A Message from Michael Jackson

Lucas has been a longtime Michael Jackson fan.  If you don’t believe me, here’s a video of him at age 4 lip-synching MJ’s song Black or White.

Lucas is now 7, and as I write, he’s in the living room watching a Michael Jackson concert DVD and practicing his moves.  He is going to dress as Michael Jackson for Halloween this year.  This adoration is not fading with time. 

I often wonder if there is a deeper connection here.  Did he know Michael in his past life? Maybe he was around during Michael’s early life and they were dance buddies. Who knows?

So on Friday, I took him to the La Mesa Oktoberfest.  As we were wandering past the craft booths, we saw Michael Jackson through the crowd.  It was a woman in a very convincing costume.  She was posing for photos with people for money and passing out business cards.  Lucas was fascinated!  He knew it had to be a person in costume, but he was too star-struck to approach.  He wanted me to do it for him.  I wasn’t particularly interested in talking to Michael Jackson by myself, so we continued to watch from a distance. 

Suddenly, Michael turned away from the people and looked right at Lucas through the crowd. He walked over and stood facing Lucas and gave a little wave and a smile.  Lucas waved and smiled shyly.  Michael asked him his name and how old he was. Lucas answered. Then he said in a soft Michaelish sort of voice, “Do you have love in your heart?” Lucas nodded.  Michael continued, “That’s so wonderful, because you know that’s the most important thing in the world, that you keep love in your heart; that we all love one another.  Remember that.”  Lucas nodded solemnly and then Michael Jackson smiled and walked back into the crowd.

The woman in costume wasn’t saying that to anyone else. She didn’t hand us a business card or ask if we wanted a photo.  It was like she was delivering a message directly from Michael to Lucas. And to me, as well, I suppose.  Right there, in front of the motorcycle toys made from recycled materials and the leather wallets, we had a spiritual moment.  With Michael Jackson.  Life is a funny thing.


Education Reform Perpectives on My New Blog

I have started a new blog that focuses on the changes in education that are needed to support this amazing generation of children.  I hope you'll come check it out and join me over there, too.

I will keep this site going as I continue to grapple with parenting this strong-willed, charismatic, and sensitive boy of mine - now a first grade "cool guy." So please stay connected here, as well.

I miss connecting with you all, and look forward to more conversations, so please chime in with your comments to say hello, ask questions, and share your thoughts.


Who's Really Running Your School?

These days, I find myself in a constant battle with the disaster that passes for our modern education system.  Is anyone else feeling this way?  Homework for five-year-olds; relentless testing and test-oriented teaching in order to “move kids up” to the next level of proficiency; longer school days; little to no time outdoors; worksheets, worksheets, worksheets;  art and music seen as enrichments that schools can no longer afford; teachers forced to feel like baby sitters or police on crowd control duty rather than the inspiring mentors they set out to be …  the list could go on for pages.

Aside from the ambitious pockets of alternative-seeking families doing whatever they can to get their kids into charter or independent schools, it seems that most of America is okay with this.  They do wonder, of course, why their children are failing or developing learning disorders in record numbers. They do wonder why so many of their children are suffering from depression and anxiety. But they suspect something is wrong with their children, not the schools. They continue to buy into the fallacy that what corporate America is feeding their children is a healthy education.

They aren’t questioning how corporate CEOs and politicians could possibly know better than educators about healthy child development and learning theory. And yet corporate CEOs and politicians are precisely the ones who have created our current data-driven, product-based educational climate. Take a look at the page on this link to see who is really controlling our education.  (Sneak peek: it’s Exxon Mobile and Siemens Corp.) Be sure to scroll down past the introductory nonsense to see more about the committee and their work.  Common Core, STEM, Early Reading, and more  all come from this committee of corporate CEOs and the politicians who support them.

Business Roundtable is dedicated to accelerating innovation and boosting the worldwide competitiveness of our nation. A key component of success in the international economy is smart, educated, and motivated employees and customers.

