Reschooling Tools

Reschooling Tool #12: Memory Walk

During my visit to Santa Clara University, I had a conversation with one of my former Psychology professors that gave me a new understanding of Reschool Yourself. It helped me articulate why it’s important to revisit my schools, and what I’m taking from doing so.

As an SCU student, I had Dr. Jerry Burger as a professor, academic advisor, and supervisor for my thesis research. At the time, I didn’t realize that he was already doing extensive research on a topic closely connected with Reschool Yourself: making a pilgrimage home.

For more than a decade, Dr. Burger has surveyed and interviewed hundreds of people who journeyed back to the places they grew up: schools, playgrounds, local stores, and most importantly, their childhood homes.

“Their quest,” he writes, “was to connect with something only the place could provide.” He adds that he was surprised by “the large number of people who knocked on the door of a former home and asked the current owners if they could look around.  Without exception, the visitors were invited inside.”


Reschooling Tool #11: Get Stuff Done While You’re Healthy

I wish I’d gotten more stuff done this morning before I “Melia’d” my hand. This is what Darren calls the havoc I wreak with my clumsy ways, e.g. “You totally Melia’d that crystal vase!” (Derivation: the term “Munsoned” from the movie Kingpin.) I now realize that I could have been much more productive today if all my fingers were still intact.

This morning I woke up three hours earlier than I wanted to, my mind anxiously whirring as usual with all the things I want to accomplish this week. I’ve been feeling completely overwhelmed by all there is to do before I leave for New Orleans/Jackson in less than a month, including:

  • Get rid of major clutter. Decide what belongings I’m taking with me, and ship most of them.
  • Mine my copious notes to see what kind of follow-up I need to do at the schools, and arrange the visits.
  • Coordinate details for a visiting documentary director who will be filming me at the schools for two days in January. (Yes, exciting!)
  • Do preliminary research on grad schools in the Bay Area and try to meet with professors before I leave.
  • Work part-time at my dad’s office and develop an online training manual.
  • With Darren’s help, build a new website for my dad’s business, and for my freelance writing.
  • Schedule meetups with various friends to say goodbye (for now).
  • Oh, and there’s that Christmas thing. Thankfully, it’ll be a mostly no-present Christmas in my circles.


Reschooling Tool #10: Self-Reflective Forwards

I haven’t done one of these internet forwards in ages, but they are oh-so entertaining. I prefer to think of them not as “a waste of hours of my life,” but rather “an important opportunity for self-reflection.”

Though they can be as self-indulgent as a love letter to yourself, forwards like this are actually helpful for regularly practicing introspection and recognizing what makes you an interesting person. Plus, they’re awesome for procrastinating what you’re actually supposed to be doing right now. Enjoy.


Reschooling Tool #9: Laugh at Even the Silliest Things

One of the best things about hanging out with Darren all the time is that my daily laugh quota has skyrocketed. He doesn’t take life as seriously as I tend to and constantly gets me to lighten up. Being around him for a couple of weeks has reminded me how important it is to laugh, and how easy it is if you’re open to what’s around you.

I just wrote an article on “Laughter, the Best Medicine” (I’ll link to it once it’s published) and can say from experience that it’s true. When I’m laughing throughout the day, I’m more relaxed, optimistic, and engaged with whatever I’m doing at the moment. According to research, increasing the amount of laughter in my life is also making my immune system is stronger and my cells more full of oxygen, both of which help prevent cancer and other serious disease. There are myriad other benefits to laughing, including burning calories, increasing job satisfaction, and developing bonds between people.


Reschooling Tool #8: Tackle Intimidating Challenges One Step at a Time

After a quick trip to the Midwest for a board meeting and a visit with friends, I’m spending the next few weeks in the south. I’ll be catching up on writing about my K-12 reschooling experience before completing the school phase with a few days in college in early December.

I’m not sure if it’s jet-lag, or lack of sleep, or feeling bulldozed by my three intense months of reschooling so far, but my head has felt foggy for the last couple of days. These are the big challenges dragging down my energy, and the little steps I’m taking to cope:

1. Some days, the Information Age sucks my soul.

No matter how hard I try, I can’t keep up with all my emails, or the news. I feel constantly bombarded by information: interesting articles from my news junkie friends; holiday plans; details for my sister’s bachelorette party; research on one website that leads me to another….and another…until I forget what I had been searching for in the first place. No wonder my brain feels full all the time, without space for anything new to enter.

What I’m doing about it:

  • Clearing off my computer desktop and closing browser windows at least once per week.
  • Setting up Gmail filters and tags, and moving mail from my Inbox to the Archives where at least I don’t have to look at it.
  • Finishing one task without getting distracted by another.


Reschooling Tool #7: Be Thankful That It’s Not Worse

For the last few days, I’ve been spending time with my college roommates on the east coast. Today the girls and I took in the beauty of historic Concord, the setting for much of the American Revolution, as well as the first intellectual capital of the country. Among others, Henry David Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Louisa May Alcott wrote their great works here, and Louisa’s father, Bronson Alcott, was a pioneer of progressive education.

