Balance Bikes vs. Training Wheels as a social commentary

I have posted before about the magic of balance bikes on this blog. Of course, I don’t recommend buying a Balance Bike. Just take the pedals off of an appropriately sized bike, and balance away. According to the “experts,” this is the best way to learn how to ride a bike.

I remember trying to ride my bike with training wheels. I wobbled all over the place. I hated them. So I went into the barn, found the appropriate wrenches and removed them for good. Then I learned how to ride a bike.

The funny thing I’ve noticed though, in my zeal for evangelizing about balance bikes, is that there is some amount of hostility against the idea.

Two examples:

1. I was talking to a father of a 4 or 5 year old about kids learning how to ride bikes, and I mentioned how amazingly fast Caleb picked up the skill when he used the bike without pedals. And I may have mentioned my friend’s kids who were riding when they were like three using the same method. 

He gave a little speech about how that was all very well, but excuse me, no offense, but HE had learned to ride a bike with training wheels, and well, that was good enough for him.

I let it go.

2. I passed the little bike that Caleb learned on to a friend who was saying her son really wanted a bike. I told her about taking the pedals off for Caleb and how well it worked. The kid hopped on the bike right away and was trying to push it around the playground with his feet, but the pedals were in the way. I tried to take them off right then, but they were too tight. 

Another day when I saw her, I asked her if she’d taken the pedals off for him. She said no, that they were going to buy training wheels for him. Her husband said HE wanted to teach his son how to ride a bike. (Meaning, I suppose that if he learned by balancing, the father wouldn’t be “teaching” him.)

These conversations popped into my head the other day for some reason, and I got to thinking that they correspond perfectly with two attitudes about education.

Attitude One: That’s the way we’ve always done it. That’s the way I did it, and that’s they way we’re going to keep doing it.

This attitude shows up all over the place. From the people that say, “I was spanked, and I turned out fine.” To the people that just go to school without any thought about it, because everyone else goes to school.

This attitude is flawed for so many reasons. Just because people have been beating their children for thousands of years, doesn’t mean that beating (spanking) is the best way for someone to learn something. In fact research shows that it promotes violence in a society, rather than promoting well-adjusted adults. But this attitude is not interested in the research, because it doesn’t fit with their prior experience of the world.

It doesn’t matter how much faster and less painfully a lesson can be learned (from- avoid the hot stove, to- add, subtract, and multiply); we’ll continue to do it this way, because that’s the way we’ve always done it. Schools are classic examples. Alternative methods of education consistently show better results than conventional schooling, but for some reason they are never adopted by the public school system. (See Weapons of Mass Instruction by John Taylor Gatto for more reasons why the school system is resistant to reform.)

Attitude Two: You can’t learn it, if I don’t teach it to you.

There are two manifestations of this attitude. One actively prevents the student from learning things that the teacher doesn’t want him to learn. “You are only allowed to learn this if I am the one teaching it to you.” The other says that the student is incapable of learning without the teacher.

As much as I enjoy aspects of Waldorf education, I disagree with their idea (or Steiner’s idea) that certain things should not be learned before certain ages. Strict Waldorf followers will discourage a four year old from trying to learn how to read, because it’s not time yet. They are also big on the idea that the knowledge flows from the teacher, and the students are receptacles, not active participants.

And of course just think of all the things you aren’t allowed to learn in regular schools. You have to come to the “right” conclusions about subject matter, not your own conclusions, or the conclusion of other books that you have read that opened your eyes about the real reasons for the civil war or Lincoln’s real attitude toward blacks. Not to mention his attitude toward dissidents (he threw them in jail). You have to come to the conclusion that Lincoln was a hero. He “saved” the Union. The Civil War was right and necessary.

If you go to a Christian school, you have to give the Christian answers to pass the test. You aren’t allowed to learn about evolution or atheism.

And of course you aren’t allowed to jump ahead in your learning in conventional schools, that is strongly discouraged. You learn what the teacher tells you to learn, when she tells you to learn it, how she tells you to learn it.