Our children are not employees or customers.   They are multifaceted people. I can see where the Business Roundtable for Education is coming from, though.  If the end goal is, in fact, to create employees and customers, then it does make sense to ensure that that students are obedient, can follow directions, and are incapable of thinking for themselves.

I don’t think that’s what American families are really intending when they send their children to school, though. Do you?  It’s time for more people, and I mean a LOT more people, to question this.  There is an abundance of solid research on learning theory  and child development that ought to have shut down these current practices before they ever had a chance to take hold.  Why didn’t that happen?  

The lack of financial and political power held by educators is an issue for another article, but that’s a big part of it.  Another large piece is that the American public just doesn’t know education theory from a sound bite.  And it’s not their fault.  Why should they? We don’t expect them to know about legal precedents in the law profession or the latest in medical diagnosis.  We expect that the people trained in those professions are the ones who hold that knowledge and use it to our communal benefit.

The problem here is that people outside the education profession have hijacked our platform and are telling the American public what to think about education. Not only are they NOT the ones holding the educational knowledge, but they are definitely NOT using it to our communal benefit. They are using it to their corporate and political benefit. 

Education is a cultural endeavor, not an economic or political one.  When economics and politics govern our education, we are only capable of re-creating the same conditions we have currently.  For example, we have CEOs looking at what they need now in terms of qualified employees. They set up a system of education that systematically and methodically teaches and measures for those precise qualities.  These children are only given the opportunity to reproduce what those CEOs decided were their best ideas at that time. But the world changes.  No one knows what anyone will need to know fifteen years from now. Teaching for precise skills and bits of knowledge might be easy to assess and measure, but it most certainly doesn’t result in innovation.

By contrast, when you offer children a well-rounded, balanced education, based in solid learning theory and child development theory, in an environment that respects and develops the many different gifts and talents young people bring to the world,  you will have as a result, human beings who can think for themselves and apply their unique gifts to solve world problems in new ways.  This is true innovation.

For now, one solid action you can take is to share this with your friends and have a discussion. That's all. That's easy.  It matters.

Food Sensitivities - Why So Prevalent?

Doesn’t it seem like food sensitivities in children have skyrocketed with this generation?  It’s not just the imagination of well-informed parents, either.  Kids are rashier, sneezier, coughier, wheezier, more hyper and less focused than ever before.  It’s true.  I have to look no further than my classroom or my home.  It’s not just a few kids, anymore.  It’s becoming the majority of them.  This is quickly growing into the new normal.

I am more and more convinced that this is related to our diet and to imbalanced gut flora in our children.  You pair sensitive kids with our modern, GMO-infested, artificial food production practices and you’re asking for trouble.  Wheat and dairy are the biggest culprits of all sorts of issues, from ADHD-like behavior to chronic colds, asthma-like symptoms, rashes, and more.  Check out this article on wheat (Modern Wheat Really Isn’t Wheat at All) and I bet you’ll think twice about feeding it to your kids. I did, and am making some radical changes to our household diet.

But it’s not just today’s diet.  I recently learned something that hit me like a ton of bricks:  We moms may have caused the allergies and food sensitivities in our children.  “What?!” you might ask, just as I did.  “But I breastfed my child, I buy organic, I avoid processed foods, we all lead a healthy lifestyle. I’m doing all the right things.  How did I cause these allergies?”

Well, we didn’t know we were doing it.  Many of us mamas unwittingly passed on our own unbalanced gut issues to our little ones.  This may not be as true outside the United States, but check this out: If you were born in the late 60s, 70s, or even into the 80s, breastfeeding was not popular at that time, and if it was done at all, it was very briefly.  As a result, many babies of that era missed out on that immune-boosting mother's milk and therefore ended up with lots of childhood colds, allergies, sinus issues, ear infections and the like.  Sound familiar?  Tonsils removed? Tubes in ears?  Antibiotics were the cure-all, and you were given plenty of them growing up, which obliterated much of your good gut bacteria.  Add to that hit the statistic that many modern moms were on birth control pills from a relatively young age and were on it for a long period of time before becoming moms.  Birth control pills also wipe out your helpful gut flora. 

