The Education Revolution: Perception, Possibilities and Parents’ Prerogative

Education Revolution: Perception, Possibilities and Parents’ Prerogative

NOTE: If you don’t feel like reading this blog right now,please consider watching this now or later, a TEDS talk clip: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zDZFcDGpL4U

State of Education

Parents or caregivers in 2013 are facing very different straits than 50 years ago when it comes to deciding where and how their children will be educated during their formative years as set by our local and federal laws.  As a parent, I’ve been hypersensitive to any news regarding the state of education in our country whether it be standardized tests, curbing of budgets, teachers’ fatigue or fights and the list is endless.  We’d all be lying to ourselves if we didn’t also admit that our emotions are assaulted when observing horrific criminal acts occurring on school grounds—school campuses where it is understood as an unspoken sacred place that we entrust our students will thrive and learn without suffering the pains of a scary world just yet.

Perception

Why has it all shifted?  Most adults recall our early days as students in school as either taking a bus or having our parents/carpool drop off us at a building(s) where we congregated daily Monday through Friday from the morning until a few hours after lunch time—simple, repetitive, no awareness of alternatives.  Of course, there was the occasional homeschooler (read “weird outsider”) that we would encounter but as young children it was easy to fear or make fun of that which we didn’t know.

These days the common buzzwords for educating our children include public, private, magnet, charter, home-schooling, virtual schooling and more.  There is a contentious divide between the public school system and everyone else.  Of the many heated debates in my home state, for example, the Florida legislature considered a bill (HB 867) known as the “Parent trigger” that would allow parents to collectively pull the trigger on a failing school—see The Palm Beach Post column printed on March 29, 2013 by Kathleen Oropeza, co-founder of www.FundEducationNow.org: http://www.mypalmbeachpost.com/news/news/opinion/commentary-florida-public-school-parents-dont-want/nW6zY/

I’m beginning to finally process all of the information I’ve been ingesting over the past decade on the topic and have hit a peaceful conclusion to be continued on a daily basis as my children grow.   What do we think our children should learn? I believe that apart from knowing how to engage in language and other common core standards (see: www.corestandards.org ) that my children should love to learn.  I believe it’s not so important to make sure they attain greatness in one school or another as much as they should enjoy the journey of growing up surrounded by family, friends and community—I wish to help protect my children from the wrath of apathy rampant in many students today.

Possibilities

The Palm Beach Post printed an article today highlighting a place in Delray Beach, Florida called “Space of Mind” written by Allison Ross, read more at: http://www.palmbeachpost.com/news/news/local-education/delray-beach-social-homeschooling-facility-riding-/nYpwt/

Although “Space of Mind” is a very unique idea that may be catching nationwide slowly, it signals along with many other developments such as charter schools popping up everywhere that our country is definitely in the midst of an Education Revolution.  There are probably many folks who are unsettled by this reality of the “traditional” education paradigm shifting in different directions, however, may I offer a few suggestions as we ride through this together with the next generation we’re helping to raise?

Try to remember what this is all about: we hope for our future through our children’s progress as we understand that they will carry on after we leave.  With that basic philosophy in our hearts, we can as parents/caregivers exercise our prerogative to decide among the countless possibilities as to what’s the best route to take for our children’s education.

We must also keep in mind that whatever path is chosen must be considered a fluid one as a reflection of what life is really like for everyone.  What works for our 2nd grader attending the local public elementary school down the street may not work for them when they are in 7th grade and would perhaps benefit from virtual schooling with coaching by family and loved ones.  The only guarantee we can assure our young students of is that we love and care for them—we must also accept that we will likely also learn along the way with them, a blessing for adults who have been jaded by life’s difficulties.

Plenty of Resources

Thankfully in the age of internet and iPhones we have many sources of information to access for researching education choices for our students.  Accessing your local school board office is a great start to at least assess what is available in your area.  For example, we have Ms. Beth Gillespie who works for the school district overseeing the home education office for south Florida’s Palm Beach County—a county where more than 5,000 students were home-schooled this past school year.

Whatever you’ve chosen or will choose for your children, you’ll always be their first and most important teacher(s).  May we learn to grow with our little ones as they aspire to be like us—we hope they’ll be greater than us in capacity to love and learn for themselves and each other.

