Tag Archives: children

Teach Your Children Well

Briceland Community High School, known familiarly as Bri Hi, was an offshoot of Beginnings, Inc., which had successfully sponsored a pre-school and an elementary school for years, consisting of grades K through 7. Many parents of children who had only attended Beginnings or other non-public schools were reluctant to send their children to the public junior high and high school when they aged out of these. This was because of cultural differences between the mainstream community and the back-to-the-land community, including  very different educational philosophies.

It was also based on a fear, a reasonable one based on actual incidents, that their children would or could experience bullying, discrimination, confusion, psychological trauma or any number of negative things if removed summarily from the educational environment with which they were familiar and in which most of them were successful into one their parents had every reason to believe might be hell on wheels for them. I can personally attest, since I not only parented children who went to South Fork High School, but also was, briefly, a substitute teacher there, that many Shummian children were in fact bullied, harassed, rebuffed, ridiculed, left out and misunderstood there.

The solution for some parents was home schooling and the acquisition of a GED diploma, which would be accepted with no problem by College of the Redwoods, should the students wish to attend college. For others, it was to create an alternative high school starting where Skyfish School (Beginnings’ elementary school) left off. Bri Hi was located adjacent to Beginnings’ land in “downtown” Briceland, one of the factors I believe increased problems tenfold. It lasted three years, funded by donations, tuition and, for a time, public school district funding for “alternate schools.” It crashed on financial rocks when the county pulled its funding because the school district made the funds contingent on its right to choose  students from the public school to attend Bri Hi as an alternate school and Bri Hi staff and parents voted not to accept that contingency.

I, a member of the teaching staff and a parent of a Bri Hi student, led the opposition to accepting the school district’s deal, believing it would be the death knell for what I believed was our shared educational vision. For better or worse, I believed home schooling or my children having to face the music at South Fork High would be better for them than the changes we would have to make in our educational philosophy to accomodate students and parents we had had no say in accepting.We were very consciously not a public school, I felt, and were very consciously countering what we saw as negative in public education. Our aim was to make our high school a natural outgrowth of our elementary schools. Some, but not all, students not accustomed to, for instance, individualized study plans, would only become disciplinary problems for us and parents unaccustomed to our methods would be unlikely to be supportive of us. My feeling was that we should retain the right to decide if any given student or family could accept what we were doing differently.

As it turned out, in the case of my children, one attended Bri Hi and transferred to South Fork for her last year when Bri Hi died. She had enormous problems there socially not the least because she is mixed-race, but graduated an honor student, received many awards and some small scholarships and was chosen to speak at commencement. The principal attempted to pre-approve her speech but failed, since he was not pre-approving anyone else’s speech and had no good argument for doing so, other than her race and her identity as Shummian. She gave the speech he was worried about, to an audience containing many Shummian parents and some Shummian teachers who had managed to get hired by the public school system. The reaction of this audience to her courageous and truthful speech about discrimination and its effect on education was enthusiastically positive. There was clapping, stomping and yelling of approval. She is now a professor at UC Davis.

My son, three years younger, attended South Fork his entire four high school years, was an honor student, on the football team, was voted by drama students Best Actor two years running, something that had never been done before and also won awards. He hit one disciplinary bump during the period known by some as “senioritis”, by clowning in art class. I viewed it as absolutely nothing to be upset by, but he was only mildly reprimanded. By the time he attended South Fork, however, there was a much higher proportion of Shummian students to mainstream students at the school and a much higher proportion of Shummian teachers to mainstream teachers, so that paths of my son and his friends were, in general, made straighter than that of their Shummian predacessors.  He then attended UC Santa Cruz, majoring in drama, but dropped out a semester short of graduation and moved directly to Hollywood to actually work in the entertainment industry.

Both of my biological children attended mostly Beginnings schools, but also public school when I could be assured they would be in classes of particular teachers favored by Shummians. They also both attended public school during the periods of time they were with me in Pullman WA, while I attended graduate school. Unlike many Shummian parents, I wished to insure that my children did not grow up so isolated culturally from the mainstream society that they would never be able to succeed in it. And, I wanted to be sure that they would be prepared to go to college if that is what they chose to do, yet have the benefit of an early education that stressed learning to learn, creativity, community and social responsibility.

