Homeschoolers Anonymous

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.

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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.

Ever since my spiritual abuse journey, I have been trying to figure out what led our family to that spiritually abusive church and pastor who sued us in an attempt to discover who our primary influencers were over the years. I found that the…

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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.

A business model I’d like to see

There are companies out there that profit from tracking and using or selling information about consumers.  Social connections, contact information, interests, browsing habits – knowing these is very valuable to companies and they are willing to pay a high price for quality information.

However, there’s also the ethical component.  Taking this information about customers without their knowledge (even if it’s due to naivete) rubs many, myself included, the wrong way. 

What if we give consumers control over their own personal information by offering to resell it for them? 

They can opt to give you access to their social graph (i.e. via facebook connect), a cookie to track their browsing, and personal information such as age, demographic, and address.  Of course, you’d have sophisticated algorithms to verify that you’re dealing with an authentic account. 

You’ll offer bundles of this information for sell to companies, priced by level of detail and type of information.  When a company buys a bundle with your customer’s data in it, a payment is made to their account.

Yes, the information would still sold, but at least now internet users would be able to profit from the usage of their personal information.  I think it may also have the long term effect of changing our understanding of who owns personal information and educating internet users about when and how they give away their data.

I also think this business model a gold mine just sitting there for anyone with the skills and interest.

Invisible Women

Last winter I polled a particular group of women.   I asked them about their experiences as young adults over the age of 18.  Here are some of the results.

56% I was not allowed to own a car and/or get a driver’s license.

50% I did not have access to transportation.

69% I did not have freedom to dress as I pleased.

38% I believed or feared that going against the/some rules would result in physical punishment.

13% I was spanked (after the age of 18).

44% I believed or feared that going against the/some rules would result in homelessness.

81% I was not allowed to spend time with some people or in some social situations that I desired to be in.

56% I was not permitted to pursue a romantic interest I had.

44% I did not receive either a legally accepted high school diploma or a GED or equivalent.

69% I spent more than 20 hours a week cleaning/cooking/taking care of the home and was unpaid.

The women I polled were not captured by strangers or taken to a foreign country.  These were women who had lived at home with their families their entire lives.  They did not go to school, watch TV, or listen to the radio.  Although they lived in the U.S., they were unfamiliar with American customs and culture.

92% had believed that “if I were to call the police about a family matter something bad would happen to me.”

75% had believed that they could be physically obstructed from leaving their home without legal recourse.

Only 9% had been aware that “if I were to move out of my parents’ home, there were shelters and other non-profit and government assistance programs to provide shelter, food, basic living necessities, and training until I was able to support myself.”

The women I polled were born into and raised by controlling families in the U.S. and had their access to information severely limited from an early age.  As children and young adults, they had not been much aware of their legal rights.  They had feared the government and the legal system instead of believing that it could help them.

These women are not rare, but they are invisible.  There may be tens of thousands of them in the U.S.  Only the minority make it out.  The majority continue in this situation or marry and repeat it with their own children.

At the time they answered this poll, these particular women had recently exited and were establishing lives for themselves.  The challenges and difficulties they faced is fascinating and worthy of a post devoted to it.

I believe that these women were victims of human trafficking even though they don’t meet the standard profile of a foreigner held captive by strangers.  I believe that these women have fallen through the cracks in the system.  Non-profits and NGOs are not reaching out to help them.

What I would like to see: public awareness, outreach from support networks to these victims, and the working out of the legal system on how to approach these situations and what recourse and protection women who have been victimised in this way have.

An Experiment

The purpose of this blog is to practice writing quickly, without censorship, and daily.  I intend to do this through means of a cup of tea.  That is, every morning I will make myself a cup of tea, start typing, and press publish after I swallow the last sip of tea.