Friday, February 27, 2009

“‘Treehouse Club’ worked for me!”

Today, like every Friday, my students have an exam.

The topic this week--regular verb conjugations.

Remember those from your days of high school foreign language classes? I didn’t think so.

Don’t feel bad. Most of the non-foreign-language-speaking crowd can’t do it once they leave school. It’s what keeps the college instructors in a job.

Anyway, I decided several years ago that I really needed to find a way to get people to understand the mechanics of conjugation without making it seem all grammar-y. I know, I know. Grammar-y isn’t a word. Stay focused for chrissake! I spent quite a while thinking about how to teach an essential, inherently boring, element of grammar in a way that helps teenagers get the concept so they can actually use it to string sentences together? After a little trial and error, I decided to go with the greatest strength of the Wayfarer methodology of instructional practice.

I told them a story.

The abridged version of this story is given below. In class, I draw this out with effects and drama, and it always seems to capture their attention. Good stories should do that.

“When I was a kid, there was this tree that was next to a cliff. One day, you and I decided to build a treehouse in the tree. The one we built originally had one level, but we decided to build a second level so we each had our own floor. In reality, the treehouse didn’t last very long (for reasons that should be obvious based on the construction data you’ve been given), but the idea was a good one and we were kids, so there you are.

I got to be the President of the Treehouse Club. Why? Well, it was my wood, my hammer and nails (ok, it was my dad’s but let’s not worry about the details), and it was my power cord being used to provide power to the television (see picture below). As president, I get to have the top floor of the treehouse, and I get the television and the foosball table (not illustrated for reasons of pure laziness).”

I point to one student. “Congratulations, Pat, you have been appointed Vice-President of the Treehouse Club. You get the second, lower level and with it, all the magazines, board games and the portable radio.

You’ll notice that the treehouse is built more to one side of the tree than the other. We could only build out so far on the cliff side, so we thought it would be a good idea to add extra space on the other to make up for it (Frank Lloyd Wright would have given us points for originality). On the cliff side, the treehouse was only big enough for one person to fit. I put my presidential suite on that side, on my floor of the treehouse. You did the same with your vice-presidential suite.

We made a few basic rules shortly after we finished the treehouse. We said that we could only go onto each other’s level if the other were there with us (this was to prevent unauthorized use of the television or theft of the board games). We could invite people up into the treehouse, but only to our own levels. Furthermore, no one was allowed into the treehouse unless we were there.”

At this point, there is usually some argument about whether this story has any basis in reality at all, or whether the rules were as inane as they sounded. There is also some discussion about how cool treehouses (and treehouse clubs) are, and how, if we had a treehouse at our school, we could have class in it. It always takes a minute to get the focus back.

I tell them that we’re only halfway through the story, and that this part is being used in part to set up the next part.

Would you like to hear it? You’re already this far into the post, you may as well finish.

“Let us imagine now that we’re fully moved into this treehouse. We have cable and wireless Internet, and all the modern amenities. Let us further imagine that we have saved our money and we intend to use it to buy a new verb. That’s right—a verb. Since we have Internet, we can order it online from (the central clearinghouse for all verbs online) and qualify for free shipping and a discount on all future purchases. It comes in 3-5 business days in its distinctive cardboard packaging.

We open the package to discover the verb and a whole host of attachments. Oooo! We like attachments! The verb happens to come with one already on it so, if we want to do something different, we have to take that one off, then put on the one for whomever is going to play with the verb.

If I’m playing with the verb, I’m going to play with it in my suite. Same with you. If we have friends up, we need to move to the bigger side of the treehouse, so everyone has room. We didn’t have a particular rule about loaning out the verb to other people, so this could be done. If only one person were to play with it, though, he or she has to do so next to the cliff by the tree.”

I realize I’ve gone on for quite a while with this elaborate storytelling, so I’ll cut it short to say that it’s all designed to explain a couple of things about conjugation. First, it settles the issue of hierarchy in French and Spanish (something that we don’t deal with in English, which makes the concept confusing). Second, it makes clear the mechanics of conjugation (which are invisible for us in English since almost all our verb forms are the same in any given tense).

The lesson goes on from this foundation. I show them how to unpack their verbs and make them match whomever is using them. I remind them of the basic idea of the treehouse: It’s better the higher up you go. This helps them to know how to figure out which ending is used when the subject of a sentence they’re making is complex, with lots of persons (“John, my friends, you and I…”).

End result: My students love this unit! I get a lot of positive feedback about it from them because they feel like they understand it right off the bat, and they can use it in their writing (which is getting more complex by the day). All this confidence showed on their exams, too. Of the 63 kids who took it today, about half earned Mastery Credit (90% or better, more or less) and only 3 had to retake the exam entirely (which means they didn’t come anywhere near passing it).

I’m proud of them. I’m also pleased when my unusual approaches to language learning work for them.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

So very tired...

The last couple of days have really worn me out.

I'm going to bed and watch Samurai Jack, Season 1, on DVD on my laptop.

I'll try to post tomorrow while my students are taking their exam.

It'll be a pretty quiet day, I hope.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

My resolve is weak

A Chips Ahoy® cookie contains 90 calories (½ from fat), addording to the label. An entire container of them (23 cookies, on average) would, therefore, contain nearly 2,100 calories. That's over 1,000 from fat, all of which I will happily eat today if someone doesn’t come take them off my desk.

10 Things Tuesday—Exhibitions

My students submitted the preliminary proposals for their Exhibition projects for my classes. Each of these will be composed of a formal research paper (5-7 pgs) and a Demonstration Element that allows them to creatively share what they’ve studied. They get a class period to present their topic of study to their classmates and involve them in an activity that helps them directly (and, if all goes well, creatively) learn something specific about it. Each year I get a wide range of topics, but I also usually have French as well as Spanish classes. This year, because I’m only teaching Spanish, I was expecting a narrow list, but I was surprised. Here are the ones that stood out, among the 48 different topics my students proposed to study:

1. The work and inspiration of the architect Antoni Gaudi. The student who proposed this has an idea working about how to help students to understand that creative inspiration can come from anywhere, and she’s thinking about demonstrating how Gaudi came upon the idea for La Sagrada Familia, in Barcelona.

2. Learning the Flamenco. There were two proposals for this topic in different classes, but in the one of note, the student is choosing to study the dance from an instructor over the course of the semester. She’s thinking about creating a short choreographed piece to share with the class, then teach them a few steps. If she completes what she proposed, she’ll qualify for Honors Credit because of the amount of time outside of class she’ll have spent in “research”.