R.V.S.Bean

My sources:

www.palmbeachpost.com

www.corestandards.org

www.FundEducationNow.org

www.palmbeachschools.org

SAVE THE BUTTERFLIES: Why It Matters What You Do

SAVE THE BUTTERFLIES! : Why It Matters What You Do

INTRODUCTION: Just One of Nature’s Many Philosophy Lessons

It was another hectic day, one of those days that it seems there is no end to movement by vehicle or by foot.  As I exited off Interstate 95 I was held up at the red light and as I resigned to this unavoidable wait I looked to my left where the grassy field was alive with activity.  There were little yellow butterflies dancing in the air over the flowers that were some sort of weed by their appearance and random placement.  I chuckled to myself wondering why I was suddenly paying attention to this seemingly useless enterprise.  After a couple more moments, a lesson in life began to affect my mind as I noticed how the butterflies not only traveled in a dizzy flight to each flower, they also interacted with each other: sometimes just two, sometimes three or more and then they would go about their own business again.  How interesting that they would correspond not just to mate but to check in with each other as they went about their mundane grind to pollinate.  For more random facts by the experts: http://www.fs.fed.us/wildflowers/pollinators/animals/butterflies.shtml

DOMESTIC: Where Are We Americans?

It seems like the past 15 years or more have been filled with anxiety concerning finances and national security.  We’ve been saturated with fast-success moments like the “dot.com” burgeoning era following the launch of the World Wide Web only to have the “tech bubble” burst.  Y2K was the big talk leading up to New Year’s 2000 and then by September 11, 2001 our secular society was shocked by the actions of people that truly made no sense.  With the stock market being too uncertain, the housing market became the new bargaining tool for quick riches and today most Americans are affected one way or another by the housing market bust of the mid-Aughts.

Our political landscape has been entertaining to say the least, I have admitted more than once in my public writing that I was an employee of the former U.S. Representative Mark A. Foley.  I don’t regret it and I will always say that he was a great congressman for our Florida district 16 and his bipartisan way of working on the Hill kept me having faith in the system of government we have in place.  Nevertheless, the personal and ill-acted professional antics of many politicians have rocked the public’s conscience in the past several years.  We have triumphed in having the first biracial President of the United States that was elected in 2008.  Yet as we approach this year’s election our jaded multimedia is still focusing on subjects that are not important and petty.  It doesn’t help that we’ve also had unfortunate voting decisions like the recent one in North Carolina concerning gay marriage: really folks, it’s the year 2012 and we have kids coming out of college with degrees having extreme difficulty finding jobs they can enjoy and thrive in—in my humble opinion, whether homosexual or bisexual individuals decide to marry should literally be up to them, their families and their faiths.  I guess it’s just there’s such more critical issues for our American society to sort through like our undoubted rising debt, inflation and general lack of cohesive national strategy of what our country wants to better itself in like level of education, business direction (should we be more supportive of fair trade, environmentally friendly, innovative energy sources) and the list can go on nearly endlessly.

The butterflies reminded me that even you and I if we seem to be just the “little players” on this busy world stage, we still very much have a major effect on the flow of things in how we relate to others in our field of range.  When I go to the grocery store I do my best to engage with everyone I come in contact with-especially the cashier- you never know how that simple, genuine chat with another human being may bless the both of you.  The relationships you maintain with family and friends is an obvious example of how dynamic we can be with each other and how many times we don’t even see the true aftermath of those countless interactions.

So the economy here in America has us all repeating the same refrain: things are tough, the economy is hurting…but guess what? You do have the power to help those businesses down the road from you.  You can start your own little business with friends to follow a passion and serve a need in the demand for supply locally.  How about that person you know who makes something from hand and sells it?  What about that family restaurant that’s been on the corner forever? Truly if we all began to look at each other and pay a little more mind it would send a ripple effect through the American economy that may not send people into wealthy categories but at least encourage hearts and stoke more activity in business and progress.  As humans we crave and need each other and in America we are diverse and often decisive but we remain somewhat invincible when we really stick together UNITED.

INTERNATIONAL:  My Greece-Ellada Mou

I am not very well informed on the specifics of the political parties warring with each other in Greece at this moment as the Greek government and “powers that be” try to sort out what is the next elections plan for the country.  What I do understand is the general opinion of those in America who feel that Greece is a nation that was irresponsible in its fiscal policy and lacks direction in its own national strategy.  How very similar this sounds as the United States and many other countries around the globe are wrestling with these same issues.

Beyond the story told by video footage and photographs at Greek hotspots like Syntagma Square, it depends on who you speak with in Greece as to how violent and unruly things have become in everyday life there.  There is definitely no argument if you summed up the population as being emotionally drained and financially struggling.  What can we do?

