Monday, March 30, 2009

I hate schools.

When I think of how and what I thought just 8 or 9 months ago, I still find it hard to believe how much my opinions and worldview have changed.

Take unschooling, for example. Last Spring I was going through a period of extreme doubting and uncertainty. Now, I feel that schools are the LAST place that children and teens should be forced to go.

I spent some time wandering around YouTube today, and found some interesting stuff on unschooling (this video of an excerpt from one of Jensen's talks where he speaks about education was good, as were several of this guys videos on education). But it was a news segment on exercise to prevent childhood obesity, filmed in an elementary school, that got me thinking. Just seeing kids in schools makes me shudder in horror. Seem like an extreme reaction? Perhaps, but to me schools epitomize everything I hate about our society. Those in schools are brainwashed into accepting the world for how it is, instead of trying to change things. They're taught to be obedient to authority, to take what's given to them without question. Everything is regulated, numbered, scheduled. Schools do their very best to separate students from reality, to make sure their allegiance is to country, government, and whoever happens to be the boss/teacher/leader, not to the natural world, their own community, or their own hearts. Schools are institutions, and I'd say THE most powerful and influential institutions out there. Who else has children in their grasp from age 4 or 5 until 18 (assuming, of course, that students decide not to go on to university. Schools can continue until someone is well into their 20's, or even their 30's!), taking up most of their time, forcing the students mind to be filled with whatever the school wants them to think. Schools scare me, and I hate them, because they are so very affective. “School is the advertising agency which makes you believe that you need the society as it is.” said Ivan Illich, and I find that quote to be very true. John Taylor Gatto is another man who has some very enlightening things to say about schools, and the history of their creation.
The structure of American schooling, 20th century style, began in 1806 when Napoleon's amateur soldiers beat the professional soldiers of Prussia at the battle of Jena. When your business is selling soldiers, losing a battle like that is serious. Almost immediately afterwards a German philosopher named Fichte delivered his famous "Address to the German Nation" which became one of the most influential documents in modern history. In effect he told the Prussian people that the party was over, that the nation would have to shape up through a new Utopian institution of forced schooling in which everyone would learn to take orders.

So the world got compulsion schooling at the end of a state bayonet for the first time in human history; modern forced schooling started in Prussia in 1819 with a clear vision of what centralized schools could deliver:

1.Obedient soldiers to the army;
2.Obedient workers to the mines;
3.Well subordinated civil servants to government;
4.Well subordinated clerks to industry
5.Citizens who thought alike about major issues. "

How can anyone be in support of schools if they've done even a bit of research into their history? But I suppose people don't really research things on their own all that often, if it's not required for some test or other. Schools don't exactly encourage independant research, especially into controversial, and damaging to the institution, subjects. So having gone through school without ever being encouraged to learn for themselves, to explore, question, and not accept things at face value, how can we expect people to learn how to learn? Don't get me wrong, I do realize that some people can go through school and yet still manage to be creative, questioning individuals, but sadly this seems to be far from the norm.

I just can't get over how much I hate schools. I've seen the damage they do first person so often, in the lives of my schooled friends, and in the faces of the people whom I explain unschooling to. I hate what schools, and our society, do to people. But it all starts with schools. I honestly believe that were it not for compulsary schooling, our world would not be in the awful shape it is today. With an intelligent populationthat that knew how to learn and how to question, there's no way some of the crap that's currently going on would continue. And that's why I feel that it's a calling of sorts for me to do as much as I can in my lifetime to promote unschooling, to give people the information they need to see how wrong the whole schooling institution is, and to support those who make the awesome and I'm sure very scary decision to leave school, or to take their kids out of school.

I hope this rant wasn't too incoherent. I'm tired, have a headache, and I'm afraid I may be coming down with my sister's cold. But I felt a spark of inspiration, and I really wanted to rant, so I decided to write this, headache or not! As always, feedback is much appreciated. :-)


Saturday, March 28, 2009

Infrequent blogging...

I feel bad that I haven't been blogging lately. And even more than feeling bad, I miss it! I miss pouring out whatever happens to be on my mind, figuring it out and coming to new understandings as my fingers dance across the keyboard. But I've found it difficult lately. Someone whom I'm close to has been ill, and the last several weeks have been hard.

