Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Unschooling Math

This is a topic that gives our family a good deal of stress. Simply because it's so obvious to us (parents) that, if our kids would just get interested in math, they'd understand their other interests so much more deeply! Very frustrating.

And here I make my terrible unschooler's confession: I coerce them to do math workbooks.

Coercion never works. My daughter does the work because she wants to (she ADORES worksheets of any variety!) and my son simply refuses, while submitting to the odd worksheet, here and there, from which he gains precious little -- because it's coerced. BUT... as it turned out, he did manage to learn long division with the help of one of those pages, and, after months of constant prodding from his school-going friend ("did you know math is my best subject?", "I'm really really good at math, you know.", and "Do you even know what long division is??") he was so proud of himself that he went on to finish the section and is now working on measurement. Still. The spark of inspiration is definitely not there.

We've had some great conversations in our daily life, and there's enough interest in those (eg. exponential theory, physics, measurement, negatives and decimal theory), but the simple practice that seems to bring facility with those theories is definitely lacking.

We talked about alien technologies. You just never know where the light will come from!
Thanks to my brother, we ended up watching this movie about crop circles, busted out the compasses and graph paper, the rulers, and pencil sharpeners, and...

Voila: math is now unschooled. Er. I mean. Inspired.

You don't have to care about aliens or crop circles to find this movie fascinating. The forms and math involved, and the way they're laid out in the movie (with alien theory!) are pretty enticing.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Raw Milk Rage or What's Wrong With Milk?

We are involved in the raw milk issue. Because we want to drink it.

Our raw milk provider (we have been participating in a local herd-share) has been targeted and attacked by health Canada. They are prosecuting and trying to put it and other raw milk dairies out of business. A month or two ago I sent a letter to Leona Aglukkaq, Canada's Minister of Health, regarding my desire to see raw milk legalized, and for them to stop harassing those who make the food we want possible for us. Her response, below, shows the sort of blindness that our public officials have for our health and for science. They work for the people who fund their campaigns and paycheques. And, despite all those taxes we pay, that's not us.

Read her letter, here (click to enlarge if it's too small to read, here). And then read my response, below.

My response:

A Public Letter to Leona Aglukkaq, Minister of Health Canada,
in response to her letter, visible at http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-s_fKVvl_7uc/TtaBAWMArrI/AAAAAAAACU0/IMW55lVVKbY/s1600/health-canada-response-about-raw-milk.png

Well thank you for your predictable, closed-minded, and short-sighted response.
I expect you will immediately be outlawing honey, tunafish, all poultry, all processed meats, and all other foodstuffs that have been shown to carry the risk of contamination by those same common pathogens. In short order we should be allowed a diet of pure chlorine bleach, since it is one of the only things currently found in our diets that does not, in fact, risk harbouring these bacteria (yes -- chlorine bleach is used to sterilize the chickens you allow us to consume, and, despite claims that it dissipates before consumption, it does leave traces on the food and in the packaging).

I will take your letter public, now, and, instead of depending upon you to protect my food sources, out you as a supporter of the dairy corporations, who find it reasonable to squash small farmers and endanger the public health with false claims that their milk (sic) is healthy.

It is now becoming common knowledge that most of the beneficial nutrients found in milk are destroyed through the pasteurization process. The milk which you allow us to consume is sourced from various farms in various countries, to maximize the profits of the large dairies that produce it. It is not fresh, it is not very well regulated, and sometimes it is not even pure milk. The mixing of milk and cream from various sources requires the dairies to homogenize the milk, which makes the fat molecules so small that they pass through our veins and cause blood-clots and other life-threatening damage. So you tell us to consume low-fat milk, to minimize our ingestion of these smaller fat molecules, but still promote the consumption of cream, butter, and cheese. But I assume this does not concern you. It is, after all, more important that you support those people who pay for your position of authority; not the public.

I have been drinking raw milk for 6 months, and was happy to find my health returning, as I, who have a compromised immune system and small children, was not sick during that time, following many years where I contracted a virus every month or so.

Thank you for your response. It will allow me to show publicly how little you do for us.
Emily van Lidth de Jeude

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Kids, Included

This is perhaps a little bit obvious to most unschoolers, but I just have to put this out there: The absolute best way to educate a child is to allow that child to experience life - to be included.

That means:
Take them with you. Welcome them at town-hall meetings, in social settings, in business settings, at fancy restaurants and at late-night neighbourhood parties. Welcome them at mealtimes, working times, playtimes, in your bed at night, and while you are taking a bath. Allow them to experience the security of being always welcome. Show them your humanity and allow them to feel human, too. They look to you to show them what it is they will grow up to be like, so be everything as beautiful as you dream of, and welcome them in to share it with you.

Obviously there are some things that may be inappropriate for young children. But for the most part, we need to welcome children into our adult world. And really -- if things are so violent or overtly sexual that they may harm a child's psyche, what are they doing to our own? Is it healthy for us to be witnessing or participating in those activities? Experiencing violence has been shown to cause permanent changes to the brain, which may in fact influence a culture for centuries to come (1). So can we extrapolate that an increasing percentage of our population, while having grown up in a relatively violence-free physical community, is in fact suffering from various forms of violence-induced stress, physical and mental illness? I think so.

For my part, I avoid violent media regardless, because I am aware of the effects it has on my own psyche. It's not difficult, in that case, to ensure my children's psychological safety, when they're in my company.

On the rare occasion that we do witness or hear about violent or other upsetting acts (usually on the news), we take time to discuss with our children the act itself, the context and ramifications, and every other issue that might arise, at any length they desire, as often as needed. I feel that being open to discussion - to educate them - is the best way to keep them emotionally safe from the reality of violence in their world.

Finding intimacy with partners can seem challenging when we want our children to be always welcome in our presence. But I think that a moderate level of intimacy is perfectly acceptable for children to witness; it lets them know that this is normal. Parents kiss. They love each other and they comfort, caress, and care for each other. We explain to our children that it makes us feel shy if they see us making love, so for that reason we do it in private, but we are willing to talk to them about anything they are curious about, and encourage them to ask questions. It's not always easy for us to be so open, but I know that the physical, emotional and sexual behaviours we model will be the foundation of their own future relationships (2), so it's vital that we allow them to learn from us rather than from whatever they might find in the media. It therefore also behoves us to ensure that our relationship is as healthy as possible, not only for our sake, but for theirs, as well.

I think there's a misconception that children will be uncomfortable or bored by our activities. To some extent that may be true, but often it is not. Often children are not given the chance to discover for themselves whether they're interested, and often they're shamed into not participating by adults who are intolerant of their sometimes noisy presence. This isn't the children's fault; it's ours.

