Tag Archives: education

Survivalist Lifestyle

Although I hope I will never succumb to outright paranoia, I think that living a survivalist lifestyle of sorts is a good idea for me and my family. (And by this I mean: coming up with strategies specific to our situation; stockpiling some resources; learning and practicing various essential skills for day to day survival.)

1. We will be prepared if anything happens: natural disaster, political unrest, even personal financial ruin.

2. It gives people confidence and security to know how to do basic things like start a fire and identify edible plants.

3. It puts people in closer touch with the Earth to know how to accomplish the basic tasks of daily life without electricity and complicated gadgets. The closer in touch with Earth, the more harmonious the walk through Life.

4. It might bring us closer together as a family to learn and master different tasks together, and to know that we can rely on each other and each has vital skills to contribute to the group. The older kids especially might learn a greater sense of responsibility toward the family and their younger siblings as they realize how much more they are able to do, and how much they would be depended on in an emergency.

5. It is something to pass on to children that can never be taken away from them: the skills and confidence to survive.

We’ve been watching some shows together, such as “Man, Woman, Wild” and “Dual Survival.” It’s kind of funny because there are so many harsh environments out there that they strand themselves in and sometimes have to give up and just say, “Okay, we would have died,” but an episode of “Man, Woman, Wild” we recently watched was set in the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee, of which we live in the foothills, and it was like a paradise. They were essentially camping and hanging out. Made me feel super confident about our location.

A kind of “reward system” I thought of for the lessons with the kids is to get them each a “go-bag,” which is some type of backpack or satchel that a person would grab in an emergency situation and have all the tools they need to survive.

As we accomplish different lessons, like fire starting, they would then get their own piece of equipment to keep in their go-bag. (Of course, it would be understood that the go-bag isn’t for playing, and that it has to be kept somewhere safe, but they could take it out and practice skills with supervision.

I certainly would guard against scaring the children with doomsday scenarios (I remember how frequently I dreamed of nuclear annihilation as a child), but I would present it more as something fun, challenging, useful for camping, etc.

Anyway, so if anyone has any great ideas, websites or experiences to share, I’d appreciate it. I’ll update on this project as we get started (It seems like we should wait until it warms up some. I’d think practicing in the cold would be more intermediate level, and beginners might be afforded the luxury of not fighting the elements as well as their own ignorance.)

Master of My Own Destiny

It must be because the huge cultural extravaganza known as “Back to School” is banging on the front door, but I return again to the ghost that haunts me — the Master’s degree.

As teenagers we were assured that you can’t make it in life without a high school diploma. Check. When I quit college at 20, I was warned that I’ve never make it without a Bachelor’s degree. I went back to college at 32, a single mom with three kids, and rocked it, graduating summa cum laude with departmental honors.

Has this piece of paper earned me any respect or validation? No. Tens of thousands of dollars of debt later, those in a position to hire still smile politely and roundfile my application as soon as my back is turned to leave the office. The new base standard is the almighty Master’s degree (cue angelic choir.)

I almost finished one in 2007. I could choose the path of regret, but I refuse. I hated my program and was only in it because I loved every minute of the accompanying opportunity to teach as a graduate fellow. I was marrying that man for his money.

And I still want to teach. My passion for language and deep desire to share it with others is the only reason I keep revisiting this unpleasant topic of validation-by-paper.

That crossroads is still there — to go further down the path of institutionalization, or just once and for all to jump outside the box and run.

The lure of respect, retirement, health care, all the fancy must-have perks of working in the system sing their siren songs beneath a banner embossed in gold leaf with my name, followed by venerable capital letters which would brand me as belonging to the Worthy Herd.

But the other path, that “road less traveled,” where could it possibly lead? How would a person walk it, and how would you know when you got somewhere?

I think the only way to arrive at a comparable level of respect and validation along an alternate path is celebrity by fame or huge accomplishment. Write a well-received book, found a successful institution, develop a new theory or become otherwise positively renowned and they will throw their honorary diplomas at you like confetti. And at that moment, rather than hungrily grab at them, you would smile a bit and half-interestedly watch them fall.

And if this path never leads to respect or validation by those who dwell in an office wallpapered with credentials? If the journey is never more than a humble scraping by?