The last couple of days I was at the hospital visiting. I hate hospitals. Like really, truly, hate them. Yes, in our current system, with the way things work, we need them, and they most certainly save lives. But that doesn't mean I have to like the close walls, painted dull, lifeless colors, or the over heated rooms, or the smell of sickness and disinfectant. I hate hospitals. But since I think it's extremely important that when in hospital people have those who care about them there as often as possible, I've been putting in a fair amount of visiting hours. So if you've been wondering why I haven't been posting as often, that's one of the reasons. The other is that I've been spending a lot of time talking on the phone, so somehow I feel like I've been using up all of my words for the day... Which is entirely mental, and shouldn't affect my ability to blog. I'm going to try and work on that...

An unschooling friend from Boston is visiting in less than a week, which is really cool! But also rather stressful, because the house is messy, and I was supposed to clean it. Especially my room, which cannot currently fit anyone extra... Now here's something interesting to talk about. My friend who is visiting is male, something that a surprisingly large amount of parents would have a problem with! Even knowing that we're "just friends" (I've lately had a problem with that term, since it seems being "just" friends, as opposed to being in a relationship, is deemed somehow lesser, which I totally do not agree with), most parents wouldn't be comfortable with it. Yet my parents would let me, or my sister (just pointing out this isn't based on age), invite pretty much anyone we wanted, regardless of gender or our relationship with them. I just love my parents...

Other news? I started a 365 day self portrait project, along with my general 365 day photo project. Yes, I know I'm crazy. And I forgot to take any pictures yesterday, what with coming home late from the hospital, and feeling absolutely exhausted. Ah well.

Oh, and one other thing... My sister and I are both writers, although my sister writes daily, mostly role playing, but also writing poetry, short stories, and occasional attempts at longer works, and I just blog, write poetry in sporadic bursts, and occasionally write a short story... But anyway, we decided, since we both love talking about books so much, and want to pay closer attention to the actual writing craft (or at least that's how I feel), that we should both read the same book, write reviews (maybe we could have a sisters book review blog? We'll see...) on it, then discuss it with each other, and basically tear it appart. What was handled well, and what wasn't? Were the characters fully realized, or two dimensional? How was the dialogue? Was there a good hook at the beginning? Was the ending well done? Since it was late at night when we thought of this, but I still wanted to do a bit of book comparing/tearing appart, we read the opening paragraph to several books, and decided whether or not we liked it. I discovered that Emi is a lot more analytical than me. Not that I didn't already know that...

I will try and write more. I really will. I miss my blog! Also, I want to thank all my readers. Twenty-eight followers. Wow. When I first started my blog, the only people who read it were my mom and sister. Now there are twenty-eight people officially following my blog, and I know of other people who read it, and simply don't officially follow it. That makes me extremely happy, and I want to thank everyone who reads my blog, whether it's regularly or occasionally, because you really make me feel like expressing my opinions, thoughts, and random feelings is a worthwhile endeavor. Thank you. Also, the fact that people read my blog makes me feel bad when I neglect it (which is a good thing! If I feel bad, I'll write more. :-P). So I'm going to start writing more again. Or at least I'm going to try really hard to do so!


Sunday, March 22, 2009


I've had a Flickr account for a while now, but I've never really used it... So now I finally decided to make some use of it, and upload some of my pictures that I consider to be decent. You can check out my photostream here. Some of the photo's there have also been posted on my 365 photo blog and some have not. If you decide to check them out, thanks a bunch, and comments and constructive criticism are much appreciated! :-)


Thursday, March 19, 2009

"What do you do, anyway?"

I discovered an interesting article on unschooling teens today, titled Teenage Bohemia, and I was quite happy to find that it was very positive, as well as very surprised and rather flattered to see a brief mention of my blog title! However, reading it got me thinking... The teens featured in the article are all very busy. Outside of the home much of the time, doing tons of activities. And it seems to me that most teenage unschoolers have that in common. Just yesterday, an unschooling friend of mine, on hearing how empty my schedule was, asked "What do you DO anyway?". What do I do? Well, my (current) main interests focus mainly around human behavior, anti-civilizationism, unschooling, and environmentalism, and all of those things tie in very closely with each other. I've always said that I'm less interested in psychology, and more interested in sociology (and anthropology), since although an individual's behavior has always interested me, large group dynamics have always seemed far more interesting. Questions like how much human behavior is 'natural', and how much stems from civilization? How is human behavior different in different civilizations? Different parts of a country? Different parts of a city? Is there a difference in behavior between different social groups? What are those differences?

On a smaller scale, I love people watching, and have always found the most popular people, in the sense of who gets the most attention from the most people, not popular with a capital 'P', the most interesting. Their behavior affects the group they're in the most, and it's fascinating to watch how other people interact with them, and the ripple affects that their actions have. Perhaps that's one reason that anti-civilizationism fascinates me so much. In reading about that, there's a HUGE amount of sociology, pyscology, and anthropology involved. How do (did) traditional/aboriginal communities live? Why is our culture so different? How is it different? Is it "better"? How did we come to think that living this way is a good thing? In reading about, and sharing the opinions of, anti-authoritarian movements, quite possibly the most important thing about them is the emphasis on questioning, and not taking anything at face value.