The attitude that students can’t learn without the teacher is what stops many people from unschooling. Students need to be taught. Either they can’t or they won’t go out and learn these things for themselves. The teacher, in this attitude, has an inflated sense of her own importance. And the student, as much as he buys into this idea, has a diminished opinion of the power he has to learn on his own.

You can put training wheels on a kid’s bike and their education. But training wheels do nothing but stretch out the time it takes to learn the skill, both in riding bikes and in life. And if training wheels (and teachers) do something else, it’s that they teach the trainee that he needs them, that he can’t ride without them.

Sure you can “teach” a kid how to ride a bike, but you can also take the pedals off and let them learn on their own.





Be Defiant

I went to a Baptist high school (that was, in fact, it’s name). I got good grades. I was quiet in class and in the halls. I played basketball. I was in the honor society. Never talked back to teachers. Never got in fights. Can’t remember ever cutting class, much less school. (All of these things, I now wish I had done on a regular basis)

But for all that, my principle (who was also the nominal assistant basketball coach) told me that I was defiant and I need to shape up my attitude. This was in reference to a detention I had gotten for demerits accumulating from not tucking in my shirt and chewing gum.

Defiant. It was an exciting word for a rule follower like me. But still, I failed to see how it was applicable. Mollie O’Neill (not her real name) was defiant. She was loud at times, and had no trouble talking back to anyone, including the principle. But despite that she was the darling of the faculty. And at the time, I couldn’t figure it out.

But I think that my teachers sensed in me a certain “lawlessness” that I wasn’t fully aware of myself. And if you compare the trajectory of Mollie’s life and my own, it’s obvious. She became everything that our Baptist school teachers could have hoped for. In the end, she returned to her roots. I have gone my own way.

It’s practically my job these days to be defying convention. I follow my instincts, and I don’t really give a damn what anyone else thinks I should be doing. And I think my teachers knew that back then. They knew even though I followed the rules and kept my mouth shut, that I was going to do my own thing.

Sure there were signs back then. I read Stephen King during lectures. I chewed gum like it was my job. And shirt tucking-in was a tiresome chore that I rarely paid attention to.

I think people can sense that you aren’t interested in their opinions of your life, and it offends them, particularly if they are authority figures. But have you ever noticed that certain people tend to have more conflict with than others when they behave unconventionally?

Certain people seem to attract negative comments about nursing in public, homeschooling, and other unusual choices. My theory is that the people that this happens to the most are the ones that project an aura of wanting to fit in (or deliberately NOT wanting to fit in). They care what other people say about them, and it affects what they do. People sense that insecurity and attack.

Or as Graham Greene has his police chief say in Our Man in Havana, “We only torture people who expect to be tortured.” *

I figure that you (if you happen to deviate from the mainstream) should develop an attitude of defiance. BUT not a reactionary defiance that stems from insecurity. The kind of defiance that is more of a way of life -your life- than a reaction to anything someone else has done. The attitude that you will do what makes sense to you, what you believe in -despite of what everyone else is doing-despite whatever restrictions you might have to put up with for the time being.

Practice a calm defiance. A secure feeling inside that you will be true to yourself. And the naysayers just don’t matter. When you get to that place, you’ll find less conflict with said naysayers, because they understand that you aren’t listening to them, that they aren’t pushing your buttons, you aren’t getting mad and defensive and argumentative, because what they think really isn’t going to affect what you do or how you feel.


*I got that line from John Taylor Gatto’s essay about The Bartleby Project, where he exhorts students to mark their standardized tests with the words, “I prefer not to take this test.”

Stop telling your children they are clumsy!

We go to parks a lot. My son goes to a baseball group that the homeschool group has once a week, and he also started running track at a nearby town. So we are around other kids a good bit.

My son is rather adventurous. He likes to climb in particular, and then jump down (if possible) from the places that he has climbed on. I think climbing and jumping are good, healthy processes for children (adults too!), so I give him a free rein. I trust that he will push himself to the limit of his abilities and no further.

His exploits always attract attention from other kids that want to do it to. Invariably they are shot down by their parents before they get one foot off the ground, and the most popular excuse they give to their children (when they inevitably ask why not?) is that, “you aren’t as coordinated as him.” “You are too clumsy.” “You’d fall and break your head open.” And other variations upon that theme.

