the old, with plenty of drool

A new generation cuts teeth on the old, with plenty of drool

I have three teens now, and here we are, skating away. Feel like I’ve been catapulted here on some kind of time warp. One day I was reading The Little Me and the Great Me to my boy, helping with cooking and wood carving projects, letting him pick up reading at his own pace, now I’m introducing him to caffeine so he can stay awake long enough to keep up on assignments. His second year in public school, high school, smart, reflective, a thinker, but now he goes around tired all the time, trying to keep up with homework without quitting competitive swimming, and doesn’t read anything any more unless it’s assigned. By a teacher, that is (not including me). In delegating academics to public school, I have apparently given up all authority in that realm. Never formally–it just happened. How quickly institutionalization can take place. Still, I’m confident it’s not permanent. I leave around a copy of The Teenage Liberation Handbook by Grace Llewellyn, just in case.

Eldest son used to like to discuss ideas, share experiences, see what Mom and Dad think, now there’s no time. He’s overwhelmed–everything is so fast and shallow. Same with daughter #1, except she’s a faster reader, which helps. With her apparent success comes a greater obsession for checking her grades online. It will take a summer vacation to bring these two back to themselves, and their home community. Will that even be enough, especially for my son, who has to figure out his Running Start classes and post secondary options already? Look at that–I said “has to.” I’m not part of the solution, not much, really. I’m still scrambling to keep up with what’s happening, offering perspectives and suggestions that might be useful, helping them keep their hand in somewhat on running the home (life skills 101), doing the driving, for a while longer.

I had so much more to instill–beyond automatic please & thank you, personal hygiene and saying good night before turning in. I was too disorganized, too inconsistent. Not enough time on the most meaningful aspects of learning. I wish I’d been able to sustain that sense of proactive parenting I had in the earlier seasons. Now they need those resources–all three are in a season of individuation. You know, when their biological clock tells them their parents are irritating and overly oppressive, and the parental biological clock says the kids are ungrateful and wanting to have their dependence, so why don’t they get on with it already, instead of leaving their laundry and dishes about and hoping someone made supper. Sometimes I feel like I’ve been fired from my job, but have to stay on anyway, only to get fired again, and so on. And they’re not cute any more. Just glimpses of glory now and then. My youngest tries to compensate by being extra lovable.

That questioning, that testing and trying things out at home, I accept as a necessary part of growing up–I really do. But my hope is that they will come to know what battles are truly worth fighting, where to stand their ground and on what principles, and also when to humble themselves, be patient, gracious and teachable, and submit to legitimate authority. And, of course, clean up after themselves.

I keep thinking about how pre-modern societies readied their young much earlier to take on the responsibilities of adulthood. How difficult that seems to be now when there’s so much complexity to work through. In those very old days, critical thinking sufficient to the day was achieved through observing and working alongside parents and community members to acquire food, shelter, and clothing, mate and raise young, and navigate relationships in the larger community as well as in the spiritual realm. Now we are expected to prepare our children for multiple, evolving, sometimes unprecedented and as yet theoretical futures. How can there be any time for instruction in those same old basic skills of obtaining food, shelter, clothing, fruitful relationships and religious traditions? As a society many of us are still foisting off menial tasks on the servant class, production on Asian factory workers, socialization on “multicultural” (values all over the board) groups of age peers led by a few overtaxed adults, and religious instruction (also in age groups) on professional clergy with access to packaged curriculum. And of course, we are not encouraged to handle any of the academic side on our children’s behalf. It’s down to “Know where your kids are,” (with a wide array of handy GPS tracking apps). I don’t accept that children should be turned into adults that are merely a product of the general state of society.

Yet I remember my teenage years, and what my parents must have gone through with me, and my siblings two years on either side and beyond. Things were changing rapidly then, too. They wanted to shop at the local grocery store, I was all for the cheaper new superstore. They were living off the land, making bread and growing leafy greens, I wished I could move into town, asked for iceberg lettuce and white bread. And how snotty I was about it! How they must have despaired! Like my Dad wrote in a recent piece, we balked at weeding the garden, and quit, but we did learn a lot along the way, and we returned to the values that seemed most enduring, and became avid gardeners and enlightened shoppers and voters. So I figure, parents have to keep telling, keep inviting, keep teaching, and keep with their most deeply-held values despite the friction it may create. We must keep learning from our kids, love them a lot, and wait.

