4 Questions to Ask about Our Children’s Futures

February 19, 2017 at 6:10 pm

A friend of mine has been dealing with some intense challenges with her son’s school. Her sweet but very active 5-year-old son has been suspended three times in the past three weeks. I’m tempted to say he was suspended for rule infractions that could fit under the umbrella of “being a 5-year-old.” Most American kindergarteners are expected to sit still, stand still, be quiet, stay in line, and generally avoid typical 5-year-old behavior at all times. So sad.

While American kindergarteners are denied their one short recess for small infractions, kindergarteners in Finland are given as many as four free-play breaks between classes because “educators and parents here believe that these breaks are a powerful engine of learning that improves . . . executive function, concentration and cognitive focus, behavior, well-being, attendance, physical health, and yes, test scores, too” (Source). Professor Howard Gardner, from Harvard University Graduate School of Education, gave this advice for improving American schools: “Learn from Finland, which has the most effective schools and which does just about the opposite of what we are doing in the United States” (Source).

All of this has me thinking a lot about what really matters and what will really prepare my children for the actual future they will be living in. My research and my gut agree that what is being taught in most American schools is insufficient for and even opposed to what our children will actually need in the future. For what it’s worth, here are some questions I feel we should be thinking about.

What I Learned from Our First Year of Homeschool

May 28, 2016 at 2:35 am

Last night I was reading John Holt’s Teach Your Own before bed, wishing it wasn’t a library book so I could highlight my favorite passages. Instead I kept ripping up a piece of paper to mark the parts I loved. It seemed there was something on every page. This might be a book I need to own. I’ll share some John Holt quotes in this post, in part because I want to have them written down somewhere to refer back to.

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This blogpost has been writing itself in my head for several weeks now. But it never felt like the school year was complete for the same reason that it never feels like the school day is complete. Homeschooling never ends because children are always learning. We have “school” plans that extend throughout the summer. It seems sort of strange to even define grade levels now. I can see how they will all bleed together as we simply incorporate “school” into our lives year-round. But since the traditional school year has ended for the local kids, I suppose I can write this blogpost now.

Keeping Up

February 15, 2016 at 5:21 am

One year ago today I started yoga teacher training! It seems sort of surreal… did that really happen? I was a totally different person then. And a new person again by the time I graduated. And then I birthed yet another version of myself when I brought my fifth baby earthside on Christmas day. I wonder who I will be next Valentine’s Day?

As I reminisced about my first weekend of yoga teacher training, looking over my notes and recalling so many beautiful epiphanies and experiences, I thought… gosh I miss this. It has been several months since I had a daily yoga/meditation practice (a casualty of the third trimester, I suppose). Given a choice between doing yoga or relaxing/sleeping/taking a bath, well… yoga lost just about every time.

I think maybe I need this beautiful watercolor painting created by one of my yogi friends Siri Kirti Kaur. Yogi Bhajan always urged his yoga students: “Keep up and you will be kept up.”

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Five Things for Friday: 5 Weeks Edition

January 29, 2016 at 8:55 am

Friday

It has been 5 weeks now since Baby Hope joined our family earthside. Today also marks my first full 5-day work week flying solo (during the day) as a mom of 5 kids. Five is apparently the number of the day. Seems fitting to do a “5 things” post for the occasion.

Hope’s Birth: Sadness and Surrender

January 6, 2016 at 12:32 am

[The first part of Hope’s birth story is HERE.]

As I wrote in the first installment of this story, giving birth is such a multi-layered experience. And what a woman is feeling has such a deep impact on how the birth unfolds. With that in mind, I can’t really give the full scope of what I went through with Hope’s birth without sharing some deep emotional upheaval I experienced a week before. In my last post I shared one layer of my pre-birth emotional state: fear about letting my baby come out. Today I’ll make Brené Brown proud with some hard-core vulnerability and share another layer.

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Is Play the Cure?

October 12, 2015 at 12:12 am

Over the past few weeks, I have devoured Peter Gray’s Free to Learn, a book recommended by one of my readers. Gray is a psychology research professor at Boston College, author, blogger, and a parent. I added that last title because parenthood has a huge impact on how people view children and education. This point was made almost humorous in The Homework Myth by Alfie Kohn who cited example after example of teachers who revised their homework policies after their own children began bringing homework home. This particular passage is underlined and surrounded by stars in my copy of Kohn’s book:

“Now that I’m a parent myself,” one fourth grade teacher in North Carolina said, “I realize they have lives at home” (The Homework Myth, p. 23).

freetolearnHa ha! I realize they have lives at home. Cracks me up every time. So it was important to me that Free to Learn‘s author Peter Gray was a father himself in addition to being an “expert.” In fact, the first words of his book come straight out of one of his most painful challenges as a fatherthe day his nine-year-old son told him to “Go to hell” as they sat in the school principal’s office. Gray explained:

We were there to present a united front, to tell Scott in no uncertain terms that he must attend school and must do there whatever he was told by his teachers to do. We each sternly said our piece, and then Scott, looking squarely at us all, said the words that stopped me in my tracks (p. ix).

