Conversations With My Boys

Home » Conversations With My Boys

What are rights?

in Conversations With My Boys, Liberator Online by The Libertarian Homeschooler Comments are off

What are rights?

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

Editor’s Note: This was written to introduce the idea of rights to the Young Statesman.

What are rights? There are two types or rights: Negative rights and positive rights. If you’ve ever heard the Ten Commandments, you’re familiar with Negative Rights. Thou shalt not…. Negative rights make you refrain from encroaching on the person or property of another.

RightsThou shalt not kill. Thou shalt not steal. Or as Libertarians like to say: Do not encroach upon the person or property of another. Simple, no? These rights don’t require you to Do anything. Only to refrain. A negative right essentially protects you from the encroachment of another person, a group, and the State. The negative right tells you that you can expect not to be subject to violence or coercion.

Negative rights are based on the idea of ownership. You own yourself and you own your property. No one has the right to infringe upon your life or your liberty or your property because they properly belong to you. For a negative right to be violated, one person, group, or State must encroach upon another. (Thou shalt not kill apparently doesn’t apply to tornadoes or earthquakes so if you’re killed by a tornado we don’t say that your rights have been violated.)

If you’ve ever heard someone argue that all people have the right to healthcare, education, food, shelter, or clothing they were making an argument for Positive rights. Positive rights make everyone responsible for providing one another with goods, services, and resources. Positive rights negate the principle of ownership. Every single argument for Positive rights without exception, no matter how kindly intended or reasonable, is an attack on self ownership and property.

Positive rights are based on the principle that we do Not own ourselves nor do we own our property. Therefore access to the property and person of another without their consent–theft and servitude–is fair and reasonable.

Positive rights require that you Do something. This is a violation of the principle of self-ownership. If I own myself, I am not required to Do anything at the behest of another. A Positive right guarantees the encroachment of another person, a group, and the State against your person and property. You will be subject to violence and coercion if you violate the right of another to your labor and property.

Constitutionally, the preservation of Negative rights is the purview of the State. Negative rights are ancient and history has shown that despots violate them first by claiming the ‘general welfare’ or ‘common good’ is being served and after establishing that the people will tolerate their breach they will do away with them in all but name.

Education Theater

in Conversations With My Boys, Education, Liberator Online, Personal Liberty, Philosophy by The Libertarian Homeschooler Comments are off

Education Theater

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

I think education is a natural system that can’t be centrally planned. And yet, that’s exactly what we try to do with curriculum-and-textbook-based learning. Scope, sequence, grading children by age, all of that is done not for the sake of the child but for the sake of efficiently delivering lessons aimed at imparting skills and knowledge. We have the best intentions, but what is it getting us?

Theater-EducationWhat we’re finding is that we can throw skills and knowledge at them but unless it’s on the child’s timeline, when they’re interested, when it matters to them, it doesn’t stick. We’re wasting all kinds of time, effort, and patience re-teaching things that we taught when children weren’t interested or ready. We’re frustrating children and what we’re really teaching them is that education is an absurd, arbitrary exercise in memorizing what someone else deems worthy and promptly forgetting it once the test is over. This is a false efficiency. This is education theater.

Worse yet, perhaps, we ignore the individual’s strengths, genius, needs, desires, capacities, and dreams when we attempt to be efficient and to impose ‘education’ on them. What they’re really doing is creating themselves and I think in the best of all worlds the people who love them the most should be resources or facilitators or mentors in that process. Sometimes it seems to me that education is like a bad present. We’re shoved into the dreaded Christmas cardigan from Aunty Hortence and told to go thank her when what we really wanted, what we really needed, was the bike.

What does “unschooling” mean?

in Conversations With My Boys, Education, Liberator Online, Marriage and Family, Personal Liberty by Advocates HQ Comments are off

What does “unschooling” mean?

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

Unschooling. It doesn’t mean you leave them to their own devices.

UnschoolingI have a boy interested in relative size and divisibility of matter and time. He tells me that matter is made of little tiny bits like people are made of cells and big LEGO things are made of smaller LEGO pieces. Everything, he tells me, is made of smaller pieces. Pointillism and pixels and color combining might happen this week. We’ll see.

Yesterday at the grocery store he not only took me through the divisibility of time but also proclaimed that matter could neither be created nor destroyed, it could only change shape. It was all still there. He ripped a hole in a tissue and explained that it had a hole in it, but it was all still there. I mentioned something about the laws of physics which he politely ignored. Keep your nomenclature to yourself, thank you.

Then he asked me what happened when matter collided with antimatter. Antimatter. I don’t know. We’ll have to look it up. Boom and energy and particles seems to be what happens.

Then today we had a look at a biology book. The Way Life Works. Excellent excellent illustrations. Biology in graphic form. We stopped briefly at the cell. Prokaryotic cells. Eukaryotic cells. Organs. Organelles. Very little interest. Then DNA and recipes and transcription and why–if you and your brother have the same parents–are you and your brother not exactly alike? The Interactive Scale of the Universe. More interest but waning.

Then a little jaunt into A Child’s History of the World. The first three chapters read like Montessori’s Great Lesson, God With No Hands so he loves those and is always happy to listen to them. This took us back to the sun, the earth, the moon, the planets. The rocky planet we live on, the elements present and why they ended up where they did. Density, gravity, layers, air. Fish remove oxygen from water, people remove oxygen from air.

Then tools and Stone Age people and copper and tin ore and Minecraft and scarcity and subjective value and the Diamond Water Paradox and superabundance and property. Bronze Age people and what a Golden Age is and the nature of evil and I’m going to circle back to that later today.

