Thursday, May 29, 2008

A Series on Our Playroom - Part One: Walls

The Before Shot:

How to Lazure Paint a Room

Here's a little secret, Lazure Painting is simply colourwashing while meditating, and literally infusing a room with good intent and positive feelings.

If you want to paint a playroom like a waldorf kindergarten its really pretty easy, a bit time consuming, but easy.

You want you walls to look a bit like a watercolour painting. To do this you need intense colours of paint thinned down to watercolour consistency.

I didn't have access to any natural housepaints I trusted in the basement so I did the easy thing and I took in a sample of circle red, yellow and blue ( process colours - magenta, yellow and cyan) and had them colour match them at the paint store. Colour matching them means you'll be putting JUST magenta into a base, just the lemon yellow in a base and just the teal or true blue into a base. For some reason you can't just ask them to do that, they need to get directions from the computer to do it. You need so little you can go in on these with about 8 to 10 people - thats how far a litre of tinted paint will stretch, then you need neutral base glazing medium. I was at Canadian Tire so I got the Debbie Travis brand. She sells lovely colourwashing brushes for 30.00 each. Too rich for my blood, I apply mine with a baby washcloth in one hand and a natural bristle whitewash brush in the other, they only cost about 7.00. Scrub them vigorously - dry, then damp - to get them bushy and pull out any stray loose hairs.

Colourwash is usually made from a casein (milk) based paint with natural pigments. You can make it yourself with fine curd dry cottage cheese and dry pigments or Stockmar watercolour paints. You'll want to add some essential oil - spike lavender or orange works well, to keep it from going bad. Finish it with a beeswax polish and it will even be washable.

You'll need: 250g of drycurd cottage cheese and 2 tablespoons of natural pigment or paint concentrate.

This will make enough to cover a small room like - 10x10.

If you're using dry pigment add it to a bowl with 1/2 cup of cold water and mix it up. Then, leave it to stand overnight. Add a shot of vodka if it doesn't seem to be mixing into the water (some pigments don't like to mix with water and this is why I like using the stockmar paint instead).

Blend the curd with 1 cup water in a blender til its nice and smooth, put it through a strainer - leave it to drain. Then stir in the pigment. You'll want to stir this regularly as the colour settles to the bottom.

Scary Looking Supplies

Oh yeah the mythical colour "peach blossom"? It is just straight magenta. If that's the only colour you want to do just get the magenta. Now here's the thing with this colour - it looks beautiful in natural light. It looks alright with low wattage yellowish incandescent lights, it looks garish with any other artificial light, even in a if you use halogen or flourescent lights or anything like that, you're going to want to warm it up a bit either by applying it over a warm beige base or adding a tiny bit of yellow to it. If it feels too garish when you're done there are things that really help - you can colourglaze with cloudy white paint or add the yellow now, but if you are sick of painting, offset it with green plants and get tinted lamp shades (you can paint paper shades with watercolours), soften the light coming in with gauzy curtains. Better still get iron oxide pigment - it is more earthy and yellow than the magenta and looks beautiful in grown up spaces.

If your walls are in good shape, covered in flat paint, and white or very light builders beige you can work right on top of it. If you need to prep the walls, prime and paint them with a flatcoat of white or beige.

Now comes the fun part, you mix up your colourwash. For the first layer of colour you want it very thin. My preparation is one ramekin of paint to 3 ramekins of glaze to 12 ramekins of water. For all further layers I add in another ramekin of colour and 3 more ramekins of glaze to the remaining glaze. This leaves me with, I kid you not, enough glazing liquid to do about 1000 square feet!

To apply, wash the walls with a washcloth soaked in paint, think good thoughts, caress the walls like you're washing a baby, wipe up any drips as you go. Work in small areas and follow up the "washing" with your big brush, rather vigorously scrubbing in wide arcing movements. The idea is to scrub in the colour, and blend in any visible brushmarks. Build the colour up this way until you have the depth of colour you want. It will take *atleast* 4 coats. The first coat is very thin and inspid and you'll go "ohhhh pink and delicate" then an hour later you'll be dismayed because it is so pale. Two more coats in you'll think it is looking pretty good, another coat and you'll be tired of painting, but it is looking great and you'll be getting bored with painting so you'll want to stop, don't. This is the point where you have to centre yourself and do just one more coat because it will finally really have the luminous depth you're looking for. See, it really is like meditation.

Take your time, and really let it dry between coats or the scrubbing will take off the unsealed layers. Your first layer will dry quickly, the next layers need more time to cure.

Now this paint curing thing is where people mess up their attempts, either they try to do too large an area before going over it with the brush and the paint has dried enough to start curing when they do, or they get all picky and "worry" the paint in spots then don't understand why it's coming off the wall. Do not try to be a perfectionist, colourwashing will settle into indentations and things like corners a little thicker. Let it. If you can't repair something with scrubbing with the brush right away it is better to step away and come back at it later and decide how to deal with it. Don't paint "mad", stay loose, stay happy. Sing, dance and hum while you paint. Enjoy it, like you would wet on wet painting! I always have ONE spot where I make this mistake. I've just accepted it now.

I have a trick that might horrify some of you. I wear white cotton socks while I do the glazing and wipe up drips with my toes.

These walls are 6 coats. The room is very angular and cold so I wanted to soften the corners a bit so I did the walls in two sections with a wavy line between them. The top section is one layer magenta, two layers yellow, one layer magenta, one layer yellow, and a final layer of magenta. The bottom is 4 layers magenta, one layer yellow and the final coat of magenta

The After shot:

Next post: What to do with ugly stucco ceilings!

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

I love Alfie Kohn!!!!

There was a time when reading this would have had me pumping my fist in the air and yelling "YES!!!!" it just leaves me in tears, its still worth reading, but it just twists the knife in my back, y'know?

Alfie Kohn spoke at a teacher's conference in Halifax a few weeks ago, I'm really envious of those who got to go. He was speaking out against homework with board administrators.

This article lauds democratic schools ...


March 2003


What Does It Mean to Be Well-Educated?

By Alfie Kohn

No one should offer pronouncements about what it means to be well-educated without meeting my wife. When I met Alisa, she was at Harvard, putting the finishing touches on her doctoral dissertation in anthropology. A year later, having spent her entire life in school, she decided to do the only logical thing . . . and apply to medical school. Today she is a practicing physician -- and an excellent one at that, judging by feedback from her patients and colleagues.

