I am a “needy” home educating dad

After a lot of discussion, reflection and even amidst continuing doubts, we (Mason, DeAnna and I) have made the decision to give home education a go again for this next year, which would be his Freshman year in traditional high school.  When we decided to try home education for the first time last year, we knew a few things: it was going to be for 8th grad (which we all viewed largely as a review year = low risk if we royally screwed things up) and we were only committing to do it for that year before assessing how things went and deciding where to go next.

The assessment took place over several discussions in the last few weeks and we learned a lot that both helped us decide to try again this year (if doctor’s can practice medicine, we can certainly practice home education) as well as shape how we’ll try to do things this year.  One exercise that helped us through the discussion was to each spend some time reflecting on what our needs (or desires or values) are out of this next year of home education and also what commitments we were going to make to each other.  Here is my list in it’s raw, unedited and slightly duplicitous form:

Needs:

  • I need to know you are making progress
  • I need to see you fail and persevere
  • I need to know you will do work when we aren’t around
  • I need to know you aren’t going to default to “lazy” all the time
  •  I need to see you find some passions – even if its just for a day…or just a few hours.
  • I need to know you are taking steps towards meeting your needs as you get older.
  • I need to feel like I am some help to you in your journey
  • I need to be able to tell you my ideas and be able to make suggestions without them feeling like demands or expectations
  • I need to see you be curious
  • I need you to feel like you are free to ask questions
  • I need you to feel safe
  • I need you to be able to focus
  • I need to see you self assess every day and make the next day a little bit better – or at least try something else if today didn’t work
  • I need you to have great experiences
  • I need to know how you are feeling – I need feedback
  • I need you to identify and follow your interests, not forever, but until your natural curiosity on that topic has been satisfied
  • I need to see some tangible results – that can be just good questions or sharing with us for 5 minutes what you are working on / thinking about.
  • I need to know you have a plan – even if it changes every day (or hour).
  • I need you to still be interested in something by the time we get the materials or trip in place for you to investigate it.
  • I need you to learn to ask good questions
  • I need you to know you can ask us / tell us anything
  • I need you to be patient with us and give us a few minutes to switch gears when you want to share, discuss or question
  • I need to see you “wanting to learn” = not sticking to a fixed schedule for a day/week/year, but learning becoming a habit that you enjoy.

Commitments:

  • I commit to keep the lines of communication open
  • I commit to understand your needs and do all that I can to meet them
  • I commit to work out which of the needs I have identified are something I just need to deal with myself and not impose on anyone else
  • I commit to get you the resources you need in a timely fashion
  • I commit to be available to you – to plan, discuss, share, question
  • I commit to give you regular, constructive feedback
  • I commit to listen to you and question when I don’t understand
  • I commit to use what I know about learning to help you, not necessarily always try to tech you what I know.

To be clear, not all of these needs are something that I expect Mason to meet – not because he can’t, but because they really aren’t his responsibility.  Some of them are just things I am going to have to deal with.  Sorting out which is which is my work for the next few weeks before we start again.  Mason’s work is developing the list of topics (trying to avoid “subjects”) that he is passionate about. One small win already on that front is he found a musical theater group that meets once a week at NKU.  He starts in September and will be part of a production of Annie, Jr. in May of 2016.  It’s going to be an adventure!

Security dominoes

Getting off my ass and finally getting email encryption setup seems to have set off the security bug.  Last week I decided to go ahead and finally sign up for a VPN to secure all of my internet traffic.  I shopped around and finally settled on a provider that had high reviews in forums, on a few mainstream websites and (perhaps most importantly) took bitcoin for payment.  All in all it was a very easy setup and I had an account created and my Mac was connected via their client in a matter of 10-15 minutes.

Not being satisfied with just my machine being protected however, I decided to buy a new wireless/wired router that could connect to and route all the traffic for every device in my home over the VPN.  After looking at some pre-flashed routers, I decided to roll my own and bought a Netgear Nighthawk R7000 (yes it does look like Darth Vader’s illegitimate love child) from Amazon. As is par for the course, it showed up a 2 days later (I still love Prime…almost as much as my Big Green Egg).  I had already downloaded the latest version of DD-WRT specific to that model, so after unpacking, wiring in and powering up I had the stock firmware wiped away, replaced with clean, open source linux sweetness.

The network reconfiguration (removing the Apple Airport that had been in place for the last few years, replacing with the the DD WRT powered R7000, and reconnecting all the cables and wireless clients) took another hour or so.  Then it was time to get the router connected to the VPN.  Using the very well done instructions from my VPN provider, I was able to configure everything in 10-20 minutes and my first connection was successful.