And it makes me angry. Kids aren’t allowed to be kids. There was an incident last week at baseball where a kid about 6-7 years old climbed onto the bench and stood on it. His parents converged upon him yelling at him to “get down from there!” Is it any wonder there are so many fat kids in this country??

Meanwhile, Caleb was climbing over the seven foot high chain link fence. I was a little nervous, as there was concrete under the fence. He had his Soft Star Shoes on at the time, so it was easy for him to stick his toes in the fence. He went up pretty fast, but over the other side very slowly and carefully.

The other main reason people restrict the activity of their children is because they feel it is not socially acceptable.

At track the day after the baseball incident, we got there a little early, and everyone was sitting on the bleachers in the hot sun not doing anything. Caleb and I hopped on the track and had some races.

Then he saw his friend over by the fence that goes around the track and ran over to say hi. They were standing there saying hi, and Caleb started showing the kid how he learned how to climb over the fence. The fence was about 4.5 feet high and it was on soft grass. The other kid wanted to try to, and he climbed over once after a few failed attempts.

Then he said something to his mom (who was right next to him looking at her smart phone), and she noticed that he was climbing the fence. She came down on him HARD. Told him he wasn’t permitted to climb the fence and shot down any attempt of his to ask why, and then yanked him away from the fence by the arm.

They weren’t hurting anything by climbing over this little fence. There was an open gate right next to it, so they weren’t breaking in or anything, but the idea of climbing over a fence was unacceptable to this boy’s mother. By running on the track before practice, we weren’t out of line or anything, it’s a public track, and no one had said the kids had to sit on the bleachers, but Caleb was the only kid allowed to go run around and play.

Parents are afraid to be different. Afraid to stick out. They are also afraid of everything else. Everything is too dangerous for most of the parents I come in contact with. Generally they tell Caleb, well it’s alright for you, but my child is too clumsy, she’ll get hurt. And it’s not true. Kids that are allowed to take risks get hurt way less than you would think.

This article talks about the need for “risky” play in child development. This need starts from when they are first learning how to crawl. Caleb was climbing things well before he could walk. In the beginning, I stuck close to him in case of falls, but I bit my tongue when it came to the endless parental litany of “be careful,” “that’s too dangerous,” “too high,” “be careful, be careful,” “you are going to fall,” “you are going to get hurt.” I was spotting him to sooth my anxieties, not because he was not capable of climbing safely.

The one thing I really loved about the book, The Continuum Concept, was the idea that children are capable. That they can self regulate the risks that they take. That they don’t need to be managed all the time. That parents create accidents by telling their children (over and over) that they ARE going to be injured by doing what they want to do, or by forbidding what they want to do which pushes kids to be reckless and going further than they would otherwise to prove themselves.

Kids that are allowed to take risks get hurt sometimes. They get hurt. They cry. And then they get back to business. Keeping kids indoors doesn’t eliminate risks. In the article about risk taking, it states, “Last year, almost three times as many children were admitted to hospital after falling out of bed as those who had fallen from a tree.” Caleb’s worst accident to date was when he tripped over a step at the bookstore and slammed his head into the wall. He had a lump the size of a shooter marble on his forehead.

Please let your kids be free and play. I don’t remember who said it, but some said, “better for them to break an arm falling out of a tree, than to have a broken spirit from not being allowed to climb one.” Or something like that.

Your kids are more coordinated than you give them credit for. If you are afraid they will fall, put down your smart phone and spot them. After spotting them (unobtrusively please) for months without a fall, maybe you’ll gain a bit of respect for their abilities and start trusting them.


New Toy- Wooden Swords

Caleb has been asking me to make him a Real sword for years (as opposed to all the sticks that he has co-opted for the job thus far). Since I started doing craft shows again, I wanted to have some new items that might sell better in person.

Caleb was pretty happy when I came up with these 2 swords for him. After all, you need 2 to have a sword fight.


As you can tell, they’ve seen hard use since I made them. They’ve been to the dirt piles quite a bit, which is why they are so grimy. Washing may be in order. From there it was only a hop, skip, and a jump to Lowes for some oak wood, and a sale-worthy sword was born.



