Archive for the ‘Philosophy’ Category

Dashing Expectations

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My dad wanted me to be a lawyer. I got good grades and seemed predisposed to a sensible occupation, but I just couldn’t get excited about law. What I really would have liked to do was “commercial art,” as it was called in those days, but my dad convinced me that art was a risky career choice, so I decided to go to a military academy instead. I don’t regret that decision, because it broadened my horizons, and led to great adventures and friendships. But here I am again, reading typography books for fun and pining over those “Where Women Create” magazines. The trouble is, I feel like I lost my creativity somewhere back at the Academy, and I have to get it back.

In 2006, I started taking “New Media Arts” courses from my local community college and it was wonderful – like coming alive again. I took drawing, graphic design, digital art, art history, and some other courses before my schedule imploded. It’s hard to go back to school while homeschooling three kids! The kids felt like I had abandoned them, and my husband couldn’t understand why anyone would ever want to take typography. That’s OK, because I believe there is a time for everything, and they needed me then.

Our lives are full of expectations, from ourselves and others. We all push and pull on each other, unconsciously sharing our fears, hopes, disappointments and habits. I’ve tried very hard not to impose expectations on my kids, but I know I do anyway. Whenever I give advice, I’m influencing them to do something the way I would do it, or the way I think would work best for them. Is it possible to not give advice to children? I doubt it, but I do believe that less advice is best.

Have you ever known someone who not only gave you unsolicited advice, but had a firm conviction you should follow that advice? It’s very uncomfortable, because if you don’t agree, the other person may be insulted or angry or put up an argument. It won’t take long before you avoid that person’s advice at all costs, or perhaps instinctively rebel from it. That’s even more uncomfortable. Have you ever found yourself doing the same thing though – perhaps with your kids?

What if we never offered unsolicited advice? And if someone did ask for our opinion, we simply offered it with no expectations attached? This takes a lot of trust, and self-awareness. We have to believe that our kids are inherently capable, though they will make mistakes (just like we do). We have to know that our kids do not belong to us, and the fact that they choose differently doesn’t make our choices wrong. This might be a hard switch to make, especially if we are used to other people laying expectations on us. We have to undo all the phony connections that are based on ego (the thinking self), and simply be ourselves.

I still struggle with how much to give in to my family and how much to hold my own. I try not to expect anything in particular from my kids, but I cannot shake the expectation that they will always be wonderful. My dad does the same for me, even though I never became a lawyer.

Minimalist Homeschooling

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As my kids grow up, I’ve been getting the urge to unfeather my nest. We seem to be moving into a new phase of life, and a lot of the old stuff seems unnecessary. Maybe it never was necessary. But I’m taking a hard look at where I want to be and how I want to live these days.

Minimalism has been a growing trend, especially as so many books and blogs have been written about “doing more with less.” I’ve always been curious about this, in the past reading such books as Voluntary Simplicity by Duane Elgin, The Simple Living Guide by Janet Luhrs, “The 4 Hour Workweek” by Tim Ferriss, and of course “Walden” by Thoreau.  Simplicity definitely seemed like something to aspire to, but I was so busy with life as usual that I didn’t follow through with it (excuses, excuses).

Recently I’ve stumbled upon a blogger named Ev Bogue who got me thinking about it again. He’s conveniently been writing about things that I’ve been trying to figure out – like how to use technology to help me simplify. I feel like the old way of doing things and buying things is rapidly becoming obsolete.  Going digital has the potential to eliminate so much clutter, although it could potentially add clutter if we’re not careful.

For instance, why do I have a giant box of old VHS tapes? Because I was saving them to someday convert to DVD (although I don’t have a machine to do that). But why would I want to have a bunch of DVDs around when it is possible to store movies on a giant hard drive? Or stream from the Internet?

The same goes for all of our music CDs. I didn’t like buying music from iTunes because they make it so hard to sync music between our families’ computers and iPods, so we bought CDs instead. But then came Pandora, Spotify, and other music streaming websites. Why buy a disk to store and dust, or a handcuffed music file, when I could just pay a monthly fee to listen to an enormous library of music anytime and anywhere?

I also want to try digital scrapbooking instead of paper scrapping. I want to ditch my hefty paper planner in favor of planning/calendar software. I want to stop buying newspapers and magazines, and read them online instead.  And books . . . good grief. I love my books dearly, but we must have a thousand pounds of books – and that’s just nonfiction reference. That doesn’t even count the fiction and other books we’ve borrowed from the library over the years. Wouldn’t it be great to get a lot of that on a Kindle? Or borrow ebooks from the library?

Technology has changed everything, including homeschooling. If I were starting homeschool all over again, I would buy much LESS stuff.  Looking at my groaning bookshelves now, I wonder, “Why did I buy this?” It seemed like a good idea at the time . . . But now I would (and will) rely on the Internet for so much more. I’ll tell you how in future posts.

Do you have any clever ways to use technology in your homeschool or life? I’d love to hear about them – just leave a comment below or email me. Thanks!

Terminator Mom

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I’ve been thinking a lot about the goal of this blog. What is my message? How does this fit in with the work I am meant to do?

Here are some of the things I am passionate about:

  1. Self-education and self-improvement
  2. Sustainability
  3. Freedom
  4. Creativity
  5. Preparation for a world transition

I think the world is in for some major changes due to population growth, resource scarcity, energy scarcity, economic collapse, and climate change (whatever the cause may be, things are changing). Being the sort of person that likes to plan ahead, I feel compelled to plan ahead for this transition and to help other people prepare too.

However, I really don’t yet have the skills or experience to help anyone else! All I can do is raise awareness and point people to the same resources/experts I am turning to. But I do have experience with self-education, self-improvement and creativity. These are the very skills that all of us will need, now and in the future.

Sometimes I think I’m like the mom Sarah Connor in Terminator, who raised a son destined to lead the human resistance against machines. I have this feeling that I am also raising my children to survive and perhaps lead the way in the troubles ahead. We may not have cyborgs to fight off, but there will be plenty of challenges. There will be major changes in our food, water, and energy supplies, and people typically don’t like those sorts of abrupt changes. Hopefully it will happen gradually enough that people can adjust. But I’m fairly certain that my children and grandchildren will have a much different way of life than I did. My job is to teach them how to make the most of it.

So, that is my message. I want to reach out to all the Terminator moms and dads out there and spread the word. It’s time to get ready. Each of us has unique strengths and skills to apply to the problems at hand. We must encourage our children’s unique strengths and skills, too. Who knows what they might be or how they might serve humanity in the future? This is no time to worry about standardized curriculum or pleasing bureaucrats – we have a world to save!

I’ll keep beating the drum of self-education in this blog, but because I am also in the process of educating myself about our coming transition, I will post thoughts about that in my other blog: www.jamiemcmillin.com

Next topic: What are you learning?