If you’re Greek or American I think the answer is simple and powerful if everyone participates.  In Greece, this time of uncertainty and fiscal pain can be paralyzing but if could also be empowering in driving people to do something completely different.  The country is known for its tourism appeal but if you’ve gone to some of the shorelines, especially south and east of Athens, you’ll find a disgusting amount of garbage.  If there are no beach cleanups, why not start?  It would be great way to get young people involved, aware and build pride in the physical state of their nation.  When it comes to economy, why not start small with local business and build out with companies that can help provide exports like organic feta, olives and wine (a major fad in current foodies’ cycles)?  As for the Greeks abroad, we can help our mother nation by assisting friends and family in financial and emotional support. Again, the reality is even the smallest player can affect the general direction of a nation if we only start with each other, those around us whether or not we know them personally.

FINAL WORD:  Butterflies Live It Fully

There are many kinds of butterflies and they all have different average life spans: the common thread in truth is that on average their life spans are short in comparison to many other living beings and to us humans a mere blink of an eye.  The Monarch is a popular variety and in American can live from 2-6 weeks depending on their generation: http://www.fs.fed.us/wildflowers/pollinators/animals/butterflies.shtml

Either way, these half-dancing, half-flying creatures live their life to the fullest regardless of how perilous or repetitive their respective journeys.  As people we are certainly much more complex in our composition but I think we have the tendency to over-complicate in our mind.  There is a shot at true happiness in our daily life if we only engage fully every step of the way—even on those boring or ruthless days when we wonder how we’ll make it to the end of the day.

The light turned green and I was on my way again to the next task, the next unexpected “checking-in” with whoever came in my path as I fulfilled my personal “flight”.

R.V.S.Bean

The Art of Saying “No”…Does It Really Exist?

I’m still amazed at the frenetic pace of my life sometimes.  I wonder does everyone else feel the same way about how quickly and how many things we go through on a daily, weekly and monthly basis?  Is it really within our power to simply our lives by saying “no” to people and circumstances?

FAMILY

I begin with this subtitle because it is what many of us are most familiar with.  Our parents. Our siblings. Our cousins. Our aunts and uncles. Family consists of many different titles but the urgency is usually the same.  I really can’t say “no” to family but I can try to set boundaries and perhaps corral requests as a cattle farmer herds his cows.  This is never an easy task, however, and I caution that some forethought should be involved before speaking.  My standard habit is to ingest the request(s) and let it filter through my mind while managing small talk in between.  If it’s a low-key item or two, I can easily respond in the positive.  If it’s more complicated, I usually stall an answer and say I’ll get back to them on that or some other clever response.  In my heart I would never really want to be able to say no to beloved family since I do love them and truly desire to help them through the bumps of this physical life we lead.

FRIENDS

Being in my thirties now I’m definitely learning some hard lessons in the friends department as well as enjoying the immense blessings.  I’ve read many a magazine article that breaks down all the “types” of friends one can have and how to mitigate conflicts that may arise.  Many times I try to pre-empt my colleagues by offering to be available whether by verbal communication or by spirit in prayer because I do want them to know that I’m not just a fair-weather type of friend. Yet life has a way of predetermining which friends can weather my personal storms of life and I need to just let go and know it’s okay to say “no” inside when I wonder if I should reach out one more time.  Also, if a friend is a constant drain on energy sources then it may be time to set some distance to help recharge and reassess the relationship.  Again, never easy.

WORK

Our jobs seem to have spilled over into our personal lives since the advent of cell phones, internet communication and long, unnecessary hours.  Add to that the scarce holiday, vacation and personal days and we have a society filled with stressed singles, marrieds and parents that try to balance their lives with the constant demand of “the man”.  I’m not a sage in this department as my past decade of life included working in the halls of the U.S. Congress, Treasury Department and countless corporate firms where money and hours spent at your job was your merit.  I still can taste the bitterness in my mouth of biting my tongue when the days would grind on endlessly and the boss was a nightmare and I in turn reflected nightmarish tendencies.  At the same time, I remember the day I submitted my resignation when I became pregnant with my son.  I had been looking forward to it for weeks, I knew it was the right choice for me at the time.  Weighing all the pros and cons, I decided it was time to say “no” and consider other options in the aftermath.  I have never regretted the decision.  This is not shared with you to encourage quitting your job in a tough economy such as ours, however, I hope it can inspire you to really examine what is important to you, your family and what type of career would truly complement your zest for life.