The details:

-2 feet long, 1.5 inches wide, a half an inch thick
-solid oak (gives it a nice heft in your hand, and holds up pretty well under the beating that fencing delivers)
-the sword and the hilt are the same piece of wood for added durability
-the cross guard is made from poplar wood for a nice color contrast and glued and nailed in place
-as always, it is finished simply with my homemade beeswax polish

So what do you think?

Second Frost this May with another on the Way

I woke up at 6 this morning, came down stairs, glanced out the window at my car, and said, “&^%*!”


It had frosted again! Last week there was another frost that killed my basil plant and damaged my peppers. I have gardens all around my house on different levels. In front of my house the ground is 2 feet or so lower than the side, where I park my car. The back of my house is about 5-6 feet lower than the side yard.



The bulk of my peppers and tomatoes are planted in the front yard and the back yard.


The top gardens are planted with onions, peas, spinach, and lettuce. But I have 2 pepper plants up there with the lettuce in heavy frost territory. They were sad little things, and though I took a page from Farmer Boy, and watered them with cold water before the sun hit them, I don’t think they are going to make it.



There’s a chance of frost tonight, so I’m going to cover the other peppers with a sheet just in case. The tomatoes are tougher, and they are mostly in the backyard, which is pretty sheltered (and shaded :P).

I was talking to my neighbor today, and she ripped up some oregano and chives for me to plant. I got tarragon at a plant swap I went to, and I bought 2 lavender plants. I planted basil, chamomile, cilantro, and dill seeds. My herb garden is pretty well filled in. I need some thyme and parsley (although I’m not really that fond of parsley). I have loads of 2 varieties of mint.

My blueberry bushes have some blueberries on them. My raspberry patch is spreading and looking lush, so I hope for a few raspberries. The strawberries have some blossoms and we actually got a strawberry yesterday. They are sending out runners too, so I’ll be transplanting them wherever I can find room. I eat loads of strawberries. I could easily have an acre of strawberry plants and eat them all myself, I think.

Things I have left to plant:

-butternut squash

-cucumbers (one or two plants)

-zucchini (one or two plants)

-more potatoes (I’m late, I know, I know!)

-garlic (for harvesting green)

-Cherokee Purple tomatoes – my all time favorite, but I have to go to a special place to get them (I know, I know, I should start them from seed…)

-more peppers, apparently :/

-watermelon, they never get big enough, but I feel obligated to plant it anyway, because it’s so yummy!

-hm, probably other stuff too, but I’m tired and hungry, so I’ll let you know about that later.


Granola-sugar-free, and oil-free option

Granola is something I make a lot in the winter, and rarely in the spring and summer. It just seems perfect for those winter mornings when you need a little something extra to make it through until lunchtime, but in the summer, it seems too heavy.

Granola is very flexible. You can make it to fit whatever ingredients you have on hand and whatever budget you are running on. A few times last winter things were so tight, our granola had no nuts or seeds in it at all.

Here’s the basic recipe:


5 cups of rolled oats (not quick-though that might work, I’ve never done it though)

1/3 cup of honey

1/3 cup of maple syrup (or just one or the other, but both of them is the best)

1/2 cup of oil 

1-2 tablespoons of cinnamon 

That’s your basic granola. To that I often add a handful of millet, some sesame seeds, some flax seeds. I mix up those ingredients, and spread them out in the greased pan like so:



I never make a single batch to be honest. And yeah, my oven could use a good scrubbing.

I always bake the granola at 350, stirring every 5 minutes or less (after the first 10) for about 20-25 minutes. You don’t want it to be too dark, because then it tastes overdone (I hate to say burnt). So err on the side of caution, you can always put it back in the oven if it’s too soft once it cools, but you can’t take the burnt (there I said it) taste out of it.

Anyway, I always bake off the granola before I add the nuts and sunflower seeds. Nuts are more nutritious raw, and the flavor is not enhanced that much by baking them, but by all means, throw them in the oven with the rest of it if you have a mind to.

