For my regular visitors, if you find that this blog hasn't been updating much lately, chances are pretty good I've been spending my writing energy on my companion blog. Feel free to pop over to Moving On, and see what else has been going on.

Monday, January 11, 2010

What do you do when the shoe doesn't fit?

This blog post was brought to my attention this morning, and I really enjoyed it.  Here's an excerpt.

 Now, on the whole, I've found unschoolers to be one of the most tolerant, kind, accepting groups of people there are. In my experience it's pretty rare to see an unschooler behave in a way that is blatantly racist or homophobic, and furthermore, unschoolers in general tend to be accepting of a wide variety of personalities and interests.


I've also seen an awful lot of negative attitudes towards religious people, particularly Christians.

I have seen and experienced this myself a number of times, and I just admit, it has left me very jaded about my fellow unschoolers.  In fact, I've found myself frequently questioning the tolerance of the self-professed tolerant, and along with anti-Christian sentiment, I would also include political, geographical and other ideological intolerance as well.

While the writer talks about how few unschoolers there are compared to more regulated styles of home based education, I would say that has a lot more to do with where one lives, and what support groups are available.  In all our moves, I've found the majority of my fellow home schoolers are more on the unschooling side of things than the stereotypical school-at-home style.  If fact, I don't recall ever meeting any hs'ing family in the school-at-home extreme, but I've met quite a few that could be considered "radical" unschoolers.  (Personally, I don't think either extreme is a good idea.)  Most of the families I've encountered over the years tend to fall more towards the unschooling side of things - they have routines and maybe even purchased curriculum, or make their kids do sit-down bookwork at certain times, but are still very relaxed about things.

There's a general assumption made about the different styles of home schoolers.  School at home types are viewed as Conservative, Right Wing, and Christian (and, by extension, racist bigots) - the more regulated the schooling style, the more to the right their political views, and the more extreme their religion is assumed to be.  There is also a tendancy to view this category of home schoolers as anti-science, as well - young earth creationists and the like.  There is probably some truth to the stereotype (after all, there's a reason stereotypes come about), but I just haven't encountered it personally.  I've only read about them.

Unschooling types, on the other hand, are assumed to be left leaning, more socialist, and have little or no religion at all (agnostic or athiest), to be Unitarian if they're Christian, or Pagan, Buddhist (or at least their version of Buddhism), Secular Humanists, etc. In my experience, the left leaning tendancy of unschoolers leads to a higher number of AGW believers, and greater levels of environmental extremism.

Over the years, I've seen a very strong divide between the home schooling ideologies, and unfortunately, the most bigoted, least tolerant views I've encountered have been from my fellow unschoolers.  I used to be part of a large, active Canadian home school email list.  I finally left it when a troll was allowed to spew his vile unchecked, while those who tried to counter his bile were clamped down on by the moderator.  This, on top of the anti-Christian sentiment and other bigotry I saw allowed on the list was the final straw, and I left a community I'd been part of for almost a decade.  Sadly, I am seeing similiar intolerance within our local community as well - especially when it comes to topics such as AGW and environmentalism.

We are an unschooling family.  Not out of ideology, but because that's what worked with our older daughter, and we just kept it up with our younger.  Quite simply, our attempts to school-at-home, even slightly, were failures and set the girls, especially Eldest, back considerably.  My definition of unschooling, however, is very broad, and I think a lot of unschoolers would disagree with me.  I do not, for example, have any problem with sit down bookwork, or using a curriculum, text books, etc.  To me, these are just tools and methods to be used or discarded, based on need.  Some families simply do better with a more regimented schedule, and some kids need a more orderly learning style.  As far as I'm concerned, as long as the methods are used because they best suit the child, not because of external beliefs on how education "should" happen, it's still unschooling.  I know teens who have chosen to go back to high school.  As far as I'm concerned, they're still unschooling, because it was their choice to use the school system as an educational resource.  If a family is unschooling because the parents decided that this was the "right" way to educate children, but ignore that their individual child actually thrives better on something more regulated, I cannot think of that as actually unschooling.  It's still a method that's forced onto the child, regardless of that child's needs or desires.  The key, to me, is that the methods used are suited to the individual child, even if the parents don't necessarily think it's a good idea.