She will, however, freeze up if you ask her what 8 times 7 is, because she never learned the multiplication table. And forget about grammar (“Me and him went over her house today” is fairly typical) or literature (“Who’s Faulkner?”). After a dozen years, I continue to be impressed on a regular basis by the agility of her mind as well as by how much she doesn’t know. (I’m also bowled over by what a wonderful person she is, but that’s beside the point.)

So what do you make of this paradox with whom I live? Is she a walking indictment of the system that let her get so far -- 29 years of schooling, not counting medical residency -- without acquiring the basics of English and math? Or does she offer an invitation to rethink what it means to be well-educated since what she lacks hasn’t prevented her from being a deep-thinking, high-functioning, multiply credentialed, professionally successful individual?

Of course, if those features describe what it means to be well-educated, then there is no dilemma to be resolved. She fits the bill. The problem arises only if your definition includes a list of facts and skills that one must have but that she lacks. In that case, though, my wife is not alone. Thanks to the internet, which allows writers and researchers to circulate rough drafts of their manuscripts, I’ve come to realize just how many truly brilliant people cannot spell or punctuate. Their insights and discoveries may be changing the shape of their respective fields, but they can’t use an apostrophe correctly to save their lives.

Or what about me (he suddenly inquired, relinquishing his comfortable perch from which issue all those judgments of other people)? I could embarrass myself pretty quickly by listing the number of classic works of literature I’ve never read. And I can multiply reasonably well, but everything mathematical I was taught after first-year algebra (and even some of that) is completely gone. How well-educated am I?


The issue is sufficiently complex that questions are easier to formulate than answers. So let’s at least be sure we’re asking the right questions and framing them well.

1. The Point of Schooling: Rather than attempting to define what it means to be well-educated, should we instead be asking about the purposes of education? The latter formulation invites us to look beyond academic goals. For example, Nel Noddings, professor emerita at Stanford University, urges us to reject “the deadly notion that the schools’ first priority should be intellectual development” and contends that “the main aim of education should be to produce competent, caring, loving, and lovable people.” Alternatively, we might wade into the dispute between those who see education as a means to creating or sustaining a democratic society and those who believe its primary role is economic, amounting to an “investment” in future workers and, ultimately, corporate profits. In short, perhaps the question “How do we know if education has been successful?” shouldn’t be posed until we have asked what it’s supposed to be successful at.

2. Evaluating People vs. Their Education: Does the phrase well-educated refer to a quality of the schooling you received, or to something about you? Does it denote what you were taught, or what you learned (and remember)? If the term applies to what you now know and can do, you could be poorly educated despite having received a top-notch education. However, if the term refers to the quality of your schooling, then we’d have to conclude that a lot of “well-educated” people sat through lessons that barely registered, or at least are hazy to the point of irrelevance a few years later.

3. An Absence of Consensus: Is it even possible to agree on a single definition of what every high school student should know or be able to do in order to be considered well-educated? Is such a definition expected to remain invariant across cultures (with a single standard for the U.S. and Somalia, for example), or even across subcultures (South-Central Los Angeles and Scarsdale; a Louisiana fishing community, the upper East side of Manhattan, and Pennsylvania Dutch country)? How about across historical eras: would anyone seriously argue that our criteria for “well-educated” today are exactly the same as those used a century ago – or that they should be?

To cast a skeptical eye on such claims is not necessarily to suggest that the term is purely relativistic: you like vanilla, I like chocolate; you favor knowledge about poetry, I prefer familiarity with the Gettysburg Address. Some criteria are more defensible than others. Nevertheless, we have to acknowledge a striking absence of consensus about what the term ought to mean. Furthermore, any consensus that does develop is ineluctably rooted in time and place. It is misleading and even dangerous to justify our own pedagogical values by pretending they are grounded in some objective, transcendent Truth, as though the quality of being well-educated is a Platonic form waiting to be discovered.

4. Some Poor Definitions: Should we instead try to stipulate which answers don’t make sense? I’d argue that certain attributes are either insufficient (possessing them isn’t enough to make one well-educated) or unnecessary (one can be well-educated without possessing them) -- or both. Let us therefore consider ruling out:

Seat time. Merely sitting in classrooms for x hours doesn’t make one well-educated.

Job skills. It would be a mistake to reduce schooling to vocational preparation, if only because we can easily imagine graduates who are well-prepared for the workplace (or at least for some workplaces) but whom we would not regard as well-educated. In any case, pressure to redesign secondary education so as to suit the demands of employers reflects little more than the financial interests -- and the political power -- of these corporations.

Test scores. To a disconcerting extent, high scores on standardized tests signify a facility with taking standardized tests. Most teachers can instantly name students who are talented thinkers but who just don’t do well on these exams – as well as students whose scores seem to overestimate their intellectual gifts. Indeed, researchers have found a statistically significant correlation between high scores on a range of standardized tests and a shallow approach to learning. In any case, no single test is sufficiently valid, reliable, or meaningful that it can be treated as a marker for academic success.

Memorization of a bunch o’ facts. Familiarity with a list of words, names, books, and ideas is a uniquely poor way to judge who is well-educated. As the philosopher Alfred North Whitehead observed long ago, “A merely well-informed man is the most useless bore on God’s earth. . . . Scraps of information” are only worth something if they are put to use, or at least “thrown into fresh combinations.”

Look more carefully at the superficially plausible claim that you must be familiar with, say, King Lear in order to be considered well-educated. To be sure, it’s a classic meditation on mortality, greed, belated understanding, and other important themes. But how familiar with it must you be? Is it enough that you can name its author, or that you know it’s a play? Do you have to be able to recite the basic plot? What if you read it once but barely remember it now?

If you don’t like that example, pick another one. How much do you have to know about neutrinos, or the Boxer rebellion, or the side-angle-side theorem? If deep understanding is required, then (a) very few people could be considered well-educated (which raises serious doubts about the reasonableness of such a definition), and (b) the number of items about which anyone could have that level of knowledge is sharply limited because time is finite. On the other hand, how can we justify a cocktail-party level of familiarity with all these items – reminiscent of Woody Allen’s summary of War and Peace after taking a speed-reading course: “It’s about Russia.” What sense does it make to say that one person is well-educated for having a single sentence’s worth of knowledge about the Progressive Era or photosynthesis, while someone who has to look it up is not?