3. Cervantes, Don Quixote and Spanish literature. I regularly see research proposals on Don Quixote, but this one will explore not the story, per se, but its influence on other works and other authors. The Demonstration Element is still under construction, so this topic may get tweaked before its approved, but I liked the original approach to an entirely too familiar topic.

4. Bolivia, through the eyes of a pen-pal. Most pen-pal based Exhibitions fail because the correspondence never materializes. In this one, though, there’s already some history between the student and her pen-pal. She’s going to research in detail where her pen-pal lives and what life is like, but her real work is to learn how to use technology to write in Spanish at a much more advanced level than what she’s practically able to manage on her own in class.

5. The Spears of Twilight. The student is reading the 1997 book by Philippe Descola, and wants to explore the discovery of indigenous peoples in Central and South America. I’m going to encourage her to look at what Descola did as an experienced anthropologist and compare it to what the conquistadors did in the 1600s. She’s still working on a Demo Element.

6. What it means to be Taína. The student with this proposal identifies strongly with her Puerto Rican heritage, and wants to explore who the Taíno really were, what the term “Taína” means today and why she should be proud of where she comes from. She wants to encourage others to think about issues of respect for heritage.

7. The work of Picasso. I get art proposals every year, but far more in French than Spanish (because of Impressionism). Lots of my students have heard about Picasso, but few no anything of substance. This proposal will do a good job of educating them on the basics of the artist and his work, then provide them a chance to create their own works based on his techniques.

8. Spanish Cinema. This student wants to learn more about what makes the cinema of Spain unique. She came to this topic after watching Penelope Cruz accept her Oscar, and her curiosity was piqued about what she didn’t know. She’s thinking about doing a mini film festival, using clips from a variety of Spanish films and directors.

9. The Inca. Of the three major pre-Columbian civilizations, the Inca are the least popular, when it comes to Exhibition topics. I’m looking forward to this one for that reason alone.

10. The instruments of Latin music. This proposal involves an exploration of the many and varied instruments that are used in traditional Latin music. The student will, as part of his demonstration, bring several of the more unique ones for students to learn about and teach them how to use them in concert to create music together.

I’m thinking about asking some of my students if they’d like to be considered as submissions for the Coalition of Essential School’s National Exhibition Month event. It’s early, but I think several of these have real promise. What do you think?

Monday, February 23, 2009

I tell people they wouldn't believe what goes on in my classes...

I let a student take this candid photo for this year's yearbook. I don't know if it made the cut, but I remember saying at the time that I didn't think anyone would understand it.

Do you understand it? I didn't think so. There's a lot that goes on in my classroom that you really have to be there to fully experience.

It looks like they're learning something, though, right? Right??

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Last day of February vacation

I hit the ground running tomorrow. I have a pile of material to push through in my classes before MCAS week steals my students and turns them into walking zombies. Today, though, we’re in a bit of a holding pattern. There is snow advancing (4”-8”), and the timing of it makes planning the day a little awkward. I think we’ve got it figured out but for the actual snow removal, but there is still some question as to whether Community Meal is on for tonight. Maeve and Caleb had plans to go upcountry originally, but they may cancel, which would mean they’d be here and we’d do dinner for the whole house. Not a big deal, but it helps to know how many egg noodles to put in the soup.

This is the first week of Wifeness’ reduced paycheck, so I’m on guard to keep our grocery bill under $150 this week. This shouldn’t be hard since we don’t need a whole lot of perishables and there is plenty of meat stocked in the freezer downstairs. We’ll need to do some planning about how to keep costs down in the long term, though,

I don’t know if we can afford the lump-sum payment for a farm share this year, but it would help keep food costs down. We’ll also need to pay closer attention to our little garden plot this year than we’ve done in years past. We eat a lot of salad, especially during the summer months, and every little bit we grow is several dollars we don’t spend. It’s not hard. It just requires attention that we’re not used to giving.

What things are you doing to save money?

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Marriage: Part 2

In this portion of my exploration of marriage, I’d like to put the six initial findings of my research to work, to see how they relate to the two major sides of the same-sex marriage issue in the United States.

Finding 1: The historical record supports marriage as first and primarily an institution designed to protect property and resolve matters of inheritance and lineage.

This standing is firmly upheld in today’s civil marriage laws. All other things aside for the moment, the legal code relative to marriage has clearly evolved to settle as unequivocally as possible the questions of property and inheritance. Most of the 1,400 legal and economic benefits and protections recognized by the state and federal governments involve matters of property and inheritance, and cannot be privately contracted. Only in a civil marriage contract are they recognized as valid.

Based on this, there is no standing for the point that our country’s view of marriage was founded on religious principles. This further argues that the contention that a marriage contract is a legal entity designed to discourage parties from dissolving their unions is untenable. This was certainly not the case initially, although a new type of marriage contract, a covenant marriage, provides for just such a distinction in today’s world.

Finding 2: The recognition of marriage in western Europe (where American marriage practices evolved) has a basis in Common Era history as a religious institution (and even earlier in Judaic practice), but at no point in the historical record is there evidence to support the contention that marriage was viewed primarily as a religious commitment by the general population.

The popularity of churches as a locale for marriage ceremonies notwithstanding, nowhere in the literature could I find statistical evidence to suggest that, however closely tied Americans as a whole may feel to their religious practice, their entrance into a marriage is predicated upon that commitment. Quite to the contrary, the rise of marriage dissolution in the U.S. in recent years as a result of the availability of no-fault divorce would suggest strongly that issues other than religious commitment are at work. The hesitancy of the general public to embrace the concept of covenant marriage (for reasons of its religious overtones) also evidences the fact that religion is not a primary impetus for marriage in our society currently.

Finding 3: Although we accept governmental oversight of marriage as the norm in modern society, its original involvement was the result of attempts to restore the institution to its standing as an informal social arrangement.

The American government’s interest in using its control of marriage as a tool to promote its own ends is well documented, and it must be conceded that marriage law has not been equally granted in my nation’s history. Yet, it has nonetheless been recognized and upheld as a key freedom under the U.S. Constitution [1]. This finding strongly supports the contention that marriage, as a long recognized private and personal contract, is fundamentally tied to all other discussions regarding civil rights.

Finding 4: American marriage tradition was based popularly not on a religious model, but a secular one.