Then we returned to genetics and he inhaled the first half of The Journey of Man–which is a great lesson, too. Geography. Physical maps, political maps, the San bushmen and the government of Botswana displacing them by making a political border that ignores a physical and cultural reality. DNA again. That’s why we aren’t exactly alike! More geography. Ice ages, climate change, land bridges, drought, deserts, scarcity.

That was before lunch and this was a summary and I left out a lot.

Unschooling doesn’t mean you leave them to their own devices. It means you see where they are going and you give them what they need to feast on the topic, explore it, and connect it to other topics they love. They don’t forget what they really want to know. They will forget what you really want them to know if they don’t care.

What are the Hidden Costs of Sending Children to Government Schools?

in Children's Rights, Conversations With My Boys, Liberator Online, Marriage and Family, Personal Liberty by Advocates HQ Comments are off

What are the Hidden Costs of Sending Children to Government Schools?

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

Editor’s Note: Although this isn’t strictly a conversation, it’s something to think about when weighing the educational options for one’s children. 

School If I took a blow to the head and decided to go to a 9-5 j.o.b. and tried to provide something close to what the boys get at home now I’d have to pay for the following:

–Private school
–Hidden costs associated with school (projects, parties, fund raisers, etc.)
–Someone to run them to activities
–Additional medical due to increased sickness in self and children
–Sick child care
–Testing for BA
–OT for auditory processing/sequencing (I wouldn’t have time)
–Tutoring for reading (I wouldn’t have time)
–Sports for both boys
–Sports equipment
–Professional wardrobe for me
–Uniforms for boys
–Dry cleaning
–Additional meals out
–Housekeeper
–Help in the shop–boys do this now
–Help with yard maintenance –boys do this now

That’s just off the top of my head. The private schooling, the nanny/child care, OT, tutoring, and sports alone would eat anything I brought in. And that’s just the money.

I suspect if they were in school there would be a fair amount of despair in the life of my oldest who is independent and sets his own path. Despair in the life of an adolescent who lives big is usually expensive. Emotionally expensive and monetarily expensive. I’ve seen it end in therapy for anger. I’ve seen it end in a trip to the hospital for a child who was acting out. There’s worse. Best not to go there.

I can’t imagine what would happen to BA in the hands of even the most caring teachers. He’s, frankly, our child to raise. There is no outsourcing him and keeping him whole. That’s all there is to say about that.

Raising and educating our sons takes up a lot of room in my head. Room that would be taken up by work if I were going to a 9-5. I wouldn’t be able to devote as much time to observing them and figuring out what was really happening developmentally, intellectually, emotionally, physically. I couldn’t set up independent studies, mentoring, apprenticing. There simply wouldn’t be as much time for me to be the expert on our sons. That’s work that can’t be sent out.

That’s my work to do. Besides their dad, there’s no one in the world who has as much skin in the game as I have.

Sometimes the parent who stays with the children wonders what it would be like if they worked a 9-5 j.o.b.. If you do that, make sure you put everything on the scales. Being away from your children will have hidden costs and unintended consequences, good and bad.

What Makes Sense?

in Conversations With My Boys, Education, Liberator Online, Personal Liberty by The Libertarian Homeschooler Comments are off

What Makes Sense?

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

Editors Note: If not for homeschooling, BA would most likely not get the individualized attention that he needs in a regular, public school.

BA (9) is on a quest for full-on literacy: reading, writing, spelling, grammar, vocabulary. He won’t get there like YS (14) did. He’s been trying that way around for almost five years now.

WritingHe’s constantly working on sequencing, motor planning, working memory, motor coordination, timing, pacing, and all the procedural learning strengthening activities he can juggle. All day long. Crossing the mid-line, agility ladder, strengthening his core and upper body, piano for finger strength, writing over top of my writing to get the motions into his muscles, metronome work with large muscles and singing and reading. Drilling letter pairs, faster, faster, faster.

We’re seeing changes in a lot of areas. But not in writing. We’re using a lovely font that worked beautifully for our older son and me. BA has been at it for two relentless months.

No change. None.

He still writes bottom to top, his curves and connections are still highly problematic. He has to use too much of his attention creating the letters to focus on anything else. He can’t take notes this way. He can’t write a paper this way. He can’t write a letter this way.

Me: Do you think the writing is working?
BA: No. It’s not any easier.
Me: (Showing him an impromptu drafting-style lettering.) What about this?
BA: (Immediate relief in his voice.) That looks much easier. That’s how I would write. Look, see? (Writes me his alphabet.) That’s how I want to make letters. The other way doesn’t make sense.
Me: We’re not going to do the other way again. We’re going to use letters that look like this. Upper case will be big and lower case will be small.
And that. Is that.

Do You Think for Yourself?

in Liberator Online by The Libertarian Homeschooler Comments are off

Do You Think for Yourself?

