Monthly Archive: September 2008

Reschooling Yourself for Survival

With all the troubling news about the state of the economy, Darren and I talk a lot about learning survival skills. At the risk of sounding like crackpots, we want to be prepared in case something crazy goes down. Today he sent me 10 Skills to Have in the Post-Financial Apocalypse from The Consumerist. The list includes learning to cook, keep a simple budget, and fix things, and I would add:

1. Learn basic survival skills.

Know how to find and purify water, start a fire, build a shelter, and grow or hunt your own food. My friends Chris and Wes learned these things through a survival course offered by The Tracker School, and they’re the guys I’m running to when the looting begins.

2. Learn how to make stuff instead of buying it.

My friend Elena knows how to make clothes; Jonah can build an oven out of found materials; Blair made his own shoes out of old tires. I’m not saying you have to trade in your Manolos for Goodyears just yet, but it’s good knowledge to have on the back burner. Make Magazine, and its Maker Faire (San Mateo, CA in May; Austin, TX in October), is a great resource for do-it-yourself ideas. It’s a good idea to make your own food, too — I make my own yogurt, and I have friends who make jam, sausage, soy and almond milk, wine, beer, or cheese.

3. Pool your resources.

To minimize costs and live in community, various friends and I hope to settle on the same property one day, in separate houses but with shared spaces. From a music room to a costume closet to a wine cellar, the possibilities are endless. We could also share cars, childcare, and basic services like internet. If you can collaborate with certain people without going nuts, it’s in your economic interest. Check out the Cohousing Association of the United States for ideas.

If you want any other ideas, you’ll have to track me down in my secret underground bunker. All I can say is that it’s fully stocked with water, blankets, and 100 pounds of dark Belgian chocolate (like dual-purpose sandbags), and if something goes down, I will be hard pressed to share.

The Questions That Reunions Raise

Today at brunch, I ran into one of my high school teachers and her partner, Burt. I mentioned that going to my 10-year high school reunion had raised some questions for me:

* At graduation, what were my hopes for the coming years? How close have I come to living out what I had envisioned, and how do I feel about that?

* In what ways did school help me get to where I am now? In what ways is it holding me back?

* How might I have turned out differently if I’d been able to do what I wanted in school instead of what was required of me?

Burt said that he’d attended his 35-year high school reunion this year, and he and his classmates had been having similar conversations. They’d been talking about how their education had shaped them, and what effects it was still having on them. It fascinates me that these questions are coming up not only 10 years after high school graduation, but 35 years after. It reminds me of how important it is to reflect on them throughout our lives, so they don’t occur to us for the first time at our 50th high school reunion, or our 70th.

How would you answer these questions yourself? Leave a comment.

Billy Madison vs. Melia Dicker

As I like to say, Reschool Yourself is “like Billy Madison, but for reals.” In returning to elementary school, Billy and I share some experiences. Here’s how they stack up.


Round 1: Lunch in the Cafeteria

Sloppy Joes + no Snack Pack vs. Chicken Hot Dog + Chocolate Milk

In the cafeteria, Billy ate sloppy joes that the lunch lady made “extra sloppy,” without a Snack Pack (His housekeeper, Juanita, packed him a banana instead, and his classmate wouldn’t trade.) I enjoyed a pretty decent chicken hot dog and a carton of smooth chocolate milk.

Memorable Quotes:

Billy: You know I like Snack Pack – why can’t you just give me a Snack Pack?

Juanita: I thought I was your Snack Pack.

Billy: What?

Juanita: Nothin’.

SCORE: Billy-0, Melia-1


Reschooling Tool #3: Be Good to Yourself in Little Ways

It’s been a bit of a tough week. I’d hoped to turn my copious notes into blog posts, but unfortunately the words haven’t been flowing very easily. Today I spent 6 hours straight at a coffee shop crafting a grant proposal that’s slowly taking shape. I wish I could bring it forth from my brain, fully formed, like Athena springing from Zeus’ head.

My hair smells like roasted coffee beans and my eyes are about to fall out of their sockets, but I am pleased to have rewarded myself by doing a few simple things I enjoy. These are the small ways in which I was good to myself today:

1) Took breaks when I needed them.

I normally push myself and power through, even when I’m past the point of exhaustion. Today I realized when I wasn’t being productive and stopped to stretch, get some fresh air, and grab a mocha.

2) Did a puzzle.

Back in 6th grade, I was really into doing puzzles, but I haven’t touched the hobby since then. Today I grabbed a kids’ puzzle of a cat in a basket from the back of the coffee shop and pieced it together. There’s something extremely satisfying about snapping each piece into place. Because there were only 63 pieces (minus a few that were missing), I set myself up for success. Hooray for achievable goals.

3) Watched Friends for the first time in ages.