Knowing a lot of stuff may seem harmless, albeit insufficient, but the problem is that efforts to shape schooling around this goal, dressed up with pretentious labels like “cultural literacy,” have the effect of taking time away from more meaningful objectives, such as knowing how to think. If the Bunch o’ Facts model proves a poor foundation on which to decide who is properly educated, it makes no sense to peel off items from such a list and assign clusters of them to students at each grade level. It is as poor a basis for designing curriculum as it is for judging the success of schooling.

The number of people who do, in fact, confuse the possession of a storehouse of knowledge with being “smart” – the latter being a disconcertingly common designation for those who fare well on quiz shows -- is testament to the naïve appeal that such a model holds. But there are also political implications to be considered here. To emphasize the importance of absorbing a pile of information is to support a larger worldview that sees the primary purpose of education as reproducing our current culture. It is probably not a coincidence that a Core Knowledge model wins rave reviews from Phyllis Schlafly’s Eagle Forum (and other conservative Christian groups) as well as from the likes of Investor’s Business Daily. To be sure, not every individual who favors this approach is a right-winger, but defining the notion of educational mastery in terms of the number of facts one can recall is well-suited to the task of preserving the status quo. By contrast, consider Dewey’s suggestion that an educated person is one who has “gained the power of reflective attention, the power to hold problems, questions, before the mind.” Without this capability, he added, “the mind remains at the mercy of custom and external suggestions.”

5. Mandating a Single Definition: Who gets to decide what it means to be well-educated? Even assuming that you and I agree to include one criterion and exclude another, that doesn’t mean our definition should be imposed with the force of law – taking the form, for example, of requirements for a high school diploma. There are other considerations, such as the real suffering imposed on individuals who aren’t permitted to graduate from high school, the egregious disparities in resources and opportunities available in different neighborhoods, and so on.

More to the point, the fact that so many of us don’t agree suggests that a national (or, better yet, international) conversation should continue, that one definition may never fit all, and, therefore, that we should leave it up to local communities to decide who gets to graduate. But that is not what has happened. In about half the states, people sitting atop Mount Olympus have decreed that anyone who doesn’t pass a certain standardized test will be denied a diploma and, by implication, classified as inadequately educated. This example of accountability gone haywire violates not only common sense but the consensus of educational measurement specialists. And the consequences are entirely predictable: no high school graduation for a disproportionate number of students of color, from low-income neighborhoods, with learning disabilities, attending vocational schools, or not yet fluent in English.

Less obviously, the idea of making diplomas contingent on passing an exam answers by default the question of what it means to be well- (or sufficiently) educated: Rather than grappling with the messy issues involved, we simply declare that standardized tests will tell us the answer. This is disturbing not merely because of the inherent limits of the tests, but also because teaching becomes distorted when passing those tests becomes the paramount goal. Students arguably receive an inferior education when pressure is applied to raise their test scores, which means that high school exit exams may actually lower standards.

Beyond proclaiming “Pass this standardized test or you don’t graduate,” most states now issue long lists of curriculum standards, containing hundreds of facts, skills, and subskills that all students are expected to master at a given grade level and for a given subject. These standards are not guidelines but mandates (to which teachers are supposed to “align” their instruction). In effect, a Core Knowledge model, with its implication of students as interchangeable receptacles into which knowledge is poured, has become the law of the land in many places. Surely even defenders of this approach can appreciate the difference between arguing in its behalf and requiring that every school adopt it.

6. The Good School: Finally, instead of asking what it means to be well-educated, perhaps we should inquire into the qualities of a school likely to offer a good education. I’ve offered my own answer to that question at book length, as have other contributors to this issue. As I see it, the best sort of schooling is organized around problems, projects, and questions – as opposed to facts, skills, and disciplines. Knowledge is acquired, of course, but in a context and for a purpose. The emphasis is not only on depth rather than breadth, but also on discovering ideas rather than on covering a prescribed curriculum. Teachers are generalists first and specialists (in a given subject matter) second; they commonly collaborate to offer interdisciplinary courses that students play an active role in designing. All of this happens in small, democratic schools that are experienced as caring communities.

Notwithstanding the claims of traditionalists eager to offer – and then dismiss -- a touchy-feely caricature of progressive education, a substantial body of evidence exists to support the effectiveness of each of these components as well as the benefits of using them in combination. By contrast, it isn’t easy to find any data to justify the traditional (and still dominant) model of secondary education: large schools, short classes, huge student loads for each teacher, a fact-transmission kind of instruction that is the very antithesis of “student-centered,” the virtual absence of any attempt to integrate diverse areas of study, the rating and ranking of students, and so on. Such a system acts as a powerful obstacle to good teaching, and it thwarts the best efforts of many talented educators on a daily basis.

Low-quality instruction can be assessed with low-quality tests, including homegrown quizzes and standardized exams designed to measure (with faux objectivity) the number of facts and skills crammed into short-term memory. The effects of high-quality instruction are trickier, but not impossible, to assess. The most promising model turns on the notion of “exhibitions” of learning, in which students reveal their understanding by means of in-depth projects, portfolios of assignments, and other demonstrations – a model pioneered by Ted Sizer, Deborah Meier, and others affiliated with the Coalition of Essential Schools. By now we’re fortunate to have access not only to essays about how this might be done (such as Sizer’s invaluable Horace series) but to books about schools that are actually doing it: The Power of Their Ideas by Meier, about Central Park East Secondary School in New York City; Rethinking High School by Harvey Daniels and his colleagues, about Best Practice High School in Chicago; and One Kid at a Time by Eliot Levine, about the Met in Providence, RI.

The assessments in such schools are based on meaningful standards of excellence, standards that may collectively offer the best answer to our original question simply because to meet those criteria is as good a way as any to show that one is well-educated. The Met School focuses on social reasoning, empirical reasoning, quantitative reasoning, communication, and personal qualities (such as responsibility, capacity for leadership, and self-awareness). Meier has emphasized the importance of developing five “habits of mind”: the value of raising questions about evidence (“How do we know what we know?”), point of view (“Whose perspective does this represent?”), connections (“How is this related to that?”), supposition (“How might things have been otherwise?”), and relevance (“Why is this important?”).

