Category Archives: Column: Circe’s Circle

Circe’s Circle casts a pagan perspective over topics such as education, parenting, LGBT issues and anything else that might come to mind. Written by D. Ryan

Fun Fall Activities for Parents of Tweens

When school starts in the fall, it seems like all our time and energy is spent on studying and activities. My girls are active in many activities and sports. In a single week, we’re diving, riding horses, practicing martial arts, taking music lessons, and participating in school clubs.

spicer-millIn the few nights we have without a scheduled activity (most Saturdays–but not all,) we seem to be focused on keeping up the house, doing shopping, or sitting in a zombie coma in front of the news. The news, as always, is full of violence, drama, and junk reporting.

So this fall, we’re planning to make time for some family activities like:

  1. Visit a cider mill. The mills in our area have trails and lots of stuff to do.
  2. Go hiking in our local state park. The dog can even come with us.
  3. Make a medieval town from Legos. We have thousands of pieces for fun and creativity.medieval-lego
  4. Grounding rituals to help us feel part of nature and celebrate the Goddess Earth.
  5. Finally film that movie Wife and Twin #2 have been writing–Night of the Wild Rogue Chicken. That should be a blast.

When life gets busy, it’s important to take time to ground yourself–connect with family and the Earth–otherwise you risk losing yourself in the back-to-school melee.

Labor Day and “I Hate Unions”

Labor Day and Dislike of Unions

Union meme 2It’s funny that the nation takes a day off the first Monday in September (unless you have a minimum wage job, in which case you’re probably selling grills or hot dogs) to celebrate the creation of unions. So many people are anti-union, especially when it comes to teachers unions.

I can’t tell you how many articles and comments I’ve read that denigrate teachers unions. They talk about teachers as if we’re demanding raises at the expense of everything else. They paint us as nameless, faceless greedy Grinches who will sell your kid’s soul to the devil for ten cents more a year. This comes after the month long lovefest of articles celebrating the generosity of underpaid teachers who dip into their own meager resources to provide pencils and glue sticks for needy kids. Isn’t that ironic?Union thug meme

Anyway, back to the union thing. In national polls, people have a low opinion of teachers and schools, yet when asked about THEIR community schools, people generally rate them quite high. People hate on the teacher unions, but they love their kids’ teachers. Why? Simple—we make an easy scapegoat. Teachers do care about the kids we teach, and most of us dislike politics. We want to teach kids, not fight legislators to increase school funding to keep up with inflation.

I’ve NEVER had a cost of living increase. I haven’t had an actual raise in over a decade. In fact, I’ve taken about a 19% pay cut. I now work two jobs. Last year, my second job brought in as much income as teaching. This year, it’ll bring more. Does that mean that teaching is now the second job?

Additionally legislators have made us pay more for health care. You’re thinking we should, right? What if I told you that in bargaining, we put would-be raises into paying for rising health care costs so that the district wasn’t paying out any more money? What if I told you that we were already indirectly paying for those increased costs?

Union memeWe pay a price for that method, one that actually eases the burden on the pension system. When we retire, the cost of benefits isn’t figured into our pension payout. Now that the legislature has forced us to pay out of pocket for health care increases, we’ll take those raises. Of course there’s been no increase in the per pupil allowance, so there will be no raise for us.

But what about those greedy teachers in unions? What do unions actually do? In my district, they made the district send home 650 kids in a school that had no power and water. The district was going to keep them there even though they couldn’t flush a toilet or get a drink of water. The union put pressure on them, and they sent the kids home, where they had access to bathrooms and water.

And just like your child’s teacher advocates for your child, so does the union. We may do it on a school or district level, but the union does it on a state and national level. Schools don’t make money, and so it’s ludicrous to apply a business model to them. They educate. They connect communities. They advocate for neglected and abused kids. They help community services find families that need help feeding and clothing their kids, getting sober, or finding jobs.

People often argue that unions prevent change from happening in schools, but that’s false as well. Teachers bring new methods to the classroom, but we’re often not supported or shot down by administrators. Unions advocate for updated curriculum and teaching methods.

I’ve seen people rage against the school calendar. Boys do better when they can learn in the afternoon, and elementary kids learn better in the morning. Teachers have no say over those things. Daily start times are determined by the bus schedule. The yearly calendar is in the hands of politicians. In Michigan, they passed laws that say school can’t start until after Labor Day, they set the length of the school year/day, and they determine holiday, winter, and spring breaks. That pretty much dictates when the year ends as well. Teachers have NOTHING to do with any of that, and we’re shot down when we bring up those kinds of ideas.

legislator_13Unions aren’t perfect, but they’re the only thing protecting your child from being treated as a trade commodity. After all, I don’t see parents out there advocating for their school-aged kids.

Eradicate School Supply Lists Forever!

Those articles about excessive school supply lists

school-supply-list-2015-675x385It’s that time of year again, when the articles about school supply lists come out. They’re always in awe of how many things teachers ask for, and most of them acknowledge the lack of school funding. It’s the one time of year when parents acknowledge the amount of money underpaid teachers shell out for your precious darlings because your legislators are shortchanging the next generation.

The thing, though, that upsets me most about are the fact that these articles always come from some benevolent mother who is explaining that you MUST donate otherwise some poor kid will suffer OR the teacher will be stuck with the bill. The problem isn’t that teachers buy stuff for the classroom or that some students can’t afford the cost of supplies. It’s that people have become complaisant about this issue. Donating to your local school is like sticking your finger in the dam—you might help for now, but the flood is still imminent.

legislator_14How can you fix this problem? Rather than just give to a classroom, MAKE YOUR LEGISLATORS SUFFER. Seriously—get off your butt and call your legislators. Call them early and often. Send them videos of kids with no crayons and barren classrooms, much like Canadian teachers did when they decided to demonstrate how little the government actually provides. Make time every week to call and email. Keep a form letter to copy and paste, changing only a line or two to remind your legislator (who is getting campaign money and boilerplate legislation from foundations that do not have your best interests at heart) that this issue is important to you. Attend their town hall meetings and bring it up. Don’t let them shoot you down with platitudes. This is their job, and they work for YOU.

If enough of you do it often enough, you’ll see results. Squeaky wheels do get the grease. Use the power of your voice and the power of your vote. If they won’t adequately fund schools, send them packing. If Kansas can do it, anybody can. You’ll have to click your mouse instead of your heels, but you can do it.

Actions speak louder than words, and you need to make sure your actions—and words—reach the RIGHT ears.

legislator_13

The Importance of Vacation

Since it’s summer, this is a great time to talk about vacations. Vacations are important because a change of pace keeps us fresh and focused. They wipe the slate clean and let us approach daily stressors with new eyes and renewed determination. Many forego a vacation because they think it’s too expensive or out of reach. However it’s not actually expensive if you utilize local resources for shorter getaways.

highland_state_recreationWhether we can go on a vacation or not, we take steps to stay close to nature, which is where we find divinity. My younger twin and I practice yoga together most days. When the weather is nice, we’ll take our mats outside. Sometimes we use them, and sometimes we just enjoy the feel of the grass on our bare feet. Though we started this to help her with dive, it is a deeply spiritual practice that helps connect us to the earth. Meditating outside can be a small, daily vacation.

Camping and hiking are two other ways to take small vacations. We highland state rec2live near state recreational land. It offers many trails, and we can take the dog with us. We can spend an hour or a few days there. State and National parks are great ways to connect with nature, especially the ones that are cheap or free. That means they’re not tourist traps, and you will be able to get away from civilization to relax and recharge.

This summer, carve out regular time to connect with the earth. You’ll treasure the internal peace that comes with this act.