As an indication of the effectiveness of their alternative education, I present the following story. I was quite worried that they would be behind academically in the public schools in a university town. I was justified in this. They entered their respective classes there, as their teachers told me, very behind. However, each of their teachers, independently, at different parent-teacher conferences  some months into the school year, asked me with awe, “What kind of school did this child go to? I have never seen a child enter so far behind, yet be so confident, work so hard on their own and catch up so soon.” At which point I told each teacher about our alternative community and our alternative schools and our alternative educational philosophy and they were each amazed. Both of them had completely caught up with their class by the end of the school year.

The school district funding controversy illuminated a key difference in the goals of Bri Hi and the goals of the school district. The former saw itself as a continuation of a more or less Montessori-based educational philosophy and the school district viewed Bri Hi as a place to dump disciplinary problems. In the end, however, the problem was that it simply takes more money and savvy to run a good high school than it does to run good pre and elementary schools. A book could easily be written about all the problems faced by Bri Hi, and how they were dealt with and not dealt with and what caused its demise. My goal here is to simply post historical documents that may or may not be useful to persons interested in our experiment.

A note on my byline: I was at that time transitioning from my given name to my chosen name and had decided to try going by only one name. Also, the sporadic and random vertical spacing  is a function of WordPress, not any writing failure of mine, it was spaced just fine when I cut and pasted it.

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From the Briceland Ecologian, a newspaper published by Briceland Community High School staff and students. This is, I believe, from the first issue. 

Education and Ecology: The Story of Briceland Community High School

                                                                                                                   By Jentri

In the Kalahari desert, there are no schools; yet, by the time a child is ten or so, she knows well where to find the melons and mugongo that form the staple of the !Kung Bushman diet. She does not waste water and knows how far she may have to walk from the waterhole to the unharvested nuts at any given time of the year, and how far it is to the next waterhole. Most importantly, she knows how to get along with the various groupings of  !Kung to be found at the different waterholes. She knows the importance of sharing and teamwork and relies on the interdependence of members of her band. She knows that without them she will not survive.
Is there education in the Kalahari desert? Is there a relationship between education and schools? How much do schools in America not only fail to educate, but prevent the education of children to the mandates of their environment? In the face of the global ecological crisis, these questions cannot be ignored by responsible human beings.
The American approach to public education is based upon ecologically unsound principles and assumptions, according to both ecologists and educators. (See Lewis Perlman, The Global Mind). We lock our young adults up inside jail-like structures, away from the direct experience of their environment, and, as much as possible, from each other. We force feed them information best suited to prepare them for their lives as workers, soldiers and consumers, not as organisms in a global ecosystem. We prevent them from exploring and understanding their bodies. We pit them against each other, selecting and favoring those students whose talents are most suited to our industrial technology. We short-circuit creative thinking and ignore social learning, encouraging them to work against each other, so that when they take their places in the vast multi-national corporations, they will not question policies that increase profits and dehumanize workers.

We teach them that time is divided into 50-minute periods and that wisdom is divided into unrelated categories—history, health, auto mechanics, geometry—all having nothing to do with each other. We prevent them from learning that everything they do is related to everything else they do, that what they think and feel has a direct effect upon their environment and is affected by that environment.

Any anthropologist can tell you that culture is what you teach your children, and that the cultures which have lasted longest were those most in balance with their resources. The human animal is unprecedented in the degree to which learned information determines behavior. Unlike amoebas, we respond to a perception of the environment which has been filtered through lens after lens of meaning. Industrial civilizations have become so advanced in placing these meaning barriers between the physical body and the environment, that they are now able to ignore all input from the environment—for a while.
Can there be any question that our own culture must be changed into a more adaptive form? Can there be any question that the health of the biosphere depends upon our ability to furnish an ecologically sound education to the children of our industrial nation?
For two years now, Briceland Community High School has been attempting to develop an educational program that does not perpetuate the alienation of adolescents from their environment and each other. Developing an ecological consciousness while transmitting our cultural heritage of reading, writing, math and history, etc. is a top priority in every aspect of the school, from the choice of curriculum, the manner in which courses are taught by the individual teachers, the kinds of extracurricular activities and field trips that are organized and all the subconscious lessons that are learned from simply being in a school environment for most of one’s waking hours.
Starting on the well-known shoestring, a procedure not unknown in Southern Humboldt County, students, parents and staff, as well as a number of interested persons who do not fall into these categories, bought some land and a building. The building had housed at various times, a bookstore, a cafe, and an alternative energy store. Now it had to be modified to house a school, a process not yet complete. Library shelves were installed, books donated and teachers made offices for themselves from closets four feet high. Truckloads of broken glass and other junk were removed from the grounds, by prospective students, staff and volunteers. An old trailer was found and installed, its tiny rooms renovated for math, home economics and computer classes.