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Posted by on March 27, 2013 in Education, Parenting & Family


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Bruce Cockburn quote

“To me, the message of Christ is so evidently love and freedom, I just don’t understand how anyone can read into the message and get anything but that,” he says. ” And it . . . [angers] me . . . when I see people hustling that other kind of knee-jerk belief — all rules and conformity and non-freedom — exemplified by some of the TV evangelists and David Dukes of the world, spouting off this stuff that they claim is Christianity. I hate the idea that people might actually think this is what it’s all about. Their message is so anti-love.”

– from “A Rising Northern Star: Canadian Bruce Cockburn Wins More U.S. Converts” by Brad Buchholz, Dallas Morning News, 12 January 1992. Submitted by Nigel Parry.


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Love that coffee shop writing time, but it will soon be time to get to work for real

Every week at this time I drive my daughters to their riding lesson, which is far enough from home that it’s better for me to hang out with a latte at a cafe and use it for a writing studio. Morning energy, a few shots of caffeine, and no one needing me for over an hour–lovely. I have a prepaid coffee card and the barista now knows my name. Background of voices not addressed to me, inoffensive radio, banging espresso tools. I read a favorite blog or two, then get working at those draft posts.

What’s great about blogging is that it’s (pretty much) free, offers access to a huge readership, and the folks who like your work often have forgiving standards, many being aspiring writers themselves. Reminds me of busking–no booking, no stage, no reputation, just walk downtown, open the guitar case, and start singing “Heart of Gold.” Passersby may or may not respond, but if a few stop to listen, even just at the edge on the line of vision, it’s worth it. Some even drop money in the case. I used to do that back in Halifax to earn pocket money in my undergrad years. Blogging is a lot like that–you put out what you have, get some visitors, a few readers Follow, Likes pop up in the mailbox.

But there’s a nagging feeling it’s time to get serious. Blogging is therapy–God knows I need that, but where will I go with this writing thing? It’s too easy, too eclectic, too occasional. Yes, I left Facebook behind and am trying to write something more substantial, but I know I need to put more thought and planning into this. What’s my niche?  I ain’t no fresh-faced grad, free to go wherever, spend 24/6 building a new career, do an internship. Going to school to hone my writing and publishing skills and give me an expert status in my field is a possibility, but not so simple these days. Money issues, commitments as a mom and home manager, and I have friends I haven’t called in months. It’s not that I need to support the family financially, though I can help with that a bit now. But neither can I take the family off to New York so I can do a masters at Steinhardt. Got to build something here.

I need mentors, and to somehow find more undistracted time to set out my goals and refine my vision. Lots of mentoring available on the web, but I feel the need for real people. I’m interested in so many things, need help distilling my stage one writing purpose. Should I go to one of those “unleash the creativity within” workshops? Maybe they’re not so flaky after all.

That’s the season I’m in. I hope it bears fruit.

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Posted by on March 9, 2013 in Writing


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Writing in circles, trying to break out of my insecurities

I’ve been reading some wonderful writing, also cruising around evaluating various blogs, seeing strengths and weaknesses therein. I love how this medium has opened up to let so many people’s ideas, stories, information, inspiration flow. But I also feel critical of some of the gas, drivel, wasted words. I’m not clicking “like” unless I see depth and substance. Now instead of writing some decent posts from what I have inside, I’m accumulating unpublished drafts, going back to edit and re-edit, critiquing too much. I’ve always been prone to a cycle of what seems like inspiration, followed by a crash of self confidence. I feel such need of approval, to have someone get excited about my ideas and hold my hand while I take the next steps. And insecurity about my competence or knowledge. Try to talk myself out of that–after all, what’s the worse that can happen if I publish something poorly conceived or poorly expressed? Good Lord, I’m in my forties–can’t I let go of the need for approval at least enough to take risks in things that really matter to me?

Article: On Insecurity and Writing


Posted by on March 2, 2013 in Personal Growth, Writing


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