It’s not only the ability to raise and answer those questions that matters, though, but also the disposition to do so. For that matter, any set of intellectual objectives, any description of what it means to think deeply and critically, should be accompanied by a reference to one’s interest or intrinsic motivation to do such thinking. Dewey reminded us that the goal of education is more education. To be well-educated, then, is to have the desire as well as the means to make sure that learning never ends.


Copyright © 2003 by Alfie Kohn. This article may be downloaded, reproduced, and distributed without permission as long as each copy includes this notice along with citation information (i.e., name of the periodical in which it originally appeared, date of publication, and author's name). Permission must be obtained in order to reprint this article in a published work or in order to offer it for sale in any form. Please write to the address indicated on the Contact Us page. -- © Alfie Kohn

I just discovered a new blog...

and I swear we're living parallel lives! We even know the same people! Its a little eerie, the similarities, and I may need to avoid her blog to maintain my own "relentless sprightliness" but they're going on the blogroll!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008


A boy and his dog. Wild Thing is a lot like Nature Girl in that he started speaking late and has some articulation issues that are on the slow side of "typical" and I blame the beast in the picture. Since he was a few months old he has identified more strongly with the dog than people. While he spends vast amounts of time being a robot (with bike helmet on head and klennex boxes on his feet), he still takes time every day to go speak dog with Mica
Posted by Picasa

Monday, May 26, 2008

Something that lives on my fridge...

If I had my child to raise all over again,

I’d finger-paint more, and point the finger less.

I would do less correcting and more connecting.

I’d take my eyes off my watch, and watch with my eyes.

I would care to know less, and know to care more.

I’d take more hikes and fly more kites.

I’d stop playing serious, and seriously play.

I would run through more fields and gaze at more stars.

I’d do more hugging and less tugging.

I’d build self-esteem first, and the new house later.

I would be firm less often, and affirm much more.

I’d teach less about the love of power, and more about the power of love.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

A GREAT weekend!

I gotta make one of these! It is a great outdoor toy!

Sprout loved the giant puppets in the play Thumbelina.

Why is the Bluenose black, not blue? Answer: It refers to how cold the crews' noses get - not the ship!

First of all, I sold stuff at the May Faire at The South Shore Waldorf School and met a TON of wonderful people. We all had a fabulous time. I love the school and the staff I met and every family we met (or met again, we know a few as it turns out) and I got to hang out in a 16 ft yurt from Little Foot Yurts (I'm taking a workshop to learn how to build my own next winter) Then we went to Lunenberg for fish and chips and while we were eating met a neat family who it turns out had moved to the area from Toronto specifically for the South Shore Waldorf School. Then we chatted up the Blue Nose II crew and one of the crew gave us the copy of the Mariners prayer he'd been given on hs first day on board as a souvenier!

I scored a 1956 copy of Shakespeare for Children by Charles and Mary Lamb with Rackman plates for 25 cents and two Classical Music For Kids story tapes - for 50 cents and 2 - yes TWO handknit sweaters with pine forest sillouetes and starry skies for 4.00 at a yard sale, one fits Nature Girl and one fits Wild Thing!!!

Ever have so many plans you figure you can't fit em into one lifetime? We have two "5 year plans" one lets Papa Pan retire earlier and relies on a property that will allow us to get partially off the grid and have a subsistence farm and room for my toymaking business to grow to support us, supplemented with fancy fibre animals as we learn more about them.

The second is setting up shop with a gallery/toy shop/cafe- music venue (like Rasputins in Ottawa) in a touristy town area with lots of really cool people around.
Predictably, we'd name it the Wild Culture Cafe.

This weekend, by chance, we found properties on both 5 year plans. Both affordable, both totally dream worthy.

A 16 acre parcel of farm with a 200 year old house/potential money pit and several outbuildings 5 minutes from here. The house has genuine good bones and a beautiful property (ancient oaks!!!) but it needs to be COMPLETELY restored and its been empty nearly a decade, the current tenants are teens who party there on occasion, bats, and from the smell, raccoons. Scary scary scary, and very exciting.

An authentic 1930's general store complete with all the original fixtures and a 3 bedroom 1500 sq ft apartment above, 1.5 hours from here on the South Shore. Oh it would be wonderful...but it means setting up in a new community and thats a big deal. Scary scary scary, and very exciting.

They'll fuel a lot of daydreams this week (til we find out what is desperately wrong with each property!)

Thursday, May 22, 2008

This made me burst into tears!

A Chinese police officer is helping with quake victims in the most wonderful way - by breastfeeding eight children in addition to her own baby!

Five quake orphans and three newborns whose mothers have been too traumatized by the quake to produce milk!

Here's the news story:,1,22

Help Free Iranian Baha'is

NEW YORK — Allegations by Iran that six Bahá’ís were arrested last week “for security reasons and not for their faith” are utterly baseless and without documentation, said the Bahá’í International Community today.

“All of the allegations issued in a statement on Tuesday by the Iranian government are utterly baseless,” said Bani Dugal, the principal representative of the Baha’i International Community to the United Nations, referring to statements made in a press conference given yesterday in Tehran by Iranian government spokesman Gholam-Hossein Elham, at which he acknowledged the arrest and imprisonment of six Bahá’í leaders last week.

“The allegations are not new, and the Iranian government knows well that they are untrue,” Ms. Dugal said. “The documented plan of the Iranian government has always been to destroy the Bahá’í community, and these latest arrests represent an intensification of this plan.

“The group of Bahá’ís arrested last week, like the thousands of Bahá’ís who since 1979 have been killed, imprisoned, or otherwise oppressed, are being persecuted solely because of their religious beliefs. The best proof of this is the fact that, time and again, Bahá’ís have been offered their freedom if they recant their Bahá’í beliefs and convert to Islam – an option few have taken.

“Far from being a threat to state security, the Bahá’í community of Iran has great love for their country and they are deeply committed to its development. This is evidenced, for example, by the fact that the vast majority of Bahá’ís have remained in Iran despite intense persecution, the fact that students denied access to education in Iran and forced to study abroad have returned to assist in the development of their country, and the recent effort by Bahá’ís in Shiraz to provide schooling for underprivileged children – an effort the government responded to by arresting some 54 Bahá’í participants in May 2006,” said Ms. Dugal.

In its coverage of Mr. Elham’s press conference, the Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) reported that the six Bahá’ís were arrested “for security reasons not for their faith.” The IRNA report also quoted Mr. Elham as saying that the six Bahá’ís were somehow linked to “foreigners, the Zionists in particular.”

