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#1 of 34 Old 07-20-2013, 10:22 AM - Thread Starter
 
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From another thread, this got me thinking...

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I view my kids as very privileged to live the kinds of lives they are living. It is important to me that, along the way, they understand their personal life circumstances are probably some of the most privileged in the world.

 

I completely agree with this. I'm not sure it's something my kids are really getting. I'm wondering how other families are helping their kids understand and appreciate their privileged lives ... socio-economically, educationally, what-have-you. 

 

One thing that has helped is to get my kids travel opportunities. Ds16 was in rural Cuba last year. Dd19 spent time at about the same age in rural Laos, Thailand and Myanmar, and has also been to India and China. The travel itself is an immense privilege, of course, but it has put them in contact with, and allowed them to leave briefly amongst, people with very little material wealth and very little comparative opportunity. 

 

I'm also glad that we live in a small town where we are constantly rubbing shoulders with people who have much less than we do. Our closest family friends are a family of 7 whose income last year topped $30K for the first time in the 10 years we've known them and who still don't have a flush toilet. We do lots of volunteering around town. We parents do a fair bit of work for free for people who can't afford our services. We give money to local and global charities and aid agencies. Dd19 has grown into a frugal and fiscally sensible young adult. I think we're doing some things right.

 

But still ... all my kids are working this summer and are flush with income that doesn't have to go into the family account for basics and doesn't have to help pay for their new violin or soccer fees. They all have a choice about school or self-directed learning. Their family is fairly affluent by national standards and appalling affluent by global standards. Are there other things we could be doing? other approaches I could be taking?

 

Miranda

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#2 of 34 Old 07-22-2013, 10:35 AM
 
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I agree, travel, while an immense privilege on its own, is a fantastic way of opening one up to the rest of the world!

My kids are too young for this but Aljazeera's Witness documentaries generally tell stories in such a personal way that the audience can't help but be pulled in. I love that.

We talk on world level. What does poverty in america mean when poverty in some of the poorest countries results in starving? While I try to be gentle, I don't sugar coat.

I am fairly critical of "sustainable development" schemes that put the onus of the planet's health on developing countries that are struggling to lift people out from abject poverty.

As a very liberal person, I generally find myself at odds with my compatriots when it comes to complex issues like the environment or the economics of "sweatshops," globalization and the path to industrialization. I feel compelled to talk to my son, a budding environmentalist himself, about issues I find disadvantage, discount, and maybe even put in danger the livelihoods, and therefore the lives, of people in some of the poorest countries in the world. It is important to me that my kids look beyond what is politically popular on their side of the aisle and see the facts on the ground.

A lot of the stuff around our house focuses not just on current events but also on history. I think a deeper understanding of history is important to put current situations into context.

I highly recommend the Peace Corps or VSO, because volunteers if nothing else at all, get fully exposed to the complexity of the conditions on the ground.

While I do not want to saddle my kids with the world's problems, I at least hope they get on a deep level that without doing anything at all, they won the lottery of being a citizen of a very wealthy country. They didn't work for it. It was just there for them. I hope they don't lose sight of that and become entitled jerks who believe the world belongs to them and only them.
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#3 of 34 Old 07-22-2013, 06:15 PM
 
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This is my third attempt at replying; I keep feeling inadequate and deleting. This will likely end up inadequate-feeling, too, because I feel so strongly about this, and often feel like it's impossible to ever do enough to make sure they "get it."

 

We live as privileged expats in a country where some expats are in similar straits to ours, and millions of others are barely eking out a living, working terrible hours in terrible conditions for ungodly little pay.

 

And the rest of the time we live our privileged little life in America.

 

It wasn't always this way; in fact, both dh and I grew up poor. I was US poor, he was third-world poor. This means I lived in a cold house and wore old clothes and ate poor-folk food, where he remembers eating locusts, not owning shoes, and regular head shavings to get rid of lice.

 

We regularly travel to his old home. A lot has changed, and his help has gone a long way to alleviate the family's difficulties, but one person can only do so much, and so the kids have some idea what it's like. They have heard a lot about our upbringing in the countryside in the States, too. And we do try to get out and travel. They got to meet some Maasai people this year, and we spent a day in Nairobi. After a couple months in the bubble of the UAE, it's essential to get out.

