Becca Irene:

I would love to see America’s education policy incorporate the lessons learned from this teen-led initiative at public Monument Mountain Regional High School.

Originally posted on Health & Family:

If high school students took charge of their education with limited supervision, would they learn? A Massachusetts school is finding out.

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Originally posted on H . A:

Crosspost: Training Up Children the Homeschool Movement Way

HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Julie Anne Smith’s blog Spiritual Sounding Board. It was originally published on March 17, 2013.


Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” ~ Proverbs 22:6

You see that verse?  Probably every homeschool parent heard that verse too many times to count throughout their homeschooling years.  It was engrained in us.  We did not want our children to depart from “the way they should go” and the solution was to “train” our children.  At least that’s what they told us.

Homeschool books from the Smith family library. Photo courtesy of Spiritual Sounding Board.

Homeschool books from the Smith family library. Photo courtesy of Spiritual Sounding Board.

Ever since my spiritual abuse journey, I have been trying to figure out what led our family to that spiritually abusive church and 

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Do children’s rights end where the sidewalk ends?

In a recent online discussion, someone said that ‘children’s rights end where the sidewalk ends’.  This is a variation on a common argument: children’s rights must be limited for their own protection.  If we allow them to make their own decisions, they will hurt themselves.

That this argument seems prima facie true is a symptom of our cultural prejudices.  It can be revealed as a prejudice through a simple allegory.  Imagine an intelligent adult from a culture without cars is visiting your area and you have been asked to show them around.  You are walking down the sidewalk together, and this individual suddenly steps into the street with oncoming traffic.  What do you do?

Your response wouldn’t be any different than it would be if a child did the same thing.

This isn’t because an adult from a different culture should have their rights limited for their own protection.  It’s not because if we allow them to make their own decisions, they will hurt themselves.  It’s because an individual unused to our world hasn’t yet gained the experience and knowledge to protect themselves from our technology.

And you wouldn’t respond by limiting this individual’s rights.   You would respond by taking immediate steps to protect them (despite their being an adult) and, in the longer term, educating them on how to protect themselves from the dangers of traffic.

You wouldn’t project from the fact that the individual needed protective intervention in this instance to limiting their freedom to set their own values or make their own decisions.

To intervene to protect the life of another human being is normal, no matter what age that person is.

However – if that same adult individual makes different life choices than we think they should make, we let them do so.  We try to understand and respect their differences in values.  We listen to them when they express an opinion and engage them in respectful dialogue instead of silencing them.  If they tell us they feel we have done something unjust to them, we take the allegation seriously and consider whether we have and if we should make amends.  We don’t think we have the right to coerce them into behaving in a certain way or engaging in certain activities because we value them or think them important.

Any individual deserves that respect, regardless of their age, and regardless of the fact that we’d intervene if they stepped off the sidewalk.

A statement on the rights of a child

I’m about to share something very radical and very close to my heart.

It’s based on a simple belief I have: All humans are created equal, regardless of age – men, women, children, and babies – all with the same inalienable rights.

For the purpose of this statement, “child” is defined as a human between birth and reaching the age of legal majority.

A better world would be based on these principles:

A child is fully human.

A child should be afforded every protection afforded to adults. Children are more vulnerable than adults, so should not be afforded less protection.

This includes protection against bodily injury, mutilaton, and assault, regardless of the agent of these crimes.

The child may seek restitution for these crimes. The state may prosecute for them.

The child has the same right to health as does an adult. Therefore, her right to medical care should not be obstructed, any more than an adult’s should be.

Obstructing a child’s access to medical care is equally a crime as obstructing an adult’s access to medical care. If his mobility is reduced to such an extent that he does not have independent access to medical care, those reducing his mobility has a responsibility to ensure that he recieves medical care when in need.

The child has the same right to choose those with whom he associates as does an adult. If a child chooses to change his place of residence, he may not be obstructed.

In the primal state, a child comes into the world with immediate access to natural resources that enable his survival. Due to legal implementation of property law, he no longer has access to these resources. Societies have an obligation to ensure that restituation for this is made to children.

In addition, those who bring a child into the world are responsible to protect and provide for him in his his period of dependence. They do not have any right to make any choices for the child as a condition of this responsibility.

I’m not sure how we can make this world a reality, but I think that when we do we will transform the world – first for children, soon after for everyone.

Instantly and easily cleaning up your gmail inbox

Some people have amazingly effective methods of keeping their inboxes tidy.  But if you’re like me and feel that your inbox has gotten out of control, there are two tools in the gmail labs which, when used together, can instantly make your inbox tidier.

To add these features to your gmail account, click on ‘settings’ then on ‘labs’.

The first feature you want to add is called ‘SmartLabels’.  The description Google labs gives for SmartLabels is as follows:

Automatically categorizes incoming Bulk, Notification or Forum messages. Filters are created to label mail with these categories and Bulk is filtered out of the Inbox by default.