Ms. Dugal addressed that issue also, saying:

“The charges linking the Bahá’ís to Zionism are a distortion of history: The Bahá’í Faith has its world headquarters in Israel because Bahá’u’lláh was, in the mid-1800s, sent as a prisoner to the Holy Land by two Islamic countries: Ottoman Turkey and Iran.

“The charge that Bahá’ís are Zionists, which has in fact been made against Bahá’ís for the last 30 years by Iran, is nothing more than an effort by the government to stir animosity against Bahá’ís among the Iranian population at large. This is but the most recent iteration in a long history of attempts to foment hatred by casting the Bahá’ís as agents of foreign powers, whether of Russia, the United Kingdom, or the United States—and now Israel—all of which are completely baseless.

“The real issue, as it relates to Bahá’ís, who are committed to nonpartisanship and nonviolence, is the ideology of the government, which has undertaken a well-documented effort to utterly block the development of the Bahá’í community not only through arrests, harassment and imprisonment but also by depriving their youth of education and preventing adults from obtaining a livelihood.

“We would ask whether issues of state security rather than ideology were involved in recent incidents such as the destruction of a Bahá’í cemetery and the use of a bulldozer to crush the bones of a Bahá’í who was interred there; the harassment of hundreds of Bahá’í schoolchildren throughout Iran by teachers and school officials in an effort to make them reject their own religion; or the publication of dozens of defamatory anti-Bahá’í articles in Kayhan and other government-sponsored news media in recent months,” said Ms. Dugal.

She also noted that over the years, a number of government officials, clerics, and members of the judiciary have in fact made statements in private noting the nonpartisan conduct of the Bahá’í community and the unjustified nature of government charges against Bahá’ís.

She added that the present government’s ideology is based in large part on a belief that there could be no Prophet following Muhammad. The Bahá’í Faith poses a theological challenge to this belief.

“Freedom of religion is the issue and Iran itself is a signatory to international covenants that acknowledge the right of individuals to freedom of religion or belief, including the right to change one’s religion,” Ms. Dugal said.

“What the Iranian government cannot tolerate is that the Iranian people are less responsive to the government’s propaganda, because they see the reality — that Iranian Bahá’ís love their country, are sincere in their desire to contribute to its well-being, are peace-loving, and are law-abiding — and that these qualities stem from their beliefs. Consequently, there is growing sympathy for the Bahá’ís. Increasingly, people at all levels of the society are coming to their defense both privately and publicly, and there is growing interest in and attraction to the Bahá’í Faith amongst the population,” Ms. Dugal said.

The people pictured above have all been arrested. Seated from left, Behrouz Tavakkoli and Saeid Rezaie, and, standing, Fariba Kamalabadi, Vahid Tizfahm, Jamaloddin Khanjani, Afif Naeimi, and Mahvash Sabet. All are from Tehran. Six were arrested on 14 May 2008 in early-morning raids at their homes, and the seventh was detained in March. In the Baha'i Faith there is no "clergy", instead there are governing bodies that are democratically elected on the local, national, and global level,(and there is no canvassing or campaigning for support - nominations are made and you agree to serve or not) Iran has outlawed both local and national spiritual assemblies. These people serve as an informal national-level coordinating group, known as the Friends, that was established with the knowledge of the government to help cope with the diverse needs of Iran’s 300,000-member Baháí community, which is the country’s largest religious minority.

The first person to be arrested in March was Mrs. Mahvash Sabet. Mrs. Sabet was summoned to Mashhad by the Ministry of Intelligence, ostensibly on the grounds that she was required to answer questions related to the burial of an individual in the Bahá’í cemetery in that city.

This is all very reminiscent of the raids in the early 80's when the members of the national spiritual assembly was rounded up and executed. During that period scores of Baha'is including young teens who helped teach children's classes (like sunday school) were tortured and killed.

Today Baha'i's are refused entry into Iranian universities based on their faith. Children are turned away from state primary schools if they are not silent about being Baha'i. The Baha'i community does NOT participate in civil disobedience. When they were told to end local and national spiritual assemblies, they did. This group of Friends was formed with the government's knowledge.

What can you do to help? Please write to your MP or Congressman. Use the freedom of speech we have in the west. Let your legal representatives know that you want them to speak out at the national level, at the UN, write letters, and please pray, whatever your faith, for their safety and release.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

The days are too full to remember to blog!

Typical rainy maritimes day - drawing by the fire, felting balls (this is Wild Things first ball done all by himself!), reading stories, all while mama felts up a storm (getting ready for a fair).

A few choice snippets from this week

"I think we should be called The Make Do Mice" Nature Girl on scrap toymaking - her name for the mouse family in Phoebe Gilman's most excellent book Something From Nothing.

Wild Thing is big on movies right now and is asking to see every movie we have but he doesn't know the titles of any of them. Can you guess this one? "A chocolate man eats. There is a train. There are no dinosaurs" I actually got it from that! A hint, he refers to African Americans as chocolate.

Sprout will now scream "mama!" if he gets caught trying to crawl across the coir rug under the dining table OUCH! I swear he can say "Allah'u'abha" but Papa Pan thinks I'm nuts. I mean, he hears it often enough right?

I'm off to tidy art supplies and avoid cleaning the kitchen.

Oh and this is a doghair and wool felted ball. It was an experiment. I think it felted up really nicely but its almost TOO dense, that doghair makes a really compacted middle. I was hoping for a nice squishy ball.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Kinda cool to find Papa Pan on Youtube!

impromptu performance of the song he's working on in - it isn't finished and he had no warning he'd be performing it at all that night!

Liam Potter is on drum and Heather Kelday on bass and neither of them had heard the song ever before either....

At the beginning you can hear Sprout cooing too! That is his way of saying "What to do?

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Because I find weight loss boring...

I'm only posting about this now that I've reached my first tiny incremental goal. I purposely chose a snail on my ticker (at the bottom of my blog) because I wanted this weight to come off slowly and naturally.

March 2008

I have 20 lbs to lose. I gained 35 lbs with the Sprout. A combination of bed rest, lingering birth aches and pains, and a truly asthmatic slothful winter have left me with 20 lbs of exta me that shouldn't be there.