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

Me: What time did you wake up this morning?
The Young Statesman (13): 5:30
Me: People are going to be interested in knowing what it is that causes a thirteen-year-old to wake at 5:30 in the morning. Can you tell me about that?
YS: If I get up that early I can go to the gym and I can practice the organ. Those are two things I want to do every day and we do that every day. It’s done and I don’t have to worry about it. When I wake up early I can get that done early.
Me: You didn’t just wake yourself up, did you?
BubbleYS: I woke The Baby Anarchist (8).
Me: How did you do that?
YS: I tuned on the light and woke him and gave him his clothes. While he brushed his teeth I made his bed. Then I went to my room, made my bed, tidied up, put away my laundry, brushed my teeth, and went downstairs. I let the dog out, I fed her, I filled up the water bottles for the gym, I got the breakfast cooler together, and we went to the gym.
Me: Did your brother need help with his shoes?
YS: Yeah. The shoe laces aren’t that good so I helped him.
Me: Why do you help your brother?
YS: One day I’m going to want his help. I’d might as well be nice to him.
Me: Did I tell you to do these things?
YS: No. You said you were going to the gym at 6 in the morning and if I got up early I could join you. Then you asked BA if he wanted to come so now all of us go.
Me: You’re a pretty independent kid, aren’t you?
YS: I don’t like to be told what to do.
Me: If I started pestering you to do things, what would be your reaction?
YS: I’d wonder if you’d been hit in the head.
Me: If I were insisting that you do these things would you be as willing as you are?
YS: Nope.
Me: Why not?
YS: Because when I’m being told to do things that puts me in a passive frame of mind. And it makes me not like you if you’re bossing me around.
Me: Tell me about being passive.
YS: If I try to take the initiative, I’m going to end up butting up against you. I’m living off of you and what you’re telling me to do. I stop thinking.
Me: At that point you’re just being directed.
YS: I stop thinking. I’m just in brainless mode. I’m like a dog.
Me: How long can you stand to be in that mode?
YS: Not very long. If you’re in that mode for very long, you rebel.
Me: So you act rebelliously?
YS: Yes. In response to not being allowed to think for yourself you make stupid decisions. You don’t even think before you act.
Me: So your actions aren’t so much your own decisions as they are reactions against authority. I don’t think that’s just what adolescents do. Anyone who is being dominated and doesn’t think it’s legitimate is going to do that.
YS: You’ve taught me to think. Not to obey. You don’t tell me what to do. You give advice. I can take it or not.
Me: Would there be a problem if you didn’t take my advice?
YS: No.
Me: You’d just have a different experience. I notice that you take my advice more often than not. Why?
YS: Because when I haven’t taken your advice I’ve gotten hurt. Remember when you told me not to run in flip flops and I didn’t listen and I scraped my face across the road?
Me: That was so awful.
YS: I was trying to take something back to a neighbor. It really hurt. I’ve never run in flip flops since. Do you remember when you told me not to shriek and cry about everything because you wouldn’t know when I was really hurt? And then when we were at the swamp and I broke my arm and I was screaming and crying and you didn’t come because I screamed and cried at everything. That was a learning experience. And when dad told me not to run the chisel towards my hand and I did it anyway and we ended up in the ER for five hours. Or when he told me not to shove sharp things and I was in the ER again. I’m learning. Slowly. And painfully. But if you had stopped me, I wouldn’t have learned to listen.
Me: We would have stopped you from getting hurt if we could have. Do you think the injuries were worth it?
YS: I do.

What Happens When Demand Increases?

in Conversations With My Boys, Economic Liberty, Liberator Online by The Libertarian Homeschooler Comments are off

What Happens When Demand Increases?

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

How will I explain the phenomenon of rising prices after a disaster to my seven-year-old son? I’ll say something like this.

You know there was a big storm in the Northeast. We saw it on television. There was flooding, there was a big fire, trees were down, and now there’s no electricity in a lot of places. It’s pretty miserable.

Supply And Demand Analysis Concept

People want clean water, food, and gasoline. They want to be able to clear away the trees that fell and they want to be able to run their generators if they’re without power. Normally, they could get these things, but because of the storm not only do they need more, but it’s hard for these things to get in. The normal supply lines are cut. So they want more and there’s less than usual around.

We’ve talked about scarcity before. It’s when there is a limited amount of the things we want. Right now, the things that they want are scarce. Demand has increased.

We’ve also talked about what happens when demand increases. When demand increases, prices go up. Prices just tell us how much of this thing is available. It’s information. Like when there’s a bad drought, the price of tomatoes goes up because there are fewer tomatoes to sell. The opposite is also true. When there is a lot of something, the price goes down. If I have a tomato farm and I have twice as many tomatoes one really good year, the price of tomatoes will go down. You can tell how much of something there is by its price.

This is the situation in the Northeast right now. Demand for gas, clean water, generators, and things like that has increased. What happens to prices when demand increases? Right. Prices go up.

You’ve seen this happen in daddy’s ebay business. When he’s down to the last ten of an item, he hikes up the price. It’s still available if someone really wants it, but those last ten are really really valuable. When he gets more in stock, he lowers the price again.

Remember how your brother asked you what you would do if you only had one cup of water each day? You said you’d drink that water. And if you only had two cups, you would use the second cup for keeping clean. And if you had three cups you would use the third cup for growing plants. And if you had four cups you might use the fourth cup for playing in the sprinkler or something. You understand when things are scarce, you use them differently. You economize. They are more valuable when there is less. Everyone understands that.

Anyway, back to the storm. Let’s say daddy sold things that would be important in an emergency. He has a store that sells gas, water, ice, and flashlights. He knows that as a storm approaches the demand for these things will increase and that perhaps his supply line will be severed for many days. He won’t be able to get more for a while. He will have a limited supply–like when you only have three cups of water. When demand increases, he’s going to raise prices. People won’t be able to buy as much. They’ll have to think about how they use what they buy. This keeps things on the shelves longer and when someone desperately needs a thing, it is more likely to be there for them. That’s really important during an emergency. It can even save people’s lives. Now, some people would say that it’s mean of daddy to raise prices when demand increases. But that’s not true. He’s simply letting people know that it’s time to economize. They need to think hard about how they want to use things. He’s just passing along information. And there’s good reason for him to do it. He’ll make more money if he’s doing the right thing. It also makes it worth his while to go to the store and keep it open for the one guy who really, really needs something. When the prices go up, he’s not going to sell as much, but he still has to be there. If he keeps his prices low, he’ll sell out and close his store.