We are a Christian family.  I am an ex-Catholic, but not anti-Catholic.  Over the decades, as I've looked at different religions, belief systems, and the different types of Christianity, I find I still have greater respect for Catholicism than any of the others.  I would, in fact, still consider myself catholic, as the word means "universal church," and therefore really encompasses most, if not all, the Christian faiths.  I respect people who follow different faiths, even if I don't agree with them.  What I've found, however, is that there is a very strong anti-Christian sentiment among unschoolers, and that tolerance for Christian faiths (except, possibly, Unitarianism, which I'm not sure is even a Christian faith at all) is very low.  Secular Humanism and environmentalism are frequently the religions of choice (and yes, I consider both to be religions, every bit as dogmatic as the "fundamentalists" they often profess to abhor), but any religion that can be viewed as opposite to Christianity is acceptable.  Heaven forbid this bias or religious double standard is pointed out, though.  On the email list I mentioned before, people were supposed to be welcome to discuss their own beliefs, but in reality, people who expressed their Christian sentiments would be accused of proselytising.  Christian bashing was allowed, but if anyone pointed out that that's what was being done, there would be a great outcry of how it wasn't really bashing, and besides, the bashers were right.  Point out the double standed, and there would be another outcry, denying that there was one at all.  It got very tiring.

I used to consider myself an environmentalist.  Growing up on a subsistance farm, it was kind of hard not to be aware of the environment.  Of course, going through the public school system, I got some of the indoctrination that was increasingly becoming part of the curriculum at the time.  I am a strong believer in responsible environmental stewardship.  I cannot, however, call myself an environmentalist anymore.  What passes for environmentalism today has become a religion.  It's assumed that if you're "green" you are against capitalism, and that you agree with a long list ideas, whether it's views on global warming, the use of DDT, or that humans are a blight on the planet.  Responsible environmental stewardship has been co-opted by a political ideology that I find very disturbing.  Here, the political left/right divide is very strong.  Among environmentalists, I see the word "conserivative" used as an accusatory insult a lot, and it's assumed that if one is "green" they are also "liberal."

I am not a Darwinist.  Now, to many, this automatically makes me a Right Wing extremist, a religious quack, a young earth creationist/ID nutbar who denies science and evolotuion.  They would, of course, be wrong but, like environmentalism, Darwinism has become dogmatic.  Part of the problem is that most people think evolution = Darwinism, and it doesn't.  Even what people think of Darwinian evolution doesn't have much to do with what Darwin actually said or, according to his writings, believed.  It turns out there are all sorts of alternative theories of evolution out there, and Darwin's is not even close to answering the problems of evolution.  Unschoolers, in my experience, have been the most viscious in attacking anyone who dares question Darwinism, and no matter how much one tries to point out that there are alternative theories that are very bit as legitimate, they insist on calling those who disagree with them as religious, anti-science, anti-evolution, Right Wing nutbars.  It's not quite as bad as, say, disagreeing with AGW, but it gets pretty close at times.

Politically, I tend towards libertarianism, but I'm not a Libertarian (when I looked into the local political party, I found them to be a bunch of anarchists).  While a lot of my views can be considered conservative, others are considered liberal or socialist.  I find the definition of Classial Liberal fits my views very well, but it doesn't seem to exist any more.  This leads to all sorts of confusion in conversations.  When I mention I am an unschooler, I've had other unschoolers assume I am also Liberal, or Green.  When I mention my views on AGW, people assume I'm Conservative.  What I mention my thoughts on Darwinism vs evolution, I've found myself dismissed as a religious nut.

So where do I fit?  I've never been one to put labels on people, but there is a purpose to categorization.  I don't seem to be a square peg trying to fit into a round hole.  I seem to be more like a dodecahedron trying to fit into a pentagon.  Only one side fits at a time, but that leaves 11 other sides that don't fit anywhere.

No, I haven't quit already...

