All posts by Angela Harrison

Angela is a writer and poet from the backwoods of Texas. She's many other things as well, including a wife, mother, liberal, feminist, mostly straight, LGBTQ supporter, avid reader, outdoor lover, a grand multi-Para and a self proclaimed starfish flinger. She has thoughts and opinions that could be construed as many things, including being seen as a crunchy, tree hugging hippie. Religiously speaking, she’s more Pagan than Christian leaning but basically a secular type. She has been busy producing free range children since 1991 and is currently engaged in raising wild things. She has walked through fire; therefore she may occasionally leave sparkles in her wake. Early Childhood is her passion, as evidenced by the seven children that call her mommy. She considers herself to be a bit of an attachment parent, aka rebel, trouble maker and pot stirrer extraordinaire. Examples of her bucking the traditional system include co sleeping, extended breastfeeding, unschooling, engaging in gentle discipline (i.e., not spanking) and leaving kids intact. She would like to remind her readers that mommin ain’t easy! Professionally speaking, Angela is an early childhood professional, trainer, conference presenter and writer. She holds degrees in Psychology, Sociology and Business. She has worked in the field of Early Childhood Development since graduating from Texas A&M in 1998. She is certified as an Early Intervention Specialist and has worked as both a Specialized Skills Trainer and Family Service Coordinator for several Texas ECI (Early Childhood Intervention) programs. After obtaining her MBA from Texas Woman’s University, she decided to stay in the field of Early Childhood and move into management. She served as a Team Lead, Program Coordinator and Site Director at LaunchAbility (Previously Special Care and Career Services). She has presented on numerous child development issues, in a variety of venues, most notably at a conference given by the Brazelton Institute. She has been a certified Nurturing Program instructor and a trainer for the Child Care Champions program. She is a member of the honor societies of Phi Kappa Phi, Epsilon Omega Epsilon and Sigma Beta Delta. Past and current affiliations include National Organization of Women, National Association of Professional Women, North Texas Association of Early Intervention Specialists, Burleson County Community Resource Coordination Group (Vice President) and First3years (continuing education committee). She served as Vice President of fundraising for her son's PTO before branching out into homeschooling. She is the founder of the North Texas Home-school Gay Straight Alliance. She holds an endorsement as an Infant Mental Health Specialist from First3Years (formerly North Texas Association of Infant Mental Health).  She has published articles in the First3Years journal, written as the Early Childhood Examiner for Examiner.com and been a contributor to sites such as Liberal America, The Bump, Modern Mom, Global Post, and Live Strong. 

ADHD and So What?

My six year old is ridiculously loud! He screams at top volume for no apparent reason. His sister locked him out of her room last night for that exact reason. I’m on the other end of the house and it’s too loud for me!

He is my loud, active, rebellious, overly sensitive, always on the go child. My oldest was like this, but he is even more so. It’s like he needs noise and movement to focus, to think, to concentrate and maybe he does. I have often thought that, were I to pursue it, I could easily get a diagnosis of ADHD for him. Yet I don’t pursue it, top of his lungs screaming, constant messes and all, I don’t. Why not?

Well, I have no desire to put him on the medication, that’s why and unfortunately, that’s about as far as traditional medical treatment goes. Here are your pills, goodbye. I happen to know that there are other ways of helping him that won’t put his health and life at risk. I don’t think most people realize that those ADHD drugs are often not approved by the FDA for what they are being used for and even when they are, come with a long list of side effects. No thank you, we won’t be having any.

First of all, I’ve done this and my oldest turned out fine. Sure, he still has some sensory issues to this day, but he graduated high school with honors and has held down a job for the last year quite admirably. Second, he’s not the only one. Thomas Edison was kicked out of multiple schools and his mother was told he was unteachable and stupid. Yep, Thomas Edison (now believed to have had ADHD).

I’m not saying that the drugs are never useful, I know people who swear by them and I am not judging their decision. I just hate it when people judge mine. Sure, my kid can be annoying and loud and obnoxious and make a ridiculous mess. But he is also incredibly smart, creative, original, loving, caring, sweet etc. I have no desire to mute any of his qualities. They are ALL what makes him, him. Special and unique. So we take the loud messy child in constant motion because it comes hand in hand with his brilliant, creative joyous self.

We just don’t go out in public much.

Open Letter to Educators

I was just forwarded this video by my boss, along with her daughters written response to it and the whole thing really got me thinking.

What’s funny is…I was JUST thinking about that exact thing the other day. I was thinking, is it ironic to anyone that I feel the way I do about institutionalized education and yet have multiple college degrees? It may seem a bit hypocritical, but it’s not and I can tell you why.

I do agree with everything he said. I see with my unschooled children how much more organic learning is than schools want to make it. How artificial and irrelevant much institutionalized learning is. How it teaches you to memorize and regurgitate facts, not to think for yourself, much less outside the box, not to actually learn or be engaged with your subject. How my favorite teaches and professors were those who engaged us, encouraged dissent, nurtured debate, fueled classroom discussions. Unfortunately, those were the minority.

So why then bother with the whole thing at all? Precisely because our society demands it. You may be self taught and actually know more than someone with a degree, but society confers respect and authority on the person with the degree. Because we see the degree as a measurement of your knowledge.

My ex husband is a chef, learned on the job, and his biggest pet peeve is the culinary school graduates who are clueless and mess up his kitchen! Yet, they go on to positions he can’t get considered for, though it was HE and not the culinary school that actually taught them how to cook in practice, in real life. I use to tell him to just go get the degree, no matter if he already knows more than the instructors, that “piece of paper” is a foot in the door. Sure, you may get your foot in the door then not be able to keep the job because despite your education, you don’t really have the skills, that is true. But even if you have the skills, you may never get to put them to use without that foot in the door.

That being said, perhaps Dan Brown is the next Bill Gates (a very famous and very rich college drop out) but for most of us, we need both the skills and the credentials.

So, back to why I feel institutional education is a joke and yet I have multiple college degrees and keep going back for more? Because  I am a biologist who knows that survival equals your ability to secure your  share of the available resources. For humans, this no longer means hunting or grazing territory, money is what secures our basic resources like food and shelter. Because I’m a sociologist (specifically a structuralist) who understands that that structures and institutions of our society are what we have to work with, even when we want to change them and in the society we have, a college degree, certifications and other forms of validation are what let us access the money. And because combining those two things with the fact that I’m also a realist tells me that despite all its failings, I still need institutional education to secure validation (in the form of a degree) so that I can access my share of the resources (in the form of a good job that provides a higher income to purchase food, shelter, clothing and the like). So, I plug away at getting my degrees while I home school to try and give my children a competitive advantage when they reach this stage because I AM teaching them to think, not memorize.

And while we’re on the subject, I will be teaching them the metric system because the entire rest of the world uses it and if they want to go into any medical or scientific field, even here, they will have to know it and our public schools do not teach it. It is so much harder to learn at 41 I’m here to tell you! (Even though it is more intuitive and easier than our system). Change comes from within and you have to start somewhere. I believe that the huge surge in families pulling their children out of the system is a step in that direction. Colleges are now actively recruiting homeschoolers precisely because of their ability to think outside the box. Private and charter schools all over the country are piloting curriculum that more closely resemble homeschooling than institutionalized schooling. The fact that this movement is gaining momentum can be seen in the backlash against it. In many states legislatures are trying to move backwards and outlaw homeschooling but it isn’t working. Families are taking back their children’s education. The revolution is afoot!