Thirty Five Years

People always ask if you feel older on your birthday. My grandmother used to ask us if we felt a year older, to which I would always respond, “no.”

This year, however, I would have answered differently.

I am still not totally comfortable with the idea of “celebrating” my birthday or having people wish me a happy birthday. For one, I don’t feel like I did anything unique or special by continuing to exist another 365 days. While I consider every day a gift that should be appreciated, getting older doesn’t feel like an accomplishment. I also don’t like the attention the spotlight of my birthday inescapably shines on me.

The day itself isn’t much different from any other day. I go to work, come home to my family, then go to bed to do it again tomorrow. The biggest difference is having to blow out candles. Most of the people I’ll interact with won’t even know it’s my birthday, which is fine by me.

So not knowing what else to do, I’ll use this time to reflect back on the last year:

There have been some great “firsts” this year:

  • My first full year with 4 kids!
  • My first full year at my new job after spending 10 years at my last one
  • My first nephew on my side of the family was born (as well as another niece!)

But there have been some not-so-great things as well:

  • My first (and hopefully last) kidney stone which required multiple surgeries
  • Other recent health issues relating to sleep apnea
  • My mom’s declining health and need for full-time professional care

One major highlight is a new woodworking hobby, and I am looking forward to building some of the projects on my list next year. People have already started asking me to build things for them which is exciting!

I’ll be celebrating 13 years of marriage in less than a week and am incredibly thankful to have found such an amazing person to share my life with and raise our children.

As I look back on the last year, I can’t help but feel grateful for so many things. Even though the last 365 days has had its share of challenges, I am learning to focus on the positive things and not worry as much about things I can’t control.

My goals for next year are to continue to work on improving my health, being a better husband and father, learning and trying new things, and appreciating everyone and everything I have.

 

6 Problems with our School System

Aileen posted this video on Facebook today and I thought it was worth sharing, along with some of my thoughts.

The 6 Problems

  1. Industrial Age Values
  2. Lack Of Autonomy
  3. Inauthentic Learning
  4. No Room For Passion
  5. How We Learn
  6. Lecturing

Since I went to a public school from K-10th grade myself, and now work in a public school, I know and see firsthand how these problems are affecting children. I also know teachers who feel trapped by the system and would give anything to throw away their rubrics, standards, and grade-books in exchange for a freer learning environment.

It’s so unfortunate how the ones making decisions about how children should be learning are nowhere near the classroom. Worst of all, the ones hurt the most by these decisions are the students themselves. I could write an entire post on each of these problems, and how we feel homeschooling solves or at least addresses them.

I know some schools are actively working on programs to put students and their education first, using concepts like project-based learning and flipped classrooms. Many of these philosophies are quite similar to the unschooling model we use at home.

Imagine a world where students were not only given the opportunity but even encouraged to find solutions to real-world problems.

  • They could start and run a business instead of taking an accounting class.
  • They could take field trips every day to the places they read about in books.
  • They could have time to explore every curiosity in the world around them.
  • They could pursue an interest and see if turns into a lifelong passion.
  • They could learn from their mistakes when the risk of failure is so small.
  • They could teach us adults a thing or two.

Screen Time For Kids

There is an intense debate going on about how much screen time children should be exposed to since the mass adoption of mobile devices like iPads and other tablets. There are people on both ends of the spectrum and others are somewhere in between. I know parents who won’t let their children watch TV or use electronics until a certain age, while some let them use it before they can talk and walk. If you don’t believe me, look up “baby using iPad” on YouTube.

I think the question of whether it’s right/wrong or good/bad is the wrong thing to focus on. The question we should be asking is if it is useful and beneficial to our children because the answer shifts the conversation to something more helpful.

There’s no question we live in a society immersed in technology, electronic and otherwise. It is so embedded in our lives, we don’t even realize how much and how often we rely on it for our survival. Therefore, our kids will be exposed to it in some form whether we like it or not. Whichever side of the fence you’re on, it’s only a matter of time before they will be using it at home or in school, and eventually their job. So the only question we really need to ask is how we will prepare them to live in a world dependent on technology.

One app I recently began using my with my kids is Duolingo, a free language app. Lydia wanted to learn Italian so we started a private club in the app which automatically posts our progress, then allows us to comment on those notifications. It’s been a great opportunity to model positive online interactions using encouraging comments and emojis while also explaining the meaning of some phrases she doesn’t know yet. Evelyn recently joined as well, and I’m excited to have this channel of communication with them during the day as they learn. One of the best things I can do for my kids is to model a lifestyle of curiosity and be open to learning new things.

Because we are actively involved in our children’s lives, including their education, we feel it’s appropriate to give them access to technology that will assist and possibly even accelerate their learning. It also gives them access to teachers who have knowledge we simply cannot possibly possess. They can learn almost any language because it exists right at their fingertips. That is one of the key reasons we homeschool our children; not just to be involved in their learning, but to be participants as well. By showing them we are never too old to learn something new, we are teaching them that learning is a lifelong pursuit which can happen anywhere and anytime.

Inspiration for this post: The Problem Is Wasted Time, Not Screen Time

Wendell Berry

Wendell Berry

The Real Work

It may be that when we no longer know what to do
we have come to our real work,

and that when we no longer know which way to go
we have come to our real journey.

The mind that is not baffled is not employed.

The impeded stream is the one that sings.

*found in Nick Offerman’s “Good Clean Fun: Misadventures in Sawdust at Offerman Woodshop”

Not In Love Anymore?

My Grandfather and his great grandkids
[pictured above is my Grandfather and 12 of his great-grandchildren.]

Last weekend I was watching “The Notebook” on TV.

By myself.

My oldest daughter (known for saying whatever is on her mind at all times) walked into the room, noticed what I was watching, and commented, “Why are you watching this kind of movie? You’re not in love anymore!”

What she meant, as she continued to explain, was that Aileen and I were already married, therefore I had no reason to watch a romantic movie. I reassured her I was in fact very much still in love!

Continue reading “Not In Love Anymore?”