I think it's up to us, as their role models, to welcome them into our circles; to help them engage in and enjoy the experiences. It is up to us to ensure that they have plentiful opportunities for participatory learning. For example, it is one thing to do online and library research on astronomy; it is quite another to go out at 11PM with the local astronomy club and look at Jupiter's moons through the telescope of a neighbour. The feeling of engagement and inspiration that comes from that community-based learning experience is the spark needed to make that astronomy knowledge valuable.

Yes, kids may indeed be bored when we bring them to board meetings for societies whose goals or activities they do not understand. But my experience tells me that if they are involved in the societies, and if we take time to explain to them the meaning and necessity of the conversation, they may actually become interested. During one of the Occupy meetings at the Vancouver Art Gallery, my daughter was getting bored, so my husband offered to take the kids off for a walk. 9-year-old Taliesin didn't want to go. "No. Sh." He muttered, and returned his attention to the conversation being held. It was a rather dry group discussion about consensus decision-making and meeting protocol -- but it interested him! Neither of us expected him to care; we just took our kids along with us because we take them pretty much everywhere with us. But it turned out to be one of the most inspirational experiences of this season, for him. At other times he hasn't been so interested in the conversations at Occupy, but his involvement there this autumn has given him the chance, at least, to have felt his presence was valued, and I think that's vitally important.

My Mum has just begun a 4-week Canadian Folksong workshop -- for all ages. This past week as I sat (coincidentally, at her knee) with my daughter, singing the songs with her and generally enjoying the workshop, one of the participating parents asked how I had learned all of those songs from her, and I was rather at a loss to explain. She did come in and teach some at my school when I was a child, but by then I already knew them. I just learned them by living with her. We sang for entertainment while cooking, while walking, and on car-trips. And, since folk music is her interest, we accompanied her to traditional folk events, and sat around while she sang and performed with friends. That was just simply our life! I became interested in traditional folksong, too, and my brother did, to a lesser extent. But I blame his keen interest in human history on the traditional stories she passes on to us. And of course, now I bring my kids to everything I do, including music gatherings. There isn't a method to it; it's just life.

Learning does not come from an orchestrated input of information into our children's brains; it comes from their own navigation of the things that interest them. I think most of us know that, but do we understand it? Do we realize that learning does not necessarily involve a core of expected knowledge, or even any outcome at all, but that learning is actually a very un-orchestrated opening-of-the-mind? Learning is what happens when we feel. That feeling can involve any or all of our senses, and emotions, but that feeling is essential for the learning to happen. We talk about tactile learners, visual learners, auditory learners, etc. Those are ways of feeling! So when a child feels safe, accepted, and welcome to feel and express whatever s/he experiences, then the opportunity to feel is full, and s/he can learn. Dr. Candy Lawson states that "Emotions are the relay stations between sensory input and thinking. (3)"

If we make our children welcome in the most austere intellectual conversations, we give them the feeling of being valued for their intellect. If we make our children welcome when we socialize, then they know they are a part of our community; they know they are our friends. If we make our children welcome when we play, we let them know that they are a part of our life's happiness. If we make our children welcome in the cooking, cleaning, and repairing of our home, then they will know that the home is also of them (4). If we make our children welcome when we eat, sleep, and bathe, they will know that they are integral to our very existence.

Self esteem goes much deeper than knowing that we are good, beautiful, and comparatively smart. In fact, comparison of any kind is probably detrimental to self esteem (5). Self esteem comes from the feeling of acceptance in our communities; of knowing that we are valued simply for our presence. And our children's involvement in our communities is obviously vital for that value to be perceived.

(1) The Lingering Effects of Violence; William Harm. University of Chicago Tribune, December 1996. http://chronicle.uchicago.edu/961205/violence.shtml

(2) Unpacking Authoritative Parenting: Reassessing a Multidimensional Construct; Marjory Roberts Gray; Laurence Steinberg. Journal of Marriage and the Family, Vol. 61, No. 3. (Aug., 1999). Download PDF: http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=3&ved=0CDQQFjAC&url=http%3A%2F%2Fdigilib.bc.edu%2Freserves%2Fpy447%2Faver%2Fpy44718.pdf&ei=STrTTomHLqmLiAKH0_3kCw&usg=AFQjCNEC_eoDhV6JXVVwG-6G0pJP6NG2CA&sig2=3Cptn5Xopvrm4MPt1Q7msg

(3) The Connections Between Emotions and Learning; Dr. Candy Lawson, Ph.D. Center for Development and Learning, LA. http://www.cdl.org/resource-library/articles/connect_emotions.php

(4) Tony's Hard Work Day; Alan Arkin. Illustrated by James Stevenson. Harper & Row, 1972. This is really just a shout out for one of my all-time favourite books. My Pappa gave it to me when I was very young, and it always made me feel like I was valued for my small contributions to our home. http://openlibrary.org/books/OL21380633M/Tony%27s_hard_work_day

(5) The Case Against Competition; Alfie Kohn. 1987. http://www.alfiekohn.org/parenting/tcac.htm

Other Resources:
Repeated Exposure to Media Violence Is Associated with Diminished Response in an Inhibitory Frontolimbic Network; Christopher R. Kelly, Jack Grinband, Joy Hirsch. PLoS One, December 2007. http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0001268

Children Exposed to Violence; Linh Vuong, Fabiana Silva, Susan Marchionna. Views from the National Council on Crime and Delinquency, August 2009. Download PDF: http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=9&ved=0CHMQFjAI&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.nccd-crc.org%2Fnccd%2Fdnld%2FHome%2Ffocus0809.pdf&ei=nr3STufgJ8WLiAKezpCIDA&usg=AFQjCNGjxIB3eXTiOsXev-zZuq6nnilkvg&sig2=e2xW0fV--6JxfB2lbAUjgA

Violence, Media (Position Paper); American Academy of Family Physicians. 2010. http://www.aafp.org/online/en/home/policy/policies/v/violencemedia.html

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Consumerism, Children, and Mothers Against Television

Many of the people who arrive at this blog from Google searches are coming for the articles I once wrote, calling for Mothers Against TV: (read here)

The call was so controversial that I actually lost a good friend because of it, and I left it behind. However, I still meet people quite often who are either alarmed or thrilled that my kids don't watch TV; that they aren't aware of current trends and popular brands. So... just for those of you who came here for this information, watch the important documentary below (full-screen it, sit back, and make some non-GMO popcorn... ha).