Besides the weight which doesn't want to budge, I'm feeling my old "springtime hysteria" sort of a "the ice is breaking up and so am I" out of control freakout that signals that I've been holding on way too tightly for way too long. My back has been aching since my last trimester and it is making it so I don't want to walk anywhere and because of that I'm totally out of shape. My asthma has been really bad this winter too. So it is time to do something to fix all of these things. They're all connected.

Step one: No more extra sugar. Sugar depresses. It depresses me with the spiking and crashing blood sugar, it depresses the immune system, and fructose makes you fat. So I'm avoiding sugar. No sugar in my coffee or tea, no more using sugar to wake up after a bad night with the Sprout. No honey dripping pieces of toast. I'm not going to be a zealot though, apple pie is still on the menu and I'm never ever giving up raspberry jam!

Step two: Curb the nervous eating. The low grade hysteria leaves me constantly looking for something to chew on. I don't even enjoy the eating, but its some kind of sensory thing where I want to be chewing. Teeth be damned, I'm going back to mouthing ice chips and I'll try to find some healthy alternatives too, but this is not a good kind of eating to do in any event.

Step three: Hydrate! I gain weight whenever I stop drinking water and replace it with junk - coffee, tea, pop. So I'm recommitting to my friend - the big water mug. 6-8 mugs a day.

Step Four: Get out in the SUN. I actually stopped typing, got up, packed up the Sprout and Wild Thing and headed outside for an hour after writing that. This is probably the most important thing right now. Being in the sun makes me SHAKY I'm so unused to it right now!

Step Five: Core strength training.

My weight goal is really reasonable I think, I look and feel healthy at 120 lbs and it is really easy to maintain. I don't want to shoot for a weight that leaves me feeling I need to "diet" ever. My BMI at 120 is in the middle of a healthy range and I'm big boned to start with.

Of course, the first thing that happens when I obsess over my weight is that I EAT EVEN MORE. So I gained 7 MORE lbs.

APRIL 2008

I'm avoiding the sugar and not having cream in my coffee.

We don't have on any electric lights in the evening so I go to bed when the sun sets

I'm not snacking to stay awake in the evening.

Spring means I'm out every day.

There is no raspberry jam in the house, but I wish there was!

The fabulous 7 lbs of "lets think about dieting" weight is gone.

May 2008

The raspberry jam is back and so are some pickled pumpkin pieces - YUM!

5 lbs have come off now - so there you go - first milestone reached and no dieting.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Is sarcasm even possible in a 3 year old?

"Wild Thing why did you take apart your toy cars?" (following a trail of wooden axles and wheels to his room)

"Because I's mean and nasty to cars. I's only love you mummy!"

I wish I had the camera handy, the scene was all the evidence I needed that plastic toys are evil - a Bionicle figure, a teal robot we found at Frenchy's and a blue robot Papa Pan found in a parking lot were dissecting three heirloom quality maple wooden cars.

I'd cry out "Oh the humanity!" But well, they're all toy versions of inanimate objects. Its not like Dark Mirror who, at the same age, threw ALL his toys off the balconey to see which would bounce and which would shatter.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Paperless in May is not going well...

The egg carton was Sprouts favorite toy until he discovered how easily it could be shredded. A cold on my part and I gave way to paper tissues cause the "snot rag" was getting too gross. But the kids are drawing on recycled mail!

The Nature Table in May

The whole thing with crumpled paper for buds and flowers on the trees...

Nature Girl's Spring Maiden holding a dandelion...

The pond with rocks from Nature Girl's walk home, moss from the yard and beeswax ducks frogs and fish (wild thing made the fish and an egg that the duckling hatched from...

An itty bitty vase made from wax holding itty bitty flowers Nature Girl found on the way home yesterday...and a red squirrel from a yard sale a few years back....

So I was thinking about deschooling last night because of a question on a waldorf list I'm on...

Deschooling is not the same as unschooling. Deschooling is giving children time to make the transition from the expectations of public school to the expectations of the home or homeschool.

Deschooling is sort of like...summer vacation...and that sense of throwing open the school door with a "bang!" and letting the child run out into the sun. They have a million things they want to do and a sense that there won't be enough time and that the pressures of school and raising their hand and bells and readers are just around the corner. It takes awhile for them to settle into themselves and find out that there really is all the time in the world. and that the real world and a homeschool, has a very different rhythm than the traditional school.

So how do you help your child deschool? Do you need to deschool yourself?

My advise is to focus on your home rhythm right now. What is a home rhythm? It is the flow that day takes. Do you like it? Is it is like a stream? Does it bubble and roll over rocks and eddy in pools and then roll along towards the sea tinkling happily? Or does it seem to be a river crashing over rocks, sweeping you up in a current that leaves you gasping for breathe as you get pulled over and under by its power? Or could it be a stream that has been altered by a hydro plant - alternating between rushing dangerously in spring and then drying up to form stagnant pools and a quickmire of mud, then dry and cracked and lifeless in the heat of the summer.

I see the three as lifestyle issues. The first home rhythm is one that is balanced and allows you time to enjoy the things in your life. The second is the over scheduled family life, too many activities, too much "stuff". The thid is the family life dominated by electronic media - information overload (news sports and even weather is depressing and overwelming today!) AND then no time for anything else outside of Prime Time entertainment.

I have a few things that are very important in this in *my* situation (I feel I'm deschooling every day as my 7 year old is forced by a custody dispute that was settled by the family court to attend *public school* instead of private school or homeschooling).

First - I got rid of the television. unplugged it and stuck it in a closet and closed the door. Did the same with the stereo, radio, and set a specific time during the day for the computer and cut back on that too.

Second - if your child has been in a public school even kindergarten, they likely spent a great deal of time doing "educational activities" instead of *playing* - which is the work of childhood.

The easiest way to give this back to your child is to spend as much time as possible right now while you "deschool" - outside. You don't need toys, although some child sized gardening tools would be nice, they'll make the toys they need from nature. Pinecones, sticks, stones, forget me nots, dandelions - oh MOUNTAINS of dandelions.

While they play you will have plenty of time to hang out the laundry, weed the garden (start a garden!). SLOW DOWN, simplify meals and have simple picnics and simple foods during this time. WALK with your kids. My experience has been that the biggest thing missing from a publically educated child's day is large muscle work. WALKING places, moving a wheelbarrow, pulling a sibling around on a cloth "cart" while they play draft horse. It is missing from our lives too the whole chop wood carry water thing. We need it for fitness yes, but really we need it for our emotional stability, hormonally we need to expend physical energy *releasing* overloads of stress hormones in our bodies from driving, from the stress of high pressure but low activity jobs. No wonder we end up depressed or anxious, or sleepless.