So, what we know is that when demand increases, prices go up. When demand decreases, prices go down. Those are just laws. Like inertia. We just have to know that they’re laws and that they’re always in effect. We shouldn’t be surprised by them.

Some people try to suspend law and make it so store owners can’t increase their prices as demand increases. That’s really bad. It doesn’t work and it leads to more shortages because people won’t economize on their use of the scarce goods and services. If they aren’t properly priced, the consumer doesn’t know how valuable it is. They might buy the last flashlight to entertain their children in the dark when a guy two blocks over needed that flashlight to find something really important–like maybe the gas shut off–in the night. When things cost more or when we have less of a thing we really think about how we use it. If the prices don’t give us that information, that causes more problems in an already bad situation.

The Philosophy of Liberty

in Conversations With My Boys, Liberator Online by The Libertarian Homeschooler Comments are off

The Philosophy of Liberty

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

Me: What can you tell me about the philosophy of liberty?
BA (10): You own your life. Other people own their lives.
Me: Does any other person have a higher claim on your life than you do?
BA: No.
Philosophy of Liberty Me: What do we call it when we say someone has a higher claim on your life than you have?
BA: Slavery.
Me: You exist in time, right?
BA: Yeah. Past, present, and future.
Me: What do we call it when someone steals your future?
BA: Murder.
Me: And when someone steals your property what are they stealing?
BA: That’s called theft. They’re stealing the time you spent in the past to get that thing.
Me: And when someone comes and enslaves you or uses force to get you to do what they want you to do?
BA: They’re stealing your present.
Me: Why not your past?
BA: Because you weren’t enslaved in the past.
Me: And why not the future?
BA: Because it hasn’t been determined yet.
Me: Property is pretty important.
BA: It’s something you spent your past acquiring. It’s like bees. They spend their time gathering stuff and making honey and that honey is like time made real. That’s their property and they will protect it.
Me: So you’re allowed to protect your justly acquired property.
BA: Yes. You can ask other people help you protect your property, too.
Me: When you’re protecting your property are you allowed to hurt people?
BA: Yes. But you aren’t going to hurt someone over a penny.
Me: We call that proportionality. Can you hurt innocent bystanders as you try to get your property back?
BA: No. You can not hurt innocent people. They’re allowed to come after you if you hurt them even if you hurt them in pursuit of justice.
Me: If you hurt them and they’re innocent then you have to make them whole?
BA: Yes.
Me: Give me an example.
BA: If you’re running after the guy who stole your TV set and you knock me down and break my arm, you have to pay my medical expenses because you have hurt me.
Me: But I didn’t mean to hurt you. I just wanted my TV back and you were in the way.
BA: It doesn’t matter. You break it, you buy it. It doesn’t matter what you were doing.
Me: So if they guy who stole my TV came through your house and I wrecked your house trying to get back my TV what would I have to do?
BA: Make me whole.

 

Santa?

in Conversations With My Boys, Liberator Online by The Libertarian Homeschooler Comments are off

Santa?

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

Me: Tell me about Santa.
santaBA (10): People say he’s a fat guy who likes milk and cookies, defies physics and flies around on a sled with flying reindeer, goes around the world delivering presents to everyone in one day. But what he really is, is the guy who gives stuff in secret which I can believe a lot easier.
Me: What do you mean?
BA: Santa Claus is Saint Nicholas. Saint Nicholas gave in secret. Like Santa Claus does.
Me: But Saint Nicholas is dead. How can he give children stuff?
BA: People do what he did. They say it’s Santa Claus giving when they give in secret. Santa is the name they use for secret giving. They’re doing what Saint Nicholas did. Giving in secret.
Me: Yeah that’s….
BA: But the Santa thing doesn’t make any sense. You can’t get around the world and deliver presents all in one night. People make stuff up to convince you it happens but it doesn’t make sense. He has a magical bag because the sled can’t hold all the presents for all the kids in the world. Flying reindeer? Goofball. People think he comes down your chimney. What if you don’t have a chimney? And what if you have a whole bunch of stuff in front of your fireplace. And if you have a chimney like ours, how is he going to get in?
Me: What are your thoughts on this?
BA: It’s like believing in superheroes or something from a movie. I just don’t believe in magic. I think things have a reason. There’s a reason behind everything. If you don’t know the reason something happened that doesn’t mean it’s magic. There’s never been magic. Everything that happens has a reason. You have to think. You have to figure out that reason. What it is that makes something happen.
Me: You sound annoyed by it.
BA: I’m annoyed that someone would make something up like that. Why? Tell the kid the truth. What about kids who believe that Santa is magic and ask for things like a house or food or to get better from something? Don’t make something up. There are reasons for things.
Me: Do you remember that April Fool’s video I showed you when you were little? The one with the flying penguins.
BA: No.
Me: You were aware that penguins couldn’t fly. We had told you that. But when you saw the video you were so excited. You really wanted for penguins to be able to fly so you were so excited. And I had to immediately tell you it was an April Fool’s video. You were so sad. Even though you knew they couldn’t fly the video looked real and for a second you really were excited because you wanted to believe it and then you were crushed. It was awful.
BA: Kids can be fooled. They’ll believe things they really want to believe. Sometimes I want to tell my friends that he’s not real. They just go on and on about it and it doesn’t make sense.
Me: I think you need to leave it alone if someone believes in Santa Claus.
BA: They just go on and on about it. It’s not true but they really want to believe it. There’s nothing you can do about kids who believe in Santa Claus anyway. They don’t want to know what’s true. You wonder what they’re going to believe in next. Pixies? You just have to go along with it.
Me: Throughout your life you’re going to meet people who willfully believe things that are clearly untrue and you’re just going to have to hold your tongue and know that it’s really important to them to believe this thing. Santa is practice for that.
BA: But even their parents will tell you, “Yeah, there’s no Santa but we still do Santa at our house.” There is no magic. There are reasons that things happen. You have to figure things out.

