Sunday, April 19, 2020

Raising the Collective Well Being

I was having a conversation with an acquaintance last week about some topics that are usually politically divisive, and highly controversial. Most people think they know the answer and they have no shortage of opinions on these matters.

I am obviously not above this. I have ideas and opinions about social programs designed to help those less fortunate, just like anyone else. I can be quite passionate about those ideas and opinions, as well. Usually, though when I am speaking to someone in person I do a lot of listening, more than talking. I might interject a few questions, or thoughts, but mostly I listen. It's not often that I've ever heard the extreme opinions voiced in person as I have online. It's almost never,  especially if the person speaking isn't sure what the listener's stance is. They will kind of dance around, and be more cautious with the generalized terms and blanket statements. That tells me that they know the difference between what they say when in their own company and what they know is true.

The internet has changed the way we communicate. It allows us instant connections to anyone and everyone all the time. It isn't the same as reading a newspaper article 30 years ago and thinking about how you might feel about it and then maybe, discussing it with a family member or acquaintance who, chances are is more aligned to your own culture and beliefs than not. We weren't faced with wildly opposing opinions and ideas on a daily,  maybe even hourly basis. This was not necessarily a good thing. It was just the way it was. Exposure to other cultures and beliefs was minimal. Group think was also a tool for survival, because being a part of a social group meant having support. Even if you didn't agree with or like certain activities a person might still participate in order to remain intact to their immediate social group.

An example of that would be my late grandmother in law who told me that she used to attend coffee time with all the other ladies in their neighborhood as they gathered to watch soap operas. She abhorred soaps, but to turn down the invite would be rude. She'd be left out of the circle and being left out of the circle came with consequences. All the men in the neighborhood worked long days and sometimes weeks on oil rigs. There were long stretches of time that these ladies would be on their own, and sometimes without enough money to get by until their husbands returned. Camaraderie in this situation would prove to be in everyone's best interest. They would frequently get together to share food to make meals out of what could be be gathered from everyone's kitchen, as well as help each other with child minding, ect... My grandmother in law would proudly state that no one ever went hungry. They all came together to help each other in times of need. They saw the benefit of cooperation and the understanding that all is one and one is all.

I'm not about to say that I am in deep friendship and cooperation with my neighbors. I don't know any of them and they don't know me and we have always found that to be good enough. It's a shame, as I think about the way things were years ago and I wonder how that felt. So many of us are more connected than ever, but reporting to be more lonely than ever, too. I would never discount internet friendships, or the many wonderful ways social media has brought people together, and made positive differences for all of us. It's just that somehow I feel we are further away than we ever used to be from in person, supportive social circles that also have a positive impact on daily lives. As introverted as I am, I can't help but sometimes envy that closeness, that support, and that feeling of belonging that my grandmother in law must've felt sixty some years ago.

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Homeschooling Through the Quarantine

As I sit here on this unusually warm spring night with the window open in my sitting room and a candle flickering nearby I feel the air's heavy humidity as I type this. What I notice is how uncharacteristically quiet it is. The outside carries no noise through my open window. Not a car engine, or music from a neighbor working in their garage. Silence. Eerie, eerie silence.

I felt the same as I entered the grocery store last night and many aisles were empty. People shuffled by quickly, apologetically as they tried to fill their carts with what was left. Heaviness seemed to hang in the air. The few children I did see were sullen looking. Everyone seemed to be much more somber than usual.

I suspect that this feeling of panic, fear, and uncertainty will continue for some time into the future as the Covid19 virus keeps us all under orders of social distancing. Many people can't work. Others have to work more, harder and in the most exposed situations. Many states have closed school districts for at least a month. Ours is for the rest of the year. Leaving many parents to scramble for childcare and schooling for their children.       

If you are one of the parents that are fretting over having your kids at home all day for weeks, or even months it's going to be okay. If you don't have any idea how to homeschool your children and feel a sense of urgency to begin right away, slow down. Hold on and get your bearings first.

I've homeschooled, unschooled and sent my kids to public school. There's more than one way to homeschool, for sure. There's tons of combinations that will, or can work for you and your child(ren).

We're all different. Some of us learn better with structure, some of us like to freestyle and others like some structure, but with independence. Kids are the same way. We have strengths and weaknesses and the strengths can really be capitalized during homeschooling, because of the flexibility towards individual needs. Just like we all find different types of jobs more interesting and doable, our kids find learning to be much the same way.

In the beginning most people that opt to homeschool (without being forced) often ease their way into it. I can't think of any better of a time than now that this would apply. Our world has been shook up a bit and so many things are uncertain to adults and kids alike. I would recommend starting off with a loose schooling schedule that is very basic and non-time consuming, especially