Third - and personally, I can't stress this one enough - it has made ALL the difference in our lives. Don't use electric lights in the evening spring and summer and as long as you can hold out in autumn and winter too - it will force the entire household to observe their body rhythms instead. It will naturally mean you get dinner on the table earlier and the setting sun will be YOUR bedtime guide - the children will likely be ready for bed earlier. Getting them outside in the morning as soon as breakfast is eaten and the kitchen tidied will help reset their clocks too - the sun has a wonderful curative power. No lights in the evening, blackout shades if you live in the city and have big lights outside. Wake with the sun and open those blinds.

All of it comes down to simplicity and slowing down the pace. If you give yourself a season outside relatively media free you'll suddenly find you have time for all those things you figured were really important but couldn't find time for - prayer, art and crafts, reading together as a family, service, whatever.

Oh, and another part of deschooling for YOU - get a sketchbook or a journal and start writing and drawing yourself. You can do it!

I have two books I suggest as well they aren't waldorf books btw - just great books for anyone making the shift from public school to homeschooling - Punished by Rewards - Alfie Kohn and The Artist's Way - Julia Cameron

I think they're great books for anyone making a shift in their lifestyle.

And now I should get back outside!


Monday, May 12, 2008

Mothering Skill Meme

Oh my goodness my first meme!

Mombie (on the side bar in the blogroll. I gotta ask Zoom to tell me how to do nice tidy links *in* posts) tagged me to talk about my awesome motherin' skills. So here goes:

1. I am ridiculously FAIR. My kids never yell out "NO FAIR!", really, they don't. They will admit that they might not like my rulings all the time, but I am always fair. This is a skill I have honed with both conventional wisdom (when you share the last bit of cake he who cuts the cake lets the other choose the piece) and a lot of humour and hyperbole...its sort of like in the book Love You Forever, you know who can outdo the other on how much they love each other? Well I have running dialogues outloud in situations where I try to blow the possibilities in a situation out of the water with as much hyperbole as possible until the sane FAIR reaction makes sense to everyone involved. "There's only a bit or milk left and all three of you want a bowl of cereal for breakfast? Okay I'm going to wring out the box, QUICK Nature Girl, go get the eyedropper and I will divide this milk between three eggcups, I need tweezers, each 6 ml of milk will support 12 rice Krispies, help me count them out, each of you! I don't need to be included in this, I'm having a bagel and cream cheese, or waffles, or maybe an egg, but you will all get your sacred cow, I mean rice-milk portion!" Then of course everyone agrees to have something different for breakfast...and usually Dark Mirror gets the milk because he's the most rigid about acceptable breakfast foods - which is FAIR. This is a vitally important thing in a large family according to my oldest.

2. I am CREATIVE when it comes to "getting along" (I hate the term discipline for what really is punishment - discipline is internally motivated, it is a VIRTUE). I'm a big proponent of nonviolent communication and the ideals of "Taking Children Seriously" and the secret to it is to really respect everyone's feelings including your own, and think outside the box. I'm flexible and creative about conflict and while "SIGH, because I said so!" has indeed passed my lips it doesn't happen very often. I usually can find a solution with the kids that leaves everyone feeling heard, everyone satisfied, even me, and everyone "getting along"....I do require strong coffee and 5 minutes peace first thing in the morning to do this. Papa Pan knows this and keeps me in beans.

3. The first two skills are what my kids would pull out to say about me, this though, is my personal best - I absolutely LOVE every stage my kids go through. Even the maddening stages. I feel so blessed to be mothering these people that even the gut wrenchingly hard periods (and I won't go into the gory details of THEIR stories here) are tucked in my heart as the soul enriching experiences they are. Every milestone makes my heart swell. I will savour these sleepless nights with the Sprout because I know they won't last. I will savour the whiny stage Wild Thing is in because I already see it slipping away and it won't last. I can't pick a favorite age or stage. It seems every stage is my favorite with each kid and I think its because of the ghosts of memories attached, left by the other kids. Sprout's restless nights are tempered with now fond memories of Nature Girl's absolute need for physical contact with me whenever she slept. That intense little bundle of energy - quivering, even in sleep, who needed my calm even breathing to rest, is just a memory. She's that tall lanky girl bursting with energy now, quick to smile, quick to cry, quick to forgive, quick to love. With 17 years spanning these wonderful children I've got one in every major stage and really, none are any harder or easier than any other. It will all be over too soon anyway.

So...Monkey, Zoom, Deb and KEM - your turn - tell me three things you're good at in mothering, Zoom and Deb you have a special assignment - you need to include one skill that relates specifically to parenting adult children cause I'm always learning from you.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Looking for Opinions on This:

I've mentioned before that we live in a town that does not provide bussing to school for children within town limits. They simply live too close to the school to qualify. So Nature Girl walks to school. Once she was used to the walk she began doing it on her own. She's a month shy of turning eight. She's been diagnosed with ADHD, although it does not present itself if she is working one on one with someone in a quiet controlled environment.

Papa Pan works "in the city". He works with kids who are considered "flight risks" so they are literally bussed a block to school and not allowed out of the school without direct supervision. He also works with kids with ADHD.

He was mentioning to a co-worker that we have Nature Girl do this walk on her own. He said that despite our initial misgivings about the distance it has really helped her ground herself in the morning so she can perform better in school. He mentioned that the 40 minute walk home often takes her 2 hours because she NEEDS that time to decompress and use up all that stored up energy- digging in the dirt, following snails, worms, looking for rocks, simply being outside in nature. We've been doing quite a bit of reading on not looking at ADHD as a medical condition but a "type" and it is one that needs Nature and Exercise. It describes Nature Girl perfectly (Richard Louv talks about it in Last Child in the Woods and Stephen Putnam deals with it exclusively in Nature's Ritalin for the Marathon Mind: Nurturing your ADHD Child with Exercise. Well the coworker found the idea of a GIRL this age being allowed to walk to and from school on her own very alarming.