And yes, my kids are happy, busy, and educated. When given the option to watch TV, one of them wanders off, and the other stares intently until the thing is turned off. However neither of them misses TV, advertising, malls, brands, or processed food in their daily lives. How have we achieved this? Simply by living it; by rejecting all forms of advertising in our children's lives: cartoons, Scholastic, TV, processed food, Fast Food Chains, popular (cheap plastic) toys like Barbie and Nintendo, video games, candy, and pop music. We just don't do it.

Of course we can't cut out everything, but we cut out most. And what we can't avoid, we can use as a teaching tool. Our kids have been made very aware of marketing in their world, and, especially for my 9-year-old, I don't think much gets by unnoticed.

Here's the movie:
Consuming Kids: The Commercialization of Childhood

This documentary contains a segment about screen violence that is EXTREMELY gory and upsetting. It is too much for me to watch, myself. I would NEVER show it to my children.

Friday, November 25, 2011

The Shocking Truth about the Crackdown on Occupy

In her article published in the Guardian, Naomi Wolf writes, "In other words, for the DHS to be on a call with mayors, the logic of its chain of command and accountability implies that congressional overseers, with the blessing of the White House, told the DHS to authorise mayors to order their police forces – pumped up with millions of dollars of hardware and training from the DHS – to make war on peaceful citizens."

I am grateful for this article (and hundreds more like it) because, like all of us, I am affected deeply by the implications of the throttling of our media, and brave writers like Naomi Wolf are guiding us out of this stranglehold. The photo associated with this article is of Brandon (Romania) Watts -- I watched him being brutally beated, crushed, undressed and hauled away by the cops on livestream, as I was watching the OWS event where it happened. This incident, as well as the rest described in the article, as well as the article itself, is why social media and brave reporters are now more important than ever. Because we're realizing that we need to know the truth, and we (the people) need to depend upon each other to find it.

Read the article.
The Shocking Truth about the Crackdown on Occupy

Occupy Christmas: Buy Nothing Day and our Gift-Free Christmas

Our Christmas tree, a few years ago.

As many are already aware, today is Buy Nothing Day -- Adbusters Magazine's call to action against Black Friday -- purportedly the busiest shopping day of the Christmas season.

Since my family rarely buys anything anyway, this day doesn't mean a whole lot to us, but I thought I'd post here about our Christmas plans for the year. We are going gift-free, this year. In past years we've elected to go on a family outing instead of exchanging gifts among those of our household, but we still exchanged gifts with others in the family (grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, close friends, etc.) Although I personally love giving and receiving gifts, and cherish many of the thoughtful gifts given to us by those we love, we are literally inundated with these beautiful things each year, so that we now spend days going through our belongings every year, choosing things to give away to make way for the new -- and often that's very hard to do! So we end up packing things away into the attic, under the beds, into the office and the studio, etc. The outcome of this, of course, is that we are now suffocating in our belongings.

We love the gestures of those who love us. And the objects they give us are usually very meaningful and/or useful. We love spending time giving gifts and watching those we care about (hopefully) enjoy their gifts. We love this time so much that I've spent the last few years creating cloth wrapping bags (as needed) so that we could have a beautiful assortment of wrapped gifts sitting under the tree, without having wasted paper, in the end.

But the time has come for us to receive no more. This year we want to cherish the time with those people, talking, singing, sharing and feeling each other's presence. My family has always done this, so it won't be much of a change, but we'll have to find some activity to take the place of the usual Christmas morning exchange with our family. We have some ideas about this, such as sharing stories, songs, or poems, watching a slideshow of old family photos, etc. but none of these has been received with much enthusiasm, so far. We'll have to see what transpires as December unfurls.

I look forward to doing a little more baking, this year, and making a few more fir-bough-garlands to decorate the house. I hope that the time not spent shopping and wrapping will be as valuable as I imagine it will.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

What is Occupy About?

I thought this very short clip put it quite simply:

The Next Stage of the Occupy Movement

Michael Stone speaks in Vancouver about where the Occupy Movement is headed. What is our aim, as a movement? How will we work through our anger at the systems, at the evictions, at each other, and find our strength in peace?

"We won't give them demands because we're articulating a much bigger dream, and we won't give them violence because we're taking care of our anger."

"Don't be afraid to talk about love. Don't be afraid to talk about kindness."

Monday, November 14, 2011

Occupy Vancouver Photos

For those interested, here are some recent photos from the grounds of Occupy Vancouver:

Come down to the Vancouver Art Gallery. Look at those tents! I've met many people on the streets downtown who say they're "ugly", "slovenly", and "pointless". Then there are those who tell me the Occupants are "a bunch of bums", and "should get jobs and stop living off everybody else's tax money". You know what I say to those people? I tell them that I am an occupant. And I encourage them to go meet some of the rest of us, and to see what beautiful things are happening beyond those tents. It just requires a bit of open-mindedness, a willingness to meet others and to hear their ideas, and a willingness to enjoy. So here you go: A partial tour of Occupy Vancouver.
Curious what's happening? Stop in at the info tent! If they can't answer your questions they can at least direct you to the person who can.

Near the info tent is the art tent. Donate materials or just use the paints already there. Make some art! Make some signs if you'll be participating in a march!

Near the art and info tent is this wonderful climbing tree, and the intriguing announcement about the "Occupy Choir". We wish we'd been there at the right time to see the Occupy Choir!

Check out what's happening on the mainstage. Throughout the day various speakers and musicians take the stage, and between those main acts is music and open mic.
Last time we were there, Rhiannon stood around singing Imagine to herself. So I suggested she go sing it at the microphone. "No!" She said. "I don't know what order all the words go in!" So off we went to her Pappa's office, where she looked up the lyrics on his computer, printed them, and brought them back to the Occupy site. She bravely walked up to the people on the stage and asked if she could sing, then, just as she began to walk onstage, turned back and asked: "Is this song called Imagine?"
"Yes", I said.
And off she went.

If you can stay past 7PM, you can participate in the General Assembly. And if you do, you may find these hand symbols helpful! On the stairs next to the stage is this instruction-manual for participation in the GA.
Should you injure yourself, forget to keep warm and suffer from hypothermia (apparently this has been an issue for some), or suffer from any other ills that humans do, you can make your way to the medical tent, where professional medics volunteer their time in shifts to help those in need. There is somebody available 24/7. And should you just need supplies, the infrastructure people can help with that.

Or maybe you just want to relax for a bit. Come into the People's Lovely Library, read some books, newspapers, or printed articles; have a game of chess, or have a chat with some of the other interesting Occupants. This latter is actually all I've ever managed to do, there. There's always much too much meeting people to be done to actually retreat into typed words...

Rhiannon, though, found the children's section on her first visit, and returned there many times, even making use of the check-out system to check out and return a book she liked.
As I said, there are many people to talk to. It's really a very welcoming scene, down at Occupy, with many engaged people, willing to speak and listen; share ideas; inspire and BE the new reality.