 

I was a Peace Corps volunteer, and I would recommend it to any young person out of college, or any older, experienced adult with the opportunity to commit the two years.

 

Ds's honor society requires community service. It's easy to find ways a kid can contribute in the US. Abroad, that can be harder. So this year, we will take a look at that challenge and see what creative ideas we come up with. It's easier for us to serve the feral cat population than it is to reach out to needy people. The ways societies are put together actually contribute to the danger involved in helping out. It's frustrating for those who wish to help. Imagine how frustrating for those trying to improve their own lot.

 

I guess the big thing for me is growing empathy in my kids. Since ds was little, empathy has been his "gift." He's not especially talented in academic subjects, but he has always been emotionally gifted. I want to encourage him to keep this, and to always see a person, and try to imagine another person's life before jumping to judge.

 

We're Muslim, so we're fasting for Ramadan right now. One of the lessons of Ramadan is about going without. We have the luxury every day of breaking our fast with the food of our choosing. We're committed this month to eliminating food waste (which is a rampant problem in well-to-do countries, and worse during Ramadan) in our home. Still, our food is relatively fresh, always safe, and healthy and delicious. Others, if they are lucky enough to have food at day's end, may have a handful of rice, some potato, stale bread. Many have to work in 120F weather while fasting, while we have the luxury of staying up late to eat and drink, sleeping in, and staying in from the heat. It's easy for someone to say people aren't doing enough to help themselves. I hear it all the time. I'd recommend forgoing food and water for just a day--say, 15 hours--and seeing how your own productivity suffers under those conditions. Then imagine whole societies made up of the same--people who are hungry and thirsty, and thus likely also sick, perhaps exhausted, living in difficult weather, lacking access to even the most basic tools, supplies, food, clean water, medical care. Chances are we wouldn't be thriving either.

 

But these little things--meeting people when we travel, exposing the kids to as much of the picture as possible, sharing in hunger and thirst--still feel like drops in an ocean.

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#4 of 34 Old 07-22-2013, 07:10 PM
 
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1jooj, I also felt my post didn't do justice in conveying exactly what I was trying to say and I am typing on a phone! Anyway, just wanted to let you know that I very much enjoyed reading your contribution. Thanks for sharing!
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#5 of 34 Old 07-23-2013, 04:50 AM
 
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We too, are so blessed.

 

We haven't done too much traveling (I'm sort of a homebody, my kids are much younger..) but I imagine at some point we will. 

 

 

I'm very big into giving back, and I donate so much of my income as a freelancer, and our income as a family. My DD and I have plenty of smaller causes we feel super passionate about (like the B.E.A.R group..) and whenever she sees someone asking for a donation, or one of those containers you stick a dollar in she asks me for moola. And that I love..but we are so blessed. To have a husband that works form home, and unschooled kids and just this general sense of freedom...whew! I think that every single day! 


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#6 of 34 Old 07-23-2013, 10:44 AM
 
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I think one that is important to note is to not focus your volunteer efforts on anonymous or even supposed "personal accounts" of sponsorship.  

 

A lot of the organizations that aim to "help" people in need are diligently destroying these people's way of life, in order to make things more civilized or capitalistic or whatever way it serves the needs of the other outside society going in to "help".  

 

Try not to paint a picture of naivete in which you think you're doing more than you are to help.  Sometimes I think it is as simple as helping a local family, because you're helping someone who may not be as bad off, who may then be able to help more people who are not as bad off...

 

One organization I really like is kiva.org...it helps small businesses tackle some major financial issues or get off to a good start, but there are of course other good ones.  I don't know how I feel about things such as volunteering at a shelter or soup kitchen, I think it still creates a sense of separation most of the time.  I suppose it depends on the child's age and ability really...but eventually it should be beyond the level of being on the side of the giver of things to those less fortunate...and more time really helping, getting to know the people, understanding their wants/needs/issues with their situation.  I think it's crucial to be able to understand various types of lives.  