The traditions we observe in weddings may be deeply rooted in religious observance, but these should not be confused with the very secular manner in which we approach the business of creating and dissolving marriages. This serves to underscore the point that marriage, as a social contract, has no foundation to be viewed through the lens of religion in the current discussion about same-sex marriage.

Finding 5: Although there is precedent in Roman times for the recognition of same-sex relationships as a form of marriage, there does not appear to be explicit mention of the validity of such relationships in later writings, religious or secular, in the Common Era.

I need to defer on certain aspects of this point until I’ve done more research, but even absent that information, it nonetheless adds strength to the argument that marriage, as a word, has, throughout history, had the accepted definition described below.

Finding 6: Writings on marriage, when viewed in context, are clearly based on a long accepted colloquial definition of the term as referring to unions between men and women, although there is no particular mention of the term as restrictive to one man and one woman alone.

Despite marriage’s possible origins as a polygamous arrangement, since the beginning of the Common Era, there has been little attempt to use the term “marriage” alone to describe social unions other than those between a single man and woman. That a host of other terms abound to describe a great many variants of human relationships (many of which are narrowly defined types of social unions) is testimony to the fact that the term “marriage”, when used on its own, is popularly held to be distinct and special.

The rapid semantic change of a term, especially one that has a specific, time-honored implication like “marriage”, carries with it a host of problems, not the least of which is confusion in what the term really means in current oral and written usage. Legal and administrative uses of a word, especially, require rigid forms of standardization to prevent misinterpretation over time. This issue is not the primary objection of those concerned with the perceived usurpation of the term “marriage”, but it is certainly one that bears consideration in a global discussion about how to create a functional paradigm of marriage that all sides can take ownership of.


The following conclusions are based on what I have uncovered so far:

1. Although marriage is integrally connected to religion in our minds because of the traditions and perceived sanctity of the institution, it is not, practically speaking, religion that motivates us to seek such unions, nor is religion a primary influence over how marriages are viewed socially, politically or legally. That is not to say that discussions about marriage reform should ignore the input of religion; rather, it is that religion should not be the lens through which we examine the issue.

2. The right to marry is a fundamental freedom in the United States, and has standing as such both by virtue of its extensive history and modern constitutional interpretation. Like other rights, however, exactly which constituencies in American society are given such freedoms has evolved over time. We should not lose sight of this fact in discussing how to include all Americans equally in the freedoms and opportunities of our society.

3. The term “marriage” is a specific term with far-reaching significance for all segments of society. Its meaning cannot be broadened without confusing what has been said and written about it in the past, or without complicating the discussion of how to create an inclusive model of social union that meets the needs of all Americans.

In the next post, I want to look at what these three conclusions mean in the context of gay marriage, specifically, and how we as a country might begin to think about ways to approach that particular discussion.

[1]“The Fourteenth Amendment requires that the freedom of choice to marry not be restricted by invidious racial discriminations. Under our Constitution, the freedom to marry, or not marry, a person of another race resides with the individual and cannot be infringed by the State.” [HERE]

Friday, February 20, 2009

The Universe gets points for trying

The triathlon is about to start. I’m there, on the beach, in the transition area when, suddenly, I realize I don’t have any bottled water. And where are my running shoes? Oh, no! OK. Don’t panic. Go get the water first, I tell myself. I rush off to the convenience store. Damn it! They don’t have any I can find. All they have are sports drinks. And the line at the cash register is really long! Ugh! There’s a moment of indecision when I hear the start gun go off. I rush to the window and I can see heads bobbing in the surf. My group is in the water! I’ve missed the start!


My eyes snap open and I jerk up from the pillow. I realize there’s no need to panic. It was just a dream. My heart is pounding, but I bring it down to normal with some deep breathing. It takes a moment or two of focus, and I’m feeling calm and ready to get up and do my laps at the pool. I look at my watch.

Aw, crap! It’s 5:50! I’ve missed my time! If I’m not out the door by 5:45, I can’t get in my laps before I have to be home to get ready for the day.


Dear Universe,

Thank you for trying to help. Can we work together to create a dream for these occasions in which I’m arriving ON TIME? That’d be a big help.



Thursday, February 19, 2009

Today SiSi, NiNi and I…

Chillaxed on the grownup bed reading and writing until 10am.

Had toast for breakfast from bread Karla made last night. She’ll need to make more this weekend.

Found clothes we needed in one of the four baskets of unfolded laundry in the living room.

Talked about how, if you get frustrated with something, it’s better to leave it be and come back to it than it is to “drama” (this is a new word in the Wayfarer House dictionary—see below).

Built a snowman out back, and then moved it to the front of the house by reconstructing it on a saucer sled.

Enjoyed the smell of pipe smoke.

Played “Knights in Hawaii with Non-Fiction Television” (featuring Hermione Granger) with Legos®. No, really.

Made hamburger patties with a mold made from a cream cheese container (they came out just the right size for the buns).

Thanked Karla for running the tubbyshower and cleanup routine.

Watched Star Wars.

Went to bed tired. It was a good day.

Dra•ma [drah-muh] (no alternate pronunciation) verb, -ed, -ing.

1. To create, by means of excessive and hyberbolic actions, words and sounds (esp. sniveling), a sense that an event, situation or circumstance is more severe and/or desperate than is actually the case.

2. To employ obvious and intentional exaggerations with the specific intent of garnering sympathy for an event, situation or circumstance well within the control of the individual to resolve.

Marriage: Part 1

Before you begin, you should know this is a long post, and it’s pretty weighty. If you like, you can skip all the details and just read my findings [HERE].


I began to explore the topic of marriage in earnest when the debate of equal rights for gay and lesbian couples reached a peak of intensity during the fall of 2008 as a result of the pending vote on California Proposition 8. This initiative, like others in states around the country, sought in essence to define the term “marriage” as it is recognized by the state to mean a marriage between one man and one woman. In an earlier exploration of the marriage question in California [HERE], I went back to the beginnings of the issue in California, in an effort to get some deeper perspective. In doing that research, I was introduced to both sides of this now contentious argument, and found that, on the surface, both sides had merited concerns. I committed at that time to dig even deeper, to see if I could come to some conclusions about the nature of marriage in society--and, in particular, American society. The idea was that understanding both the history and purpose of the institution would lead me to better be able to see how the two seemingly irreconcilable points of view on the topic might be harmonized.