So for a total investment of about $200 and 3 hours of time, all the internet traffic in my home is now protected by a VPN, which means no logging by my internet provider, better access to sites that block based on geo location, and more secure public wifi browsing (obviously I will have to revert to the locally installed clients for that.  The cool thing is they offer them for mobile devices like iPhones and Androids too).  I know there are no perfect security solutions, but I think this will be worth the investment of time and money.

If you’ve read this and have no idea, what I am talking about then the first question you need to ask yourself is: do I care how my and my families information is logged and used?  If you answered yes, then figure it out (I would be glad to help as I can).  If you answered no, then think about it a little bit more. A common question from privacy nay-sayers is “what do you have to hide if you haven’t done anything wrong”.  To which I always ask them, “So, then is your toilet in the middle of your living room.”  A right to privacy is an extension of the basic right of self ownership.

Next on this list: I think I finally need to get rid of (or at least run something in parallel to) Gmail.

Ethical Leadership

As I mentioned in the intro to my last post, I spent last week cloistered in the woods south of Atlanta at a week long company sponsored leadership training.  I had a combination of both high a low expectations going in: high expectations about the quality of the course which were set primarily based on the quality of the materials and exercises we completed ahead of time; low expectations about what  I would actually walk away with that I could use, much less that might “change my life.”  Fortunately, my high expectations were met and my low expectations were dashed.

No, I didn’t have any life altering revelations, although I did take a few notes in my journal that might lead to some solid self discovery upon further reflection and meditation.  Rather, I learned what the work of a leader actually is.  I determined inductively long ago that it was more than just giving orders and organizing projects.  That realization only told me what it wasn’t.  I had been operating for a long time without a definition of what it was.  The time spent last week sharpening the saw helped me color in the outline of a definition.

One aspect of leadership that bothered me going in and which I made a little progress on is that of the ethics of it.  Can you ethically lead someone or is it always some form of manipulation or coercion?  Answering that question was actually one of my objectives for the course.  I’m not sure that I have a complete answer, but I think I may have discovered yet another strange loop:  People can be lead in an ethical way if they have a tremendous amount of both self and world knowledge.

To lead ethically, you need followers with self knowledge to ensure that their needs and values are being met by what you are suggesting that they do.  Your followers also need to have world knowledge so that they make their own projection about how things will turn out if they follow you.  The obvious question is of course, if you have tremendous self and world knowledge, why do you need a leader at all?  Like I said, it’s not a complete answer yet…which only says to me that it’s a really good question!

90 second book review: The Politics of Obedience

Not much time to post this week.  I’m out of town getting some (actually pretty good) management training.  It’s taking up most of my days and nights, but I did manage to finish one of the books (OK, it’s more like a pamphlet) that was recommended to me at Porcfest: The Politics of Obedience by Etienne de la Boetie.  Although the date on the previous link says the document was published in 2005, that was for that edition with a rather lengthy (but worth it) introduction written by Murray Rothbard.  The original document was first penned almost 500 years ago, which I have to say actually makes me rather sad.

Boetie asks and answers the question: why do people voluntarily submit to have their lives run by a tyrant?  He states that it goes beyond simple cowardice.  It’s not that a people is merely afraid of its rulers.

Shall we call subjection to such a leader cowardice? … If a hundred, if a thousand endure the caprice of a single man, should we not rather say that they lack not the courage but the desire to rise against him, and that such an attitude indicates indifference rather than cowardice? When not a hundred, not a thousand men, but a hundred provinces, a thousand cities, a million men, refuse to assail a single man from whom the kindest treatment received is the infliction of serfdom and slavery, what shall we call that? Is it cowardice? … When a thousand, a million men, a thousand cities, fail to protect themselves against the domination of one man, this cannot be called cowardly, for cowardice does not sink to such a depth. . . . What monstrous vice, then, is this which does not even deserve to be called cowardice, a vice for which no term can be found vile enough . . . ?

It’s also not that they think that they receive a net benefit.  So if its not fear and its not reward, what is it?  If the power of a ruler lies in the mass consent of the people, why do the people continue to give their consent when all they would need to do to remove the ruler from power is simply remove their consent?Boetie points out several factors:

First is simple habit:

It is true that in the beginning men submit under constraint and by force; but those who come after them obey without regret and perform willingly what their predecessors had done because they had to

Rulers also realize they need mass consent, so they of course do everything they can to continue to make sure they get it:

Plays, farces, spectacles, gladiators, strange beasts, medals, pictures, and other such opiates, these were for ancient peoples the bait toward slavery, the price of their liberty, the instruments of tyranny

In addition to the “bread and circus” approach they also appeal to the more ethereal and ideological.  This can range from invoking the great chain of being, the divine right of kings or in more modern times, the rule of law.  Beyond entertainment, rulers also use the public treasury to simply buy consent:

Roman tyrants … provided the city wards with feasts to cajole the rabble…. Tyrants would distribute largesse, a bushel of wheat, a gallon of wine, and a sesterce: and then everybody would shamelessly cry, “Long live the King!” The fools did not realize that they were merely recovering a portion of their own property, and that their ruler could not have given them what they were receiving without having first taken it from them.