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#7 of 34 Old 07-23-2013, 07:22 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I think that when people are coming to grips with their privilege, they can be left feeling simply guilty, or their guilt can fuel an idealism and frustration that inequities can't be solved, or their guilt can fuel a sort of knee-jerk charity, whereby they give some money or volunteer some time, and pat themselves on the back because they've now paid for their privilege and put it right somehow. None of these reactions are really what I want in my kids, and reading this thread and pondering the points raised has helped me articulate it a little better. 

 

We shouldn't be giving to charity and volunteering our time to help others because we believe we can fix the economic injustices of the world (we can't!) -- and we shouldn't be doing so in order to appease our own guilt and carry on with our comfortable sense of entitlement. Charity isn't a bandaid we use to fix our privilege and the guilt associated with it. It's more fundamental than that: charity is about empathy, and goodness. Appreciating one's privilege, accepting it with gratitude for what it is -- a lucky crapshoot, not an entitlement -- is a powerful way to motivate goodness. Gratitude for one's privilege can inspire goodness and empathy in all areas of one's life, not just the writing of an occasional cheque or putting in time at a soup kitchen. I think that's what I really want in my children.

 

Miranda

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#8 of 34 Old 07-23-2013, 07:55 PM
 
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Originally Posted by moominmamma View Post

I think that when people are coming to grips with their privilege, they be left feeling simply guilty, or their guilt can fuel an idealism and frustration that inequities can't be solved, or their guilt can fuel a sort of knee-jerk charity, whereby they give some money or volunteer some time, and pat themselves on the back because they've now paid for their privilege and put it right somehow. None of these reactions are really what I want in my kids, and reading this thread and pondering the points raised has helped me articulate it a little better. 

 

We shouldn't be giving to charity and volunteering our time to help others because we believe we can fix the economic injustices of the world (we can't!) -- and we shouldn't be doing so in order to appease our own guilt and carry on with our comfortable sense of entitlement. Charity isn't a bandaid we use to fix our privilege and the guilt associated with it. It's more fundamental than that: charity is about empathy, and goodness. Appreciating one's privilege, accepting it with gratitude for what it is -- a lucky crapshoot, not an entitlement -- is a powerful way to motivate goodness. Gratitude for one's privilege can inspire goodness and empathy in all areas of one's life, not just the writing of an occasional cheque or putting in time at a soup kitchen. I think that's what I really want in my children.

 

Miranda

nod.gif Pretty much exactly this. Gratitude and empathy, curiosity and an innate desire to do something good. And sometimes small good has to be enough.

 

In Islam we are told that just a smile can be an act of charity. My kids seem to be coming to understand that a kind face in a sea of anonymous, self-absorbed people can be a life buoy to some of the loneliest among us. It's not about charity as much as acting charitably as a rule and sharing whatever abundance we have, even if it's just an extra smile or greeting, a place at our table, or a 5-minute call home on our phone.

 

And it's not only financial means that can be shared. We can type and format CVs, help people set up Skype or free email accounts, help people read important documents, give someone a lift. You know it's funny, because those don't (of course) fall into my initial thoughts about "volunteering," as I struggle to think about what my ds can do to "log his hours." And yet, we do try to consistently interact with people all across the social strata in this way. A few months ago I was out walking alone and spotted a sea turtle swimming in the Gulf. I was thrilled and needed to share the moment, so I waved to the nearest person, who happened to be a landscape worker. In addition to sharing the wonder of the turtle, we shared a moment of humanity with each other. It made my morning, and his smile was priceless to me.

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#9 of 34 Old 07-23-2013, 07:57 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Oh, another related thought. I watched this video recently: Take Two 'Normal' People, Add Money to Just One of Them, and See What Happens

 

It's about studies where people were artificially given some sort of privilege, and immediately began behaving as if they deserved the privilege, attributing their success to their skill. Maybe that's the tendency I want to try to counteract.

 

Miranda

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#10 of 34 Old 07-24-2013, 04:54 AM
 
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I guess for me volunteering and "donating" are two things that I barely think about - I don't feel guilty of my "privileges" (we work hard) I just like giving back. Whether it's supporting local farmers and stores, or giving a few bucks to a project on Kickstarter I believe in. That's what I want to instill in my chlildren; if you have it, give back to your community whenever you can. Whether you can give $20 or bring someone a meal. All these things are what should come naturally to someone -- it doesn't have to be about money like the other poster, it can be barn building or goat-sitting.