As far as adding nuts, I add at most a cup of nuts (or their cheaper cousin-sunflower seeds) to the whole recipe. I usually add less, because nuts are expensive (though if I make it at my mom’s house, I might add a little more). Any nut is great in granola. Walnuts and almonds are my staples, but hazelnuts are great. And one time I added pine nuts (at my mom’s house), and it was the best granola I ever made.

Dried fruit should never be added before you bake. It will burn. Caleb prefers raisins. I prefer chopped dates. So I split the recipe into 2 jars and put raisins in half and dates in half. Sometimes I chop up an apple and bake that with the granola to dry out the apple, and then we have apple granola.

Lately I have been leaving out the oil entirely for a lower-fat recipe. It’s still crunchy and tasty, though it doesn’t clump up as much for the nice granola clusters. But it’s very good, and better for you too.

We like to eat our granola with soy milk and sliced strawberries, but we also like it dry just for a snack.

Saving Time Preparing Real Food

After the cost of real food, people start complaining about the time. I enjoy cooking, but I also run a business, write a blog, take care of an unschooled child, maintain a house, clean said house, have a decent sized garden, make time for running and other exercises…in other words, I have other things to do too.

And oh yeah, I do all of these things myself. I can’t tell my husband that the hose pipe broke under the porch, so would he get out the plumbing stuff and fix it. I have to do it (it’s on my list, we’ve had enough rain to use the rain barrel so far). I can’t remind him that the lawn needs mowing or ask him to play with Caleb while I go running or ask him to dig up a new section of the yard for the garden.

So I needed to streamline my meal production, without sacrificing any of the flavor, because I really love food, especially that I cook. Here’s how I do it:

1. Simplify, simplify, simplify.

Eating simply not only saves you time, it eases digestion, and it saves money. Eliminate unnecessary ingredients and steps from recipes. Like my favorite curry recipe starts with popping mustard seeds in a pan. You can’t taste these seeds in the curry a bit, so skip the expense and the hassle. You can also cut down the the variety of vegetables in a recipe or a meal to save time.

Or skip the recipe all together and just make simple combinations. For mother’s day dinner (which I of course prepared), I sauteed a package of golden oak shitake mushrooms (bought for half off) in butter, steamed broccoli (on sale for $1 a bunch), and dumped them both on top of mashed potatoes (which I left the skins on, because it’s faster and more nutritious-they were also organic potatoes that I got for half off as well). It was delicious. I could have eaten twice as many mushrooms, they were so amazing. And it didn’t take me more than 5 minutes to prep and another few minutes of active cooking to sautee the mushrooms real quick and mash the potatoes.

Simplifying might mean skipping the cooking completely. A green smoothie for breakfast whips up in no time flat. A salad can be loaded up for a meal with leftover meat on top or a can of beans or some fruit. Raw food retains all the nutrients too.

2. Prep raw ingredients ahead.

Most of my recipes start with onions, so when I buy onions, I chop them up and freeze them. I also chop and freeze loads of peppers when they are in season. Having this stuff prepped ahead, saves 3-5 minutes per recipe. Mushrooms also freeze well, so you can buy the on sale and use them at your leisure.

You can wash your salad greens ahead of time if you dry them well. It’s better to wait to chop it until you need it though.

For meat, cooking ahead saves loads of time, that way you can just throw some in the pan without worrying washing and cleaning up after dealing with raw meat.

Pick one day a week and one day a month where you prep everything you can for the week or the month.

3. Start dinner early in the day.

This is the strategy that I used when Caleb was a baby and I only had small snatches of time here and there. Prep during nap time, that way all you have to do is throw things in the pan or pot at dinner. Crockpot cooking means NO work at dinnertime.

4. Make big batches. 

Make enough muffins for the week or the month. Make a huge pot of soup or chili. You can then freeze them for later in big containers for a meal or smaller containers for a single serving. I don’t make too much ahead, because I do enjoy cooking, and I prefer fresh food. But it’s nice to have a few meals in the freezer for nights when we get home late or for lunches. You have to remember to thaw them though ahead of time (at least if you don’t have a microwave like me).