If you happened to have not been eating organic, non-GMO, whole foods all along, along with loads of probiotics (and let’s face it, who was?) then by the time you had children, your immune system and gut bacteria had been seriously compromised, and that, my friends, is what we passed along to our sensitive babies with our conscious choice to breastfeed. 

Bummer, huh?  I mean, really!  Ouch!

So where does that leave us?  For me, it leaves me with some experimenting to do.  I want to know how much the foods Lucas eats are impacting his overall health, his immune responses, and his behavior.  It’s possible that my experiments with food will lead us to some really difficult choices about how we shop, cook, and eat.  They may lead to changing lifelong habits, which is always hard to do. 

But what’s the cost of changing my grocery list and cooking style compared to the benefits of my son’s health, learning and well-being?  These food-related issues are not going away, and they are becoming more and more of a mainstream challenge for everyone – parents, children, teachers, schools, workplaces.  We can pretend it’s not an issue, or we can take the challenge and begin making the changes and see what happens.



A few more resources and info on the subject:

The Story of Sparrow - A Fairy Tale

I wrote this story and read it to a crowd of about 100 at our first NUA Sparrow Open House earlier this month. I thought you all might enjoy it, as well. It's one way of explaining the dissolution of Xara and how this new school miraculously came to be.

Not so long ago, a small kingdom with a big heart was falling apart at the seams. As rulers, courtiers, and villagers dispersed to the four corners of the land, a small band of individuals remained hopeful that, somehow, the struggling kingdom would survive.

When word came that the little kingdom had pulled up its drawbridge and bolted its gates, this group knew in their hearts it was not, in fact, the end. But what were they to do? “Our kingdom had its troubles, to be sure,” they cried, “but if given a chance, we will take what we learned and create a kingdom like none other; one that is wholesome and good for our children and our families.”

A brave and good knight from a neighboring kingdom heard word of their plight. Sir Halfaker traveled far and wide to the land of Nua to beseech its Duke to take in the small band as his own. Duke Bernie agreed, and there was great rejoicing…

… but only for a moment, for there was little time to celebrate when so much was to be done. The land of Nua had no castle for this tiny new kingdom, and Duke Bernie had decreed that if, and only if, the band could find enough villagers to join together with them, would he help them find their castle and support their new beginning. The small group had only seven weeks to fulfill the Duke’s wishes.

Amidst the castle hunting and courtier screening and villager recruiting, the small band worked night and day to amend and enhance their kingdom’s mission. “Our old kingdom had heart, but let’s now add head and hands, for only when the three work together in harmony will our kingdom be balanced and whole.”

By the sixth of the seven weeks, atop a small hill with a gently blowing breeze, there was found a tiny castle just perfect for their new kingdom. The band scurried and scrubbed, painted and prepared, and by the end of that one very last, very short week, they were actually ready.

On September 12th, 2011, in the Land of Nua, the kingdom of Sparrow opened its gates and welcomed its people. And the small band of individuals who had hoped it so, who had made it so … smiled.

Checking In

Hello readers! I've missed you! I've been a bit busy these past few months ... starting a NEW SCHOOL!  I'm so eager to fill you in, but I've only gotten as far as updating the About page, so go check that out to find out a teensy little bit. I've been writing a ton, but it's all going into our promo materials and a new website for the school, (and emails and newsletters and curriculum and and and...). I'll share the website here when it's ready.

There is so much to share ... about how this whole crazy thing happened in seven weeks flat; about how miraculous it was that we found the perfect site only one week before we were scheduled to open and how crews of parent volunteers transformed the place in nine days;  about how all these parents hung in there through a summer full of slim chances to take this leap of faith together; about how 100 people packed into our open house on the one stormy October night that it rained buckets in San Diego ... there are so many stories!

I'll do my best to share them here as I carve out the time.  It may take a while.

Oh, and by the way, the name of our school is National University Academy - Sparrow Program, or NUA Sparrow for short.

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