I just love a sense of community - of helping each other out. 

 

I think I mentioned that specifically too, because as unschoolers we have oodles of time to give back. We can spend an afternoon preparing a meal for a family in need, we can go give some time to the bird trust down the road and learn about difference species. For us it sort of goes with the lifestyle. 

 

 

Time I guess is our biggest luxury. We wake up and the day stretches before us and ANYTHING is possible! 


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#11 of 34 Old 07-24-2013, 07:32 AM
 
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Originally Posted by moominmamma View Post

...
We shouldn't be giving to charity and volunteering our time to help others because we believe we can fix the economic injustices of the world (we can't!) -- and we shouldn't be doing so in order to appease our own guilt and carry on with our comfortable sense of entitlement. Charity isn't a bandaid we use to fix our privilege and the guilt associated with it. It's more fundamental than that: charity is about empathy, and goodness. Appreciating one's privilege, accepting it with gratitude for what it is -- a lucky crapshoot, not an entitlement -- is a powerful way to motivate goodness. Gratitude for one's privilege can inspire goodness and empathy in all areas of one's life, not just the writing of an occasional cheque or putting in time at a soup kitchen. I think that's what I really want in my children.

Miranda

Yup. I agree.

I want for my kids to just really understand how their start in life differs in massive, incalculable ways from some else's in the vast developing world and in how many countless visible and invisible ways it is just better from the get go -- starting from their American citizenship/passports to being being born in our family.

Once they get that, they will be on their way to live their lives with grace and gratitude. They will find their own balance and they will learn how to contribute in their own meaningful ways. I think the hard part is not just only understanding ones privilege on a deep, non superficial level but also being able to really SEE others' lives and acknowledge the roadblocks (way too many insurmountable ones for millions of people globally) in their way. After acknowledging, then understanding the crucial ways these roadblocks force individual lives to play out. But also beyond all this, there is meaning and beauty in every life that is out there struggling to make a go of it. On that basic level, we are all just very similar. A bit of cognitive dissonance there, I know but I have found this to be true once I got over my youthful indignation at the world's inequalities.

1jooj, you talk about setting up Skype or reading documents, etc. That is such a wonderful simple sharing of knowledge! We have done stuff like that too.

We have also picked individuals from really poor families (from a country in the horn of Africa) and paid for their education in the hopes that they will turn around and give their other family members a hand up. This seems to work really well and is quiet cost-effective. And nope, it will not change the world but we are okay with that.
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...It's not about charity as much as acting charitably as a rule ...

YES!!! And doing so without condescending.
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Oh, another related thought. I watched this video recently: Take Two 'Normal' People, Add Money to Just One of Them, and See What Happens

It's about studies where people were artificially given some sort of privilege, and immediately began behaving as if they deserved the privilege, attributing their success to their skill. Maybe that's the tendency I want to try to counteract.

This is definitely one of the tendencies I want to counteract. Thanks for the link.
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...if you have it, give back to your community whenever you can...

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#12 of 34 Old 07-24-2013, 10:19 AM
 
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Personally, I worry about talking too much about financial privilege with my kids, because I don't want them to look at other people's lives and think those lives are inferior, KWIM? We do talk about how no one should have to go hungry and have other basic needs met, but beyond that, I don't like to focus on what we have that other people don't (or on what other people have that we don't). I don't have time to write as much about this as I would like, but a danger I see with talking too much about our privilege is that it might lead them to focus on their own special status. We know people who are all over the spectrum financially, and people who struggle with disabilities of different kinds too, and my primary goal is for my kids to see everyone as human first. A secondary goal is for them to never feel like they "deserve" material goods, because I think inherent in that is believing that the desperately poor deserve their lot (which of course they don't) and also if you believe you "deserve" all the things you want, then you can't ever truly feel grateful for them-- you're not fortunate, you're just getting your due. An extended family member talks a lot about "deserving" treats of all kinds, and the treats never make her happy-- there's always more she feels she deserves but can't afford. A whole other issue I do try to talk to my kids about is privilege in the sense that they have a leg up in life because of accidents of birth. It will be easier for them to go to college or find a job because they were born into a white middle class family in the US.
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#13 of 34 Old 07-24-2013, 10:57 AM
 
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Some things we do now (our kids are still small ... 4.5yo and almost 2):

We've used the food bank ourselves, and now we give back to it when we can.