Perhaps the most essential question is — how can I become one of them, participating in and advocating for a bloated, self-important system whose stranglehold on the job market might not reflect a legitimate need for more and more education but might simply reveal the epidemic of greed for tuition dollars?

But the most vital question for me personally is, shouldn’t I be willing to make any compromise rather than take the risk that I’ll never teach again?

The Job Hunt

Interestingly enough, the two schools where I’ve submitted applications (as well as resumes, letters of recommendations, AND am in friendly contact with the teachers I would be replacing…) are the two schools that my son would be going to next year.  I feel like our fates are tied together.  His old school in the district where we used to live is where my daughter graduated last year.  There’s no way I’m trucking him all the way over there (18 miles round trip, which I’ve been doing twice a day for the past two+ months) unless I get to park when I get there and go to my own classroom.  The other school is in the district we’ve just moved into.  Both potential jobs were just insider tips, fed to me by the same person, actually.

I have my fingers crossed but I’m not holding my breath, just to represent the situation bodily.  Mentally I go back and forth between,” They’re going to be impressed with my experience and enthusiasm and it’s going to be a match made in heaven!” and “I don’t have a license and there are probably 20 other people who look better than me on paper and I don’t have a chance in hell.”

The suspense is killing me.

Even the gig I’ve been hired to do isn’t a sure thing.  I was asked by a local community college to teach a couple of Spanish conversation classes this summer, but all is contingent on there being enough enrollment.  They gave me big glossy posters to hang up, which I dutifully did at 5 different libraries in the area and as many businesses.

I’ve also got emails out to recreation center directors and day care center directors, offering to teach Spanish classes,  but I don’t know how many have even been read.  I’m not sure those opportunities even exist, or if it’s just something I think should be available.

I know I was meant to teach.  The thought of it gives me an enthusiasm that feels bottomless.  I keep coming back to the idea that it is so stupid that a person with talent, skill and drive should have to beg for a chance to be a useful, contributing member of society.  Can you imagine living in a primitive situation and begging the tribal leaders for the opportunity to practice your vocation?  Why do we do this to ourselves?


A couple of years ago I tried to start a little business called Semanturgy Communications Services, then I found out I was pregnant and just decided to give up for the time being.  In fact that was when I gave up blogging, quilting and really doing any sort of project for myself.  Now I need to get back into the world financially, and while I’m also looking for a lateral entry teaching gig, this dream business is my backup plan.

My business offers a lot of services, partly because I figure I can get more business that way, and partly because I have so many interests that are all related (communication) that I figure I may as well put them all out there under one umbrella.  Working in the Spanish and French languages, I can do translation, and I also offer tutoring and classes for all ages and levels.  I already have curriculum developed for a beginning adult (or high school age) class, but I have lots of ideas for homeschool classes, preschool classes as well as classes for business and outreach where folks have a specific goal in mind when working in the other language.

For English, I can help with writing and editing or just freelance an article or newsletter myself.

All of these services are based on my passion for language and communication.  When I am working on developing a class, it feels like playing to me.  When I’m translating, I enjoy it so much that I feel like I’m just having fun with a puzzle, and yet I am completely absorbed and giving it my whole attention.  There are few places in the world I’d rather be than surrounded by dictionaries, thesauri, paper, pen, google for historical references, etc.  It’s a little embarrassing to be a language nerd, but maybe I can make it work to my advantage someday.

Of course, I can also see myself pouring this energy into a high school classroom, working to inspire kids to open up whole new worlds for themselves by being able to speak and read a new language.  I admit I’m pretty scared of the politics and bureaucracy, disgusted by the grades and tests, and disheartened by the lack of vision of many administrators.  If it were all about the words and the kids, I’d be in paradise.

So stay tuned to see if my relaunch crashes and burns, gets interrupted by some other job coming along, or ends up soaring into the stratosphere.  And for heaven’s sake, if you have any advice or experience to share, please do so!

Freelance Educator

Is such a thing possible?

I love to teach.  I love to learn.  I love to splash around with words and meaning, to engage in true communication, to discuss, read, observe, analyze, explore.

Where the experts are - University of Oregon, Eugene

But I hate grades.  I hate tests.  I despise all the little soul-killing ways we try to educate our hopeful, energetic youth.  I detest the fact that most adults are DONE with learning because they feel, and generally rightly so, that it was all irrelevant crap.

