On the Bright Side

It is the eve of Ostara or the day before the Spring Equinox and 5 or 6 inches of heavy wet snow fell over night. I have just returned from slogging the two miles through that snow to bring the children to one of their preschool days. I pulled them on a sled partway, straining against the rope to pull them up the steep hills of our little town and dealing with their bickering and screaming, which was the inevitable result of Marik being made to sit on Shaye’s lap on the sled. The rope cut into my hands so much that I eventually discovered another use for a telescopic white cane. I folded it and slipped it through the rop as a handle and walked backwards up the hills. Once we got to an area where there was enough civilization that the snow was not so deep and at least slightly plowed, I let the kids walk and ditched the sled in the little used far corner of a stranger’s yard, betting on the chance that it would still be there on my return trip. Then, all we had to deal with was a hundred steps up a concrete staircase covered in snow, inconsiderate and speedy traffic and whiny tired children. 

I returned home exhausted and realized that before I went inside I needed to shovel about a 80 yards of path, so that my English students, who are not accustomed to these kinds of conditions and who afterall do pay our bills, would not complain. By the time I was done, my arms throbbed from the dual strain of pulling the sled and shoveling, and I still needed to lug overfull compost and ash buckets up to the top of our hill to where the compost pile is.

As I was walking home, I was reflecting on the various reasons why we live here and have not tried to move back to the US. High up among those reasons is our ability to homeschool the children most of the time. Right now they go to preschool two days a week simply because there are no clubs or extracurricular things for such young kids to do and they want to see other kids some of the time. But in general, the light of our lives is our ability to give them a rich and truthful education that includes nature, spirituality, cultural diversity and an open world view. I do not feel they would get those things even in American schools, let alone here, where the school system is frankly a bit backward. 

Oddly enough, we have the luxury of homeschooling because we live here. A solid job like Dusan’s would not be possible in the US with his low level of English and my inability to drive. And the economy we live in, which allows us to live reasonably well on one income, is also harsher in the US. If we lived there, we would almost certainly have to live in a big city, in a small home with little or no garden (so that I could use what little public transit there is there), with little chance to live the reasonably natural livestyle we live, which includes things like compost, wood heat and daily bread making. Both of us would have to work full-time and hand our children over to the world of lackadaisical schools and after school time spent with computer games and TV. 

My last few posts have focused on the downside of living here, the problems we face because Czech society rejects Roma, foreigners, people with disabilities and simply people who don’t fit their mold, all things that pretty much describe our family. So, here is the upside. Being home with the children most of the time, teaching them the fundamentals of life, the world and human relationships in a gentle and beautiful way is a great blessing.

Since we started really homeschooling in January we’ve done units on the five senses, exploring different materials and natural things in a deep sensory way. We’ve studied the human body in a way that includes a mind, body, spirit approach, which one would not find in schools. We’ve dealt with identity issues in a joyful and playful way, allowing Shaye to struggle through some of her questions without feeling that her questioning is anything to shy away from. Now, we are beginning on spring units devoted to environmental problems and ways to help take care of the earth. All of this is done with lots of crafts, songs and stories. On one level I know that what I am doing is unimportant to the wide world out there, must less important than my work as a journalist for a national newspaper once was, and yet somehow I have never felt more useful, fertile and creative.

All this thinking led me to think of some small things from outside, often from far away, that have helped us to do this and to overcome the harsher side of life here. So, I offer this list, incomplete as it surely is and in no particular order, as a blessing of spring.


Things That Keep Me Going These Days


Sesame Street – which has done as much to ease Shaye’s fears over racial identity as anything and which is one of the few children’s media websites that does not block viewers from outside the US.

Nancy Cassidy and Raffi – who just lend joy and hope to children and I’ve written to them and told them about it and Nancy Cassidy even replied

Czech children’s videos featuring Little Mole and other characters – which are very gentle and support a slower and more nature-based lifestyle

The Svenko Band website – listed in my links section,  which posts wonderful Romani dance videos and provides us with much needed positive exposure to Romani culture

My computer, Skype and email – which keeps us in touch with family and friends

Heirloom Seeds – A small family company that keeps our garden growing with varieties that don’t require chemical fungicides and help us keep healthy food on the table

Chai tea sent by my mother – which along with chocolate is what keeps me physically functional

Moonsand – which always works to occupy the children for a few minutes while Mama goes and gets her self control back or simply cleans up some huge mess

The Library of Congress Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped – which keeps me from going crazy with recorded books

The Number One Ladies Detective Agency – which is what I have been listening to through these last few difficult weeks


These are just a few putsexamples of the little things that make a major difference to me right now. I’m sure there are many more that I haven’t thought of at the moment. My thanks to everyone who has put their hands to these things.




2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Julie Farnam
    Mar 19, 2013 @ 22:11:35

    I love your gratitude list.



  2. Nathaniel Farnam
    Mar 20, 2013 @ 04:16:14

    Thank you for the reminder to be grateful! I forget that sometimes…


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