We're not wealthy by any means, but we do donate where and when we can for Doctors Without Borders, as it's a charity we trust.

We donate all our aged-out things in good condition to a group that support mamas and kids who are struggling with poverty and addiction.

We have our 4.5yo do the delivery of donations, so she hopefully gets the connection.

We volunteer at soup kitchens, and will take the kids with us as they get older.

We have a couple of folks living on the street nearby who we buy hot meals for weekly, and again, the 4yo is the one who delivers those. 

Having said all that, we're not wealthy at all.  And in our own home we don't purchase anything new, and live by 'use it up, wear it out, make do, or do without.'

We also do a lot for our neighbours ... laundry, gardening, cooking and hospital visits for the elders in our co-op housing, and childcare for young families when we can.

We talk a lot about what we can do for people who are in need, and then we do it.  

DD is the first to choose things to go to 'the kids who need it more'.

 

I hope we're on the right track!

 

I think empathy is key, and it's perhaps the one value I hold highest above others.  I see a strong sense of entitlement amongst the young adults in our sphere ... and I truly want to avoid that for our children.  

I consider us immensely privileged in that I can opt to stay home with the kids.  Some people might think it impossible on DP's very modest income as a cook and mine as a writer, but we make it work.

 

ETA: I like your post, tightrope.  We talk about what we have to offer others, be it in kind or in goods.  And we don't do rewards or 'deserving' treats.  I think that helps prevent that sense of entitlement I was getting at above.  We do tell DD when we don't have the money for something, but we don't dwell on it.  More of a 'matter of fact' mention, and then we move on.  For example, she gets a scholarship to a 1-day-a-week arts program during the school year.  She wondered why she wasn't doing any of the summer programs they offer and that her friends there are doing.  I told her about the scholarship.  She didn't harp on about it at all, but I do think she appreciated the information.


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#14 of 34 Old 07-24-2013, 12:03 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Personally, I worry about talking too much about financial privilege with my kids, because I don't want them to look at other people's lives and think those lives are inferior, KWIM? 

 

I agree that can be a risk. On the other hand, we've always valued simplicity in our lifestyle and our actions, so I think my kids understand when I explain to them that one of the problems with wealth is that it can distract and separate us from what's really important, and can distort values. Obviously living in poverty, with real need and daily discomfort, that's a bad thing; hunger and insecurity get in the way of what's really important in life. But wealth can do that too, right? There's good and bad in wealth.

 

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#15 of 34 Old 07-24-2013, 07:27 PM
 
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My kids think we are rich.  That's nice.  I grew up comfortably but always made to think that we were always on the brink, that was my mom's way of thinking.  We are not rich in the sense we in developed countries think of as rich-- but we have our own home, we have forest and chickens and toys and my girls see that and they say we are the rich ones.  Naive, at their age, but nevertheless heartwarming.


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#16 of 34 Old 07-26-2013, 08:08 PM
 
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Partly thanks to this conversation, I went ahead and contacted a few coordinators of programs in the UAE. One is specifically for serving the labor camp workers, and we could have opportunities to serve at special events like movie nights, dinners, language/reading programs, and fundraisers to establish/improve laborer amenities like libraries. Another is dedicated to helping trafficking victims. These are the kinds of situations that, like Miranda mentioned, make me ponder my fortune and aspire to at least be a positive force in others' lives. Because it is not by my hard work or my own choosing/deserving that I was born with this passport, with access to education, into a majority-race household, etc. I could just as easily have been one of those men housed in the desert, or a woman working as a modern-day slave on a "maid's contract."

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#17 of 34 Old 08-03-2013, 05:24 AM
 
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Are there other things we could be doing? other approaches I could be taking?

 

I often think that if we paid the true cost for things we get that would bring about equality much more rapidly than any charitable work. 