BOOKS/SELF-HELP

The art of saying “no” is the soapbox for many writers, psychologists and others.  You can certainly find a book that suits your needs or a CD set that talks about how to get a better grip on your hectic life and hopefully help you lessen the load.

My personal experience is that I seem to move things off my plate just in time to welcome new things.  Perhaps the goal should be to find a “balanced diet” on this life plate that sustains itself through the years.  As my family and close friends know, my spirit always relies on the strength of our Lord as God has an inextinguishable amount of energy sourced by the Universe and Creation itself.  But that is my way of living, you can only know your way yourself.

So my conclusion is that saying “no” is the wrong focus, rather how can we say “yes” and follow through?

R.V.S.B.

Can Friendships Endure in Different Seasons?

After returning to South Florida following several back-to-back weeks of traveling, I’ve got a heavy heart in regards to friendships.

We all have family, we either adore them, tolerate them, despise them and the list goes on.  When it comes to friendships, they are usually a mature result from starting as knowing someone as an acquaintance, friend-of-a-friend, colleague, work-mate and so on.  Difference is simple: we’re born into families, it’s friends that we can choose in life.

When various seasons of life befall us, it’s usually a hands-on-deck type transition and we all hope and pray that our friends will stand by us or at least keep talking to us even if it seems like all of sudden we have nothing in common. 

For those of you who are reading this, if you are a parent you may be particularly sensitive to my tone already.  If you are a DINK (double income no kids), then you possibly may know where I’m going if you have a lot of single friends and other friends with tons of children.  If you are single, perhaps you understand this pain more than any of the above.

The pain I’m referring to what can be felt during the endurance-action phase of a friendship when the two parties are in completely different time zones, planets, maybe even opposite galaxies in the universe.

In the last few weeks, I’ve had several clashes in understanding another with separate friends.  Without naming anyone I can honestly say that looking back at the situations, I admit I may have been in the wrong but certainly never intended to hurt/insult/ignore/lose touch…et cetera.

One recent acquaintance of mine has two children under the age of four right now.  She told me, “When you become a parent, you’re not the captain of your ship anymore”.  I couldn’t say it better.

At the same time, I grieve for the fact that while I am immersed in my current status as “married with child” plus all the specific responsibilities on me, I seem to lose touch or empathy for those beloved friends of mine who are in such different stages from me.  Neither is in a better or more mature place, it’s just DIFFERENT and difficult to catch each other in appropriate conversation or give the necessary attention.

I insulted someone because I couldn’t pay more attention to them while my toddler son was running a 103 degree fever at a social function…it devastated me that they were so hurt and left before I could properly pay them their due respect.  When you’re a mother you hardly are able to wash your hair enough or keep your nails pretty or make your husband happy—basically the deck of cards is stacked up and  taller than Mt. Everest when you’re a parent.

In the past year I lost touch with a friend of over a decade because we were on such opposite spectrums of life for a moment in time as well as opposite sides of the continent.  It tears me apart inside now that I missed major moments of joy as well as sorrow in her life that I would gladly desire to walk beside through but just couldn’t.

Then there are those I’ve weathered every possible ‘weirdness factor’ and we are still friends for life and I don’t doubt that we always will be.

A beloved friend of mine finally ‘came out’ to me in the past year and though we hadn’t spoken in so many years, we picked up where we left off as if nothing ever happened.  I expect us to sip that metamucil mimosa one day as old farts in our eighties on some beach cottage porch together.

Another friend and I have seen her through singleness, courtship, engagement and finally married to settling in their own new home and by God’s will a family to boot in the future. What a joy and peace I feel as we have seen each other through thick and thin, even our own disagreements with each other.

I share these tidbits from countless others to demonstrate that there is a way for us to continue our relationships in life through even the most drastic of seasons…however, it does take two to help give it strength to grow and sometimes as much as it hurts, we must let go of a friendship if it cannot be nurtured.

Again, I admit that unfortunately I’m not the greatest friend. It was one thing when I married my husband, it took me a couple of years to get into the swing of being aware of my friends’ needs.  When I became a mother, I could hardly keep up with sensing what my husband and family needed, let alone my friends.

Any friends of mine reading this, I hope I’ve personally apologized to you whenever I’ve slighted or downright hurt you in present or past. If not, please forgive me for that and additionally for having to write it in a website blog post as it is impersonal and perhaps downright tacky.

Alas, I am R.V.S.B., a fallen soul like the rest on Earth that keeps trying to learn how to love God and my fellow souls better.

R.V.S.B.

Wyoming Life

"God bless it and keep it wild"