The last trick cataloged by Boetie is the creation of a class of supplicants who believe that is in their best interests to continue to support the ruler, simply because they are relatively more free than those that they are allowed to subjugate.  This group knows there is something wrong, but choose to ignore it since their livelihood is so closely tied to the continued success of the ruler.  Maybe Ike read Boetie?

Overall it’s a great read and I do recommend it.  I did say that it made me sad and you might be wondering why.  Finding out that such a clear argument in favor of individual liberty has existed for more than 500 years and yet we are still in the state we are in just makes me think we still have a long way to go to get just enough people to take personal responsibility and withdraw their consent to be ruled.

I have hope though, which is stirred by the story Boetie relates from the history of the Persian Wars.  Those that have tasted liberty know that there can be no substitute:

It gives me pleasure to recall a conversation of the olden time between one of the favorites of Xerxes, the great king of Persia, and two Lacedaemonians. When Xerxes equipped his great army to conquer Greece, he sent his ambassadors into the Greek cities to ask for water and earth. That was the procedure the Persians adopted in summoning the cities to surrender. Neither to Athens nor to Sparta, however, did he dispatch such messengers, because those who had been sent there by Darius his father had been thrown, by the Athenians and Spartans, some into ditches and others into wells, with the invitation to help themselves freely there to water and soil to take back to their prince. Those Greeks could not permit even the slightest suggestion of encroachment upon their liberty. The Spartans suspected, nevertheless, that they had incurred the wrath of the gods by their action, and especially the wrath of Talthybios, the god of the heralds; in order to appease him they decided to send Xerxes two of their citizens in atonement for the cruel death inflicted upon the ambassadors of his father. Two Spartans, one named Sperte and the other Bulis, volunteered to offer themselves as a sacrifice. So they departed, and on the way they came to the palace of the Persian named Hydarnes, lieutenant of the king in all the Asiatic cities situated on the sea coasts. He received them with great honor, feasted them, and then, speaking of one thing and another, he asked them why they refused so obdurately his king’s friendship. “Consider well, O Spartans,” said he, “and realize by my example that the king knows how to honor those who are worthy, and believe that if you were his men he would do the same for you; if you belonged to him and he had known you, there is not one among you who might not be the lord of some Greek city.”

“By such words, Hydarnes, you give us no good counsel,” replied the Lacedaemonians, “because you have experienced merely the advantage of which you speak; you do not know the privilege we enjoy. You have the honor of the king’s favor; but you know nothing about liberty, what relish it has and how sweet it is. For if you had any knowledge of it, you yourself would advise us to defend it, not with lance and shield, but with our very teeth and nails.

 

GoPro video from local IDPA match this past weekend

I was supposed to miss this past weekend’s local IDPA match at Lloyd’s Wildlife Management Area in Crittenden but I ended up being able to go.  I am the match director for this match but since I wasn’t planning on being there someone else had planned all the stages and ran most everything on site.  Which meant that I was free to just participate (I did act as half time SO for my squad and did one new shooter briefing for a late arriver so I didn’t completely rest on my laurels.

Overall, it looks like I finished second out of 19 shooter and first if my division and class.  The overall number one beat me by about 4 seconds shooting CDP.  based on accuracy as he was only 9 points down (I was 22).  I’m still super happy with the pistol I have been using for the last few matches: The HK VP9.  I finally tracked down some more magazines for it, so can run without fear of running out of rounds on long stages.  I also ordered a holster for it.  The leather one I got with it is OK, but I am just a kydex fan boy, so there is one on the way from G-Code.  I also ordered and received in time for this match a set of pistol tacos hooked up to the Raven Concealment setup that makes it possible to attach them to a pistol belt.  They tacos are super adjustable so this may be the last magazine carrier I have to buy.

For whatever reason it just points well for me and I am able to see everything more quickly for the follow-up shots.  I am sure some of that has to do with moving from 40 to 9, but I think a lot of it has to do with the ergonomics of the VP9.  Not only does the grip fit my hand very well (running the slim side panel on the finger side, the medium back and the medium side panel on the palm side) but the trigger is great – not only the mechanism, but also the blade.  Unlike a lot of other polymer guns, the VP9 trigger is pretty broad and flat, making it less sensitive to finger placement.  I may replace the front site, but other than that I am sticking with it as is through the rest of the matches this year and into my next classifier.