He went on for quite some time. Completely flummoxed that–even in the face of a great deal of evidence against Jolly Old Saint Nick and in favor of his name being used when someone wanted to give in secret–children would so willingly disregard reason and instead believe what pleased them.

They Want Hate Between You

in Conversations With My Boys, Foreign Policy, Liberator Online, Middle East by The Libertarian Homeschooler Comments are off

They Want Hate Between You

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

BA(10): I wish I knew why those terrorist did that.
Me: Would it comfort you to know why?
BA: It would help me if I understood why.
HateMe: Well, they murdered those people so you would hate Muslims. Like Al (a friend who is Muslim). They want you to hate Al.
BA: I would never hate Al. Why do they want me to hate him?
Me: They want you to make Al feel hated and attacked. They want you to work for them and make Al feel attacked. Like you are his enemy. They want you to hate Al and attack him so he has to defend himself from you.
BA: Why would they want that?
Me: They want Al to feel persecuted by you and they can’t do that job. They have to make you do that. They want hate between you. They want Al to hate you and they want Al to join them.
BA: I would never hate Al.
Me: It doesn’t begin as hate. It begins as fear and distrust. When you fear and distrust your friends and neighbors you are doing the work the terrorists want you to do. You are working for them.
BA: If I hate anyone I hate the terrorists.
Me: That also serves them. Hate is like a little pile of burning matches. You can not put out that little burning pile of matches by adding your own burning match to it. You must quench hate and more hate does not quench hate. Do you see?
BA: Yes.
Me: When there is great hatred like there was last night in Paris we are being called to great love and compassion. We are called to love the people who have died and the mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, sons, daughters, and friends who are heartbroken with grief. Love quenches hate. Do you see?
BA: They want me to hate and be afraid.
Me: Yes. Do you remember those people who came to our church to frighten people?
BA: It’s like that. It’s the same thing. Only they didn’t kill us they just tried to scare us.
Me: Yes. It’s hate. They want you to hate. When you hate, you are on the side of those who hate.

Observations from Halloween

in Conversations With My Boys, Liberator Online by The Libertarian Homeschooler Comments are off

Observations from Halloween

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

(Editor’s note: This is not a direct conversation with either the Young Statesman or the Baby Anarchist, but the timeliness and insight within are the reason for publishing)

Questions Nobody Asks

halloweenWho will plan and build Halloween?

What about the free-rider problem of the neighbor who takes his kids trick-or-treating instead of staying home to give out candy?

Who will make sure that the maximum trick-or-treating age is enforced?

Do they have a license to distribute food?

What makes you think anyone will do it if it’s entirely voluntary?

Who is going to pay for all of this?

Safety in 2015

October 31st is the only day we think rightly about this being the safest time in the history of the world to raise children.

They’re out there in the dark, wearing masks and brandishing weapons, walking the streets alone, taking candy from strangers.

Halloween = Economists’ Christmas

Halloween is like Christmas for economists. It is a wild festival of human action, subjective value, and free trade. And while I am not an economist nor do I play one on TV, my children sell me their Halloween candy.

We are capitalists, Baby. We won’t tax you. We won’t confiscate your hard-earned candy causing you to give up after ninety minutes. No! None of that. We will pay you cash money for your haul.

That’s right! Stay out later, walk farther, and trick or treat longer than other children because your effort will be rewarded with cash. Mommy doesn’t want that stuff in the house so she will pay to get her hands on it and get it outta here.

What’s it worth to you? How much do you value that? What do you really want to keep? What could you do with that money? You selling by the piece, pound, type, or lot?

The Internet Privacy Conversation

in Conversations With My Boys, Liberator Online by The Libertarian Homeschooler Comments are off

The Internet Privacy Conversation

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

Baby Anarchist (BA) (10): I need to use my device upstairs because it has directions to my Lego project.
Me: Can you print the directions?
BA: It’s hundreds of pages long.
Me: Do you and your dad have an agreement about using your device upstairs?
BA: Yes.
Me: Just for the instructions?
BA: Yes.
Large Man Looking At Co-Worker With A Magnifying GlassMe: YS, do you know why no one in the house uses devices in their own private spaces?
Young Statesman (YS): It gives you the impression that there’s privacy on the Internet.
Me: Right. Is there privacy on the Internet?
YS: None.
Me: Do you know about Ashley Madison?
YS: No.
Me: People married and agreed to forsake all others and they made this agreement in front of their families and friends and the understanding was that this was their agreement. They used the Ashley Madison service to violate the terms of their agreement. They believed that to be in secret. That they had privacy on the Internet. They were publicly exposed as users of Ashley Madison.
YS: Wow.
Me: Some of them lost their families, their friends, their jobs, and some were so distraught that they killed themselves. All because they rejected reality. Reality is that there is no privacy on the Internet.
YS: They thought because they didn’t like reality it wouldn’t hurt them.
Me: Right. They weren’t oriented towards reality. They thought their ignoring reality would somehow defend them.
YS: There’s no privacy on the Internet.
Me: None. And if we allowed you to think there was privacy associated with Internet use by allowing the use of devices in private spaces we’d be allowing you think something that wasn’t true.
Me: Do you remember the story about the teenagers who were sexting and arrested for it?
YS(14): No.
Me: One of them sexted the other and was charged as an adult for distributing child pornography. That’s a crime that can include being registered as a sex offender as well as jail time.
YS: How can they be tried as adults? They’re minors.
Me: For some crimes minors are tried as adults.
YS: That doesn’t make sense. They were pictures of themselves.
Me: It’s wrong but that doesn’t matter. If a person goes to court on child pornography charges even if it’s ridiculous and dismissed…
YS: That never goes away.
Me: Right. Even if they were wronged and it’s insane…
YS: It’s going to stick.
Me: Yes. So if you receive something like that you can be charged with possession of child pornography. As an adult. Even if you didn’t want it. You can be set up.
YS: That’s unbelievable.
Me: I know. And this is awkward, but it’s too important for us not to have this conversation.
YS: Just because you don’t want to know doesn’t mean it won’t hurt you.
Me: Right. And if you find yourself in a situation where you’re holding something that can get you jail time, you have to tell us immediately. We trust you understand how dire it would be to face jail and that you would not willingly do anything that would result in jail time.
YS: Right.
Me: So if you find yourself in a dangerous situation you must tell us immediately. We know you wouldn’t put yourself there on purpose so there’s no blame. Just help. But you have to be quick.