 

How many things are we affording only because the workers were not paid properly, or worked in unsafe conditions, or because the industry polluted some far away place, violating environmental laws or simply changing the laws to suit their needs?  When we find goods that are truly made in sustainable ways that respect people's dignity and labor, then I assure you we won't be getting it so cheap and we won't be having SO MUCH STUFF. 

 

So one approach is holding our own consumption to higher standards.  Maybe we will not be able to buy as much stuff but do we need it?    If those who can afford to pay the fair price do so, then more people will get fair wages and eventually more people can afford what they need. 

 

 

Another approach, for those who are interested, is to try living on the minimum wage or at the poverty line.  You could choose the poverty line of your country or some other country.   You could try it for a week or a month and just keep a record of what you observe along the way.  You dont *need* to travel to understand how the other half lives, or how policies impact the poor. 

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#18 of 34 Old 08-03-2013, 09:18 AM
 
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That is an AWESOME post, Rumi!  Lots of food for thought in there.  Thank you.

We hold our consumption to higher standards than most, and it makes us weirdos way more than being unschoolers does.

We live by "use it up, wear it out, make do, or do without" and we only pay cash for things, and we very much mind where it comes from and who made it.

I love this video about consumption:  Story of Stuff

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#19 of 34 Old 08-03-2013, 05:04 PM
 
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Agreed! A very good reminder.

 

And the funny thing about owning fewer things is how much freer it makes us, too. So much easier for us to move around on the earth when we don't have so much stuff to worry about.

 

The poverty line challenge is intriguing. I lived on about $250 a month for two years when I was a PCV. It was not so hard to manage on my own, but bringing the rest of the family into it would certainly be a lot harder. Would at least be worth some research into per capita incomes around the world, and discussion about what that would add up to in our current context.

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#20 of 34 Old 08-03-2013, 06:14 PM
 
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I do not think one needs to travel abroad to see poverty. There is plenty here.

 

If you want your kids to realize how privileged they are, make them pay for some of the things themselves . You said they are swimming in cash.


Better yet, make them quiet the jobs they do not need, so some low income kid can get it instead and help her family pay the rent. Your kids can volunteer somewhere.

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#21 of 34 Old 08-03-2013, 11:15 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I do not think one needs to travel abroad to see poverty. There is plenty here.

 

If you want your kids to realize how privileged they are, make them pay for some of the things themselves . You said they are swimming in cash.


Better yet, make them quiet the jobs they do not need, so some low income kid can get it instead and help her family pay the rent. Your kids can volunteer somewhere.

 

Ouch. Really?

 

We have a much stronger social safety net, so I don't think there's nearly as much abject poverty in our country as in the US. Sure, there's poverty, but compared to what my daughter experienced in rural Myanmar it's on a completely different plane. Poor here includes universal medicare, universally available K-12 schooling, housing assistance, income assistance, the security of basic human rights, a transparent political system, freedom from armed conflict, and so on. I'm not trying to minimize the challenges of being a poor Canadian. But ... well, travel still puts a very different lens on our first-world privilege.

 

In our family we parents pay for basic clothing, food, shelter, and education (defined broadly, in the unschooling sense) from 0-18. But they pay for most of the discretionary things, beyond the basics. My eldest has paid all her college tuition so far with a combination of savings/investments, scholarships and employment income, and things are looking good for this upcoming year as well. We live simply and our kids are not showered with frivolous consumer goods. They haven't been given vehicles, or gaming systems, or cellphones, or computers. They've bought some of this stuff for themselves, typically after years of savings, but we're still a family without a lot of the typical "stuff." The kids are still video-game free and cellphone free, we're driving a 19-year-old minivan, have no Netflix, etc. etc.. 

 

My kids are flush with cash in that they currently have more income than they've ever had - because they have jobs that they applied for with good resumes and strong interview skills, and have worked hard at. This is a community with a lot of summer employment for teens and there are more jobs than kids to fill them. My kids are considered reliable good workers, so they have tended to be recruited by the more pro-active employers. But wow, I can't imagine encouraging them to quit their first jobs as some sort of life lesson. What kind of strange message would that send? How employable would they be in future if that was the upshot of their first job? Their employers would be angry, they would likely struggle to find replacement employees. 