It's been a while since I followed up on the walking thing.  I have been keeping it up, though.  :-)

Since I last wrote, we did another mall walk.  We went quite a bit later, and all the stores were closed.  There were still people there - there always are.  Between security and cleaning staff, there are still people from the hotal, various restaurants, etc.  Still, it was much better than before.  We were able to maintain a continuous pace the entire route.  This time I made a point of timing the walk.  At the half way mark, we were at 9 minutes, and the whole thing took 19 minutes in total.

There's no way I'm doing 3 km at that speed.  It's must be more like 2 km. 

I completely forgot to take painkillers before I left, but that seemed to be okay.  I did remember to eat some protein and grabbed a couple of high protein food bars too, just in case.  My calves started to give me problems at first, though not as badly as before.  I did have to stop for a bit at the half way mark to let them relax a bit.  The second half, though I had to walk slower, was much more comfortable.

The next day was our library day, so that was our walk.  Factoring out waiting for lights to change and the like, it's about 10 minutes of walking one way.  Which means a round trip is about the same as our mall walk route (this doesn't count any extra walking we do while in the area).  This was my first test of doing the walk two days in a row. 

Our route to the library gives us the option of cutting through a building.  It doesn't make the walk any shorter, but it does give us the option to stop and sit, if needed, or get out of inclement weather. For the first half block of the walk, the sidewalks were not entirely clear of snow.  Even though I wear sturdy hiking shoes, I could feel the bones in my feet moving around in ways they shouldn't while navigating the rough surface. This adds extra strain to my calves, so I found myself needing to stop and sit for a bit when we reach the building we cut through.  With clear sidewalks, I don't always need to stop.  It depends on how bad my legs happen to be that day. The walk back is never as challenging as the walk out, and I was able to maintain a fairly brisk pace.

The next day was an off day, and I found I had no real issues with my legs at all after two days in a row.  There didn't seem to be any extra pain, creaking or bone dancing.  I was really quite pleased.

We were supposed to do another mall walk the following evening, but I was feeling extremely tired - I hadn't slept well at all the night before - and didn't feel I was safe to drive to the mall.  Since some holds at the library came in during that time, Eldest and I just shifted it over a day and did the library walk again yesterday, as well as some extra wandering around downtown.  In all, the total brisk walking time was probably increased from about 20 minutes to about half an hour.

Once again, everything seems to be working out well.  I'm not getting those shooting pains that I used to.  Time to increase the route.  I'm not sure we'll be able to do the walk tomorrow evening, as I'm getting together with some friends that night.  By the time we'll be done, the mall we do our walk in will be closed, so it'll be perfect for the walk, but it might just be a bit too late in the day.  We shall see.  I'd rather not shift days again.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Changing schedules and our library list.

This school year is slowly changing from the last few.  That's to be expected, of course.  :-)

Youngest's voice coaching started up again yesterday.  She got a CD player for Christmas and has been practising a lot on her own time, which is pretty fantastic.  Things are working out quite well on that front.  The teacher has a small recital at the end of the school year for those students that want to participate, but Youngest won't be taking part this year.

Eldest is signed up for a Junior Authors online course.  This morning was a "meet the teacher" meeting.  A good time to figure out the online software that's being used.  It turns out she's the oldest person taking the course, so the teacher has said she'll be giving Eldest more challenging stuff.  She's really looking forward to it.

The course is on wednesdays, which is our usual library day.  That's something else that we want to change.  Not library day, exactly.  Youngest and I will probably still go out - not necessarily to the libary, though - to let Eldest have her class time without distractions.

The girls are both telling me we need to cut back on the library days quite a bit.  We have our personal library again, plus the books for Christmas and other books we've been aquiring.  The girls are finding they just don't have time to read everything they want.  Because library books are time dependent, they tend to take priority over other things they'd want to read.  Throw in music cds and dvds, and there's just no time to see them all.  So we'll have to back off on the library trips a bit. Well... they will.  I'm still borrowing craft books, craft books, etc. 

With that in mind, here is today's library list.

Actually, I'll include titles from our returns, too, since I haven't been doing library lists in a long time...

Dvds include...

The Color of Pomegranates
Robinson Crusoe on Mars
Jacquou le Croquant

Of these, the kids only had time to watch one - Jaws.