Peace Keepers (Occupy Vancouver's Security Committee) are here to ... (how could you guess) keep the peace! Thankfully there isn't often a lot for them to do, but when friction does arise, especially with Vancouver's not-so-peaceful tactics against the occupation, the Peace Keepers are there to help diffuse. They've also held workshops on peaceful de-escalation tactics, etc.

And should you want serious, inner peace... go meditate. This is for everyone, of every belief-system. Enjoy.

Or maybe you need just some renewal; some good conversation with some elders. Go ahead. Ask them about that fire, too. (See it, below.)

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Why We're Not Saving for Our Children's Education

I always say that, as our children are unschooled, they make their own educational choices, and may choose at any time to go to school. They may very well decide to go to University, as most of their family has, for generations. But we're not outrightly encouraging it. That will be their own choice, and we'll support them in however they make it.

Taliesin exploring Fort Worden, in Port Townsend, May 2011
RESP's: The Value of Learning Then or Now
The Government of Canada (or is that the Harper Government?) will match a certain amount of any money which we put into RESP's for our children. BUT, should our children decide not to attend one of the specifically accepted institutes for higher education, they will be required to return that money to the government. So, yes, we could take a gamble that indeed has very little risk, for the potential benefit of having many thousands of dollars returned for our children's university education, should they decide to go that route.

But what is the cost of that gamble? The cost is that we must sacrifice the opportunities that the money we might invest could otherwise provide for their education NOW. We have very little to invest, to begin with. And we feel that it is of greater value to their lives to save that money and spend it on a family trip that will allow them to get to know their family in Europe, as well as to spend time there, broadening their understanding of different languages, cultures, and technologies. The month-long road-trip that we made this past June was probably the greatest educational experience we've ever provided for our children. In addition to the expected learning that we gained from visiting different communities, cultures, museums, etc. we also gained an intrinsic basic understanding of the geology, humanity, and ecology of the US West Coast. We gained an intrinsic understanding of the meaning (and non-meaning) of borders, of politics and pop-culture, of distance and quantity of space, time, and resources, that we never could have achieved by studying in a classroom. The month-long trip cost us about $3000.00, and we'll be paying it off for at least a year to come. But was it worth it? Absolutely!

Mama has a University Degree
My own parents spent about $25,000.00 -- a great deal of their own investments -- putting me through two years of art school, in the Netherlands. I learned very little at that school, and ended up leaving with an Incomplete. But I don't think my parents really understand the return I got on their investment. What I learned from living in the Netherlands on my own, from getting to know my family, there, from speaking another language, and from having to make ends meet (I created jobs for myself to supplement the money they gave me) was probably the second greatest single learning experience of my life. I came home to Canada, but that experience, and my knowledge and understanding of that other part of the world informs every day of my life here, and expands the value of the experiences I have, here. My parents' investment in my education really was of enormous benefit to my life, but not in the way I expected, when I first registered for the school.

I did return to college in Canada to study biology and English, and then to University to attain my degree. And luckily, because I worked during that time, and was also supported by my husband, do not have any student loans. But that degree has done nothing for my career. I chose to have children, and that, after all, has been the single greatest learning experience of my life. Now all my work (artistic, community, etc.) is about mothering. My mother, my children, and my community have been my teachers, as well as the many authors and speakers I've chosen to inform myself with, over the internet and through books. And finally, I feel as though I have value. I am aware that my art finally has value, too, since it's about mothering, and therefore I'm finally creating from a place of deep understanding. And I can absolutely say that I learned none of this in school, but that the money my parents put into my education -- living overseas -- made a great difference, indeed.

Global Depression and the Future of Education -- A Film Review
I just watched a video (unfortunately named College Conspiracy - watch it here), put out by the (US) National Investment Association, which explains some of the (global economic) reasons we've decided not to keep RESP's for our children. Generally, the current system of high tuition, crippling student loans, and standardized learning (as opposed to individualized community-based learning, where students learn within the community they wish to serve) is unsustainable. In addition to this, I believe that the predictions of a coming global depression are well-founded, and that such a depression would not only radically change the structure of higher education, but that anything we may save, or the value of that money in general, is at extreme risk, if stored as RESP's. In fact, even if there is no depression, I would like to see radical change in our education systems, and that kind of change does not happen by first fitting into the existing system. That kind of change is happening already, as so many of us are rising up with new movements such as unschooling, and creating the world we want to live in.

So the College Conspiracy film is interesting, and worth watching despite a few sweeping generalizations, but I want to point out some specific ideas I really disagree with:
1. That we should invest in physical gold and silver because it will be the only thing of value in the coming depression. 
Well, since when are gold and silver valuable? Value is created by need and desire. I believe that there will be need and desire for food, shelter, and compassion. But better than investing dollars in agriculture, construction, and humanitarian services, we can give up entirely on the notion of financial investment (if there's a global depression, our money will be value-less, anyway), and invest in our own personal education. We can LEARN, and we can build community. After all, in the absence of money, knowledge and skills are the new currencies, and community is our school.

2. That online degrees are the answer to the inflationary college degree scenario.
In the film, Gerald Celente of the Trends Research Institute suggests that online education can and should take the place of classroom education, for its cost-saving benefits, and the ability to reach more people, more easily. I hate to say it but I think this is shallow. It assumes first of all that a degree will be useful, and secondly that mass, standardized education is valuable. Above I say that knowledge and skills are the new currencies, but if we all learn the same facts, while staring at our Skype interfaces, how are we adapting that knowledge to the specific applications where its needed in our communities? We have to get out there and apply it before it has any value. Sure, there's a certain amount of information that will be usefully learned, this way, but much more understanding will come from our interaction in community. And if we go out into our communities to learn, instead of sitting at home with our laptops, then I think we'll be learning much more of what is really important for us to know.

So the College Conspiracy film just doesn't go far enough for me. And then the whole thing disintegrates into an ad for the National Inflation Association. Or perhaps it was that all along... this is one hell of a long advertisement. NIA does claim that its goal "is to help as many Americans as possible become aware of the disaster we are rapidly approaching", and also that they "are not investment or financial advisors". And yet, they are giving plentiful investment advice.

Sadly, NIA falls short of its stated goal by failing to actually escape the money trap. Although they interview a farmer in this film, and he discusses the value of real employment, with an anecdote about his grandson chopping firewood, the film never really explores that aspect of the economy. Neither a cheap online college degree nor gold and silver investments will help a society that has lost touch with the provenance of the fundamentals of human life: food, shelter, and compassion.