Next, the house next door was purchased and much energy was expended in clearing out the rotten boards, repairing floors, replacing windows, fixing the roof, turning the kitchen into a science lab, creating a sound studio, an audio-visual center (equipment purchased cheap from another alternative high school), a student lounge. Then came a yurt, spacious, light-filled, but cold and unfurnished.
Where did the energy come from? What was the motivation for all of this hard work? No staff member will tell you that greed or ambition was the motivation. No parent will tell you that it is easier to educate your children this way. Some of the students might tell you that it was fun or that it was worth that kind of work to have a school in which they could expect to participate so fully. So far the energy has been largely hope. Tuition per student has so far been $75 per month, with a compassionate outlook on late payers. Only 20% of the school budget comes from state funds for independent study. Because, ostensibly, of the question of whether Briceland High qualifies as an independent study program, the school will probably lose this money next year.

Most of those who teach at Briceland High are not paid. Some teach in exchange for tuition for a son or daughter. Many teach for purely altruistic reasons, including a desire to see the subject taught well. Only a handful are salaried and then at a fraction of what a public school teacher might expect. What is the motivation for earning a living in such a manner? Again, love, hope and the opportunity to create a meaningful educational institution.
Next question. How far and how long can you go on love and hope and just a little money? Who will pay for the ecologically-sound education of the children? What is it worth to the community? What is it worth to attempt to create adults who have a true, deep and real understanding of the relationship of organisms on this planet?
The high school desperately needs volunteers and money. According to Yan Iris, director of the school, “We need persons capable of classroom teaching—especially in the natural sciences and the vocational arts, like gardening, carpentry, sewing and the like; but we also need help in the library, in the office, in the maintenance and improvement of buildings and grounds. Students at all age levels in the high school will be permitted to trade hours worked for the school for tuition for such classes as they may attend. Flexible and regular scheduling can be arranged.”

yan ed          Yan Iris, Principal and main person responsible for founding Briceland Community High School

Some of what is needed may be arranged through combining curriculum with needs, such as library science classes, carpentry classses to build new buildings and repair old ones. Many of the facilities of the school can eventually be used, with proper organization, by members of the community. The sound studio, the library, physical education facilities (which at present consist of a burned-out barn with a basketball net attached), and the science lab all are potentially useful to the community at large. In addition, regular classes, such as the chemistry lab, could, with proper equipment and organization, be put to such community-oriented projects as the monitoring of Redwood Creek for pollution. Biology and anthropology classes can be focused on assessment of environmental impact of various activities in the community. Briceland High School is wide open to suggestions for increasing this kind of contribution to the community.
Individuals with teaching or work energy or money to contribute to the high school should contact Jan Iris during the summer at [phone numbers given.] In addition, any staff member can help coordinate contributions and volunteers. Staff members include: Jentri, Soloman Mogerman, Duncan Cleaves, Tom McBride, Penny Cocking and Gillian Brown [phone numbers given].

Tell us what you think about us, give us your input and your support and we can give education a whole new meaning in our community.

west side story cast edAt the end of one year, the entire school cancelled all classes for a few weeks and put on a production of West Side Story, an activity educational in many ways, from fundraising to making sets, music and dance, and, mainly, working together as a team. All of the students involved, and students were free to opt out and continue working on their individualized studies, worked twice as hard on the production as they would have on their normal schoolwork. At the end, the curtain call shown here, they had the experience of being proud of their achievement. The ones applauding, I think, are applauding the pianist, not shown. Many high schools present plays, but none I know of were the product of the entire school focused on one team project.

west side story girls edGirls perform a number from West Side Story at the Briceland Community High School production.

 

west side story w piriGirls perform a dramatic number from West Side Story at the Bri Hi production.

Sol edjoani ed

Briceland High School music teacher, Soloman Mogerman, also an artist, is shown inside his owner-built home. It was his responsibility to teach the difficult score of West Side Story to high school students with no musical training other than his classes.

Briceland High School drama teacher Joani Rose watches the student production of West Side Story with bated breath.