Eldest's books included:

Uncommon Dissent: intellectuals who find Darwinism unconvincing
The Politically Incorrect Guide to Darwinism and Intelligent Design

These are the last two a a large number of evolutian related books Eldest has been borrowing.  She never got to Politically Incorrect and hasn't finished Uncommon Dissent yet.

Youngest has been working on Legendary Fictions of Irish Celts for quite a long time.  A lot of her recent withdrawals have been books on mythology and folklore plus lots of dvds.  I think she's worked her way through most of the libraries Film Noire collection.  Since she's also working her way through the Harry Potter books, among other things, it's been slow going.  She didn't take out anything at all today.

Some of my previous loans, most of which I still have, include:

Uselss Arithmatic: Why Environmental Scientists Can't Predict the Future
Poirot: The Perfect Murders (a compilation of 4 books)
Secrets of a Healthy Middle Eastern Cuisine (a disappointment - turned out to be just another diet cookbook)
Shakespeare's Kitchen (one I've taken out a couple of times already)
plus a bunch of crochet books.

In the new stuff, I have:

The Myths of Human Evolution 
Consuming Culture: What You Eat What You Eat
Just Food: Where Locavores Get it Wrong and How We Can Truly Eat Responsibly (I *really* hope this one doesn't turn out to be preachy...)
Creep Cute Crochet: Zombies, Ninjas, Robots and More (Youngest has been making the Ninja but got stumped on a couple of parts)
Wrap Style: Innovative to traditional, 24 inspirational shawls, ponchos and capelets to knit and crochet (not a lot of crochet, but I'm already thinking of how I can make modified versions of some of the knit patterns)
Woman's Day Prize Winning Afghans (a mix of knit, crochet and embellisments.  I don't think it'll be as useful as I thought it would be)

Eldest only took out the one book she had on hold - On Monsters: An Unnatural History of our Worst Fears, but she grabbed quite a few cds and dvds.


The Brave One
The Collector
I Wake Up Screaming
National Geographic - Atmospheres: Earth, Air Water
It Came From Outer Space
Apocalyps Now


Thrice - Beggars
Leona Maess - Comatised
Scribble Mural Comic Journal - A Sunny Day in Glasgow
The Sundays - reading, writing and arithmetic
The Walkmen - Bows & Arrows

Monday, January 04, 2010

Walking follow up - so far, so good!

So far, so good...

Yesterday, Eldest and I went for our first "exercise walk," in my attempt to determine just how far I can push myself right now.  With outdoor conditions being what they are right now, we went to a large mall.  When we first moved out here, I remember picking up a mall walker's guide - a map of the mall printed on a card that folded to business card size.  Several colour coded routes were on the map with the distances of each route.  That was years ago, so my first order of business was to go to the customer service desk and see if I could pick up another one.  The mall was closing (the building itself is open 24 hours, but on a Sunday, a lot of the shops were closing at 4, 5 and 6 o'clock) so there was no one at the desk, but the cards had been part of a display, along with directories and such.

No luck.  Maybe mall walking died out or something, beccause I can't find anything about it, even in the mall's website.  The closest I've been able to find is a reference on another site to a 6 km walking route in that mall.  That would be the longest of the routes I saw.  Based on that, I would guess that the walk we did last night was about 3 km.  Rather short, but good for a start.

Although I timed our getting there for when the mall was closing, it was surprisingly busy.  The first part of our walk, we found ourselves stepping aside and looking at displays, just to get the crowds go by.  After the first quarter of the distance, though, things quieted down and we could walk normally again.

I did remember to take pain killers before we left, which was a good thing.  What I quickly found was that my calves didn't appreciated the walk very much - because of the damage to my feet in particular, my calves have become over developed to compensate for the instability.  As a result, they tend to tense and knot up fairly quickly.  My feet and knees did get painful, but not excessively so.

I did make one mistake, though.  I should have eaten something before we left.  I was feeling a bit hungry when we got there, but wasn't going to grab something to eat just before walking.  At the end of the walk, I found myself dizzy, light headed and shakey.  As we left for home, I realized I wasn't safe to drive and we pulled over were I could quickly get myself some protein.  I should have remembered this - it's a common reaction I have when I don't eat often enough, and I've found the best way to take care of it is by eating protein (carbs don't seem to help at all).  After getting something to eat, I felt a lot better.

