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  • The “Class”

    Avery, Naim, Aaron

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NWCT, Last Child in the Woods.

Not much to say about today because I did NOT make it to Saturday and totally blew it today and just had to take a mental health day instead of doing school. I think it was the long and stressful day at D’s yesterday, and that we’ve gone somewhere and had teacher type visitors every day this week since last Saturday. But Naim went to NWCT and the assistant instructor did run around the block with him a few times and I guess that helped. She says he did a lot better concentrating and also with his lines (except he needs to stop making up weird voices for his character) and feels pretty set for the play, which is next week.

While I took a much needed afternoon nap, and Nik went to D’s, I set the kids up on PBS Kids website and they played games for hours. Once I get them to a few sites, they are pretty much self-managed on the computer. I don’t do it very often, but that gave me a really good nap and I felt a lot better afterwards. I suppose PBS Kids has to be a wee bit educational and not pure crap, right?

***************

Okay, but what I really want to write a little about is Naim and the Last Child in the Woods.

Naim has always been a special child, so much so that I feel like I can’t say too much about it or people will think I’m crazy and all kids are special, blah, blah, blah. When he was a baby, I felt like he had been here before and he understood a lot, when everything was completely new to Aaron. Some people say he has an “Old Soul.” His friend R’s mother has even mentioned that there is something special about Naim. It has been things like, when he was two years old he saw a picture of my sister from the shoulders up, whom he had never met before and I had never really talked that much about and he said, “That’s my Lori with the long legs and the green eyes.” It was the longest sentence he had said at that point. And it came from nowhere.

He has told us frequently that he knows the meaning of life, but it is a secret and we are not ready to know yet. These are not terms that we talk in. He has told us about places he has been before a long time ago when he was a dad. When we get stressed about something, he tells us to relax and that we only need to worry about if we are being good to each other and loving each other. It is hard to know, really, how much is just his imagination and how much is some other kind of knowledge. I’m in general an open-minded skeptic. Meaning, I will listen to your crazy-ass idea about reincarnation or spirits or whatever, but you are going to have to show a hell of a lot of evidence and get off the woo train before I would really take you seriously.

Naim has always talked about the environment. In general, I’m politically leaning pro-environment, I try to do my part and not be a pig, but I am definitely not the rugged, outdoorsy, survivalist type. We talk about recycling and not wasting resources to the kids, but have not really gone into large scale geopolitical discussions about it with the kids.

Naim talks about the environment a lot. He talks about how all this cement and smoke shouldn’t be here when we are in the city. He talks about how cars are bad (ok, we do make fun on drivers, so some of that might be due to us.) He also talks, sometimes extensively for up to an hour or more at a time, how “the aliens” tell him that we are screwing up the earth and how we need to use our own power instead of the earth’s power to live. He talks extensively about how they do things on another planet. He says they use solar and wind generators and only use the dead trees on the ground or pelts from animals that have already died. He tells us they don’t eat meat and live a hunter-gatherer lifestyle. He says that people on earth think they are fighting over land but they are really fighting over power and that is the root of all evil and it will be what will kill off the humans. He tells us that the aliens live in a world where there is no money and they just help each other and trade. He says he could teach everyone how to live gently on the land, but he doesn’t know how. He says things that just blow my mind.

We don’t have TV to speak of. They get very little internet. Their books are all general kids books. Now, D used to listen to Coast to Coast AM and Art Bell and all that stuff, which I know is full of alien woo, but D swears up and down that he has not listened to it while the kids have been there and has not talked to Naim or Aaron about aliens in these terms. He feels like Naim has either a psychic connection to others or is remembering stuff from a past life. I won’t go so far, but I do see that this is something special and that we all recognize that Naim needs encouragement to deal with his ideas and not for us to discount them or be weirded out by them.

So, I thought if Naim has such a strong connection to the environment and wants to teach others (and learn himself, I don’t think he knows how to live like survivor man, even when he says he does) about the environment and how to live on the earth more gently, I should follow that and support it. The problem is, I am not the outdoorsy type and am basically a know nothing. I’ve only been camping like, two overnight trips in my life. We don’t have a lot of access to nature because we are trapped to TriMet, so that is another obstacle. And I am not good at seeing animal tracks or a bug or a bird, cuz I can’t see. I enjoy nature on the macro level.