 

Do you really think that quitting a job is a good way for kids to appreciate their relative level of privilege in the world? Is throwing away one's privilege the only way to understand it? I'm willing to entertain that idea: that it is futile to try to understand privilege whilst one maintains it. But I'm not yet convinced that it really does the world much good on balance to throw away one's privileges. Ideally I'd like to find a way for my kids to gain enough understanding of privilege to want use their privilege for good, non-exploitatively, to try to make a better world. 

 

Miranda


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#22 of 34 Old 08-04-2013, 10:06 AM
 
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I am sorry. I did not realize you live in civilized country. I live in US where poverty is very different form Canada.

 

People who are lucky to get food stamp are supposed to live on $3 day. We have many people without any health care at all and they die on the daily basis. School in poor districts look like something our the dystopian nightmare and have 50% drop out rate.

 

Honestly, next time you do not feel like going to Myamar, just come over here.

 

 

I grew up in Soviet Union and my childhood was the type that gives gentle readers form the first world countries  PTSD and forces them to the support groups for the rest of their lives.

 

 I honestly thinks all that rich person liberal guilt is kind of pointless. What do you want? Seriously, you have good luck, good karma to have good income in the times when economic system all the world are collapsing. I know, you worked hard, your kids work hard, but luck and accident to birth play far higher role in all of that than people ego's are willing to admit.

 

My son works for awesome start up at the age when most of the kids at in high school. Is my son is a hard working, awesome and smart? He is. But was I little bit poorer or little bit more tired, he would have not spent his summers in awesome computer camps learning C +++ t age 9 and he would not be where he is today.

 

My other son is doing amazing internship for animal sanctuary. He applies, he has to write and essay and have an interview. He is also awesome and smart. But was I working two jobs and unable to take few week off to drive him back and forth he would not be doing this internship that is teaching him executive skills and eventually will help him to get into college and get a job.

 

The problem with privilege that is not possible to gain true understanding of it by mommy and daddy taking privileges kids on the poverty tourism expeditions.  You think for your kids to work for free and not being flash with cash and experience difficulties getting a next job would be wrong message and bad idea. Well, from a practical point of view it would be. I am sure being  privileged they would not agree to it. I would not either. I wouldn't want that for my kids. One has to loose the privilege and really live the life without out to grasp it. I grew up poor  and so I completely understand the privilege of my lower middles class American existence.

 

I know of only one case where someone was able to really grasp his privilege before voluntarily letting go of it. His name was Prince Siddhartha .

 

 

You are good person and good mom but let your children be. It is time to let go.  Life is hard enough . At some point we all privileged if not with money then with health, or personal relathionships ,and at one point we all loose it.  Suffering is universal.  Your children will experiences it as well. Rejoice in the fact hat right now things are good and they are good.    I understand the maternal desire to give children everything but some thing they have to get entirely on their own.

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#23 of 34 Old 08-04-2013, 09:23 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Originally Posted by Alenushka View Post
 

Honestly, next time you do not feel like going to Myamar, just come over here.


We didn't send her to Myanmar to help her understand her privilege. We sent her there because friends were going, and she was invited along, and we wanted her to have an experience away from home and family, and we knew it was one that would open her eyes to other ways of living and being, to other cultures and languages and religions, to other geographic parts of the world. Privilege isn't something I obsess over. Someone else raised it in another thread, and it got me thinking, in light of my kids' recent increase in income. As I said above I want them to understand enough about their privilege that they don't develop a sense of entitlement, but rather a sense of the moral duty to use that privilege for good. 

 

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#24 of 34 Old 08-05-2013, 02:35 AM
 
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Miranda, you do a great job articulating the way I feel about this situation.

 

Alenushka, I agree that we do have plenty of poverty in the US and one doesn't have to travel if they want to see misery. I grew up in poverty, though not in an urban setting, so perhaps we were spared from some of the misery you describe. That said, we don't travel to "see the poor," or on service-related trips at this point. I mentioned I was a Peace Corps Volunteer; that was a two-year commitment as a young person, rather than tourism. My point, I suppose, is that this is the life we are in right now, one in which we are traveling a great deal (for work), and I want my kids exposed to what exists everywhere we go, not just the photos from the Ministry of Tourism. And to remember that people are struggling everywhere, and to try to remember as they grow, to be a positive part of others' experience.