5. Plan your meals. 

This saves you time if you prep the ingredients for the whole week at once. But it also saves you time puttering around your kitchen at loose ends, because you can’t figure out what to make. And deciding is sometimes the hardest part about making dinner. Make your decisions ahead of time and stick to them.

How else do you save time cooking?

The Pros and Cons of Single Motherhood

I love being a single mother. I love being single in general, but I like being on my own parenting. For the most part.

Things I love about being a single mother:

-I get to do what I want without anyone hassling me.

I read stories about women who’s husbands are against breastfeeding or against child-led weaning. Husbands who are strict disciplinarians, who insist upon spanking. Men who are dead-set, 100% against homeschooling, not to mention unschooling. Some take it as their mission to “toughen up” their sons by basically being mean to them. When you get married, you may not even think about your partner’s parenting style. And when you have kids, your ideas about everything change, especially as a mother.

I’m glad that I never had to fight with anyone (except myself, daily) to be the kind of mother that I wanted to be. I’m very thankful that I had my son before I got married, because I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have married the kind of person that I would like to be married to now.

Even aside from that, I can decide to do “crazy” things like live in a van or move hundreds of miles away to get a cheap house. I can dig up most of my lawn for a garden. I can take off at a moment’s notice for anywhere that I can afford to go, and stay for months at a time if I have a mind to.

-I have a very tight relationship with my son.

I’m sure I would still have a close relationship with my son, but when it’s just the two of you, I think there is a little something extra.

-I enjoy being alone, so that works out well with being single.

-Doing it all (at least all that I do), makes me feel self-sufficient and independent. And I like feeling like that. 

I like that I am forced out of my comfort zone. I tackle plumbing and carpentry and yard work, all jobs that are typically delegated to “Dad.” Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t mind delegating them, but doing them makes me more confident in myself and my abilities. It’s also nice to have no one else to blame if something doesn’t get done. I always here women saying that they’ve been after their husband to tackle such-and-such a job forever, and he just won’t get to it. I know that I can do it myself, so I do.

The Cons

-Having to do it all yourself (yeah this was on the pro list too)

I’d really love sometimes to be able to say to someone, “the hose pipe is broken, can you fix that today so I don’t have to fill up the watering can in the kitchen to water the garden?”

I’d love to go running while my husband made dinner or read Caleb a story or played with legos with him.

It would be so nice to have a day out alone.

-The social status and loneliness

It’s going to be hard to explain this one. There isn’t much stigma about being a single mother these days, but still, you have a different social status. People don’t shun you or anything, but it’s more that you don’t fit in. Like some woman wouldn’t not be friends with you, because you were single, but you would be hard pressed to become a family friend. People don’t invite you to dinner like they would if you were a couple with a family. You get invited over for the kids to play or for lunch, but dinners are reserved for couples-respectable families.

Due to my parenting choices, I tend to find myself in groups of stay-at-home mothers. La Leche League, homeschooling groups, play groups, these things attract mothers that have time to breastfeed, homeschool, and take their kids places during the day. Now that Caleb is older, we do a lot of things with groups of other homeschoolers. Single parents DO homeschool, but I haven’t met any yet. Especially around here, homeschoolers tend to have stay-at-home mothers. Not only do they stay home, in these parts, they are also devout Catholics or Evangelicals.

So not only am I the odd man out by being single, I’m also the unwed mother (not necessarily a distinguished persona among religious conservatives, despite all their pro-life agenda-ing). Questions that take for granted my marital status… “So what does your husband do?” … “Where is your husband from?” … “What does your husband think of that?” … bring out the “I’m single” reply, and a momentary awkward silence while they categorize you in their mind (and remind themselves never to invite your family to dinner).

-Lack of…intimacy.

Of all varieties. Though I suppose this is more a problem with singleness in general, and doesn’t have much to do with being a single mother, though being a single mother makes it very difficult to date and become un-single.

-Lack of time

Since you are doing it all, there isn’t much time to do more.


I love being a mother. It’s the most wonderful thing in my life. I feel as though I am well-suited to being a single mother of a boy. And doing it alone has stretched me and challenged me like nothing else, but for all that, I’ve enjoyed it, and I will continue to enjoy it until I find just the right person to share it with.