I don’t let myself watch TV very often, but I was simply too exhausted to do anything else. I hadn’t seen the episode where Monica gets her hair in cornrows, then gets them stuck in the shower curtain while swinging her braids around while singing “No Woman, No Cry.” It felt good to laugh.

I just polished off a bag of Trader Joe’s chocolate covered pretzels, and now I’m going to eat pizza and drink a beer. Learning to be good to myself is a major part of my reschooling, and I’m proud to be making subtle progress.

Ten Years Later: My High School Reunion

My high school reunion was this past weekend. I graduated in June 1998 from a small, Catholic high school with a class of 95 students. Although I spent a lot of time as a stressed-out overachiever, I always felt grateful for the community where each person had a unique niche. While people had loose identities as “popular,” “jock,” or “brain,” the school never felt cliquey to me. Here’s the scoop on the reunion events.

Friday: Casual pub night.

Reuniting with my classmates was much less of a big deal than I’d imagined it to be. Almost everyone looked the same, with the exception of a couple of people. Thankfully, no one seemed to care about impressing anyone with status or material success. In fact, we hardly asked the question, “So what have you been up to for the last ten years?” It was like we were used to seeing each other all the time and were just having beers and enjoying each other’s company.


New Site Features!

You’ll notice that the Reschool Yourself site continues to develop, thanks to Darren‘s help. Here are the newest features:

1) Profile Photo for Comments & Forum

Many of you read much more often than you comment, so first of all, please comment on the posts and forum! Your comments let me know that my words aren’t floating off into the void, and they attract other readers’ interest as well. I hope that the forum will become a way for people to share school memories, thoughts about education, and reschooling ideas, so please register and contribute!

As Facebook addicts know, online exchanges feel more personal if you can see the people you’re communicating with. Through Gravatar, you can easily register and upload a profile photo. If you have a WordPress blog, are probably already registered with Gravatar.

2) Your Two Cents

As I’ve mentioned, my fingers can’t type fast enough to keep up with my growing list of blog post ideas. If you let me know which topics you’d most be interested in reading, it will help me prioritize which ones to write next. Check the boxes next to your topics of choice and click “Vote.”

Feel free to suggest your own topic by commenting, emailing me, or posting on the forum, and I may add it to the list. You can also sponsor a post from the list by making a donation in any amount, and I’ll give you a shout-out when I write it. More info to follow.


Growing Pains

I’m feeling stuck. Stuck, stuck, stuck. That’s all I can think to write. The whole point of taking a break from elementary school this week was to catch up on blog posts, but I can’t seem to finish a single post. I can’t even seem to finish a sentence.

On my To-Do list are around 50 posts about grades K-3 that I want to generate, dozens of features I want to add to this website, and 200+ miscellaneous items, but all I can do is sit here feeling exhausted and overwhelmed. Darren’s in town, and instead of spending time with him, I am staring at my laptop and deleting every other word I type.

Tonight I had a breakdown. I got misty-eyed in the coffee shop where I’d spent hours agonizing over a blog post that I never finished. I teared up when I walked out of the coffee shop and saw the parking ticket on my car. I full-out bawled when I felt like I was ruining the farmer’s market date that Darren and I had been planning for a month.

It was one of those days where I wanted to drop to my knees, look up at the sky, and sigh, “I give up.” It was a day when I was surrounded by reasons to be happy, but I still wasn’t. The farmer’s market was full of music and laughter and delicious local food. Darren surprised me with roses to cheer me up. We ate incredible calzones, followed by ice cream cones. And still I felt stuck.


Playing Catch-Up

This week I’m staying home from school to play catch-up. It’s times like these that make me appreciate my grown-up privileges to do independent study when I feel like it (I prefer the term “independent study” to “ditching class”). I’ll finish my last week of elementary school next week, spending a couple of days each in 4th and 5th grades.

My three and a half weeks in elementary classes have generated pages upon pages of notes on school memories and observations, and I’ve been frustrated that there aren’t enough hours in the day to turn them into blog posts. I dream of an invention that downloads ideas directly from my brain and turns them into polished pieces of writing. I figured that if ordinary monkeys can control a mechanical arm with their thoughts, surely I can get my laptop to do my bidding.

Until I become as smart as Bubbles, I’ll just have to keep typing out the entries myself. I have many, many experiences and epiphanies to share with you from the last few weeks, including:

  • My high school reunion, and why some of the highest achievers are having a hard time leading efficient, happy lives
  • Why I’m reschooling myself: a direct answer
  • My personal school history, grades K-3
  • Why education won’t change if adults don’t reschool themselves
  • My reschooling curriculum
  • A variety of reschooling tools to develop your intuition, happiness, and knowledge

Get ready. The contents of my brain are about to spill onto the page.

Flickr Creative Commons image courtesy of benny yap.