Respectability Politics and Discrimination

in Conversations With My Boys, Liberator Online by The Libertarian Homeschooler Comments are off

Respectability Politics and Discrimination

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

Me: Tell me about Respectability Politics.
Young Statesman (14): It’s basically making excuses for cultural prejudices. “If they were more respectable then this bad thing wouldn’t be happening.”
discriminationMe: Who can Respectability Politics be used against?
YS: Minorities.
Me: Just race?
YS: No. The poor. Muslims. Anyone different from you.
Me: The assumption in Respectability Politics is that the group that is being discriminated against….
YS: …is doing it to themselves. It’s never the discriminating group’s problem. They bring the discrimination upon themselves. If they were more respectable then this wouldn’t be happening. If they changed what they did then they wouldn’t be discriminated against.
Me: Have you ever heard the expression “victim blaming”?
YS: No, I haven’t.
Me: What does it sound like to you?
YS: Something has been done to someone by someone else and you’re blaming the person it was done to. “You wouldn’t have been shot if you were more respectable.” “You wouldn’t be bullied if you were a nicer kid.” You’re saying, “it’s your fault.”
Me: Was it a lack of respectability on the part of blacks in America that caused racism?
YS: No. Whites thought they were better.
Me: Do you think they sincerely thought themselves better?
YS: Yes.
Me: I don’t agree with you.
YS: Why?
Me: I think it was a lie they told themselves.
YS: So they could feel innocent of wrongdoing?
Me: Yes. You know Irish people came over as chattel slaves, too. A lot of white people came to America as slaves.
YS: I didn’t know that. I thought that was just indentured servitude.
Me: White slavery was not as common as black slavery but it certainly wasn’t uncommon. So, was it a lack of respectability that caused the racism?
YS: No. I think it was slavery.
Me: You understand that slavery included the molestation of children, rape, torture, murder, the destruction of families. The children of slave women were born into slavery. Even the children of the slave owners born to slave women were born into slavery.
YS: That’s sick stuff.
Me: It is. It’s hard to do sick stuff and still feel good about yourself.
YS: They had to come up with a story. They had to put the victim in a bad light. They had to make it their fault because otherwise they would feel bad. They made up a story. They gave themselves reasons to justify their behavior.
Me: But we don’t do that any more, right? We don’t justify bad behavior with stories, do we?
YS: [Laughs.] We justify all kinds of things. Killing people. Wars. Theft.
Me: We do like to tell ourselves stories don’t we?
YS: We call them reasons.

Where Do Our Rights Come From?

in Conversations With My Boys, Liberator Online by The Libertarian Homeschooler Comments are off

Where Do Our Rights Come From?

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

Me: What would you say to someone who said rights come from the government?

Young Statesman (then 13): Well, it seems like we get our rights from government, and I think that’s a common misconception.

The Young Statesman Contemplates RightsMe: Why is that?

YS: Because the government is charged with protecting our rights. That’s their job. I think that’s why people get confused.

Me: So how would you explain to someone what rights are and where they come from?

YS: I would explain that there are positive rights and negative rights. Negative rights are a duty to refrain from encroaching on the life, liberty, or property of another.

Me: Is that why they’re called negative rights?

YS: Yes. They’re negative because they’re saying what you can’t do. Negative rights are natural to every person. We have these rights just because we are people. We don’t have to enter into contract for these rights.

Me: So what another person has the right to expect you won’t do?

YS: Yes. So I have the right to expect that I won’t be killed, enslaved, or robbed. Life, liberty, and property. Positive rights are different. Positive rights say you have a duty to provide someone with something.

Me: How do you come about having a positive right?

YS: If a negative right was infringed upon, you have a positive right to restitution. You can also contract for positive rights

Me: Can you take away a peaceful person’s negative rights?

YS: No. If your negative rights haven’t been infringed upon and if you have no voluntary contract, then you have no positive right to a good service or anything like that.

Me: So what if I were to say that what you say about rights makes sense, but I still think rights come from the government?

YS: A legitimate government is just a group of people who have voluntarily gotten together to protect their rights. The rights that existed before the government came into being.

Me: Is there any great difference between a legitimate government and a voluntary mutual aid society that agrees to help one another protect their property?