In this entry, I will attempt first to lay an historical foundation from what literature I could access conveniently. I will make determinations along the way that will set the stage for an opinion which, in the posts on the topic that follow, will demonstrate how the idea of marriage might be viewed so that both sides’ concerns are given due weight and consideration. In writing this, it is not my intention to present myself as an authority on the subject, nor do I suggest that the findings presented here are based on perfectly correct information. If you should find me in error, please say so; I will gladly reinterpret any findings improperly founded.

Finally, it is important to note that this work represents my own casual research on the topic, and I have made no effort to provide all the documentation necessary to support my findings. My exploration of this issue is not to support a point, but to come to one. I would describe my views as emerging here because, seeing as I do legitimacy to the seemingly contradictory positions of this debate, I will not feel firm in my opinions until I can clearly see how they can be merged into a reasonable paradigm that allows all the points I see as valid to complement each other without tension. I’m putting my views on this topic in a public forum not to press a point, but to invite considered discussion with the intention of creating that paradigm. Those with already well entrenched views on this topic may feel that my attempts to justify a contrary position are incorrect on their face. I encourage them to look beyond the surface, to put aside their notions of right and wrong for the moment, if they can, and look at the findings on their own terms. Later, we can explore together whether, or how, things can be reconciled pragmatically.


1. The historical record supports marriage as first and primarily an institution designed to protect property and resolve matters of inheritance and lineage.

2. The recognition of marriage in western Europe (where American marriage practices evolved) has a basis in Common Era history as a religious institution (and even earlier in Judaic practice), but at no point in the historical record is there evidence to support the contention that marriage was viewed primarily as a religious commitment by the general population.

3. Although we accept governmental oversight of marriage as the norm in modern society, its original involvement was the result of attempts to restore the institution to its standing as an informal social arrangement.

4. American marriage tradition was based popularly not on a religious model, but a secular one.

5. Although there is precedent in Roman times for the recognition of same-sex relationships as a form of marriage, there does not appear to be explicit mention of the validity of such relationships in later writings, religious or secular, in the Common Era.

6. Writings on marriage, when viewed in context, are clearly based on a long accepted colloquial definition of the term as referring to unions between men and women, although there is no particular mention of the term as restrictive to one man and one woman alone.


Marriage as a social institution predates recorded history, so it is not perfectly clear how it came to be originally. It seems to have emerged as a civil arrangement several thousand years ago, about the same time as the recognition of private property ownership. The earliest recordings of marriages indicate that they were used as a way to expand or consolidate assets from different clans or family groups, such as we in the west recognize through the ritual of dowry. Theories about primitive marriage suggest that such unions were polygamous; indeed, there is a strong basis in recorded history in many cultures for polygamy as accepted practice. Religious guidelines were not part of marriage before the Common Era, but similar codes were thought to have developed in primitive marital arrangements in order to protect assets by restricting wealthy individuals from marrying outside their faith. This tenet still exists tacitly today in Islamic practice, as described in the Cairo Declaration of Human Rights in Islam, which confirms that men and women should have the "right to marriage" regardless of their race, color or nationality, but not religion.

Marriage in the ancient cultures that provided the evolutionary basis for our own current rituals was largely viewed as a private matter, and neither government nor religion played an active part in its formation or dissolution. In Ancient Greece, for example, there was no specific civil ceremony required for a man and woman to marry. Only a mutual agreement was necessary. Similarly, Roman marriages (and divorces) involved no specific approval either by government or religious entities, although at least one form of the ritual required a ceremony and witnesses to make clear the transfer of the woman’s rights of inheritance from her old family to her new one [1]. It would seem that only Judaic practice viewed the institution of marriage as anything other than a civil arrangement. In Judaism, marriage is viewed as a covenantal bond in which a man and a woman come together into a relationship in which the Creator takes an active role.

Even among Christians, marriage was considered a private matter, established by mutual consent and a declaration of intention to marry, and consummated by the physical union of the parties. The Roman Catholic church technically required either a banns of marriage (a public announcement) or a license in order to allow any canonical objections to the union to be voiced, but ignoring these did not affect the validity of the marriage in the eyes of the church until the Council of Trent in 1566 decreed that a marriage would only be recognized if it were officiated by a priest and witnessed by at least two people. [2]

The tension between the Roman Catholic and Protestant churches during the time of the Reformation that ultimately resulted in this catechism is also responsible for the introduction of governmental oversight on the issue of marriage. John Calvin, known for his outspoken critiques of catholic usurpation of marital jurisdiction from the secular community, wrote and enacted the Marriage Ordinance of Geneva, which necessitated "the dual requirements of state registration and church consecration to constitute marriage". That Calvin would require church consecration as a criterion for a legal marriage is curious, in that he defended repeatedly the principle of free consent in marriage his works and sermons. The Marriage Ordinance was enacted for use in Geneva and its surroundings in the late 1540s and 50s, and outlined many of the processes that are part of civil marriage law today. Among these were the requirement to register with civil authorities and the formal grounds under which a marriage could be annulled or dissolved (matters that were to be dealt with in civil, not ecclesiastical court).

Government control over marriage was further tightened in England as a result of Hardwicke's Marriage Act 1753 [3]. This legislation, the result of a dispute about inheritance in a Scottish common-law marriage, swept away the legal validity of informal marriage and created vast divide between the legal and social definitions of the institution. Although this Act did curtail the nefarious practice among the elite of using bigamous marriages to obtain protection from creditors, the effect was egregious for the working class. Women, especially, found the new law harsh, for many found they were deprived of financial and inheritance protections offered by prior practice. As a result, a great many couples traveled to Scotland or other parts of Great Britain to be married where the Act was unenforceable. It was not until the Dissenters' Marriage Act of 1836 that citizens were permitted to marry in their own chapels or by a civil contract.

The American colonies rejected the requirement of a religious ceremony as part of marriage, but retained the custom of a ceremony, religious or otherwise. The ancient Roman concept of marriage by agreement and cohabitation was adopted by early American courts as valid under the common law although, by the 1800s, state legislatures began to enact laws expressly to prohibit marriage without an observed ceremony and other requirements. Despite this trend, the validity of common law marriage was upheld by the United States Supreme Court in Meister v. Moore (1877).

In the next post, I'm working to build on the findings of this post to assess the arguments of both sides of the marriage debate in the U.S.

[1] It is worth noting that the first recorded use of the word "marriage" for the union of same-sex couples seems to have come during Roman times. Such relationships were common in the Roman Empire, although it seems that the term “married” was rarely associated with them. I am continuing to research what terms, if any, might have been used to describe same-sex relationships. If anyone wants to go digging for this, I'd be grateful.