Christmas Story, Moral Not Included

Snow Bear Butte  ed150

From Star Root, date unknown

 

The Christmas of ‘72 came straight out of Heidi –clear blue skies, green mountain meadows, majestic fir trees, the sound of water splashing over rocks. We walked along the top of Elk Ridge, just the two of us, making an outdoor day of it. We would join friends later for a traditional turkey feast. Before long, we ran into the women who were care-taking our neighbor’s house. They, too, could not stay inside on such a day. As we sat down beside the road to share our sacraments, we fell into one of those spontaneous two-hour deep conversations that used to happen a lot in early Shum. We ended, not surprisingly, on the subject of Christmas. I allowed as how I had always loved it, but one of the women made a very significant remark I never forgot. It was, “Yes we still do it, but it’s not REALLY our kind of holiday, is it?”

I was stunned. Does voluntary simplicity mean I have to give up Christmas? Well, how about Easter, Halloween and Thanksgiving? I had begun to wonder, even before this remark, just how many of the holidays were actually invented by Hallmark cards in conjunction with candy companies. Being a lover of costumes, I had clung to Halloween, but I did wonder why one celebrated true love on Valentine’s Day by getting the loved one a box full of fattening chemicals while pressuring her/him for sex. Christmas and Easter always had more meaning for me than many people in my world because of my Christian background. A large part of those holidays for me happened in church and I really did get into the symbolism and the music. Maybe that’s why it took me so long to notice that, far from being spiritually uplifted, most people end up being suckered into guilt-spending and trying to make up with cards, candy and conformist gifts, for the alienated and dysfunctional interaction they have with family and friends the rest of the time.

I’ve been working on this problem for quite a while now. First I tried to subvert consumerism by making my gifts. That was when I still had the requisite time and some aspiration to craftswomanship. Some of the back-East relatives must have thought it strange or cheap, but then everyone has an eccentric aunt who crochets fancy potholders. A kooky aunt in California who does macrame with seashells is not that big departure from tradition. In my house, there was usually a store-bought toy or two from the grandparents to add to the pile of handmade puppets, rag dolls and clothes I had made for the kids, maybe also a low-end toy or two we actually bought new in a non-thrift store. That was okay, until they hit public-school and the annual what-did-you-get list. Then the pressure was on.

By that time, the purity of the homesteading dream had already been compromised by the advent of cash crops and there was more money circulating in general. I’ll never forget the Christmas we first went to Toys”R” Us in the Concord Shopping Mall. It was a week before the Holy Day and we were two hayseed Humboldt hippies with four wish lists and what city savvy we had ever had, had been long forgotten. We were lucky we didn’t get trampled. For real meaningless misery, it’s hard to choose between that Christmas experience and our family trip to Disneyland the day after Christmas, the one where the family got separated immediately in the crowd and I wandered around for six hours with the toddler, hoping the other children were with their father and trying to give him a good time even though he had been separated from his brother and sisters.

The memory of the Christmas of ‘73 is as hard to evaluate. That year, I was seven months pregnant and living in a toolshed. The father, ashamed to take me to his family reunion in Los Angeles because we weren’t married, at least to each other, had left me to face the winter festivities alone. He said he had left the order for my Christmas present with the jewelry maker and instructed me to pick it up and give it to myself. When I tried to do that, the jewelry maker had no idea what the hell I was talking about. I found it an unspeakably humiliating. So, feeling especially “knocked up” on Christmas Eve, I set out to see what Christmas spirit might be found in Garberville. I knew the minister of one of the churches, through some friends, and had heard that they had a nice midnight service at his church. Perhaps, I thought, my Christian past would surface to console me in my time of woe.

I sneaked in late to the brightly lighted church, and, as intrusively as one can with a seven-month tummy while trying to hide a ringless left hand. The back pew I chose was occupied solely by an old man who took it all in as soon as I arrived. I thought I heard him thinking, “welfare mother, hippie slut,” but then scolded myself for making bigoted assumptions. The pastor announced the next carol. There was no hymnal at my end of the pew. I was not dismayed, for I knew all the lyrics of all the standard carols and didn’t really need a book. But the old man had no way of knowing that. He opened his hymnal and glanced sideways at me. Once. Then twice. I waited. Would he share his book? “C’mon, man,” I thought. “You can do it. Share your hymnal with ‘even ‘the least of these.’ “

At last he edged over to me and stuck the book out. I reached out, gingerly, to let him know I wasn’t asking, and our voices rose to heaven, singing about peace on Earth and good will to men. (I sang “folks” in my head as part of my ongoing project to desex the language of The Broadman Hymnal.) In the end, he even smiled. It was a rather surprised smile, but by the time we joined the candlelight procession outside to sing “Silent Night” to the clear winter sky, we were almost friends, somehow. I could still find Christmas in church back, at least when desperate enough. It probably helps to have a good imagination. Few people know better than an ex-Southern Baptist just how many hypocrites can fit into one little church, especially at Christmas.