Craft Show in Pittsburgh tomorrow for those of you in the area. We’ll be at the Rivers of Steel Pump House from 10 a.m.-2 p.m.


Frustration Produces Creativity

When are you the most creative? When everything is going along splendidly with neither a care nor a worry in the world? Or when you have been frustrated in satisfying your wants and desires?

After I had Caleb, I was frustrated, because I didn’t want to give him over to a day care for 9+ hours a day. But I needed that office job right? I didn’t have a choice, right? Well, I made my own choice. I quit, and started delivering newspapers, then I became a live-in nanny, then a live-out nanny, then I started making wooden toys and selling them. My frustration with the way things were led me to create my own options.

Later when I needed to find a place to live, I was frustrated, because I didn’t have the money to rent anything near where I lived at the time. I could have gotten a second job (in addition to the one I already had and the toy making business that I had just started), and maybe that would have pushed me over the income hump to afford a place-as long as I didn’t want to eat too much or sleep much or play with my son much.

My frustration led me to remember a book that I had read about a woman who-rather than put her daughter in day care-decided to live in her car and travel the country. This led me to research van-living (I tried sleeping in my car once, and it was NOT a comfortable experience), and I found a whole community of people that have turned their backs on traditional living arrangements. I bought a van and headed south.

My frustration with the limitations of van-living, sent me on a search (via craigslist) to find the cheapest place near the east coast to buy or rent a house or apartment. Craigslist pointed me in the direction of the West Virginia panhandle, and via the internet, I found a 3 bedroom house for just $4,000!

Frustration creates the friction needed to start the fire of creativity. Children are the same way. Parenting gurus are fond of telling us that children need limits and frustrations to grow, but frustrations come from many different sources. There are the frustrations that come from real life, and then there are the frustrations imposed of kids by parents, schools, and society.

If I get frustrated with my lack of money, I will get creative finding ways to make more. But if someone in authority keeps taking my money every time I get it, I’m liable to just give up.   There are frustrations that produce growth, and there are frustrations that sap the will.

Life is frustrating enough, there is no need for us to go imposing irritations upon our children. But formula, frustration leads to creativity, reminds us that we shouldn’t go around micromanaging our children’s lives so nothing will bother them.

Parents in general, but in particular homeschooling parents (ones that do forced lessons), are fond using this principle to further their own ends. They want children that play musical instruments, so they force their children to take music lessons in order to “better” them. After all, if they are frustrated, they are just learning how to deal with life, right?

Wrong. As an adult, if I wanted to learn how to play the violin, I would learn as much or as little as I wanted. If I felt like quitting, I might talk it over with someone I respected. They might then encourage me not to give up and remind me of my progress and how I enjoy playing. They might suggest taking a break from training hard and just play for fun for a while or learning a new type of music. And if I really liked playing, I would probably take one of their suggestions, but if I hated it, I wouldn’t.

A kid doesn’t have the option of considering his options in some families. He has to take piano lessons. He has to go to school. He has to go to camp in the summer. In cases like these, frustration doesn’t lead him to find something else to do or a way to rekindle his love of the piano or learning. Frustration leads to creativity, but their creativity is channelled towards avoiding the imposed task.

Remember being a kid? You could find 20 different reasons why you couldn’t practice the piano right now. You spent more time thinking about excuses for not having your homework done than it would have actually taken to do it. Wouldn’t you rather they spend their energy doing things they actually want to do, to accomplish their own goals?

I agree that we shouldn’t go out of our way to make life easy for our kids, but I also believe that we shouldn’t go out of our way to make life frustrating for them as well. If someone is thwarting your free will, you will try to find ways around them, but you will also take out your frustration on the person that is doing this to you–as so many teenagers do to their parents.

The Spring Sale is HERE

I run a big sale every spring. In fact, it’s one of the only sales I run all year. If you want to get 30% off of all your Christmas presents for your kiddos this year, stop by my shop soon. The sale won’t last long (really just until I have enough to cover my outstanding bills!), so you better snap it up while you can.

Use the coupon code MAY13 to get 30% off of everything with a minimum order of $10. 

I’m also in my shop this week making new toys, so check back often to see what’s new.