[2] Separately, the council also defined marriage as “The conjugal union of man and woman”. See [HERE], Pg 230.

[3] See [HERE], Pg 62.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

This is why I'm a teacher...

An alumna tagged me in a note she wrote on Facebook recently:

“I blame two teachers in my life for the travel bug: Ms. Bridgewater at Erving Elementary and (Wayfarer)."

Thanks, Kimmie! It was so great to take you to France! I can’t believe that was 7 years ago! You made it the best student trip I’ve ever led. Truly. I’m honored you used my first name, too. Most of the students I taught at your high school still think of me as “Mr.” I’m glad we’re beyond that.

When might we see you for dinner next?

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

A Failure to Provide the Drama

I spent the tail end of yesterday reading bloggage and offering comments (I’m really sorry it’s taken me so long, everyone), and I was struck by a particular sentiment among several that I’m just beginning to read. A couple of them seemed to say that they don’t like to read blogs that lack drama because they’re just not interesting enough.

I get that. I get how people would want drama in their reading. It’s what makes for good fiction, after all. I also get how, if all people did was write about what went on in their day, it wouldn’t mean much unless you had a personal investment in them. One of the reasons I decided to work on a general theme in this space is to avoid just that issue (although, based on the fact that all I did the last two days is give you a to-do list, I’ve clearly got some work to do). I’d like to apologize, then, to the people who read this blog and find that it lacks a certain interest. I’ll try to do better.

Here’s the thing, though. While I will do my best to be aware of the need to write things of interest, you won’t find a lot of conflict and drama here. There’s just not that much of it in my life. I wrote in my profile a phrase that means more and more to me every time I read it. It says, “My life is both mundane and spectacular, and no, that’s not a paradox.” In part, this means that my life is just a life. I get up with messy hair. My kids don’t always play well together. I have bills and not a lot of money. In part, it means that, in the midst of all that, I choose to enjoy a sense of wonder and discovery at my life. Even when things aren’t going according to plan, I am often amazed at all the things that have added up to that particular moment. It doesn’t mean I won’t be pissed when the house is falling down around me. It does mean that I’m continually amazed I live in a house that I actually signed the loan for bought. Life is what life is, and for most of us it’s got all the same stuff. The thing that makes it spectacular--and the thing that leaves it largely devoid of conflict--is how I choose to view it.

Am I just leading a rich internal life, do you think?

Monday, February 16, 2009

The weekend in review

I spent the last two days working on my to-do list. I got a lot done, and I felt like I'd accomplished something when I went to bed last night. It felt, in a word, good.

I have a lot more to do, but that's the way of things. There's always more to do, but here's the replay.

1. I reset my grade books and moved things around for the spring semester classes. I can now record attendance properly and correct the exams in my briefcase. Next on this list is purchasing. I need to spend some money!

2. I worked through more of the book I'm reading as part of my Community School homework. I have notes, and more importantly, I have stuff for myself and Wifeness to do to move the project forward.

3. I narrowed down the list of things I want to accomplish this coming year. It's a short list. That's ok. The things that are on it are things that will require time and attention all year long. I have a couple of 1-time items (woodworking projects, triathlons), but this year it's about moving the grand endeavors along.

4. I got a little exercise, but ended up totally in the zone to work on "in my head" things, so I rode that wave instead. Everybody's coming home today around suppertime, so I may take an hour in the afternoon to go down to the gym. We'll see how the domestica portion of the list goes.

5. I didn't write any letters per se (although I did shoot of a random email to my dad). I have the list of people, though, and I will make progress today on it.

6. I worked on the two blogs. I moved stuff around on this one, and fixed the colors, but I have no idea if it works better than what I had or not. I'd appreciate some feedback. On the Community School blog, I started filling the pages on the navigation bar. I got as far as the Q&A page yesterday. I hope to add more today. That blog will take time to build up. There's a lot to put in it, and it's not small stuff. That's what I get for waiting so damn long to start on it!

7. I'm sorry, everyone, but I think the blog love will have to wait until tonight.

8. I haven't gotten as deep into the resource material for the Community School as I want. I have a couple of target items to review today. The rest I'll get to a little at a time during the week.

9. I'm going to linger over breakfast and coffee, then start on the domestica. I think I'll put on some good '80s music to energize. Yes there is too good '80s music!

10. Family posts... Gotta start those...

11. What time is it, anyway? I lose all track of the hour when I'm on these intense weekends. I think I slept late, but I honestly don't know. The sun was shining when the cat jumped on me. That means it was at least 7am. Hmmm... I may have to take a nap later to make up for that.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Shhh… Can you hear that?

It’s the sound of me. Just me. All alone. Well, not all alone. The cat is here. She often comes over to pester me while I’m sitting on the couch, but the sunspot in the dining room is apparently a more compelling entertainment, and so it is just I.



Unaccompanied by family, for they have gone to Nana’s for the long weekend.

My wife, who is good to me in ways I can hardly begin to describe here, gave me this time so I could do stuff. When I was in graduate school, I relied on weekends like these to do the deep thinking and writing that was necessary to keep up on my coursework (they are largely responsible for the 4.0 average I carried throughout my M.Ed.) I am using this particular weekend to take care of a variety of tasks:

1. Turn my school paperwork around for the spring semester. Our school's Turnaround Day was confiscated for professional development, and I haven't had time to do any of the prep work that is really necessary for me to get this semester off the ground. I've done a decent job flying by the seat of my pants, but I need to get the scaffolding under my feet or I'm going to crash and burn when my kids come back from vacation on the 23rd.

2. Do some work on the Community School project. This is one of the things I think that's been responsible for my lack of quality sleep lately. I put a lot of this work off in the fall to focus on my presentation in Charlotte, but it's time to get back to it.

3. Finish my goals for the year. For some reason, this has been surprisingly taxing for me this year. I just need to sit down and make some choices, so I can be done pondering the possibilities. There are just too many at this point.

4. Hit the gym and the pool. I recently added laps to my pool distance (I'm up to 8/10 of a mile) and I got the chance to go for a run outside for the first time in two months. I'm motivated to do more, and this weekend presents the opportunity to spend some quality time training. It will be warm soon, and I want to be ready to get off the machines and on the road!

5. Write a couple of letters. Kestrel just sent us a wonderful newsy letter from San Fancisco, where she's doing a publishing internship. Several of my alumni and friends are due the same from me.