This Is Why We Are Unschooling
The pillars of our children's education are their involvement in the world around them: they have a deep understanding of their natural surroundings, ecosystems, and the provenance and value of their food. They are involved in the maintenance of our home and community. They are involved in their community's politics, festivities and conversations. I believe that the education we're giving our children, which is rich in understanding the physical world they live in, how it works, and how they work within it, will be the cornerstone of their ability to lead a life of value. With that upbringing as their strength, we trust them to make their own decisions on how they will seek and learn the skills they desire to participate in their world. This may include University, trade-school, apprenticing, travel, or any number of other participatory activities from which they wish to learn.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Death at Occupy Vancouver, today.

It is a very significant and reportable phenomenon that so many homeless, mentally ill, and addicted people are making the occupy movement their home.

Why are they there?
1. They find support, food, and shelter, there, which is in short supply elsewhere.
2. They find acceptance, because acceptance of EVERYONE is a cornerstone of the movement.
3. Many of them feel like the 'system' has failed them. And it has! Who more than they needs this movement to heal our very broken system. They are unrepresented, but at occupy they have a voice.

Is it a problem for the movement?
Well, the presence of drugs and the risk of overdose-related injury and death, and/or drug-induced behaviour issues does deter many others from joining. I've been uncomfortable there a few times, myself, but never threatened, as I participate and have camped there with my children. And really why should we be so alarmed to have this reminder of our failed system brought out onto Georgia? If you look closely it was there already. Just a few blocks down the street we can blissfully turn a blind eye on the most destitute community in Canada, walk past them with our shopping bags, give them a few coins, and go home. Yes, it's uncomfortable that they're occupying the VAG, too, but THEY are part of US. And it behoves us to find not only place for them in our hearts and in our aspirations, but also in our communities; solutions that include them as part of the whole that we are working towards.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Two Amazing Talks

These two talks, especially when seen together, speak so well about communication and the value of real education. In these are the foundation of my belief in unschooling, as well as in my support of the Occupy movement.

Bunker Roy speaks about his barefoot colleges; the wisdom of valuing experience and knowledge over college certificates.

Anupam Mishra talks about centuries-old water-harvesting technologies in India, and how these, as well as the widsom, sharing, and community they engender in the communities who built, use, and maintain them.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Camping at Occupy Vancouver

I've often felt guilty for being a daytime-occupier -- just dropping in for visits, getting reports from Markus (my husband) who works nearby, and stops in to listen to discussion groups, etc. sometimes during the days he's there. I felt like I should be there overnight, too, if I wanted to really support the thing -- and I do! So off we went, for one night only (my parents generously look after our animals, but we do have a wood-heated home, here, and there is no way I'm going to allow it to mold away in my absence by spending too much time off-island). It wasn't as amazing as I'd hoped, but I'm still glad we went.

Our Experience
The kids and I arrived when it was dark, and Markus had already spoken to people from the tent committee about where to put our tent. They even brought in pallets for us to set up on (to keep drier). Then we set our camping gear aside, and were given a tour of the current grounds by Selena (I think!). Somebody from the fire department told us that they've prohibited more tents from being set up, but there was no way were going back home at that time in the evening (too late for the last ferry), so we set up anyway. They never complained.

Our set-up: the 3-man tent we got for our wedding, with our flag draped over it, both for identification and for style! It also helped keep some of the street-light out. Inside we had a thermorest, a double-sleeping-bag for 3 of us, and a separate bag for Rhiannon, who monopolizes too much of the bed to be able to share with us. We had a plastic tarp waiting for rain, but didn't end up needing it, and donated it to the infrastructure tent in the morning.

I don't know what came over me, but I was extra shy, and basically avoided the two interviews Markus had told people I'd do. I also managed to forget to take photos of all the wonderful infrastructure that's cropped up in the past week. I'll blame in on dark-moon introversion.

*Note to non-lunatics: The dark moon (just before a new moon) is a time of low energy, letting go, and introversion. Many women's cycles naturally settle into a pattern of dark-moon menstruation; children are often noticeably quiet or irritable at a dark moon, and sometimes situations that might otherwise have an obvious solution can seem insurmountable.

Anyway, either I or Markus will hopefully get some better photos up here in the next few days. Among the great new presence we didn't photograph were a library, including a children's section (Rhiannon was thrilled!), a tea house, a dishwashing tent for the free food provided (by donations to) Food Not Bombs, a spiritual/creativity dome (in progress), an art-tent for sign-making but also for other inspired work, and a tent over the main stage on the steps.

There wasn't much going on. The protest march which we'd hoped to participate in (Occupy Kevin O'Leary) never happened, at least in part because the VPD had over-prepared and sent out rather offensive-looking troops. None of us wanted violence or trouble, so we just didn't go. Others didn't go because there seemed to be nothing happening! The place had that slightly irritible, forboding dark-moon energy, and just wasn't all that exciting. Maybe Tuesday night was not the night to have chosen!

We had some veggie soup and rice from the food tent, and eventually just went to bed. As luck would have it, no sooner had all four of us taken off our boots and coats, and snuggled into our very cozy little tent, than a lovely music gathering began, outside. We were too tired to join, so just lay there listening to the drums, guitar, klezmer accordion, and random conversations of passers-by until finally exhaustion won out over city noise and lights.

I must say we had a hard time sleeping, though. We are used to a home where the only night light comes from the moon, and our far-off neighbours are also quiet. Sleeping between the well-lit Vancouver Art Gallery and one of downtown Vancouver's main thoroughfares -- never mind that it's also currently an Occupation -- is rather a different story! The noise of people passing by on foot, and in vehicles was constant, and the general rumbling of the large city was felt as much by our bodies as by our eardrums. But the light was something else! Markus and I probably checked the clock about 10 times in the 8 hours we lay in the tent, each time thinking that it was light outside, and then realizing that, no, it was still just the streetlights....   Ah we are so spoiled, here.

So in the morning we got up, managed to pack up our tent before it got too wet in the rain, Markus went to work, and the kids and I headed back for some breakfast. On offer Wednesday morning was porridge, chili, rice (leftover from the night before), fruit, and various breads, peanut butter, and juice. The fact that there were two meals my gluten/soy/egg/bean free kids could eat was pretty exciting! But Tal was feeling a bit out of sorts and declined the hot porridge in favour of the raisin-bread we'd brought along, ourselves.

Food Not Bombs receives donations of food and equipment, and volunteers serve the food using standard health and safety procedures. Occupiers are asked to help out by donating, and by helping with dish-washing, etc. You can see the dishwashing tent in the background of this photo. There is a sequence of bins that the dishes are washed in: dump waste-food into compost, then rinse off remaining food. Next scrub in hot dish-soapy water. Finally, rinse in bleach-water, and two successive rinsing buckets to remove bleach. The kids seemed pleased to help out, and Tal even managed to talk to somebody about the molecular structure of ozone (you just never know!)