Propaganda, brain washing, and control are something that I've also become highly aware of. It's a hobby of mine to listen to politicians, and explain what they're attempting to get people to think with their words. I love watching comercials and finding the unstated premisis on which they're built (something I notice most often is how advertisers presume people hate their lives), what the message is (often it's "Buy our product, it will give you momentary happiness in your dreary life"), and whether or not I think it's affective.

I also love environmentalism, and spend lots of time reading about how our civilization is literally destroying the world. I can tell you how everything we use or consume, from toilet paper to beef to CD's harms the earth.

I also spend a lot of time reading about unschooling, both in books, articles, and blogs.

Is that doing nothing? I don't think so. I feel much more of a kinship with the radical unschooling philosophy, since radical unschooling truly does consider everything you do to be learning. I find that a lot, although certainly not all, unschoolers still put a lot of value on the concrete, visible, more school like learning. I, however, happily sit on my couch, tearing appart commercials and explaining to my mom why I think cop shows enforce a certain way of looking at the world, and ultimately help those in power control people. My brain is working while I do that. It's just that the only people who hear about the workings of my brain tend to be my family or close friends.

Overall, I'm happy being at home most of the time, and not being super busy, unlike many unschoolers are. That said, I do feel that my life is currently unbalanced, and that I should start some new activities. Since I left cadets (and I have never regretted that descision), I feel that I am missing out on getting to observe group dynamics. Cadets taught me a lot, although none of it what they wanted to teach me. I learned how wrong authority, hierchy and control is. I learned how to tell when someone's manipulating you. I learned that brain washing is so effective because (of course) it's very hard to detect unless you're looking for it. I learned that people are often very easy to control. I learned a lot all right. And I'm so, so glad I'm out of it! But by the same token, my life has gotten too quiet. I want to start doing some new activities that are in line with my beliefs, interests, and ethics. But the big thing is, I want to get busier because that's what I actually want, not because someone else thinks I should be! And that, in my mind, is the essence of unschooling. Following what YOU feel is right for you, not what anyone else does.


Tuesday, March 17, 2009

My 18th Birthday, and St. Pat's day!

Yesterday was my 18th Birthday. In some ways, it seems rather surreal that I've been around this earth for 18 years. In other ways, it seems like no big deal. Nothing much has changed. I'm the same person I was two days ago, despite the change in age! Yet since my 17th Birthday, so so much has changed.

It's been years since I was actually happy on my Birthday... Throughout most of my teen years, my Birthday stood as a reminder of all the things I hadn't done. One more year where my life wasn't where I wanted it to be. But as I'm sure I mentioned before, this past year, especially the past 8 months, has held so much change, and lead to such a different perspective on life, on who I am, and on what I want. I'm no longer pining over what has yet to happen. Sure, there are still plenty of things I want to do, but I will do them. And for now, I'm happy at where I am in life, and content that I'll figure out where I'm going. So this Birthday, I went outside, breathed in the beautiful Spring air, played music, and laughed. Life is good.

I've never been much of a St. Patrick's Day celebrator, although I certainly have Irish ancestry, and love Celtic culture and music. So although I'm not doing much to actually celebrate today, I wish you a Happy, joy filled St Patrick's Day, and leave you with this song, 'The Night That Patty Murphy Died' by Great Big Sea.

Peace, love, and happiness,

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Several things that make life pretty good right now

I just came in from a quick grocery store run, and as my mom and I pulled into the driveway, we saw a Robin just a little ways along the street! Now, as you probably know, Robins are a sure sign of Spring. And then to make things even better, when I got out of the car, I heard a sound that I'm very familiar with: geese! And sure enough, when I looked up I saw the distinctive V formations heading across the sky. When the Canada Geese come back, it means Spring is here! Woo hoo! I walked into the house with a huge smile on my face.

Also, an unschooling friend is coming to visit in early April, which makes me very happy! We can wander around downtown Montreal, sit around by the water, or simply chill in my room listening to music. Whatever we end up occupying our time with, I'm sure we'll have a good time!

Another thing that's been making me very happy lately is music. I'm in love with virtually all types of music, but something I love particularly is Celtic inspired rock and folk. Most of my favorite songs are Celtic inspired. I just love it. So here are a few wonderful songs in that category that you may want to check out...