6. Work on my two blogs. Did you notice the subtle additions under the banner?

7. Give some blog love. I haven't had time to blog surf this week, and I know I owe several of you comments.

8. Review some material about foster care programs and schools. Related to work on the Community School project, this is stuff I've put off for a while that I've been meaning to explore.

9. Do some laundry, some dishes and clean the house. Wifeness really likes coming home to a clean house and, besides, the place really needs it. We were all busy this week, so only the basics got done. There are piles of $&!# everywhere and the carpet is disgusting. I may not get to all of this, but I'd really like to feel like I don't live in a complete sty.

10. Coalesce some thoughts on my long-overdue posts on family and marriage. No, Chili, I haven’t forgotten. It's just taken me a while to put my thoughts in order on these and, since these thoughts are parallel to thoughts I'm also processing about the Community School, they've been slow to taxonomize.

11. Sleep late.

Here’s to an ambiciously planned weekend, and the firm expectation that I will kick the pants off my to-to list! What’s your weekend looking like?

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

I guess they call it insomnia...

I’ve been having trouble sleeping the last week or so. I’m tired early in the evening, but I can’t seem to actually get to sleep and, even when I do manage to get there, I wake up much earlier than I should. At first, I thought it was just a biorhythm adjustment gone awry (this often happens when my routines change), but it’s gone on for longer than it should, and now my sleep is giving me strange dreams.

I don’t dream very often. Well, that’s not quite true. Rather, I don’t often have dreams I remember when I wake. Usually, I rouse from sleep, say, “Huh. Nice dream, that,” and it’s gone from my head by the time I lift it up from the pillow. There have been some notable exceptions to this, most famously the dream in which SiSi’s name came to me, but, generally, I don’t give my dreams much attention as they fade into the ether.

If I have a dream that echoes strongly enough for me to remember after I get up, I have learned to recognize it as something I’m supposed to pay attention to. If I have the same dream (or a variation on it) several days in a row, I know to take it as a sign from the universe that I’m not doing something I should be. I’ve been having such dreams for a couple of days.

The last time I had dreams like this with the same sleep issues, it was because I was avoiding something I was supposed to be taking care of. On a conscious level, I may have tried to justify why I was avoiding it, but my subconscious very clearly did not accept the excuses and sent the same dream to me several nights in a row until I said, “All right! All right!” and I dealt with the problem. I think the same thing is going on now, but I’m not entirely sure which of the myriad things I have going on the universe is telling me to work on.

The women of my house are leaving for Nana’s on Friday to spend the long weekend. I often use these “free” weekends to take care of stuff that requires constant focused attention that simply can’t be done when I have to be on duty as the papa. I’ve been creating a list of things to do, but I think I’m going to clear my schedule until I can pin down the thing that isn’t on it, that my subconscious is telling me needs to be there.

I’ll let you know once I figure it out. In the meantime, I have to get ready for school.

Monday, February 9, 2009

The bear has eaten me.

Some days it just happens that way. It wasn't a bad day, but it did wear me out in a way I wasn't at all expecting. I'm going to retire early, in the hopes that will reset my system. More tomorrow...

Sunday, February 8, 2009

A tradition passed on...

Most weekends at Wayfarer House we have pancakes for breakfast, a tradition that has carried over from my youth, when my father would make them nearly every Saturday. My dad taught me how to make them when I was 10 or so, and I have carried that experience with me since as one of the most empowering and satisfying of my childhood. Of all the things I cook, I have been making pancakes the longest. It's the only recipe I know by heart.

It happened quite by accident that SiSi and I were talking about recipes yesterday. She asked me if I knew any that she could write down in her (homemade) notebook. I gave her my recipe for pancakes. Then she asked if we were having them tomorrow, and if she could help make them. She's a very capable 7-year old and we didn't have anyplace to be, so I said, "Sure!"

This morning, while she washed her hands, I got down the ingredients, the mixing bowl and the measuring tools (many of these things are up out of reach). She measured out everything and put it all together. You can see that there's flour everywhere--that's actually not all her. I was adding flour from the bag to the storage container and had a spasm. Oops!

I love the focused concentration here! She wanted to get exactly one cup of milk. I didn't have the heart to tell her that milk is the one ingredient that varies each time.

Then to the stove (she's not quite tall enough to work at the stove without a stool), where I showed her how much to ladle onto the skillet to get the size of pancake that Mama likes. I was impressed that she got it perfect the very first time--and with no spillage!

I was even more impressed that she didn't flip a single pancake off the griddle. I think I had them all over the kitchen when I was a kid!

She cooked about half the batch. I offered to take over at that point so she could actually sit and enjoy the fruits of her labor with her sister. When I asked her how she thought they came out, she said, in her wonderfully understated way, "Awesome."

Saturday, February 7, 2009

I am exhausted today.

Yesterday was an emotionally trying day. My work day was spent having dialogs with staff on race and diversity issues (these were good and positive discussions, but draining nonetheless). Afterward, I drove 40 minutes to bring the girls home, then 80 minutes roundtrip back downcountry to the memorial service for Monica, Lisa and Joanna. My heart is heavy with concern for them, and going to the service was a little tough. I got home from it at 10pm and, despite being ready for bed, really wasn’t prepared for sleep.

I tossed and turned all night, finally realizing that I was not going to get back to sleep when Elena woke up upstairs at 3:00 in the morning (I could hear her stomping around, which I simply can’t sleep around at that time of the night). Rather than fight it, I just got up and worked on school stuff until 6am, when I finally felt tired enough to close my eyes.

That lasted until 6:35, when Soren got up. Sigh.

So, basically, I haven’t been able to get out of my own way today. I took a long nap around noon and that helped a little bit, but really it’s just going to be one of those days where not enough gets done and I hold on until bedtime. Bleh.

Friday, February 6, 2009

How little things can mean a lot...

Wednesday night, when I got home, I immediately set about getting supper ready. Because of intercession at my school, the last couple of weeks I’ve been able to get home before Wifeness and the girls do. When that happens, I try to take care of supper because it is usually something my wife has to do. During my regular teaching year, I don’t often get home until just before we need to put food on the table, so it is up to my wife to make that happen most nights. On Wednesday, though, I was expecting to deal with supper.