Both Gray and his wife immediately began to cry, and in that moment they both knew what they had to do. They pulled him out of the school, and “not just from that school but from anything that was anything like that school” (p. x). Free to Learn presents educational history and research through the lens of Gray’s own experience as a father striving to provide his son with a learning environment suited to his needs.

Relax. You’re Doing Great.

September 23, 2015 at 7:33 am

Last Sunday I was talking with a new friend who had her first baby just seven weeks ago. As my kids gathered around, we admired the sweet bundle asleep on her chest. Addressing my oldest daughter, I pouted and said, “I remember when you were that tiny! And I was like I don’t know what I’m doing!” Turning to my new friend, I added, pointing to my oldest daughter, “And look! They still turn out OK!” Seeing my friend starting her path as a mother brought back so many memories. One day you’re just a girl with a belly full of baby, and then BAM… a brand new person is in your arms, and you begin a crash course in motherhood. Tomorrow will mark the twelfth anniversary of my initiation into Mom-life. My first baby is turning twelve. Wha..?!

Here are some pics from my daughter’s first year (from the fat and elaborate scrapbook I somehow had time to make for her but not for any of my other kids… you know, back when people were still scrapbooking with actual printed photos and actual paper… and the photos were taken without a digital camera, and half the roll of film was always out of focus or just bad shots…ha).

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Surrender, part 6

May 14, 2015 at 12:38 am

“It’s OK, Mommy.  You’ll grow another one.” -My second daughter (after I pushed out my fourth baby’s placenta)

Nearly four years ago, three months after my fourth birth, I wrote the last installment of my “birth story” in a post titled “Surrender, part 5.” In it I shared my somewhat graphic discovery that my youngest daughter was likely originally sharing my womb with a twin who stopped growing very early in the pregnancy. I finished the post with these words:

We can’t know for certain whether there was, in fact, a vanished twin. But my heart feels it’s true, especially when I’m in a room with my family and keep looking around for the one who’s missing, only to realize we’re all already in the room. Or when my baby girl’s face lights up in a huge grin, as though she’s looking at an invisible someone she adores, sitting or standing next to me.

Thinking and writing about it all, I can feel that bit of sadness and loss fading away, leaving peace and understanding in its place. And, even now, my eyes well up with tears of knowing… Yes, I know it now. I can feel it in my bones. I can see it in my tears and in the burning, overwhelming love and joy filling me and surrounding me. Yes, there is another child who loves me deeply and intensely, waiting… and hoping that I will have the courage to surrender again.

P.S. I gave birth to a baby boy in my dreams two nights ago.

Over the past four years I have become more and more intimately acquainted with this unborn child. He has visited my dreams, appeared in visions, made his presence palpable occasionally at family dinners or gatherings, and all along the way I have told him, “I don’t know if I can do it.” His response has always been a kind, patient, loving, “Whatever you decide is OK. I’ll find my way into your family somehow.” But all the while, he was persistent in his determination to make me aware that he was still there, still waiting, still full of love for me, still hoping to come to this earth through my body.

Yoga Teacher Training Diary, 7th Edition

May 12, 2015 at 8:29 pm

I’ve now completed seven full weekends of Kundalini Yoga Teacher training and sixteen of my twenty required yoga classes. I’m about halfway through my take-home essay exam, hoping to do one question a day to finish before the May 24 deadline. In addition, I still need to create two yoga course curricula. One is for beginners, and I think I’ll do a pregnancy yoga curriculum for the other. I got the Conscious Pregnancy Yoga Manual last week, so it should be really helpful!

IMG_20150502_162014570Between teacher training weekends, on May 2, I was able to attend a gong workshop with Sevak Singh. In Kundalini Yoga, we use the gong quite a lot. It is said that the sound of the gong is like the sound of creation. The gong will always neutralize the mind and force it to a place a stillness. For this reason it is a very powerful tool for deep relaxation. During the workshop we were able to play five different symphonic gongs of varying sizes. And… now I want one. A big one. :-) Gong can kind of be an acquired taste. I wasn’t sure I liked it the first time I heard a gong, but now I love it. If you’ve never heard a gong played well, Don Conreaux has some good recordings. And Khushbir’s video is good too. Also, the gong sounds a lot like the planet Jupiter. Do you know what Jupiter means? Dyeu-peter=“god the father.” Interesting, no?

On Saturday at teacher training we had four students present their practicums. So that basically translated to four complete yoga classes in one day. Whew! It was kind of exhausting, but I love seeing my classmates teach. It’s a joy. We also talked about teaching specialized groups… corporate settings, pregnant women, children, teenagers, addiction recovery groups, elderly, etc. And we discussed some ethical considerations and the various Kundalini and yoga organizations: IKYTA, 3HO, KRI, Library of Teachings, Yoga Alliance, etc.

Yoga Teacher Training Diary, Practicum Edition

April 30, 2015 at 7:07 am

I’ve now completed six full weekends of Kundalini Yoga Teacher training and nine of my twenty yoga classes. Our certification packages are due May 24, and we’re scheduled to graduate on June 7. So basically I will be spending all of May either in yoga classes or writing essays for our final exam questions. I seriously feel like I’m in college again, cramming at the end of a semester. Good thing I’m a writer, so essays are my thing. Deep breaths (through the nose, of course). I can do this!