The Bard's Song by Blind Guardian
The Islander by Nightwish
Loser by Ayreon

Other than that, my life is too quiet. I'm bored. So I need to think of some new activities to start, some new things to do... Hopefully I'll come up with some things soon, before I go entirely out of my mind! ;-)

EDIT: Oh oh, and I also really enjoyed dressing nicely last night! I'd gotten very used to just throwing my clothes on with no attention to what actually makes me happy, but last night I pulled out some of my punk and goth type stuff and felt that I looked very nice. I really do have to put the effort into my outfits, because I feel so much happier, and much more confident, when I feel like my clothes not only look good, but also reflect my personality and individuality. I changed my blogger profile pic to one from last night. :-)


Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Random book quotes tag

Now, I just feel like doing another tag (although I'm not going to tag specific people, same as last time) anyone who's interested is welcome to participate! I've always loved the open the nearest book to page 56 tag, except that seems a bit too limiting to me right now. So, instead, the tag is to open the book nearest you, flip it open t a random page, and pick a paragraph/sentence/quote from that two page spread. It has to be from the first page you flip it open to. No cheating! ;-) I'm actually going to pick several books that are near to me, simply because I can't decide which one is closest. Also because it's fun.

I was more or less constantly struck by the hunger so many--though of course not all--students have for depth, substance, meaning. They often asked real questions, and often gave real answers. -Walking on Water by Derrick Jensen

Serious depression--the kind that lingers for days and prevents you from functioning--requires professional help. But here are a number of suggestions for pulling out of a common case of the blues. -Home Remedies: What Works by Gale Malesky and Brian Kaufman

All but blind
In the evening sky
The hooded Bat
Swirls softly by.
-Poem by Walter De La Mare, from the anthology Piping Down the Valleys Wild

And just so you know, I really do want to get back to my regular, more serious, blogging. I'm just still feeling idea deprived. Perhaps as Spring rolls in, inspiration will come more easily once again.


Sunday, March 8, 2009

Photo tag

Go to your photo's folder on your computer. Go to the sixth folder of photo's. Go to the sixth picture in that folder. Put that picture on your blog, with a description of it. I don't really feel like tagging people, so just do it if you feel like it! Thanks to Smorgan for tagging me!

An insanely awesome bug I spotted on the side of our house a couple years ago...


Wednesday, March 4, 2009


My love affair with words began many years ago.

My parents have always been avid readers. My father is a big science fiction fan, as well as a reader of assorted locomotive, car, airplane, and motorcycle books that have always inhabited our house. My mother has always read fantasy, mystery, and assorted books on a million different topics, whatever happened to be of interest to her at the time.

When I was young, they read to me. Children's books, the newspaper. Poetry. The written word was (and is) an ever present member of our household.

And do I love the written word! Words dance, they twine around each other, create beautiful images, patterns, forms. Words have souls.

Poetry always held a certain fascination for me, and now holds a special place in my heart. When I was about eight I memorized The Highwayman by Alfred Noyes. I wasn't even a strong reader at that time, but my mother helped me with the words I wasn't sure of, and I read it, re-read it, recited it endlessly. To this day I know it by heart.

The wind was a torrent of darkness among the gusty trees,
The moon was a ghostly galleon tossed upon cloudy seas,
The road was a ribbon of moonlight over the purple moor,
And the highwayman came riding--
The highwayman came riding, up to the old in door.

I've heard poetry compared to paintings, and it's an apt description. Words can be rather like brush strokes, painting out pictures in your mind.

The Lady of Shalott by Alfred Lord Tennyson was always another favorite, although I've never fully memorized it. In evocative verse, it tells the story of a fairy woman brought down by love.

She left the web, she left the loom,
She made three paces through the room,
She saw the water-lily bloom,
She saw the helmet and the plume,
She looked down to Camelot
Out flew the web and floated wide;
The mirror crack'd from side to side:
"The curse is come upon me" cried
The Lady of Shalott

When I got slightly older, and became very interested in the world of Faery, I fell in love with The Stolen Child, by W. B. Yeats.

Where the wave of moonlight glosses
The dim gray sands with light,
Far off by furthest Rosses
We foot it all the night,
Weaving olden dances,
Mingling hands, and mingling glances,
Till the moon has taken flight;
To and fro we leap,
And chase the frothy bubbles,
While the world is full of troubles.
And is anxious in its sleep.
Come away! O, human child!
To the woods and waters wild,
With a fairy hand in hand,
For the world's more full of weeping than
you can understand.

