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The easiest virtue

When i was in my early teens i thought (for some reason which escapes me now) that i should be more virtuous.   i did a bit of research and found a long list of virtues in some book (this is before Wikipedia would direct me here).  Having studied the list and being an efficient sort of teen (not wanting to have to work the new virtue problem too hard), i settled on patience.  My thinking was this, all you have to do is wait.

Turns out in my particular style of parenting, patience is the key to success.  Twin Oaks requires an increasing amount of work from it’s kids as they get older.  Willow needs to work a handful of hours now and it will bump up to 8 hours a week when he turns 13.  Mostly he is responsible for his homework and education.

My Tupelo Surf Helper and Mop

My Tupelo Serf Helper and Mop

For a while time i was worried that Willow would play video games and watch Star Trek and resist both school work and work around the community.  Over the last few months he has been doing more of both.  Hawina has been instrumental in helping him find work that he actually wants to do.  Like helping Sky with preparing lunch or doing a Tupelo Serf (cleaning shift) or boxing tofu or stocking his residence’s kitchen.

And good things come to those who wait.  And the big benefit to the more patient approach is that he feels he is making the choices (which he is), rather than being commanded by his parents to do something.  And some times the easiest thing to do is the right thing to do.

My favorite moment from this Tupelo Serf shift with Willow was after i asked him to help me spell something he said “i love it when adults ask me how to spell things.”

[Willow has Read and Approved the Post]



My Driving with Dream

For once I was happy to be forced to drive slowly.

We had just finished a pretty rich Point A meeting with the Washington DC group and an even more successful mini-communities conference in NYC.  I was exhausted, but excited to have some hours in the snow storm to chat with ex-Twin Oaker Dream.  In many ways the trip is like the 1981 movie “My Dinner with Andre“, where Dream was playing the slightly other worldly stage director Andre Gregory.

We don't call him Dream for nothing

We don’t call him Dream for nothing

Dream reminded me of transformative moments in his life, about feeling a Kundalini energy awakening in his body, while in bed aboard the USS Missouri just before it was struck by missiles during the first Gulf War.  About falling in love with East Wind while at UMass Darmouth and struggling to decide if he should return to school.  About hearing a word in a dream “Constatic” whispered to him.  Constatic contrasts the unique experience of ecstatic, with a collective euphoric state, which he would only learn was a real (though very rarely used) word many years later.

kundalini colors

Dream and I have quite similar tastes in a number of things.  We both loved Being John Malcovich and the new movie Her, where the hero falls in love with his AI operating system.  We were excited about the ideas in Heinlein’s “The Moon is a Harsh Mistress” and the works of Huxley.  We shared a number of attractions to people in communities.

annisa and dream

Anissa and Dream circa 2005

Without even a masters degree, Dream has somehow managed to secure teaching positions at both MIT and Harvard.  Some combination of daring, charm and a highly accessible presentation style is what makes this story believable.  But it is Dream’s imagination which makes him such good company for a long drive.  He has all manner of wild ideas, some of which just might be huge, if they got the right attention.  In this I also see the parts of myself I like best.

Dream is all about empowering kids using long-lever computer tools.  Well after midnight when I finally left him behind at Morningstar, he had assembled a group of kids, including Willow to work with his new educational tech tool, called scratch.  And within minutes of them working together my son was saying “I want to put up my own website.”  And with inspiring teachers like Dream, it can’t be long before this is happening.  

i want to build my own website

i want to build my own website

[Edited by Vermin F. Cockwolf]

Legacy of Trust: MetaBehaviorism

“Meta” is a curious and rich word.  It is classically defined as a prefix which means after or beyond.  I think its more interesting aspects are self referential like metadata – data about data.  Perhaps a metabag would be a bag full of bags.  My son seems to be becoming a metabehaviorist.  By which i mean a behaviorist employing these practices on himself.  Or perhaps this is autobehaviorism?

But let me begin at the beginning.  Willow’s parents have this approach which most would consider daring.  As much as possible we don’t tell him what to do, we work with him to find out the things he wants to do.  He rarely takes showers or baths. He largely does not clean up his room, but can be convinced sometimes.  We do try to help him make informed decisions.  As early as 5 years old, he suggested and volunteered to stop eating sugar and dairy and to drink tea to help get over his cold at the time.

This is what extraordinary kids look like: Gwen, Willow and Rowan.

This is what extraordinary kids look like: Gwen, Willow and Rowan.

The other day he was working with Hawina on homeschooling and they had decided some time back that he would do homework.  And the system which they came up with (with Willow doing his homework every other day) was not working.  Hawina said, “What do you think we should do?”