YS: No. A legitimate government upholds people’s property rights and is voluntary. It doesn’t have a band of enforcers to force you the be part of their system. That violates the rights it claims to protect. If the government violates the rights it claims to defend it’s not legitimate. I should be able to say that I do not want their services. If you aren’t able to opt out, what are you? Do you have your liberty? Slaves aren’t able to opt out, are they? We just have a slightly bigger pen.

Libertarian Parenting

in Conversations With My Boys, Liberator Online, Libertarianism, Marriage and Family by The Libertarian Homeschooler Comments are off

Libertarian Parenting

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

Me: What are the rules of the house?
BA (10): Do not encroach on the person or property of another. Do all you have agreed to do. [We took those rules directly from Richard Maybury.]11988564_10104815737879530_1104378496462959819_n
Me: Who has to obey the rules?
BA: Everyone in the house?
Me: Me and Dad?
BA: Yes.
Me: What if you don’t want to obey those rules?
BA: You can ask if you can change the rules.
Me: Who would you ask?
BA: It depends on who is in a good mood.
Me: Young Statesman, what are your thoughts? What if you don’t want to obey the rules? Do you only lose the constraint?
YS: You lose the protection that the rules provide you.
Me: What does that make you?
YS: An outlaw. Fair game.
Me: So, BA, what would you think if we said, “Great. You don’t want the constraints or the protection of the rules, there are more of us, we’re going to take your stuff!”
BA: I’d be like, “That was a bad choice. I take that back.”
Me: So you think those are good rules.
BA: Yeah.
Me: Are they rules you’ll take with you into adulthood?
BA: I think so.
Me: What if you met someone who didn’t obey those rules?
BA: I would be quite upset.
Me: What would you call that person?
BA: A thief.
Me: Are you free to leave the family?
YS: Yes. I’m not going to.
Me: So you’re here voluntarily?
YS: Yep.
Me: How can that be? What recourse do you have? Isn’t it dangerous just to leave?
YS: You would help me find a good home that suited me better.
Me: That’s true. That’s a big part of being a member of this family. You are free to go. Your father and I both agree on that point. He is free to leave, I am free to leave, you are free to leave, your brother is free to leave. How do you think it impacts our parenting to know that we have agreed that you can walk away–right now–and not look back?
YS: It makes you think about your actions and consequences.
Me: Does that make us perfect parents?
YS: No.
Me: Why don’t you leave?
YS: Because I love you all and you are my family.
Me: What if we were oppressive?
YS: You aren’t so how would I know what I would do?
Me: So if we were prone to being oppressive we wouldn’t give you the option to walk away.
YS: Right. If you’re going to be oppressive you aren’t going to give the kid the option to safely walk away.
Me: But you’re given the right to walk away when you’re eighteen, right? Earlier if you become an emancipated minor. So eventually everyone has the right to rid themselves of relationships they find abusive or broken. We’ve just given it to you earlier. Why would we do that?
YS: Because you want to be respectful of me.
Me: It also keeps us honest. Knowing that you can leave us. It levels the field. What if I couldn’t leave my marriage to your father?
YS: That would make you a slave and he could do anything.
Me: Would that be healthy?
YS: No. You couldn’t do anything. You would have no power.
Me: There has to be balance. We decided early on that our relationships had to be balanced. You had to have the right to leave. Your father and I agreed to that with one another. That’s our agreement. If one of us refuses to make leaving the family a safe option for a child, the other is the fail safe. They will guarantee your safe departure and survival until you are old enough to make it on your own. Are there other adults who would assist you if your dad and I suddenly lost it?
YS: Yes.
Me: Miss Katy, Miss Alison, Miss Karen, Mr. Jamie, The Whites, Scott. Would they help you?
YS: Yes, they would. But I’m not leaving.

We have this conversation about every six months. Just so he knows his father and I remain bound by this rule. We check in. They know the rules of our union as a family and they know that removing themselves safely is an option guaranteed to them as members of this family. Particularly as they become young adults with all that adulthood brings with it, I think having the option to walk away is fundamental.

You Can’t Force a Person to Learn Something

in Conversations With My Boys, Education, Liberator Online by The Libertarian Homeschooler Comments are off