One of the special things about Christmas for me has always been Mary. Protestants pretty much finished Mary off as meaningful myth. Catholics knew better. I was taught to think of Catholics as idol worshipers because they prayed to Mary and made “graven” images. I was never sure what “graven” meant, though it shows up in the commandment against idolatry. Is it statues vs. printed pictures?, I wondered. There were printed pictures of her in my Sunday School book. Very confusing.  Nevertheless, graven images or no, it was acceptable at Christmanstime to remember her role in producing Christ. I loved the Christmas story. I loved the stable, the manger, the angels, shepherds, the wise men, the star and the camels. Most of all, I loved Mary and the baby. One of my earliest disappointments in life was that I didn’t get chosen to play Mary in the school Christmas pageant (you could still do that then). I figured it was because I was blonde, since the girl chosen and long brown hair, but the teacher, whom I dearly loved, patiently explained to me that she was saving me for the biggest role because I was the best reader. I was going to be the Angel Gabriel and read/narrate the story, only speaking part in the pageant. I was suspicious, everyone knows angels are blonde, was I being bamboozled? But, as it turned out, I had a great time as the Angel Gabriel, except for my mother worrying how idolatrous that might be, and decided maybe I did get the role because I was the best reader.

Baptists don’t go in much for nativity scenes (more idol worship), but the first one I saw, at a friend’s house, was a fascination. One of my all-time best Christmas memories is finding an unpainted ceramic Nativity scene at a rummage sale– chubby baby-faced child figures, as if they were themselves a Christmas pageant, complete with the donkey, sheep and camels. I added some angels later. My six-year-old son and I spent a great afternoon in Pullman WA with snow falling outside, painting all the figures while I told the story. Whatever else it might be or not be, it is a great story to tell. The Nativity scene stayed with me and is one of my best treasures.

It may have been a childhood nativity scene that made me finally realize fully that Christ was Jewish. We lived in Miami in a working-class neighborhood that included Cuban emigrants, former French-Canadians, a lion-tamer formerly of the Ringling Bros Circus and various kinds of transplanted Yankees, as well as real cracker families like my own. There were Jewish children at my school and my mother’s boss, for whom she had nothing but praise, was Jewish. There were no African-Americans in my neighborhood, though. They lived little a further down the road, past where we got off the bus, in Liberty City, where I was forbidden to go and discouraged from asking why.

One year I put it altogether. If Mary was Jewish and God is Jewish and Joseph was Jewish, then Christ, no matter what you believed about the virgin birth, had to be Jewish. Jews were special to me ever after, because Jesus was my childhood friend, sometimes my only one. I kept wondering why the Christ in my Sunday School book always looked so much more Nordic than Middle Eastern. After a while, that question along with others, led me into a great theological quagmire. Finding out in my adulthood that one of the Magi was black, served to confirm me in my skepticism. Not only did Jesus always have blue eyes, but I had never seen a picture of a black wise man in my Sunday School book, either. Years later, my son and I carefully painted one of the wise men black. Let’s tell that “old, old story just like it was,” I thought, meaning, of course, as  nearly as we know it, how it was.

After 10 years of crusading atheism as a young adult, I found my feet set back on the path to the Great Spirit by the responsible use of various legal and illegal substances.  This led me to look beyond Christianity and consider Judaism, Buddhism and Hinduism, as well as the religions of various tribal peoples. For a while, I considered choosing Comparative Religion as a doctoral “field of interest” in anthropology. I read Costaneda and Allen Ginsberg. I danced with good witches and invoked Wakan-tonka, Ayimiya and Oshun. I had visions of the Great Mother and received the blessings of venerable tree spirits. What, after all that, can one say about Christmas? How about the tree? Of course, we all know the tree has nothing to do with Christ. It’s a legacy left by the Druids, who sacrificed a tree, among other living things, in midwinter, amid some serious ritualizing. Roman Catholicism just absorbed that custom, as it did so many others when it couldn’t stamp them out. Can an environmentalist, even one who is at times a Reform Druid (no blood sacrifices), have a Christmas tree in good conscience?