Willow replied, “I think i should have a weekly homework deadline, and if it is not finished by the deadline, i don’t get any screen time until i complete it.”  Hawina was surprised by this proposal, but felt like it was a good one and they quickly agreed on it.   [Screen time is the amount of time Willow can spend on his computer, typically playing games or watching Star Trek or Modern Family.]

We hope we can continue this extraordinarily trusting and flexible parenting style.  What increases the chances that this will work is Willow’s own (somewhat odd) selecting behaviorist solutions to be run on himself.

Rat race or self correcting liberation?

Rat race or self correcting liberation?


I’ve been writing about Willow since before he could read.  With most people who i know, i ask them to review blog posts before i post them, if I mention their name in anything other than the most trivial way.  Because i had been doing this for so long with Willow i had, until the last couple of posts i wrote about him, not been consulting with Willow on what i was writing about him.

I’ve now cleaned up my act.  He reviewed this post, pulled out a couple of points i thought were interesting, but he did not want in it.  Future posts mentioning him in any significant way will have his approval before posting.

[Edited by Judy Youngquest]

Eulogy for my Dad – re-post

Five years ago in February my father died.  This is the eulogy i gave at the Harvard Memorial Church on the day of his funeral.

Earl Flansburgh from Boston Globe

Earl Flansburgh from Boston Globe

I disagree with people for a living. My father was one of the most agreeable people you ever met. And yet it was from him that I learned, if you wanted to be in the conversation, you need to listen deeply and to be able to reflect back what someone else truly believes.

I break the law as part of my work. My father was the most law-abiding man I ever met. And it was from him I learned that you need to have an unwavering moral compass, so that whoever meets you knows what you believe in.

My father built highly functional schools and elegant houses. I stop the construction of inherently dangerous and unnecessary nuclear reactors. It is from him I learned that my role is to serve in the building of a better world.

My father’s father was a large man named “Tiny”. He died when my father was a boy and I believe this helped make my father a careful and cautious man. I was fortunate to have a dedicated and supportive father for 5 decades and I am convinced this security helped make me comfortable taking chances.

When I get up in the morning and look in the mirror before days which tend to be busy and long, as my father’s were, I sometimes see the mirror image of the man, who despite being different, was one of my most important teachers.

[Edited by Judy Youngquest]

Willow is 12

Hawina fooled Willow

Hawina fooled Willow.

She told him they were out of beanbags chairs

She told him they were out of beanbag chairs.

the beanbag (filled with memory foam, not beans) takes up most of Willows room

The beanbag (filled with memory foam, not beans) takes up most of Willow’s room.

Having built worlds, killed aliens and tested the birthday present, my young son can finally relax.

Having built worlds, killed aliens and tested the birthday present, my young son can finally relax.

Willow is completely uninterested in the information that this chair takes up a huge fraction of the available space in his room.  He tells me it is a perfect size as he does a face plant onto the chair from the top loft of his bed.

[Edited by Judy Youngquest]

Pretty Dragon

Dragons can fly

Dragons can fly.

exotic faces from Dragons fingers

Exotic faces from Dragons fingers.

don't even try to resist

Don’t even try to resist.

walk in the waters fine

Walk in the waters fine.

The better to kiss you with my dear

The better to kiss you with my dear.

She exists only in his mind

She exists only in his mind.

Dragon of delight

Dragon of delight.

Dragon self tattoo

Dragon self tattoo.

She sees right thru you

She sees right through you.

with endless fiance Falcon.

With endless fiance Falcon.

[Edited by Judy Youngquest]

Freegantown Video

“The dumpsters are never empty in Freegantown, Freegantown, Freegantown.” Is the refrain from the first musical number in this epic piece of Twin Oaks Children’s theater.

Freegantown cast after the second and last performance.  With dumpster dive tulips.

Freegantown cast after the second and last performance. With dumpster dive tulips.

This short gem was captured in a low resolution video.  But you can get the witty dialog (including the pitch for more bandwidth).  It should be pointed out that Rowan (Tall Guy) is playing a role inspired by me, or at least inspired by my head-achy guests (from Nero who burned part of Acorn, to Jason who drove some people a bit crazy).

Willow explains how the freegans can eat overpriced organic food from Traitor Joes.

Dark Star (Willow) explains how the freegans can eat overpriced organic food from Traitor Joes, when the dumpsters are empty.

As background, freegan is a dietary preference which chooses to prioritize recovered food (typically from dumpsters, but it could be other places where it has been discarded like farmers markets) over other dietary constraints.  The root is from “free”, which is usual cost of dumpstered and other recovered foods.  More radical freegan philosophies go well beyond free food and boycott the entire money economy.