You Can’t Force a Person to Learn Something

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

Me: Can I force you to learn something?
The Young Statesman (then 12): No. You can not.
Me: So, if I sat you down and did chemistry lessons with you and threatened to….
You can't force someone to learnYS: Take something away?
Me: Yes. Take something away. If I threaten to take something away if you don’t do well on a chemistry test I give you will that make you learn it?
YS: I’ll learn it, I’ll spit it out, and then I’ll forget it.
Me: Isn’t that learning?
YS: No. That isn’t learning. That’s wasting time.
Me: What if I gave you an incentive to do well on a chemistry test. Will that make you learn it?
YS: If I don’t want to learn it, I won’t learn it. I’ll just memorize it, spit it back out at you, and forget it.
Me: What about subjects that are important?
YS: Important to whom?
Me: To many adults.
YS: Does that mean it’s important to me? If I don’t want to learn it, I will not learn it.
Me: Some people say if you don’t learn a thing when you’re young then that field will be closed to you when you’re older.
YS: Like what?
Me: We could say science. If you aren’t exposed to science when you’re young….
YS: You won’t be exposed to it again? You weren’t exposed to libertarian thought and Austrian economics when you were young and look at you. You’re running a page with over 25 thousand likes.
Me: What you’re saying is that I’m teaching people about liberty and Austrian economics and I wasn’t exposed to it as a child.
YS: Right. You were never exposed to that when you were little. Just because you weren’t exposed to it then doesn’t mean you won’t be great at it later.
Me: You’ve watched me teach myself, haven’t you?
YS: I have. I’ve watched you teach yourself a lot. I’ve watched you teach other people, too.
Me: You’ve watched me tutor. You’ve been in the room with me when I’ve tutored. What have you learned by watching students struggle with subjects they’ve been told are “important” but aren’t aren’t important to them?
YS: They want to make their teachers happy but the subjects aren’t important to them so they aren’t going to excel. Daisy was an artist. They were trying to cram all sorts of other stuff into her.
Me: What did that do to her?
YS: You had to re-school her.
Me: What do you think was the most important thing for her?
YS: Art. She was a wonderful artist. You let her focus on that.
Me: Someone had told her it was more important that she be a mediocre, miserable student than a fantastic artist. One would have to be blind to miss that she was an artist.
YS: She was told doing what she was good at wasn’t as important as what the teachers thought was important.
Me: And what did the teachers think was important?
YS: Everyone being the same was important. Following the curriculum was important. Art wasn’t important.
Me: It’s like a factory isn’t it? It makes one product.
YS: No variations. All the same thing.
Me: Does that work with people? Who does it reward?
YS: The state gets a nice new batch of uniform people.
Me: What happens to people like Daisy who are brilliant in something the school doesn’t value?
YS: Their talent gets squashed. I’ve noticed that you tutor the brilliant people. It’s the creative people who don’t do well in the school system.
Me: I would say that every child I’ve tutored had a burning passion that was being neglected or misdirected or devalued. I don’t think there’s one child I’ve worked with who wasn’t obviously being sold short. Can you imagine being a fantastic artist and having to sit in classes that bored you, that you weren’t interested in, that you actively hated and that you were failing every day of your life?
YS: I can not imagine how bad that would be. That would basically be the first eighteen years of your life thrown away.
Me: It would be worse than wasting it. It would be eighteen years of being told that you weren’t good enough. It would be a daily attack. We were talking about whether or not you can force a person to learn something.
YS: You can’t force a person to learn something.
Me: I was required to teach Daisy certain subjects. Do you think they stuck?
YS: No. She probably forgot them. It was probably a big waste of her time and your time.
Me: What do you think she remembered?
YS: That you let her do what she loved to do. That you understood what her talent was.
Me: I wish we had spent more time on art with her.
YS: She was a lot happier here than in school.

Who Owns You?

in Communicating Liberty, Conversations With My Boys, Liberator Online by The Libertarian Homeschooler Comments are off

Who Owns You?

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

Me: Who owns you?
Baby Anarchist (10): Me. I own me.
Me: Can someone else sell you?Who Owns You?
BA: No.
Me: Why not?
BA: A living person is his own property.
Me: Can someone else rightfully take away your life if you are being peaceful?
BA: There’s no rightful way to encroach on a peaceful person.
Me: Can someone else rightfully stop you from peacefully owning your rightfully acquired property?
BA: No. No one can stop you from keeping the thing you have peacefully gotten. If you’ve earned it, traded for it, been given it as a gift, it’s yours.
Me: Can someone else rightfully stop you from making a peaceful contract with another person?
BA: Nope. You’re peacefully doing it. It’s not hurting anyone. There’s no reason they should stop you.
Me: So no one is allowed to take away your right to make contracts?
BA: No one is allowed to take away your right to make contracts. You own you. No one can take away your right to enter into contracts.
Me: Did you know that years ago it was illegal for black persons to enter into marriage contracts with white persons?
BA: During slavery?
Me: After slavery. When they acknowledged that people were not the property of other people.
BA: That doesn’t make sense. If you are your own property then you can enter into contracts.
Me: If someone else can stop you from entering into a contract what does that make you?
YS (14): A slave.
Me: Is yesterday’s decision (2015 Supreme Court decision regarding marriage equality) about love, son?
YS: it’s about self ownership.
Me: Why did it have to be couched as a decision about love?
YS: Because people won’t respond to self ownership.
Me: Why don’t they want to hear that they don’t have self ownership?
YS: It’s complicated and bad.
Me: Love is nicer but the reality is people who own themselves are not denied the right to enter into peaceful contracts that don’t encroach on others.

Do We Homeschool?

in Conversations With My Boys, Liberator Online by The Libertarian Homeschooler Comments are off

Do We Homeschool?

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

The Libertarian Homeschooler (Me): Do we do school at home?
The Young Statesman (YS): No.
homeschoolMe: Do we homeschool?
YS: No.
Me: Do we unschool?
YS: No.
Me: What are we doing?
YS: Not fitting in that box everyone likes things to fit things in.
Me: What are some words that would describe what you do from day to day?
YS: I’m doing. I’m not learning about what I want to do, I’m doing what I want to do.
Me: Like what?
YS: Accompanying choirs. Proctoring. Performing. Composing. I’m working for people who do what I want to do.
Me: And they’re helping you decide how to spend your time and where to put your effort.

This is what we’re doing with our older son and what we’re starting with our younger son. It’s not school, it’s not homeschool, it’s not unschooling, it’s not waiting, it’s not preparing. It’s none of that. It’s figuring out what they’re interested in, how they want to serve others, who they want to be, and assisting them as they go about creating themselves and their work. If they need something as they go, we help them get it.

Whether it’s competency in algebra, speech lessons, table manners, an internship with someone who is familiar with development and PR, a seminar on cottage industry, dancing lessons, composition curriculum, a trip to the organ builder, whatever. We facilitate.

We help them picture where they’re going and help them make the vessel that will get them there. We find people to teach them how to navigate, to sail, to take to the oars when the wind won’t serve, and help them recalibrate as they go.

We’re not homeschoolers. We’re dreamers and we’re ship builders and we’re navigators.