I had been thinking about what to make on the way home. I had decided on rice to go with the kielbasa that needed to be cooked, but Karla informed me that Wifeness was expecting macaroni and cheese. That worked for me. Mac and cheese is faster to prepare than rice. I grabbed a couple of boxes of Annie’s from the pantry and pulled the pot out from the dishwasher, but then I paused. For some reason, this wasn’t right. It was mac and cheese, but it wasn’t quite what was supposed to be. I sat there for several minutes, staring at the boxes. What was my problem? Mac and cheese is not complicated. There’s not a lot of variation on the theme of mac and cheese, and yet I couldn’t escape the thought that this was not was I was supposed to make.

My brow was still furrowed when Wifeness came in the door. I explained my problem as best I could (I may have said that I just wasn’t feeling the love for boxed mac and cheese), but that didn’t quite say what I was feeling. I hemmed and hawed inside, looking for some way to quantify what was going on in my brain, even though I couldn’t quite put my finger on the problem or a solution. My wife, perhaps with supernatural understanding, offered, “Would you like me to do homemade mac and cheese?” That’s when the lights came on.

A while ago, I was walking down the hall at school when Monica caught my attention by saying hello and smiling. She was sitting on the floor in the hall (not at all unusual at my school) and she was eating something out of a paper cup. When I inquired as to what it was, she said, “Mac and cheese.” I asked, with no small amount of derision, “Is it good?” She shrugged her shoulders and replied, “It’s food.”

Can you see the teachable moment forming here? We talked about the difference between her concept of food (that which fills the belly) and my concept of food (that which also nurtures the heart and soul). The conversation (which might have gone on for a long time) eventually ended with my offering to demonstrate how good, homemade food does more for a student in school than packaged food nuked in a paper cup. I said, “You know, our house makes some really good homemade mac and cheese from time to time. When it comes up on the menu next, I’ll make extra and bring it in.” Monica thought this was a great idea, as you might imagine and, over the next several weeks, she would ask regularly if it had come up yet. She would jibe, “I’m soooo hungry!” and feign sadness when I told her we just hadn’t worked it into the menu.

Monica is one of the sisters who lost her mom this week.

In its curious way, I’m feeling like the universe alerted me to something important. I don’t think I told Wifeness why at the time, but I know I said, when she offered to do it, that it would be great if she did homemade mac and cheese. A lot of homemade mac and cheese. She questioned it when I brought out two full boxes of pasta. “Are you SURE you want this much??” Yes, I’m sure. This is what we’re supposed to cook.

If I haven’t said it before, my wife is an awesome cook. Apart from the technical skill she demonstrates in the kitchen, everything she makes is infused with love and I believe absolutely that her food is better for what she puts into it of herself. It tastes better. It feels better. It nurtures better. I try to express my appreciation to her for all that she does, but I was especially grateful for the fact that she offered to do this without even knowing (or knowing why) it was important. In case I didn’t make it clear then, thank you, my love!

There were, as expected, a whole lot of leftovers. I put some in a separate container to bring to school, surreptitiously making sure that night that she was going to be on campus tomorrow. Aside from the fact that her family was in the middle of mourning a death, it was intercession, and her group was often off-site during the school day. I found out that she would, in fact, be at school, so I pushed to get to school early enough to catch her before we both had to get to our own business. I found Monica with a couple of people in a classroom. She said hi to me, then looked at the container I had in my hand. I gave it to her and said, “My wife made it last night. I’m sorry it took so long.”

She gave me a hug and said, “Thank you.” The hug lasted a really long time.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

A sweetened, condensed blog

This blog has been running (albeit sporadically) for a couple of years now, and I’ve felt for a while that it’s lacked a certain something. Recently, I figured out what that something was: A cohesive theme. All good blogs seem to have something that unifies their content, and I can’t help but feel like mine is little more than rambling. I’ve decided to fix that.

I’ve been thinking about what would condense this blog to its purest form, the essence of what I really want to say here. It was the tag line in the title of the blog that made the light come on. It reads, “Find a path, then follow it.” This saying has several facets. One of them is concerned with discovery, especially the exploration of self. I believe strongly that there is no greater work we can do individually than learn about ourselves. In doing so, we paradoxically become able to see beyond our own interests and prejudices. This allows us to understand our intrinsic connection to our world and, through this understanding, we begin to recognize a life of happiness is possible because of others, not in spite of them.

Another facet of that statement communicates my belief that we are all the time at the crossroads, and that in order to fulfill our destiny, we simply need to choose our road. Lately, I’ve been talking a lot to people about choices, and the importance of making them instead of having them made for us. While, certainly, abdicating decision is also a form of choice, living one’s life solely by doing so does not help one find purpose and direction.

A third facet involves following the paths we choose. I very much value the importance of living a life of intention. Having a purpose gives meaning to what we do, however mundane or absurd it may seem out of context. It guides us in our choices, and helps us to see beyond the horizon. It motivates us when we are faced with challenges and helps us rebound from mistakes. Living with intention both supports and depends upon choice and self-discovery, and that symbiotic relationship is a source of constant fascination to me.

That’s what I decided to explore in this blog on: Self-discovery, choice, living with intention, and the relationship between these things. Sounds all serious and heavy, doesn’t it? I don’t think it’ll be that bad. Like I do most things, I fully intend to talk about this stuff with a spoon on my nose at times but, the more I consider this theme, the more I feel like it expresses what I really want to share and collaborate on through this blog.

Of course, there’s way more going on in my world than deep thinking, and I’ll continue to talk about life at Wayfarer House and teaching and the other things that fill up my world. It is the mundane bits, after all, that keep the big ideas in their proper place. The only exception to this will eventually be the Community School project. I’m constructing a separate blog to get that information out on the web. It should be done soon.

I hope this clarity in vision will improve the flavor and readability of the space. I feel confident that it will help me find a clear, consistent voice for what I write here. Maybe it’ll even be of use to someone, somehow. That’d be nice.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Dear Sam...

You came to me today asking if you can still earn credit in Spanish, should you complete the mountain of back work you have by the end of the year. Let me tell you first that I’m proud of you for coming to me. It takes a lot of bravery to take responsibility for your actions, and even more to try to make things right. To answer your question, yes, if you meet the standards for the course through your practice work, exams and projects by the end of the year, you would earn credit for the course. I have to tell you, though, that this answer is a little misleading. Let me explain.

The course began at a fairly slow pace back in September, and we spent a lot of time focusing on the habits and routines that language students need to have in order to do well in their studies: Spending time every day in practice of some kind, learning how to effectively memorize new vocabulary and expressions, and finding resources to help you both in and out of class. You saw a decent amount of practical Spanish, but the best part of your work was spent on building a foundation that, once built, would support you in the deeper work to follow.