My last three Christmas trees were the tops of fir trees from my own land, and were trees slated to be trimmed, anyway. Even then, they were cut with reverence, after speaking to the tree and asking its permission. Later on, we cut small trees on our land, by way of thinning. Many of my decorations were made by my children, or they were re-glued bits of broken jewelry and small knick-knacks gleaned at rummage sales. About half were bought new in stores over a period of a decade. I thought of my Christmas trees as more or less Hindu. They had lots of animal figures, birds, tigers, elephants and camels, as well as traditional ball ornaments. No lights, no electricity and I was not about to get any candles near the tree while I lived in a house built of kindling. No cartoon figures or superheroes, though I found it impossible to refuse my little son when he solomnly proffered a Star Wars figure. I did, however, insist it be only one and that one Obi Wan Kenobi. I hung it low enough for him to see but pretty much nobody else.

I’m not sure what to do with the Christmas tree when it dries out and becomes a fire hazard. One year I left it to decompose naturally in the woods, but I felt strange every time I passed it. It looked wrong, even though I had done it reverently. More ceremony seemed needed. Now, I cut it up and burn it ritually, piece by piece, in the woodstove, chanting Hari Rama, it was all I could come up with. The site of a dead Christmas tree in the dumpster or a junk pile brings tears to my eyes. If there is no worship involved, it is simply consumerism.

That’s all very well for me. I live in Christmas tree land and am responsible for care taking that portion of The Land which is in my trust. What about the millions of trees slaughtered without ceremony to preside in a suburban house over piles of consumer goods? Perhaps the answer is that if you’re not already growing trees, you must plant one or see that one is planted for every cut one you buy. I don’t know. When Druids invented a winter festival worshiping trees, there were a lot more trees and a hell of a lot less people. Surely the balance between those two species needs to be restored in some way and with my rule, Christmas provides an opportunity to teach that to the children. If someone has a better idea, I’m open. Whatever one’s relationship to trees at Christmas, if knowledge of the current imbalance between people and trees is not a part of the consciousness around the activity, the activity is simply one more corruption of Christmas.

And Santa, what about Santa? I refused to tell that lie to children older than two, though I did continue to label some presents from Santa, sort of jokingly, throughout their childhoods. I told them, when they were talking pretty well, that people dressing as Santa and making pictures of him was a way we remind each other to be generous and kind, that Christmas was a time of honoring compassion and love. (I knew that later on I would tell them the whole history of how his image merged, again thanks to the Catholics, with the image of a Nordic god who routinely rode through the air in a sleigh pulled by reindeer. Odin or Thor, can’t remember which.) They were not traumatized, as far as I can tell, and our celebration was in no way compromised. (I probably let the lie about the Tooth Fairy go on longer than the one about Santa Claus, but I was pretty up front on that one, too.)

Every year I waffled on the Christmas issue. Shall I ignore it, believing that I am the only one really praying for world peace on Christmas Eve, or is that some kind of arrogance? Is there karma attached to that? Shall I allow myself to be dragged into the massive display of wealth and status, knowing every year that I will be revealed once again as a financial failure, only able to send salt shakers back to my back-East relatives? Shall I sing The Messiah one more year or not? A midwinter feast celebrating the birth of one of the bringers of peace to a symbolic reincarnation of the Ancient Mother, a celebration that mixes in a little tree worship, too–no, I can’t quite give that up.

Maybe I’ll send homemade cookies to the back-east relatives, even though their kids are all big now and I’m a lousy cook. The nieces ought to have a kooky aunt in California that still makes Christmas cookies. And maybe I’ll scratch around in the basement and dust off  that Nativity scene my son and I painted when he was six. Maybe it’s not, as the women said, “really our kind of holiday.” But maybe, like pretty much everything else in our alternative quest, it doesn’t need to be completely thrown out, only meditated upon. The Christmas walk was a good thing and so was the candlelight procession at midnight. The Hindu Christmas tree and homemade Christmas cookies both feel okay, even if guilt-driven, status-conscious wasteful and unnecessary spending doesn’t. All in all, it’s a badly damaged custom, but then I’m an ace recycler. . . .

Beginnings, Inc.

octagon thru trees iph

One of the earliest of Shummian organizations to form was Beginnings, Inc., a group of people who raised money and bought land communally, as a legal non-profit, then became an umbrella organization that eventually included a community center, several schools, a Tae Kwan Do dojo and, by no means least, a volunteer fire department. Beginnings grew from a smaller organization, a Montessori pre-school called Children’s House.

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