It's only relatively recently I started reading and appreciating less traditional forms of poetry, and my newest favorite is Anyone Lived in a Pretty How Town by E. E. Cummings.

anyone lived in a pretty how town
(with up so floating many bells down)
spring summer autumn winter
he sang his didn't he danced his did

Women and men (both little and small)
cared for anyone not at all
they sowed their isn't they reaped their same
sun moon stars rain

I love the layers in the above poem (you'd have to read all of it to appreciate it), and how it feels both complex and simple at the same time.

Of course, my love of words is not limited to poetry alone. I also love quotes, short bites of words both beautiful, funny, and profound. And lyrics, song lyrics are lovely.

Some of my favorite lyrics come from the song Hallelujah, written by Leonard Cohen, although I like K.D. Lang's version best.

Baby I've been here before,
I know this room, I've walked this floor,
I used to live alone before I knew you.
I've seen your flag on the marble arch,
Our love is not a victory march,
It's a cold and it's a broken Hallelujah!

One of my favorite bands of all time is Rise Against, not only for their musical skills, but also for their wonderful (and extremely political) lyrics.

When faith alone is not enough to keep our heads barely above
We look for a reason and come up empty handed,
And when our children fight our wars while we sit back just keeping score
We're teaching murder not understanding, now...

We're setting the fires to light our way,
Burning it all to begin again,
With hope in our hearts, and bricks in our hands,
We sing for change!

Another passion of mine has always been BOOKS! When I was young it wasn't uncommon for me to read three or four novels in one day! My all time favorite novel would definitely have to be The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. His writing is enchanting, strange, heart wrenching and haunting. That story will stay with me for the rest of my life. I should let you know that the story is narrated by Death, which will probably make the below excerpt make more sense. If I owned the book, I'd find one of my favorite excerpts, but since I don't, this one will suffice.

I could introduce myself properly, but it's not really necessary. You will know me well enough and soon enough, depending on a diverse range of variables. It suffices to say that at some point in time, I will be standing over you, as genially as possible. Your soul will be in my arms. A color will be perched on my shoulder. I will carry you gently away.

At that moment, you will be lying there (I rarely find people standing up). You will be caked in your own body. There might be a discovery; a scream will dribble down the air. The only sound I'll hear after that will be my own breathing, and the sound of the smell, of my footsteps.

And my love of books is not limited just to fiction, either, as you probably know from seeing how often I quote Jensen. ;-) His writing is impassioned, fascinating, and often poetic.

As a longtime grassroots environmental activist, and as a creature living in the thrashing endgame of civilization, I am intimately acquainted with the landscape of loss, and have grown accustomed to carrying the daily weight of despair. I have walked clearcuts that wrap around mountains, drop into valleys, then climb ridges to fragment watershed after watershed, and I’ve sat silent near empty streams that two generations ago were “lashed into whiteness” by uncountable salmon coming home to spawn and die.

And this video, of an excerpt from Endgame vol 2. read by Jensen, is a beautiful piece about the interconnectedness of all life.

As usual, I had no clue where I was going with this post, but I've greatly enjoyed writing it. Over two days, I dug around in poetry books, read aloud to empty rooms, cherished each word as it left my lips. I love words. I hope you can see their beauty, too.


Monday, March 2, 2009

New links

I've added both a list of links to cool books about unschooling and green anarchy, and another list of links to essays, articles, and excerpts on the same subjects. The latter is still in progress, as I know I'm missing a few of my favorites that I'm just not thinking of right now! They're located on the sidebar (you need to scroll down a bit). Enjoy, and if you have any suggestions for cool essays, books, etc., then please let me know! :-)


It's official: we're going to the Northeast Unschooling conference!

We signed up officially, paid, reserved the hotel room, the whole thing! This makes me very happy. :-)

I haven't been blogging much, which makes me considerably less happy! I'm going to write a proper post very soon, but for now I want to address a few things...
  1. I've been feeling slightly overwhelmed by all the blogs I follow, so haven't been commenting on them as much lately... This does NOT mean that I haven't been reading your blog, because I most likely have. And I'm going to try and comment more again!
  2. I added a post to my secondhand blog. I've been updating that blog very infrequently, but when Summer (aka garbage hunting season) rolls around, I should be posting a lot more often!
Oh, and there's also a chance my family will be going to the Great Big Happy Life unschooling conference in New Jersey. The big draw? John Taylor Gatto, a brilliant man and a legendary one in the unschooling and free-schooling world, is going to be speaking there!! That's enough to make me want to go all on it's own, plus the rest of the conference looks like fun. :-)

Like I said, I've got ideas floating around in my head, and I'm going to write a proper post soon!