By the time we got to December, the class had picked up in pace and intensity. You noticed that you were seeing a lot more vocabulary, the language was getting more complex and we were being asked to put the foundational work into practice regularly. It was at this point that you began to feel overwhelmed and, understandably, started to avoid the work you felt you weren’t equipped to complete. I hope you realize now that this strategy is not an effective one. Recognizing this is an important first step in getting back on track, but it is not the only one you will need to take if you will be successful in the class.

When we reconvene next week, we will spend a short amount of time getting up to speed, but very quickly we will pick the pace up beyond where we were when we ended the semester. If you don’t have the foundational skills in place, then keeping up will be extremely challenging. Add to that the fact that you will also still doing work from earlier in the year, and you can see that your brain will have to be operating on two levels, both at lightning speed, in order to stay with the class as it continues to move forward.

The real question to ask, therefore, is this: Is it to your benefit to work to earn credit in Spanish, or does it serve you better to drop the course and come back to it next September? Consider all the pieces of the puzzle in your answer. You’re in 8th grade, and you do not need this class to move into 9th grade. By contrast, you do need to pass your other core classes (math, science, history, language arts) to move on. How are you doing in those classes? Understanding the commitment required to get through Spanish, will you be able to hold your own in ALL of your classes during the spring? Also, how motivated are you to do what I’m telling you is coming? I’m not asking you how confident you feel, but how willing you are to take on the challenge. I, and others, can do a lot help you find the confidence you need, but only YOU can motivate you.

The decision to continue or not is one that you should not make alone. Talk to people you trust, who know you and who can advise you well. If that’s me, I want you to know that I’m very happy to help. All you have to do is say the word. I am very invested in your success here at this school, and I will do whatever I can to see it come to pass. I will support you fully in whatever your decision is, and I will continue to be there for you after you’ve chosen, whatever your choice eventually is. If you have questions, please ask them. It’s important that you have all the information at your fingertips, so you can make a knowledgeable choice. I’m in my room. You have my email and my AIM username. I’m on Facebook, too. Any of these will get a quick response. I'll send positive energy out to you while I await your decision.


Tuesday, February 3, 2009

9 Things Tuesday, because of #9

1. This was the sky on my way to work this morning. I thought it was cool and, now that I have a camera, I can share!

2. My roleplayers are doing a “booth” at an upcoming school event, at which passers-by see various $100,000 reward posters and, if they choose, may challenge these wanted gunslingers to a shootout (using a mechanic they’ve developed that allows people not familiar with roleplaying to participate). Participants choose from a variety of characters developed by the group, and play out the duel. If they win, they earn their reward--a $100,000 bar!

3. I’m going to try to go for a run today. If the weather cooperates, I’ll do it on the roads around school. If it doesn’t, I’ll go to the gym and run on the treadmill. I’m not a fan of running on treadmills, but I realized yesterday while I was out for a very brisk walk that it’s time to start building up my stamina so I’m fully ready when spring arrives. Running is far and away the weakest of my triathlon disciplines, and I’m determined to improve on last year’s performances.

4. I’ve been working steadily to finalize this year’s list of goals, but it’s still not done. I’m annoyed by this, but I’ve decided that it’s not going to deter me from seeing it completed. Has anyone else done anything related to goals this year?

5. I missed Heroes last night. I went to bed. I was tired. I love that it’s available online, so I can watch it later this week. I wish the other shows I like to watch were, also.

6. My car has a coolant leak. It’s not a bad one, but I can’t find it, so I don’t know what it’ll cost to fix. I’m hoping it’s just a hose. Wifeness just replaced the radiator in her van, and I’d really like to avoid that fate. It costs too damn much!

7. Turnaround Day (the day teachers at my school use to clean up from intercession and set up for the spring semester) has been confiscated for professional development work. I do not mind professional development work. A lot of what we do here along that line is really valuable, but to have it come on the one day that teachers have to clean up and reset puts makes for a really hectic end-of-week. Administration is working to carve out some time for us, which at least shows they’re aware of the screw-up and are willing to set it right as best they can, but it bugs me that they didn’t think about this beforehand. They should have known better.

8. I finally got my hair cut, and I feel normal again. I really hate it when my hair gets too long!

9. While writing #8, I found out that the mother of sisters I teach lost her fight to cancer today. I’m not able to reach out to the girls, so I am going to go find someplace quiet to send some loving energy out. I hope they’re ok.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

"Will someone please play with me?"

NiNi is feeling underattended to. SiSi is off playing by herself, and doesn’t want the company of her little sister. Mama is in the kitchen making French onion soup for tonight’s Community Dinner (and SuperBowl©®™ shindig). Karla is recovering from a bad night of doing battle with her illness. Papa was making pancakes for breakfast, but he’s finished now, so he’s offered to play a game with the little one to appease her feelings of isolation.

Every so often, and in no predictable manner, it comes about that my kids will tell us they don’t feel like they’re getting all of their parents’ attention. Sometimes this communication is direct (“I need some special Mama time”); sometimes it comes through in ways somewhat more irritating. While I should make it clear that the younglings in this house are far from ignored, anyone who has kids will attest to the fact that it is not the quantity, or even the quality, of attention that makes for those feelings of comfort and love that they need to be whole. It’s about the particular flavor of attention and, as mindful as we are as parents to the needs of our kids, we don’t always see it when they’re in deficit of it.

I don’t take it as a failure in our parenting, for as rarely as it occurs. Frankly, for as full as our world is, it could happen a whole lot more if we weren’t aware of it. With all the revolving domestica, working with Karla, full-time employment and the other commitments we take on, it’s easy to see how a little girl might question from time to time whether we can slow down enough to focus just on her. One of the reasons we promote independence and collaboration in our children is that it gives them a lot of outlets for play and attention, but it also helps them develop the confidence to say “I can ask for some one-on-one time,” when they need it. It solves a host of problems. Of course, it doesn’t work on its own. Wifeness and I need to be constantly mindful to make time for our kids (all of them) so they know and see by our actions that they are important and uniquely special to us.

Moments like these remind me that nurturing family is a complicated juggling act, and doing it takes an unwavering commitment to engage in the process. Children should not raise themselves and parents must learn to accept that, however independent they may seem or however much they may protest, their kids still need them to take a direct, active, supportive role in their lives. In my work with DSS, I see a vast number of children who have been victimized by parents who have not made this commitment. I see it as an important part of our work with the school we’re developing to address this problem.