My current plan includes getting a job as a lateral entry public high school French and/or Spanish teacher, then using the three allotted years to get my actual license and possibly a master’s degree.

The thought of being in a classroom excites me to no end.  I taught beginning French at the University of Oregon and it was one of the most fulfilling out-of-the-home things I’ve ever done.

But the thought of being a public school teacher fills me with all kinds of anxiety.  I think the part I dread the most is my own continuing *forced* education.  I will always learn – from life, from books, from sharing with other people, from taking classes and seminars that I deem relevant or interesting, from observation, from internet surfing, to name a few ways.

Up a tree - a great place to be (and to learn)

But to be dictated to as far as what I must read/write/study in order to be a great teacher?  I am frankly insulted.  I defy anyone to get to know me and what I’ve done in my life and tell me that I can’t direct my own program of study.

And the nit-picky crap that goes along with a university education.  The GREs, for example.  I’m supposed to take those AGAIN in order to apply for admission.  I took them 6 years ago, but you have to take them again if it’s been more than 5 years ago.  And yet, within the last 5 years, I took 40 credit hours worth of graduate work for which I earned a GPA of 3.95.  The GPA doesn’t tell you what you need to know?

And so I think: freelance?  Is there a way to be a French, Spanish or English educator outside of the system?  Some possible outlets: continuing education (non-credit classes) at community colleges; classes at daycares; classes at churches whose members want to learn Spanish for outreach or mission work; ESL classes for immigrants; tutoring kids in the system; classes for homeschooled kids; opening a shop to sell education supplies/books to local teachers; selling curriculum I’ve developed; consultant for homeschooling parents… the list seems endless.  In my fantasy, once I get my name out there and people get to know me and my passion for language and learning, it seems like the rest would follow.

Climbing into the light

But the safe path is the one that leads through the hoops.  The walls of the box are very comforting, though it’s stuffy in here and hard to breathe.  Also, not a lot of sunshine or rain, no mud or ladybugs or greenness.  Just the walls and the hoops.

And the silence.

When Smart Teenagers Tank at School

My 14 year old son was homeschooled until the 5th grade.  At first they wanted to put him in remedial classes because his spelling and handwriting were atrocious, but then I got the teachers to look at the content of his writing (what an original idea!) and they agreed to let him catch up on his own.  Within a year he was being recommended for the AIG program.

He’d gotten almost exclusively A’s until the first semester of his freshman year in high school (this past semester.)  His grades included a couple of F’s, and the rest weren’t much better.  I feel like there could be so many reasons for him to have done a reversal, not the least of which are normal teenage hormones and adjustments.  Other possibilities:

  • His only friend being a kid prone to getting into trouble with the law as well as repeating his freshman year in high school
  • Playing football and trying to adjust to that schedule while being new to the reality of high school academics
  • Taking honors classes when he specifically asked to be allowed to take college prep instead (which I verified later with a teacher at the school was not due to academic concerns on his part, but rather social, so now I have to wonder if I made the right choice pushing him into them)
  • The fact that we live in a tiny  house where three young children run around screaming with high energy, which does not give me much time to give him attention nor does it make for a good study atmosphere, even in his room
  • Receiving a Playstation 3 for his birthday last summer and becoming completely addicted to it
  • Receiving texting ability on his phone in the middle of the semester (on last month’s bill the total texts sent/received for just his phone was over 17,000!!!)

I’m sure if I sat here long enough I could make more excuses.

Here are some things I plan to do to help him more next semester:

  • email all his teachers to let them know I’m involved and want to be notified at the first sign of slipping and told how I can help
  • ask him about his homework and classes every day, even though it will annoy him, and ask to help
  • I’ve posted a copy of his previous academic excellence award on the family bulletin board to remind us all of how high he’s set the bar for himself
  • Severely limit video game play
  • Hopefully (fingers crossed) we will be in a new house soon with enough space (including one room that will be an office/library for studying and quiet activity) that calm concentration becomes more than a pipe dream

I’m hoping for another reversal so that this past semester is just an anomaly, a bad blip on the radar.

Thoughts, advice, experience to share?  Any strategies for this new semester that I’m overlooking?