After a fascinating tour of the Alcott house, where Louisa May set the loosely autobiographical novel Little Women, we went to a fall festival at the Old Manse on the Concord River. Emerson and Hawthorne each lived here, and you can understand why the setting inspired such great works. Sitting under trees bursting with red and orange fall leaves, the girls and I gorged ourselves on freshly made kettle corn and pumpkin pie with whipped cream. I felt peaceful and happy…and then began to feel a little sick.

At first I thought it might be a sugar overdose, but I soon suspected that the cramping pains beginning in my mid-section and shooting down my legs were due to what the colonists called “female complaints.” Dizziness and spotty blackouts followed, and I spent the next half hour sitting on the ground with my head between my legs repeating my own advice: Stay calm. Accept the situation. Keep a sense of humor about it. Instead of walking around Walden Pond as we’d planned, my friends and I headed home so I could lie on the couch and sip tea (which the girls later told me was new mom Charlotte’s Mother’s Milk tea that “promotes healthy lactation.” Thanks, ladies!).


Reschooling Tool #6: Choose the Ridiculous Interpretation

This post continues the story begun in Reschooling Tool #5: Accept Things As They Are.

I find that when I pat myself on the back for an evolved reaction to a situation, the universe tends to respond by kicking up the intensity, as if to say, “Congratulations, you were worthy of that challenge–now try this one!”  My last entry described how I drained the car battery of my anxious grandpa in Maryland one night, and here’s how the story continued.

As promised, the AAA tow truck operator arrived and jump started the dead battery; he informed me that it would charge completely during the 20-minute drive home. As I steered the Mazda toward the parking lot exit, I called my grandpa to tell him not to worry, that I was finally on my way. Mid-sentence, I came to the parking lot exit and realized that I could leave only by swiping an electronic “Smartcard,” which of course I didn’t have. I wasn’t allowed to pay the $4.25 fee with cash or credit card, so I would need to go back into the Metro station on foot and buy a Smartcard there. Unfortunately, I couldn’t park the car again so soon after the jump start, or the battery would die again. As the toll booth was empty, I couldn’t ask a staff person for advice. During this series of realizations, my grandpa was on the other end of the phone asking me what in the world was going on. I hurriedly explained the situation and told him that I’d call him back.

Reschooling Tool #5: Accept Things As They Are

I’m on the east coast this week, visiting my grandparents in Maryland and my college roommate outside of Boston. This entry was hand-scrawled the other night and transcribed.

I’m making history tonight: I’m paper-blogging for the first time. I’m sitting in the driver’s seat of my grandpa’s 1990 Mazda in the parking lot of the Greenbelt, Maryland train station, writing under the dim light of a lamppost. I parked here four hours ago when I took the train to D.C. to meet some girlfriends. My fretful Chinese grandpa had cautioned me about 20 different possible dangers, including pickpockets and car thieves. He requested that I phone him at every turn: when I arrived at Greenbelt, then at D.C., and again upon my return to Greenbelt, and when I arrived safely at my car.

I gently told my grandpa that I’d lived in a fairly rough neighborhood in San Francisco (the Mission District), and I knew how to handle myself. I didn’t want to stress him out and planned to say at the end of the night, “See? You had nothing to worry about.” I would have succeeded in doing this, if not for one threat that neither my grandpa nor I had foreseen: Headlights that don’t beep when you leave them on as you exit the car.

Reschooling Tool #4: Swings

I’d forgotten how liberating it is to go on the swings. My fourth grade classmates invited me to join them at recess, and I was more than happy to. I sat down on a swing and wrapped my fingers tightly around the chains suspending it. Pumping my legs to push me higher was tougher than it used to be, since the swing was designed for kids with legs half the length of mine. I had to tuck them under me so that my feet wouldn’t hit the ground every time I swung over it.

As I swung higher, I felt the breeze on my face, my heart pounding, and the exhilaration of building momentum as I rose into the air. As a kid, I remember wondering if I could swing over the top of the swingset if I tried hard enough, and sometimes it looked as if I was getting close. (I watched a Mythbusters episode that concluded: “Under normal pushing power, whether solo or being pushed by others, there cannot be enough force generated to achieve a full, chain straight 360.”) Being much heavier than I used to be, I didn’t get nearly as much air this time around.


Around the World in 30 Desks

If I had to name one classroom activity that used to make my adrenaline levels skyrocket, it would be Around the World.

Here’s how it works. One student begins the game by standing next to the desk of a classmate who will be the first challenger. The two competitors face the teacher, who has a stack of flash cards with simple math equations on them. The teacher quickly pulls out a card and holds it up in front of the competing pair. The student who does the mental math and shouts out the correct answer first moves to the next desk, taking on a new challenger. The objective is to travel “around the world,” beating every classmate with quick-draw math skillz.

I’m not gonna lie — back in my day, I was kind of a big deal at this game, drawing grumbles from the other kids when it was their turn to challenge me. I don’t think I exactly looked forward to competing, since the threat of losing in front of everyone made me anxious. I remember my heart racing with each new round, feeling pressure to perform and relief when the game finally ended.