Thoughts on the Value of Tent City
This experience gave me a lot to think about, in terms of the value of occupation in the global movement and the evolution of the revolution, so to speak.

The Occupation has of course attracted a large number of homeless and other marginalized people because of the availability of free food, free shelter, and (I think importantly) social support and acceptance. Inclusiveness being a large part of what the movement is about, it`s perfectly reasonable, and a good thing. Especially because these people need a voice. too. But it also means that many of 'the 99%' seems to distance themselves from the movement, when they look and see what appears to be a "squatters'" encampment.

There's also the issue of money. Vancouver spends a lot of money sending police, fire crew, and civic officers down to patrol the site, while these are not necessarily needed (Occupy has its own security committee, under the heading 'peacekeeping', at that webpage), and certainly not in the numbers they're present. This unnecessary expenditure angers taxpayers, who not only resent the money spent, but also seem to often assume that the occupiers are not tax-payers, themselves.

On City Caucus I read that CKNW's Bill Good stated: "Occupy Vancouver has been reduced to a handful of young people clearly out of step with mainstream society." While Mr. Good may be clearly out of step with the movement, I can see why he came to that conclusion. While we were there we witnessed a couple of outspoken people so passionate about their causes that all common sense seemed to have left them. (Guess who was being filmed by the news crews?) There were also a few people with various developmental or social problems, using the stage to voice their thoughts. And I wondered if it was just a mistake or a calculated effort that CBC was there looking for interviews at 8AM Wednesday morning, while most of the service tents (infrastructure, library, media, etc.) had not yet opened for the day, and only about 15 people milled around, in various states of sleepiness. Perhaps Mr. Good came out at the same time.

So how did Mr. Good get that idea? The movement is young -- most of us probably are in our 20's, 30's, and 40's, and with today's life-expectancy, that really is young. But we (and our children) have a future that I feel is worth protecting, and that's why there are millions of us around the world are working together to make the changes we feel are necessary. On top of that, many of those who are physically or circumstantially able to camp downtown are students, single people, unemployed, or homeless. Those whose particulars are more "mainstream" likely are not able to camp downtown, and come during the day, only. (I admit that this Mama felt rather hypocritical, getting up in the morning, packing up our tent, and sending Pappa back off to work at his corporation, while I took the kids for their weekly swimming practice. Welcome to upper-middle-class-white-inferiority.)

The question is: do we need to camp, to support the revolution? Obviously, the camping makes a clear presence, and keeps the movement front-and-centre on the main streets of our cities, and it's also ensuring that some of the social infrastructures and systems that will be a part of the change we're making have a space to blossom, right in the hearts of our cities. But I would argue that that blossoming has been happening in various small ways, already, and that perhaps we can keep a presence without requiring so many of us to camp out on the grounds of the revolution. We need a central place from which to feed and catalyze the revolution that's already happening; we don't need to centralize everything to the occupation grounds at the cost of our own wider communities.

I know that's a very controversial statement, and I'd be glad to have comments, here, on this. At the moment I feel that the benefit of the tent-cities is threatened by the image they're creating. The infrastructure is good and productive, and obviously a certain number of people need to be there to maintain and protect it during the nights, but I think it would be more productive for the rest of us to save our energy and time, and put more energy into the daytime occupation.

When I participate in the marches, the meetings, and discussion groups; when I talk to people about life and art and science and humanity; when I drop off a donation or wash some dishes at the food tent, or when I browse the interesting information in the library, I know I am making a difference. I meet many intelligent people who have many interesting things to say and inspirations to help build our new reality. It feels right. But in the early morning, listening to a handful of people with really nothing constructive to say, embarrassed for knowing that the TV cameras were filming this as the face of what many perceive to be a failed revolution, I couldn't say that my sleeping there had made any difference at all.

Our family (and quite a few others from this island) will head over to Vancouver this weekend again, and I know it will be meaningful and good. But when the day is done, I think we make more difference by taking the revolution home into our own communities than we do by sleeping on it in the loudness and the brightness of downtown.

After all, we're having an election here, too, and I can't vote for Vancouver councillors, whether they call us squatters or not, but I can vote for people in my own community, and that matters.

Information on Occupy Vancouver's Security Committee, from the Occupy Vancouver website:
The security committee is seeking volunteers for 3-hour shifts (9pm-midnight; mid-3am; 3-6am) and there will be a sign-up board on Saturday. More information about responsibilities will be available on-site.


Occupy Vancouver (O.V.) is a non-violent movement for Social, Economic and Political Change, officially starting from October 15th, 2011, and will adopt the following policy with regard to Safety,  Security and Civility Issues. 

In the case of: 
1: Politically Motivated Violence (eg. property damage). 

O.V. does not endorse any form of political violence. In the case of any politically motivated violence O.V. participants will, to the best of their ability, attempt to physically distance themselves from the incident and keep themselves safe. 

2: Personal Verbal Abuse, Personal Physical Abuse (actual or threatened). 

O.V. as a community and movement will not tolerate personal physical or verbal abuse, actual or threatened. It is the policy of the O.V. to advocate calm and peaceful methods to resolving disagreements. Additionally it is the responsibility of all O.V. participants to help maintain and/or restore a peaceful environment if need be. 

Everyone needs to feel safe and secure, in order that we "hear all the ideas, to make better ideas." “To be one, to be united is a great thing. But to respect the right to 
 be different is maybe even greater.” 

Sunday, October 23, 2011

David Suzuki Speaks

I think this is the most important speech of my lifetime.
It's long (20 minutes), but very much worth watching.
And it's inspiring.
Let's make this viral.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Monday, October 17, 2011

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Occupy Vancouver Report

We spent most of Oct. 15th at Occupy Vancouver. Because of commitments on our island (a wood-heated home, pets, and the children's various activities), we won't be camping in Vancouver, but we do intend to spend a day there every week or so. We had a few reservations about the event, because we'd had so many warnings from people re: police violence, black bloc violence, angry protesters, etc. But there was none.

A few people commented supportively on the fact that we had our kids with us, and they were far from the only children there (although the children's area wasn't very well-used). It was, I think a fabulous learning experience for the kids, and their level of engagement even surprised me.