And now for the video:

Freegantown – epic Kids Play

If you are in the area (Charlottesville/Central VA) and you feel like you have some sense as to what community life is like, you should come see the Sunday Jan 26th performance of Freegantown (if you have not already missed it, this is likely today for you).

Rowan, Kaya, Zadek, Evan, Willow and Ezra in Freegantown - Circa 2014

Rowan, Kaya, Zadek, Evan, Willow and Ezra in Freegantown – Circa 2014

Willow (who’s full name is Willow Star Falcon-Flansburgh) plays the villainous ex-communard who goes off to work for  evil corporation Traitor Joes.  His name is Dark Star in the play.  This 30 minute performance, complete with a start up song with Evan on ukulele, is the best kid theater i have seen and some of the best theater to come out of the commune.

I won’t spoil the plot which teases all manner of commune customs and practices and includes blatant calls from the kids for more bandwidth in the community.   But I will say this performance is a bit of insider ball, if you know nothing about the communes, about our pocket dramas around guests or our practices around dumpstering food, you will miss some parts of the story.    None the less i would encourage you to come.

i will post more pictures (Hawina took some and Sky will tomorrow – all the Star parents are super proud this evening) and possibly get up the video of it.  Aubby did and amazing job writing mostly and directing the piece.  Ezra wrote and performed the musical accompaniment.

This could be the beginning of something big

This could be the beginning of something big

So be there ZK dining hall Sunday Jan 26th high noon – show starts on time.  There is no charge for this performance, and if you wanted to leave a donation, that would be great.

Willow’s only interview

My son understands the idea of labor credits.  [Twin Oaks and Acorn require people to work a quota of labor credits to maintain membership.]  He has to earn a small number of them to satisfy the communities child labor obligations (mostly the kids are responsible for their schooling efforts, but a handful of hours are requested working around the farm, the number increases slowly at the kids get older).  His current quota is about 5 hours a week.
Willow makes his weekly labor credits cooking lunch with Sky, cleaning Tupelo with me and at the Star Family regular K shift.  He has had this labor requirement for quite a long time.  When he was 5 years old he had an obligation to the community for a single hour of work a week.  When i told him that doing interviews with the various types of reporters who come through the community were labor creditable, he decided to do one.
Willow on Paxus - Circa 2007

Willow on Paxus – Circa 2007

A collection of NYU students came down and did a video of communards and they were especially interested in catching Willow on film. Here is the totality of the interview:
NYU College student:  Willow what do you want to tell to the world?
Willow (immediately):  More trees, less cars!
NYU College student:  Great – anything else?
Willow:  When you get that right we can talk again.
With this Willow retired from doing interviews, despite them being relatively easy labor credits.
Sometimes the Trees do win

Sometimes the Trees do win.

[Edited by Judy Youngquest]

Community Slide Show – Heroes and Unicorns

Finley and Linus are middle Unicorns

Finley and Linus are middle Unicorns

L to R - Anja, Tina, Linus, Zadek, Stephanie, Elan

L to R – Anja, Tina, Finley, Linus, Zadek, Stephanie, Elan

The camera loves Anja

The camera loves Anja

And the other way around

And the other way around

Heroic Boys - Evan, Willow and Zadek

Heroic Boys – Evan, Willow and Zadek

Heroic Gal - Kaya perhaps crazed

Heroic Gal – Kaya perhaps crazed

Zadek and i are the two cross overs.  The younger home schooling program at Twin Oaks is called Unicorns. Kid as young as Elan from Acorn (age 1) come and as old as Zadek (7?).  There is a lot of sandbox, drawing and playing-with-toys time as well as read-aloud books, words for the day and simple reading & writing exercises.  Christie (an accepted Acorn visitor who has not arrived yet) put it most flatteringly.

I’ve been to dozens of pre-schools and day care situations, Unicorns is the only one which is doing it right.

Heroes is the fantasy role playing home education system that i am the games master of. I play this game with Zadek, Kaya, Evan, Willow and Rowan (ages 7 thru 17).  They adventure similarly to a Dungeons and Dragons game, but when they role poorly for the outcome of an event, they can get another role by answering a question right.  In the last game, Rowan’s character (Pesca the fallen god) actually died because Willow did not know what the Prohibition was (Evan did, but that was not enough to save him).  Kaya’s character (named Sapphyre) was about to be married to Pesca, so she followed him to heaven so they could hang there.  It is that kind of game.

[Edited by Judy Youngquest] (Past homeschool mom of 2 daughters from birth until they entered college.)


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