Now the important part.  How my legs feel today!

The answer to that would be, great!  No residual aches and pains.  No patella polka.  No dislocating metatarsals.  Everything seems to be working just fine!  If fact, I feel I could go for another walk tonight.

I'm not going to, though.  I won't try 2 days in a row until next week.  Instead, I'll head out again tomorrow night and do another 3km - making sure to protein up *before* I leave home.

At the moment, I'm quite encouraged by this.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Should I? Or shouldn't I?

Just taking a few moments to write before I head out.  Today will be my first, formal "exercise walk."

For some time now, I've been sorely feeling my lack of physical activity.  I've always been physcially active.  In my youth there were the usual farm chores (I love throwing bales and chopping wood).  During high school I took karate and lifted weights.  I've never been able to do aerobic type exercise - my days of running for the sheer joy of running ended when I grew breasts. *L*  I loved to dance, though.

As I've grown older, however, things have changed a great deal.  First, there were availability issues.  Leaving the farm meant leaving my chores.  Then there were cost issues.  I couldn't afford a gym membership or karate lessons in the city.  Of course, moving back and forth across the country makes organized efforts rather difficult, too.

For years I cycled as both exercise and transportation.  That went by the wayside when babies arrived.

One thing that I was able to maintain, however, was walking.  I love walking.  I have the sort of stamina that allows me to walk for hours.  At least I used to.

Then I got broken.

When Eldest was just a baby, I over did things and wrecked both my feet.  Being in no position to stop, I kept going through the pain.  I also share a family trait: unless it's bleeding or obviously broken, I tend not to go to the doctor about things.  I've tried to move away from that - especially since that sort of behaviour almost killed my brother.  Still, I felt really weird complaining to my doctor about sore feet.  After all, don't all new mothers have sore feet after a while?  In retrospect, I should have had them checked out, as I now believe I'd developed stress fractures in the metatarsals of both feet.

Regardless.  What's done is done. It's the long term results that are my issues now.  I have since developed osteoarthritis in both my feet and both my knees, with bone spurs in both heels and both knees as well.  Though things have improved greatly since I've left the wet coast for the dry prairies, it's still a problem.  My feet will unexpectedly dislocate, as do my knees, which also like to do the patella polka at inopportune moments.

Which means that today, the simple act of walking is something I no longer take for granted.  And I miss it.

For the last few months, I've been feeling the urge to push myself.  When I first discovered I had arthritis, I was living on the west coast.  I was in so much pain, I could barely walk from one end of the house to the other.  What I eventually worked out was that I could go for a 20 minute walk, ever other day.  If I walked for longer than that, or if I went for a walk every day, it would take me about 3 days to recover - 3 excrutiatingly painful days, were just getting out of bed was barely more than I could handle.

I now know that the high humidity made things worse, as I've never encountered that sort of pain since returning to the prairies.

Today, I can once again walk for hours at a time, though I have to remember to take pain killers before I leave.  I know my limits in things like stairs.  These walks, however, have been group walks, with frequent stops to take photos, etc.

What I no longer know is, how long can I go for a power walk?  How often?

At the same time, with that desire to push myself physically, I've found myself thinking of taking part in walk-a-thons.  The closest I've come to doing that was a 1 km walk that involved people across the country walking at the same time, in an attempt to set a record.  I have no idea if we broke the record.  It was fun, though.  One kilometer, however, isn't a challenge.

I ended up talking about this with Eldest, and we've decided to give it a go.  We're going to go for regular "exercise walks" to see how much I can handle.  We'll work out what my limitations are now, and see if I can improve on them.

Recently, I've found out about a Breast Cancer Awareness walk-a-thon in August.

It's early yet, but I'm debating whether or not I should register for it.  Right now, I have no idea how long of a walk it is.  I'll need to send away for more information.  Until I've been walking regularly for a while, though, I won't know if I can physically do a walk-a-thon.

So I find myself wondering.  Should I, or shouldn't I, register for the walk-a-thon in August?

A decision I will make in the next couple of months.

Friday, January 01, 2010

Happy New Year!

May 2010 be a year of health, wealth, joy and success. :-D