Taliesin said on the way into Vancouver that he didn't really want to go, but then seemed to be fully participating, throughout (this is a boy who NEVER does things he doesn't want to do, especially if it might lead people to believe things about him that he doesn't really feel). He held up his "let us eat real food" sign to the cops' faces, waved and smiled at them. He sat and listened to speakers and meetings. This boy who sometimes hides in corners in a class of children came right out of his shell, spoke to strangers, crawled around people to get a better seat at the meetings, and afterwards told me that he "felt comfortable, there, like with those people who were loving and friendly. Like at Uncle and Ginger's wedding." It was kind of amazing to me to see this transformation. This is a boy who is utterly unconfused about who he is, in the moment. Sometimes it just takes us parents some time to get with his program.

Rhiannon has no comment other than to say "it was nice", but did make herself a lovely sign. No input from us, of course... That red printing says: "What if the world was one big mounten." I'm not 100% sure what she meant by that, but somehow I think I get the gist of it.

Well, you know... when you have such a picturesque husband, you have to expect him to become the focus of others' cameras... On the Occupy Vancouver website (Flickr page that updates with new photos on a regular basis) I found two great portraits of him, neither of which he remembers being taken! Thanks to Mark Kortum for this one:

We were so worried about the post-riot VPD and their new MRAD (Medium Range Acoustic Device, which can be used as a sound-weapon to disperse protesters), that we brought along ear-muffs and plugs for the kids, but there was no need, this Saturday. There was one arrest, which may have been much more harsh than necessary, of a woman who had driven her car up onto the sidewalk. I'm not sure what happened, there, so I'm not going to speculate. What I did see were dozens of police men and women lining the perimeter of the gathering, smiling, talking with each other and with occupiers, nodding at and thumbs-upping various signs, and waving happily at anybody who was nice to them. This reenforced my thoughts that the police, like bankers, lawyers, salesmen, etc. are also members of the 99%. I used to think they might not know it yet. I'm now reminded that many of them actually do.

The group was so diverse. A friend mentioned to me that "the vague people they have on CBC are really discrediting the movement", but that is obviously not for lack of intellect at the gatherings. This crowd of an estimated 5000 seemed to have a high percentage of intellectually inclined people, and there was progressive, productive discourse going on everywhere, between people of all ages, genders, political leanings, and walks of life. Click on the photo above for a closer look. 

Cooperative games abounded!
So did less cooperative, but equally thought-provoking games.

People had many important things to say, both on and off mic. The mic was open to everyone, and the crowd was interested, engaged, and kind. Conversations around the occupation ranged from all the many various political and societal issues that brought people here, to the future of the Occupy movement, to how to maintain peace with cops and other protesters, to where to find a toilet, etc. etc. etc.

And we got to spend a little time with our friends, too! We saw at least 15 Bowenites there, though I didn't count. (Yes -- sign-sharing was all part of the process...)
Leaving the site? Drop off your sign! Need a new inspiration? Pick one up or make a new one at the sign-making station!!

The signs were diverse, and some bordered on threatening; but among the human interactions the message of love and respect was pervasive. Among the efforts to create harmony and happiness were the many committees formed (see a current list, here), and the infrastructure set up, staffed, and maintained by volunteers. There was food donated and distributed, a children's area, various sound-equipment areas, donated port-a-potties (which were sadly already overfull by Saturday evening, awaiting pump-out on Monday), a medical tent, a media tent, etc. etc. Here are some photos:

We went to donate some earplugs to the medical tent and found a small lineup of people, a woman being treated for an injured knee, a growing collection of supplies, and a couple of very good people putting their skills and compassion to good use as they ran the operation. We will not be without doctors in the new reality!
And our spiritual needs will of course also be looked after. Click the photo to enlarge and read the signs.

This is (a terrible shot of) the media tent. There are people diligently documenting the occupation, and they continue to put in a LOT of work, as is evident just from looking at all the resources at http://occupyvancouver.com


General Assemblies: GA's. 3 per day, at noon, 4PM and 7PM. There is an agreed-upon set of hand-signals for the Vancouver Occupation, and even if you think you are an unknown bystander standing out in a crowd of 5000, your opinion matters. Your fingers wiggling in the air means you agree. Your rolling fists mean you have a related point you'd like to add to the conversation. Your thumbs down means you disagree but will not stand in the way. Your crossed fists means full block; you'll leave the movement if the proposal goes ahead. We work on consensus, and YOUR VOICE MATTERS.

We participated in the pre-GA meeting, on the other side of the Art Gallery. There were a few friends in the group, as well, and we felt good to be in good company. This is where the hand-signals were discussed, refined, and agreed upon. There was no policy discussed, here. Just how to make the GA and occupation successful, inclusive, and peaceful. I was worried that the kids would be bored by this meeting, but Tal, at least, was captivated, and sat totally enthralled, soaking in everything that was discussed.

This man (ashamedly, I've forgotten his name) brought his "decentralized sound system" to use. It involved transmitting sound via radio to many different tuned-in ghetto-blasters, which were carried into the crowd by participants. I liked the idea in general, but as he spoke, I realized that it is not at all decentralized sound. It is, in fact, particularly centralized, as the voice of the one person with the mic booms out across the crowd, and no other voices are heard at all. I far prefer the human microphone system, where the speaker shouts 2-5 words at a time to the group, and those who can hear shout them back, thus amplifying the sound for everyone else. It's a very organic method, and when we participated in it we were much more aware of what was being said (because we repeated it ourselves, word-for-word), and we were much more engaged in the discussion. Also, unlike electric-amplification, where a person can speak as long as s/he wants, the forced brevity of the human microphone encourages a great clarity of thought and purpose. I can see that, for speeches such as those presented between the GA's, the sound system can be a benefit. However, for GA's and other group-participation purposes, the human microphone is still it!

As the evening got cold we had to head out for the last ferry home to our (cold) wood-heated house and hungry animals. We will not be camping in Vancouver. 

In fact, after having been actively engaging in the city for 13 hours, we were REALLY grateful to have a warm and soft bed to get home to. But we're also very glad we went, and I think we're all looking forward to our next day, there.

Thank you, everyone, for this wonderful first day of a beautiful new way of living! We'll be back again in a few days!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Unschooling and the Occupy Movement

In a few days I will bring my children to Occupy Vancouver.

The Occupy movement is about decentralization, and Unschooling is a huge part of that, so I want to discuss my thoughts about the whole thing, here on this blog.

We've been widely criticized for not naming a particular gripe or issue, and some are very reluctant to put a name on the movement. But I will attempt one:


We live in a highly centralized culture, and we are finally feeling the sting of that culture as it eats away at the core values and resources we need for life. We can debate and protest all we want within those diverse smaller issues, but any progress we make will be stifled by the centralized power we exist under. The only solution is to decentralize – which requires a great, massive 'coming together'.