I'd agree if we lived in the city. Not because it is "the city" and there'd be more traffic, but because despite the increase in population density she would very likely not know or be known by as many people on her walk. As it stands she passes lots of known neighbours, lots of classmates homes, her occasional babysitter's home, and her teacher's home on the walk. We live in a small town, word gets back to you if your kid is causing mischief. The school sees walking to school as a "safe" activity and even promotes it with a "Walk to School Week" early in the school year to encourage parents to ditch the "Drive Them" mentality.

Nature Girl knows not to accept rides from KNOWN people or strangers. She knows not to go into a friend's house without getting my permission first. We know if she isn't home when we want her home what route she takes and where she veered off (the botanical garden is her home away from home)and we can find her quickly.

What do you readers think? Is she being put at risk walking to and from school? Am I giving my free range kid too much freedom?

Thursday, May 8, 2008

As I mentioned prayer in my last post

This is how I've been starting my days recently,

O God!
Educate these children.

These children are the plants of Thine orchard,
the flowers of Thy meadow,
the roses of Thy garden.

Let Thy rain fall upon them;
let the Sun of Reality
shine upon them with Thy love.
Let Thy breeze refresh them
in order that they may be
and develop,
and appear in the utmost

Thou art the Giver.
Thou art the Compassionate.

I wish I could speak Persian. I could learn it phonetically in the Persian (it sounds beautiful!) but I'm not good with languages and with a prayer I should know what I'm saying don't you think? So I sing it with my own little tune that was inspired by Joe Crone but isn't quite the same. It is a lovely springtime prayer and I am surrounded by the images in it daily, so it comes back to me constantly.

I used to have a hard time with saying prayers aloud. I found it made me self conscious and then I got used to doing it with my kids and I LOVE saying prayers with them. We say bedtime prayers and a blessing on our food before we eat. I STILL get self conscious about saying prayers aloud if there are other adults around though. I think I can trace it back to my mom (moms are always to blame you know!). I used to come back from Sunday school singing children's hymns, loudly, off key...and I often could only remember half. I was like a skipping record. My mom would go bonkers from it after awhile.

So I ended up feeling this self consciousness about not doing it "right" cause, I still forget words, and I still sing off key. But not with children.

Motherhood has taught me there's no "right time" other than NOW to do these things. You can't wait til you've perfected something to share it as a parent. You just have to trust yourself that doing it is what is right, and that mistakes will be forgiven...

Which is really what everything in our lives is about isn't it, especially prayer and our relationship with God?

But I'm still going to blush furiously when I say a prayer other adults can hear!

Oh and here is Nature Girl's favorite prayer - a more rockin version than she learned in class

Friday, May 2, 2008

If you believe in prayer

Please pray for everyone who lives along the St John River. Fredericton's downtown is under water. The waters are supposed to start receding today.

We make a lot of jokes about floods here in the face of global warming predictions because a great deal of our area is below sea level and 200 year old dykes keep the tide waters at bay, but we are always prepared for a flood as a result. It is just devastating to see flooding in areas that aren't ready for it.

Wild Thing has an announcement!

I's not beautiful anymore mummy, I's FANCY.

For the longest time Wild Thing has been my Beautiful Boy. He really is, but I think it originally sprang out of my favorite book on boyhood.

Be Boy Buzz

If you have a boy, you need to read this book. This book is an interactive book - the kind toddlers and preschoolers jump up from reading and act out. Its the kind of book you read with a bongo drum in hand. This is the kind of book you buy all your friends when they have a baby boy. If you're discovering it with grown boy childs you still need a copy to give them on their next birthday, or better yet, THEY should get you a copy for Mother's Day. This book is SO much better than Love You Forever. This is the kind of book that is next to impossible to find on library shelves. It is poetic and poignant and yes BEAUTIFUL.

This book was written by an Afro-American feminist theorist. Bell Hooks.

So I'm going to miss my BEAUTIFUL boy, and spend some time celebrating my FANCY boy.

He promises me he will still be my BAD BOY BEAST sometimes.

Thursday, May 1, 2008


The Three r's of Reduce, Reuse, Recycle aren't enough. They let me off the hook too easily.

What about repair? Why don't we? Oh often costs more to repair something than it does to replace it, or it is too complex for us to understand how to repair it, or it was designed with materials that break in a way that doesn't allow for repairs. Then there's that sense of being overwelmed by stuff so a huge pile of things that need to be repaired seems unsurmountable.

Maybe it's time to rethink things so that the ability to repair it enters into wether or not I'll invest in buying it in the first place. Maybe it is time to commit to only reinvest in sustainable items when I have to replace something that can't be repaired.

I also think we need to retool the services available in the community. Do you know how hard it is to find someone who does shoe repairs? I need a tiny piece of my favorite pair of shoes replaced to repair them. They are red mary janes and the connecting strap that holds on the buckle was worn through - otherwise they are in perfect shape. Why can't I find a shoe repair person who can fix them? I mean I really revere cobblers and their skills, why can't I find one? Because we live in a throwaway culture, that's why. That needs to be fixed too. I have to actively resist the cultural expectation that this tiny piece of leather means these shoes are garbage and I need to buy new ones. I refuse to chuck these shoes and buy new ones all for the want of two inches of leather being restitched. So maybe it is time I learned how to tool leather? I need to reclaim this skill.

But it isn't just about repairing things that broken. There are things that are looking a little dingy, a little worn, and stained or unfashionable that still have plenty of life left in them - especially in the kids stuff. No one wants them and it would be terrible to throw them in the rag bag when so many resources went into making them and they really are still in decent shape. I need to respect that and renew, refresh, reconstruct, remake, redesign, recraft, recreate, and repurpose those things. I have the skills to do that now.

Maybe that is the biggest thing. I think we all need a re-education in thrift, and I can share my skills and maybe find someone who has different skills who'll be willing to share those skills with me. We can learn from one another and rekindle an appreciation for thriftiness. This kind of thing has to be freely given though - sort of an extention of freecycling - a skill giveaway though. It has to be about keeping stuff out of the landfills, about slowing down the conveyor belt of consumerist buying using and disposing of STUFF.


I think Wolfville would utilize it if we had one, it doesn't need to be a bricks and mortar school, it can float between the homes of people who want to support it, who see this as a valid way to react to the ills of consumption. There's so much talent here, and when you share your talents you refill your bucket, you recharge. Its that whole pay it forward thing. A DIY Free School doesn't just have to be about passing on DIY skills, its a place to reflect on what it'll take to reform society