“Learning” – by La Britta Gilbert

April 28, 2010


may be untidy

is fragile

defines us

is often unorthodox

(irreverent, too)

may be inconvenient

is not sitting still

is not being quiet

is letting something inside out


makes mistakes

makes sense

makes no sense

waits on self-esteem:  I learn only as much as I think I deserve to know.

It also:

may arrive unannounced

won’t be put off

is play

is work

is frustration

is necessary

feels right

hurs sometimes

changes us

can be diverted but not denied

is a skeptic

needs space

needs time

asks forbearance

can’t be taught

can’t be caught



guesses wrong

(and knows it’s all right)

has many disguises


never stops.

Poem from the book:  I Can Do It!  I Can Do It!, by La Britta Gilbert, prologue


Born Learners

April 21, 2010

Have you ever watch a small child learn something new on their own?  That the velcro on their shoe makes a sound?  Or listened to them as they miraculously acquired language?  You know you didn’t teach them that, but there it is.  They are learning on their own.  Children are born thinkers and learners.  The quantity of what we actively teach and what they learn doesn’t even compare.  So the question I think we need to ask ourselves as parents is, “Where can we assist our children on their learning journey?  What areas can we open up to them?  What resources can we help to provide to encourage the learning they are already doing?”

“When you want to teach children to think, you begin by treating them seriously when they are little, giving them responsibilities, talking to them candidly, providing privacy and solitude for them and making them readers and thinkers of significant thoughts from the beginning.”

(“Sweet Land of Liberty” – by Grace Llewellyn, pg.58-59 in Everywhere All the Time, ed. by Matt Hern)

It isn’t about teaching children what to think.  It’s about respecting the fact that they already know how.

Grace Llewellyn

The Teenage Liberation Handbook

Guerrilla Learning:  How to give Your Kids a Real Education With or Without School

Founder of “Not Back to School Camp”

Reflections on Deschooling

April 14, 2010

One of my great areas of cerebral and practical interest is that of education.  What is it really?  It’s not school, or I should say not only school.  Education is much, much bigger.  So how should we  look at education?  Many people of faith think of it with an “in” or “out” approach.  You either keep them “in” the public school system or you take them “out”.  But many times the actual style of education that is happening with the “home” crowd closely resembles the structure, if not the content of the “school” group.  But education doesn’t stop with the schools.  We have opportunities all around us all the time for learning and growing that go way beyond what school offers.  How should people of faith think on those issues?  The question I personally want to answer with education is not, “What job can I get?”, but “What skills and knowledge do I need to live a meaningful life?”

Here’s my background:  My degree in college was in Mathematics Education which qualified me on finishing my studies to teach 4-12 grade mathematics and K-8 all subjects (due to my added endorsement in elementary education.)  Before you get too impressed with the Math part let me tell you that if I hadn’t had study partners in my Junior and Senior years I would have drowned in the sea of all those letters and numbers.  Anyway, I ended up substitute teaching for 2 1/2 years and I had my own 1st grade class for 2 years.  When my daughter was born I really started looking into various kind of models of education since I was thinking of teaching her at home.  A couple of the models I looked into were:

  • Montessori
  • Waldorf
  • Charlotte Mason
  • Unschooling/Deschooling

And to be honest, I found things in each that I liked.  Deschooling, however held a certain mystique for me and still does.  Reading about it really gave me sense of the possible.  And I began to wonder, if it does that for me what would that style of education do for my children?  So I am setting myself a task.

I’ve been reading a book by Matt Hern entitled, Everywhere All the Time:  A New Deschooling Reader. This book has a great collection of authors, including deschooled kids themselves. I am going to be pulling different thoughts, ideas and quotes from this book and take some time for reflection.  I’m not looking for a one-size-fits-all model to lay like a template over my life and that of my children, but more a way of thinking about education that incorporates it into all aspects of my life.  I’m excited to see where this will lead.

“Justice at the Table” Workshop coming

March 1, 2010

I would love for you to join me for a “Justice at the Table Workshop”.  I’ve been working for the last several months to better integrate the issues of faith, communion and food practices in a practical resource and I’m excited to share this with all who are interested.  If you are please join us.  Here’s the information:

Description: Come to a “The Revolution Starts at Home” event, Justice at the Table!  We will explore together the intricate connections between our faith and the food we eat.  We will challenge ourselves and each other to bring our eating and buying practices more in line with our beliefs and begin drafting a  plan to help us implement the changes we hope to make.
Event Details:
  • Date – March 13th, 2010
  • Where – Mustard Seed House, 510 NE 81st Street Seattle, WA  98115 (upper floor, back entrance)
  • Time – 9am – 3pm
  • Food – Coffee, Tea, and a vegetarian lunch is included.  Please bring any snack with you that you wish to share.
  • Children – Due to our limited space and small staff, we are unable to offer childcare at this event.  You are welcome however to bring children 2 and under with you if you feel they’d do well in a room of chatting adults.
  • Cost – $40 individual/$35 groups of 2 or more (if cost is prohibitive please contact mail@msainfo.org for scholarship information)

Growing up with food

January 4, 2010

I grew up as a child of a Type I diabetic.

We ate very simple well balanced meals.

We ate three times a day on a regular schedule.

We had very few sweets.