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The highlight of last weekend was teaching my practicum! I knew I wanted to sign up for one of the first slots, and I knew I wanted it to be early in the day. I was the third student to present, and the first person on Sunday morning. Before I go into detail about the practicum, here are some highlights from my class notes the rest of the weekend.

Experimental Hairiness

April 17, 2015 at 5:03 am

A couple of months ago I got a text from a friend. She said something like, “I stopped shaving my armpits as an experiment.” I laughed and texted her right back, “Me too.” Literally. We both, individually and without discussing in advance with each other, started the same experiment at the same time. Over the past month+ we have had quite a few conversations about our hairy glory, and eventually both of us expanded our experiments to include our legs as well. I died laughing when she texted me this gem: “An Open Letter to My Beloved Woolly Armpits.”

Last night I finally mustered the courage to talk about the elephant in the room with my husband. I ventured into this experiment without consulting him, and I didn’t need anyone’s permission, but I was slightly curious to know how he felt about it. This man has been my devoted, compassionate, and stalwart partner through some really tough stuff. Given all that I’ve put him through, I was confident that a little hair wasn’t going to send him packing. But I guess I just needed to hear him say the words out loud: “I will still love you, even if you never shave again.” I haven’t decided whether I will make my experiment permanent.

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The lighting here makes it look blonde, but it’s actually not as blonde as I wish it was.

Yoga Teacher Training Diary, 4th Edition

April 1, 2015 at 4:32 am

The breeze at dawn has secrets to tell you.
Don’t go back to sleep.
You must ask for what you really want.
Don’t go back to sleep.
People are going back and forth across the doorsill
Where the two worlds touch.
The door is round and open.
Don’t go back to sleep.

Rumi

I’ve now completed four full weekends of Kundalini Yoga Teacher training and all forty days of my assigned 40-day sadhana. Yippee!  Last weekend for yoga teacher training we had an “Ashram-style” retreat in the mountains two hours northeast of Phoenix. It was such a beautiful place to be.

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Yoga Teacher Training Diary, 3rd Edition

March 18, 2015 at 3:45 am

I’ve now completed three full weekends of Kundalini Yoga Teacher training and thirty days of my assigned 40-day sadhana. This stuff is tough! I had to laugh at the end of our weekend training while we watched a Yogi Bhajan video. He said (about the Warrior Exercise he was about to teach):

I’m not willing to let you misunderstand this. If we start doing it, we’re going to reach a stage called ‘The Twilight Zone,” and then there’ll be humongous pain; pain so much that you do not know. . . . Set yourself, folks. You asked for it. I forgive myself and wash my hands of it.

It reminded me of something I had read online in which a critic of Kundalini Yoga called its practices masochistic. Sometimes it can feel like torture, to be honest. But, as we often talk about in class, the practice of Kundalini Yoga is about training your mind-body to serve your spirit, and if you can command your mind and body to endure a difficult yoga exercise, it becomes easier and easier to command your mind and body to endure anything. It’s like a fire-drill.

Conquer

Yoga Teacher Training Diary, 2nd Edition

March 11, 2015 at 4:57 am

I’ve now completed two full weekends of Kundalini Yoga Teacher training and twenty-three days of my assigned 40-day sadhana. There is so much I could say, but I think for the sake of time I will just share snip-its of my class notes in bullet-point form.

See “Yoga Teacher Training Diary, 1st Edition” HERE.

potty training

February 28, 2015 (with Gurumeher Singh)

  • Purpose of yoga= to become one with the infinite.
    • yoga= union, yoke
  • Purpose of yoga= to control the thought waves of the mind.
  • When not in a state of yoga, we identify with our thoughts, reactions, and habitual patterns: “I am angry.”
  • Yoga is potty training your mind
    • need a place to “dump”
    • once a day go to your dumping station (yoga/meditation)

Yoga Teacher Training Diary, 1st Edition

March 10, 2015 at 5:45 am

I’ve now completed two full weekends of Kundalini Yoga Teacher training and twenty-two days of my assigned 40-day sadhana. There is so much I could say, but I think for the sake of time I will just share snip-its of my class notes in bullet-point form.

February 14, 2015

  • Don’t say “I hope that _____ will happen,” instead say “I trust that _____ will happen.”
  • When life feels too big, call on your infinity; make yourself bigger than the problem.
  • Yogi Bhajan said… smile at your mistakes because you have opened up a new neural pathway in the brain.
  • There are four cycles of Kundalini at the throat chakra… “The most important power of a person is the spoken word, both what you speak and how you speak. Ugly words are effective, and praises are effective” (from our teacher training manual).
  • For the first 40 days after birth, an infant should stay within nine feet of its mother (within the protection and peace of mother’s aura). It takes three years for the child to build an independent aura. (<—I think I could write an entire blogpost on this alone.)
  • I love all the plants at Yoga Phoenix!

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