So I decided to learn more about how to facilitate this. One of the first things I did was to actually READ the book “The Last Child in the Woods.” This book claims that children today suffer from “Nature-Deficit Disorder” which is very tongue in cheek and not a medical definition, he is sure to point out, but that the opportunities for kids to access nature are almost nonexistent now from a generation or more ago. He gives the following reasons:

  • Obviously, rural flight and higher density urban living.
  • Stranger Danger myths and how kids cannot go outside unsupervised anymore.
  • Parents who no longer work outside, or garden etc. because they are all in cubicles.
  • Mass development and grading of every open area to nice manicured lawns with paths where you can’t even touch the grass. No more “wild growth” spaces.
  • An emphasis on the STEM sciences and a de-emphasis on the natural sciences so severe that the natural science academy is aging and there is no one to replace them.
  • Doom and gloom scenarios about the environment that make it scary and they don’t want to deal with it. (i.e. every single nature presentation has a conservation message in it that discusses how the whales are all dying, the forests are all dying, there is global warming so we will all be covered by the ice caps soon.) He doesn’t advocate hiding the truth about conservation and environmental damage, just that maybe, especially at young ages, it can be done in a more positive hopeful way and the stress can be on enjoying living interdependently instead of how we have to save the planet. He says that the issue is so large and overwhelming and hard to grasp (even for adults) that kids tend to just check out instead of getting scared about it.
  • Most interestingly (to me, I hadn’t thought of this before) policies and legislation that are very child-unfriendly, such as HOA covenants, Public Park rules and laws, liability rules and laws. All of these things really create a hostile environment for kids to be allowed to climb a tree or pick up a stick or throw a rock or dig a hole. They only get nature as extremely sterile and something they are not allowed to touch, or that it is dangerous.
He stresses the importance of nature exposure to kids not only to understand and appreciate their environment and to learn to become good stewards of the earth but also for health reasons such as fitness, releasing stress, dealing with ADHD type symptoms, etc. and he sites story after story about outdoorsy nature programs and how they have benefitted kids and adults. He has a reasonable approach to it. Bringing more nature into the city even if it is just a vacant lot that stays vacant. Giving kids more freedom by working together and having parents take turns watching each others kids (but from a short distance.) Giving your kids lots of opportunities to get out and be in nature rather than indoors watching screens. He talks about different types of outdoor schools (we visited one in Vancouver. A public elementary school with NO building whatsoever. They travel in “families” and are mostly outside or in libraries, museums, and other community locations during very inclement weather.
So, the whole thing, Naim’s interest and his energy level, his need to do “real stuff” and be important, lends itself to us getting him out more (it would be good for all of us.) And that has been my major research project the last couple of weeks. Because we are so goddamned dumb about anything real in life (gardening, camping, cooking, etc. All I ever learned growing up was to go to school and go to college and then go to work. I have excellent booksmart and office skills.) we have to go a bit slowly as to not get in over our heads, thus my ExUrban transit research and our State Park recon mission. As much as possible, I think it would be good for us to learn and grow together in this area as a family. When we went to Mt. St. Helens–as close as we came–they had spent all but maybe an hour and a half of eight hours in a car. You’d think they’d have gone bonkers. And they did a little, but then everything changed when they got out and we hiked around that stream. And then at Vernonia, the first hour, I’d say, they were all anxious and pestering and couldn’t relax, but after about an hour, they totally got into it. It is good for us.
So, my ideas in this regard:
  • I will not do boy scouts, I hate them. But I would consider Spiral Scouts, Young Naturalists, Roots and Shoots and others. I am trying to look into 4H, but I just don’t GET 4H. How does it work?
  • The biggy I’m looking into now is Trackers PDX. It has a lot of different kinds of classes in nature, but it is pretty hard core. They have both adult and kid classes, but not together, and I am not going to go all the way there (Sellwood) and then turn around and come back or hang out in a closet all day. Its not because I want to hover, but if they are going to do that, I’m doing it with them.
  • Making more of an effort to do VH’s nature field trips, which would probably have to be cab rides mostly.
  • Daytripping and camping to places like Stub Stewart or somewhere on the coast. I don’t know if we will ever get to tents because of our packing and carrying issues, but cabins I think we could pull off. We don’t always have to be in a hotel.
  • Taking more smaller trips to city parks like Merlo Road, Jackson Bottom or other in the city places.
  • Looking into Oral Hull (Camp for the Blind, sometimes has family events)
  • Skiing or snowshoeing on Mt. Hood.
  • Tours of places like the gorge and mt. st. helens. Places we can’t get to ourselves but could with a tour.
  • There are always homeschooling camps in the summer, and also sometimes UU ones. Figuring out how we can go to those.
  • Just taking walks with Sully and some combination of kids when I go over to do the D breakfast run.
  • OMSI outdoor classes and camps.
  • Ranch/horseback riding vacations
  • U-Picking and Farmer’s Marketing much of our produce.
  • Gardening (we improved greatly this year from last, we could improve again.)
  • Having the kids plan, implement and maintain our backyard in a useful way, not the stupid suburban golf green bullshit we have now. Places to dig, places to plant things, composting, places to care for and attract birds, butterflies, etc. (our jungle this summer was a ton of fun! We saw all different kinds of grasses, bugs, worms, wild plants and weeds. We could go better managed than that, but still have some element of wildness to it.) Also, find out what we could do with the side yard to pretty it up or make it more useful.
In the end, Naim is going to decide for himself, what if anything he is going to do with his intense interest in caring for the earth, but it is so strong, that it seems like my duty to push myself past my own limitations to give him a chance to explore that for himself. He tells me he can save the world. How can I get in the way of that?

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