The second is called ‘Multiple inboxes’.  The description:

Add extra lists of emails in your inbox to see even more important email at once. The new lists of threads can be labels, your starred messages, drafts or any search you want, configurable under Settings.

After enabling both these features and clicking save, here’s what you do.

Go to your settings and set your multiple inboxes to be to the right of your inbox.  Make one of them for bulk, one for notifications, one for forums, and one for starred or whatever other label you want to draw attention to.  I’d do them in reverse order of what I’ve listed here.

After saving your settings, archive all your bulk, notification, and forum messages, and set those messages to skip the inbox.  They’ll still show up in your multiple inboxes.

And voila!  Your primary inbox will now consist almost exclusively of important messages.  Most new messages coming in will going into one of the side inboxes, so they won’t distract you when you’re looking for important messages, but you can still view them when you choose to.

What techniques do you use to keep your inbox tidy?

Things that keep us from thinking clearly

Firstly, fear.  There are at least two ways that fear keeps us from thinking clearly.  When we’re afraid, our brain exists in a ‘flight, fright, or freeze’ state.  That we can think at all in that state is extraordinary and commendable.  Unfortunately, chronic fear can limit the breadth of our thought.

Additionally, we are sometimes afraid of the ‘thought-crime’ of thinking certain thoughts, which often results in either obsession with not thinking that thought, failure to explore that thought and find out that it’s really not a thought-crime (and that perhaps the opposite is) – or both.

Next there is anxiety and stress.  This has a similar affect to fear in shutting down access to parts of the brain.  Ever left the house in a rush only to realise that you’ve forgotten some essential item?  Or worse, been in such a hurry that you’ve accidentally hurt yourself picking up a hot skillet or tripping in the street?  I generally find that slowing down and doing one step at a time actually helps me complete a task more accurately and quickly, because I don’t make a mistake and have to repeat the action.

Then there is hope.  We want something to happen or be so badly that we ignore signs to the contrary.  Our eyes pick out the evidence that we hope for and convinces us that things will turn out the way we dream of.

Then there’s language.  The words we use come with all sorts of connotations.  Sometimes it’s the connotation of badness or goodness.  Other times it’s the implication of connections between different ideas.  Words like ‘money’, ‘company’, and ‘war’ all come with associated ideas that keep us from thinking about their essence.

When we know what can keep us from thinking clearly, we can take steps to lessen the role of those things in our life.  It’s also instructional in our interactions with others.

If you encounter someone who doesn’t think clearly, confronting them in a way that may increase fear, anxiety, or stress will be counter-productive.  On the other hand, if you help alleviate their fears, relieve their stress, and remove the source of their anxiety, they’ll start thinking more clearly, seeing the big picture, and making better decisions.

Why rising home prices are unsustainable

One thing this experiment has highlighted is that on days like today, when I’m not feeling very clever, it’s hard to write.  Here I am, sitting with a cup of English breakfast, wanting to say something about the economy and knowing that it won’t sound very articulate.  But I’m turning over a new leaf: I’m going to more strictly adhere to my initial resolution and write anyway.

Rising housing prices – rising in real terms, after accounting for inflation – are unsustainable without an equivalent rise in the salaries of new generations.  If housing prices rise 5% a year in real terms for one generation, the home that cost one generation a reasonable downpayment and mortgage payment will stress the savings and budget of the next with an interest-only mortgage.

Home owners demand rising home prices.  In fact, without them, we worry that the economy is in trouble.  The government and Fed do what they can to provide them, through policy and interest rate changes.   Over the last generation we saw housing prices rise across the U.S., with some exceptions, because of economic intervention, not because of a lack of supply, overwhelming demand, or increased housing quality.

Current homeowners benefited from the increase.  The next generation wanted in on the easy wealth that appeared to come from owning a home – it worked for their parents, it seemed consistent, wouldn’t rising housing prices happen forever?

But it’s a ponzi sceme in a sense – housing prices can continue to rise only as new generations of home owners stretch themselves further and further to own their first home.  What enriched one generation inevitably makes it harder for the next to make ends meet.

I know housing prices have been all over the place in recent years.  In my opinion, in many places they’re still too high to make home ownership affordable for many.

I’ve got some tea left… I think it can make sense to own a home if you’ll be paying less in interest on your mortgage than you would be on rent.  But I’ll also say do not count on there being capital appreciation.  It’s not inevitable.  That should be clear to us right now, but I wouldn’t be surprised if some people hope that over the long run, housing prices will continue to rise, as they did for so long.  It’s true that governments are motivated to creating rising housing prices, so as far as they are successful, there may be money to be made.  But as the coming generations can stretch only so far financially, housing appreciation is unsustainable over the long term.

The tea is gone… hopefully this was fairly coherent.  I also know that while not everyone shares this viewpoint, it’s been written about before… ah well.  At least I wrote today.  I hope that for someone who reads this, something about this post was new and interesting.