I see it in these 2 terms:
1. We (together) develop a compassionate, conscious society. (So as we 'occupy' the central districts of our cities we put our minds together in peace and begin this journey.)
2. Being together in this way, we show everybody else that it IS possible, and that we CAN make change, and that they ARE welcome (Empower the rest of the world to join us in 1.)

There is already widespread unhappiness with 'the system'. People talk about the 99% taking back the power from the 1%, but I don't see it as being that adversary. The benefit of the occupations is to coalesce, and to reach the 98% who don't realize they're a part of the 99%. If 99% truly stepped away from the trap we live in, the 1% would probably join us, too. It's all about togetherness, as I said. Things like democracy, equality, and understanding cannot be reached without togetherness.

I think we're already making great strides in decentralization. If we can tackle the issues of openness, then other movements will just pick up speed, such as these, for example:

Unschooling, and other methods of decentralized learning and living are increasingly popular, with communities growing all over the world where progressive thought and action can flourish. My kids are completely unschooled, and have been for 3 years, now. The number of unschooling families joining us seems to grow exponentially, and the large conferences of like-minded unschoolers seem to be growing, too.
And for this reason I think it's essential that we allow our children to occupy our cities, too. It's their future, and they should be a part of it.
"Free children are not easily influenced; the absence of fear accounts for this phenomenon. Indeed, the absence of fear is the finest thing that can happen to a child."
~A. S. Neill     Summerhill School

Healthcare & Food:
There is a growing movement of decentralized food (local food, homegrown food, raw food, unmedicated food, small farms, raw milk, etc. etc.) This is the beginning of what will hopefully be a complete overhaul of 'the system', and reach its arms out to encompass and encourage the healthcare system, as we all head for the care we need, as opposed to the care that the government pays for. Much of that happens outside the hospitals, and I think we're a much more educated society than we were a few decades ago; more of us know how to look after ourselves, and healthcare gets decentralized as we become less dependent upon the hospitals to care for us.
Although I don't support privatizing healthcare, the freedom to choose our care (or not) will give new ideas and technologies space to grow.

The Occupy movement, among others, is working towards educating the masses about the effects of consumerism, capitalism, and living beyond our means, allowing us to take responsibility for the way we live, and to live in a way that our finances (and health and environment) can sustain. If we take out loans to buy houses we cannot afford, then we have nobody to blame but ourselves. The banks do, indeed, capitalize on this, but it is our choice whether or not we give them our money in the first place. I hope that the predicted real estate and financial crash will quickly encourage new forms of investment (like maybe social?!)

Who writes the history books? Who shapes the past and the future? Occupy movements are also a perfect example of how the centralized media are not working for us, and how we can make our own, decentralized news-sources. We've made them already: Social Media.
As we render useless the current systems (mainstream media, etc.), copyright issues and other such problems will sink away in an open-source social system where we all have voices, and the right to know anything we choose.

My friend published this very informative interview on her blog. It almost says more about the current state of traditional and social media than it does about Occupy movement. (And she transcribed it! Thanks, Alison!):  Chris Hedges and Keven O'Leary on CBC

Not so impressed, really.
There is, to me, little point in marching through districts where the super-rich live, or in using combative language/behaviour against those who seem not to support us. We are in this together, and in the end we want those who are now against us to feel welcome in our new reality. Further, we can't forget that each individual police officer, polititian, and CEO is also a part of the 99%. It will be a beautiful day when they begin crossing the line they draw.

Most of us have one or a handful of big issues that we've been concerned about for a long time: salmon, indigenous rights, education, food freedom, financial integrity, etc. etc. And all of these things are important. So bring them! But remember that this is about decentralization, so we don't want to centre our attention on one issue. We need to forge this change from the top down. We must co-create a new human policy, and then we will all bring our issues to the fore, and talk about them as humans with a common interest of finding peace and equality.

Iceland recently had a revolution (if you didn't know, don't be alarmed; neither did most of us! It wasn't covered by most mainstream media.) The people reclaimed their power, and wrote their own constitution, collaboratively, transparently, online. When Canadians reach that point, that will be the time to hammer out the details that concern our many separate issues.

Yes!!! This is where we break free of our definitions and find a new reality.
I think that the ideas of those people who don't believe in democracy will be instrumental in our communal development of a new definition of open-source, communal governance. Maybe it won't even be called democracy. The whole notion of democracy implies that there are other ways. I think when there is true agreement, we won't be pitting our various viewpoints against each other but will instead have a new way of conversing.
Surely there will be plentiful disagreement, but our progress depends upon our finding harmony.

US vs. THEM:
There's no point. We are gathering not to accuse or to blame, but to find better avenues for conscious living. What this does is give us the chance to be together, to share, to support, and to make change. Ultimately we make the changes in our own individual ways, but in doing so, and in community, we encourage and empower others to do the same.

Quite simply, because we're not in such dire straits – yet. But I think the sense that we could be is growing urgently, especially as we watch our federal government wheel us closer and closer to US policy, culture, and affiliation. We need to reclaim our voice and power, before they take us too far over that threshold.

So my family is making changes. Arguably, we've been making them slowly, for a long time, as we've chosen to eat organic and local food, drink raw milk, unschool our children, participate as a whole family in community changes and events, not give Christmas gifts, and garden. But feeling the support of the Occupy movement, we've now extended the no-gift-giving to the rest of our family members, telling them that we will not be giving gifts this year, and will refuse to accept any. We're assessing our options for going fully off-grid (not wanting to be dependent upon a hydro company that has no interest in its' customers' wishes), and we're cashing in our savings, paying off our debts, and going credit-free. We're also considering changing banking institutions, to support our tiny local credit union. We've stopped attending classes that require us to drive across the island every week, and now that our children can ride bikes, we can do more outings by bike, making our gas-powered vehicle less and less necessary. And we intend to raise chickens, sustainably.

Getting out of the system is REALLY scary to some of us. (No hydro? No schools? No Superstore?) But if we work together we can find ways to develop the new communal/open-source infrastructure we need.

"The solution's here! The solution is public understanding! The solution is explaining the difference of the 99% and the 1%. The solution is to explain practically what can be done!
What we need right now is a massive social understanding. It's starting here; it's spreading around the country."
~Jeffrey Sachs

So the actual gathering -- the Occupation -- works by bringing people together. It's a place where we can share ideas, support each other, and also be a beacon for those who need a light to follow. Hopefully it will continue to spread online, to reach those who don't live in the large metropoli. And most importantly, it makes the issue visible, so that people can see the potential for change, and can realize that they, too, are part of the 99%.

Join as you are; know that we all have our own causes, and let us be one voice for humanity.