No alcohol.

Food-wise, these facts have been formative.

My father became aware of being a diabetic when he was drafted to serve in Vietnam.  He was on his way to boot camp when the MP’s stopped the bus and took him back to the testing facility to check again.  Obviously, he never went overseas.  He met and married my mother instead.

At that point in medical history there was no simple way for diabetics to test their own sugar levels.   So a regulated diet was your best bet of maintaining a good balance and living a longer life.  My mother kept our family menu reduced to its essential parts to help my father keep better track of what he was eating.

A typical meal would be:

Broiled chicken (legs and thighs)

Steamed Broccoli

Baked Potato

Homemade Canned Fruit with Extra Light Syrup

Seasoning: Salt, Pepper, Garlic Powder

Dessert would come on festive occasions, or occasionally a pack of cookies or a quart of ice cream would be purchased which I regret to say my family could down in one or two sittings.

Looking back I can see some ways in which this has formed my eating habits as an adult.

  1. I enjoy eating a wide variety of healthy foods. My parents believed in at least trying everything once so as an adult I have very few things I won’t eat.  Vegetables and fruit were a daily part of my diet.  My family always bought apples by the box.  Old-fashioned peanut butter was a staple.  (In high school my mother was literally buying it by the gallon to feed all the extra kids hanging around.)
  2. I rarely skip a meal.  I don’t remember ever skipping meals as a kid.  Being late for a meal would cause my father’s blood sugars to drop and he would look and act as if drunk.  My shy mother, in these instances, would be amazing.  She’d bypass people waiting in line for food, order an orange juice, and somehow get it down my father’s throat.
  3. I accept almost any sweet offered to me.  Since sweets were infrequent I took them where I could get them.  This realization has only come to me in the writing of this document.  We all have our relationship to sweets, but mine I think is based a feasting and fasting mentality.

I’ve been looking into my past relationship with food because I want to look forward.  I want a balanced spiritual view of what food is and how it should function in my life.  I also want to look outward, examining how food affects my relationship with others and how it can become a missional part of my life.

“You Are What You Eat”, by Photographer Mark Menjivar

December 7, 2009

We just received an inaugural copy of the new magazine GENERATE this past week.  I must comment that it’s a great looking publication.  The design is outstanding!  The cover art for this edition will definitely draw your attention.  It’s a photo of the inside of a fridge with just a jar of wasabi mayonnaise, a black plastic bag and nothing else.  The photo comes from a collection by  Mark Menjivar entitled YOU ARE WHAT YOU EAT.

“Menjivar began a slow process of travelling around the country and painstakingly making large-format color photographs of the insides of people’s kitchen refrigerators.  He said, “I see these as portraits of people and families and have approached the project in that way.””  GENERATE, pg.15

Each photo is labeled with the person’s occupation, their location, how large their household is, and an interesting piece of information.  What really got me excited was how Menjivar is using this installation to inspire communities around the country and inspire grassroots movements.  He will be traveling to several cities including Seattle, where he will be hosted by Cairo gallery and hopes to partner with local grassroots hunger organizations.

Renewing my Hope

November 9, 2009

March 9 last Spring our third child was born, a beautiful healthy boy.  For the past eight months we’ve been in what I like to call “hamster-wheel-mode”, going from one thing to the next, never quite getting it all done, crashing completely spent in front of the TV, going to bed, then waking up too early to start it all over again.  My husband, Eliacin, and I haven’t been too happy with this rhythm but we’ve been too tired to think of anything new.

Cama Beach Cabins I

Cama Beach Cabins II

For my birthday this past week Eliacin gave me a wonderful gift, the gift of time-off!  We took a couple of days and went to a cabin up at Cama Beach State Park.  The cabin had two full beds, a microwave, a fridge and a sink, (and heat) with a bath house a short walk from our cabin.  (And for anyone living on a limited income these are really inexpensive off-season!)  No stove.  No TV.  We took all our meals premade and just reheated.  We went on 2-3 long walks a day, and played games with the kids at night.  We watch a heron come every evening to fish right in front of our cabin.  We stared at the water and the rain and trully started relaxing more than we’d been able to for a long time.  Then we started talking.

What we realized pretty quickly was that once again we were off-track, saying and doing completely different things.  Believing in a life-style of self-education, but spending most of our evenings in front of the TV.  Believing it was our responsibility to give our kids a foundation for their spiritual journey, but taking little time to talk with them about it.  So we came up with a few simple guidelines for ourselves that we are challenging ourselves to follow.

  • Have a morning and evening prayer time with our kids where we read scripture, talk through bible stories and just engage their thoughts and questions.
  • Turn off the TV Monday-Thursday and either read, listen to books or radio, or just go to sleep early if we need it.
  • Take a family walk everyday around the neighborhood.

Simple actions that we hope will help us move forward.  It is so much easier for me to give up, to stop moving forward.  But everytime that becomes my rhythm, my life looses its joy, its passion.  I don’t want to live without passsion.  Sometimes I think of my life as a spiral.  It’s either one that starts with me and moves outward sharing and giving or it takes everything that surrounds me and draws it in to myself focusing more and more on my own family and interests.  Right now I need to change the direction of my spiral and regain the passion and hope I think is so essential to living an abundant life.