 

I don't think it's a liberal guilt thing, but more an awareness and empathy I want my kids to have, to keep in mind the many and varied obstacles that exist for people to improve their conditions. To be helpful and kind in general, and not make assumptions about people. For example, had someone stepped in to help fund your kid's programming camp experience, or to provide the transportation your other child needs, that would help lighten your load, even in just small ways.

 

I have no guarantees that my kids will afford college, especially in today's financial climate. I can't guarantee they will be great entrepreneurs and not someday struggle. I don't like the thought, but truth is we are not above falling from the precarious position we are right now so privileged to have. I'd hope that my kids would come to understand, too, should their fortunes not be so great, that just as success is sometimes a thing outside us, so is failure.

 

And still, yes. I want them to have the compassion within them not to ignore the plea of someone who needs help. To help others when they can, in small ways or big ones.

 

I just found out that our next trip to see our African relatives will likely involve our working the entire time on a construction project, fixing a house and installing a toilet facility. I could have canceled and left it to dh to do without us, but instead I am going forward and involving the kids in the work. We have a lot to learn in the experience, and many hands make light work.

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#25 of 34 Old 08-05-2013, 05:53 AM
 
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In our family we parents pay for basic clothing, food ..... We live simply and our kids are not showered with frivolous consumer goods.

 

Yes, for the basics you mention, there is a lot of scope for ensuring fair wages, working conditions, production standards and business practices that move in the direction of greater equality or greater inequality.  

 

Just finding out where the food comes from, who makes the clothes, how, etc and finding food and clothes made in a way that ensures food and clothing and shelter and dignity for all rather than widening the gap between haves and have nots is itself quite a life-changing exercise.

 

Present company excepted, many people look to do some charity work with their extra money rather than examining the choices they make with their basic money, and what kind of world that is creating.  

 

slightly tangential but may be of interest: 

 

The Charitable-Industrial Complex - NYTimes.com

www.nytimes.com/2013/07/27/.../the-charitable-industrial-complex.html
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#26 of 34 Old 08-06-2013, 01:05 PM
 
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rumi, thank you for the link. I can't imagine how it feels to be in his shoes, but I think a lot of the conversations about "development" are a lot like those about "democracy." There's one right way; it comes from here. Frustrating.

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#27 of 34 Old 08-06-2013, 08:12 PM
 
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Reading this thread, I finally thought I'd share my story, or one part of it.

 

I spent 4 years hitchhiking around the country, much of that using no money, most of it simply not having it.  Another 2 years living outside.  It was a humbling experience.  My main privilege was that I was not mentally ill.  Seriously!  This represents the main delineation of those on the streets.  It is heartbreaking some of the cities I visited and the friends I made to see people so sidelined merely by mental illness and a society ill-eqipped to deal with it in the long term.

 

The second "privilege", if you can call it that, was not being a substance abuser.  Most that I met were first and foremost mentally ill, then they might be an alcoholic or drug addict on top of that.  Very few I met were on the streets just because they fell into abuse.  Usually it started somewhere else.

 

I also had the distinct "privilege" of not having been abused myself, either as a child or as an adult.  

 

Finally, I had the "privilege" of being born a white woman in America.  I only had a high-school education, but I also have the "privilege" of having been a good student, and sounded well educated.  Both reinforced that this time of my life truly was a choice.  It is unfortunate that these things are still considered a privilege--meaning a societal advantage, since we have no true "privilege" in the original sense of the word, either in regards to "caste" or true "class" and certainly not one written into law anymore, thankfully (though we could argue about immigration, etc. and I recognize that it's a squashier issue than all this.....anyway............)

 

What I learned from the experience: every one of these people have a story to tell, that the poorest among them were the most generous, often spending nearly all their SSI check on food for feasts to feed whole groups of people.  When the manna came from heaven, it was shared, not hoarded.  The people we met who had the luck to (temporarily sometimes) have a home were the most likely to share it with you.  They had less to share, but they shared more easily.  Why?  These people still counted themselves lucky to be where they were, however humble, because not long ago they had even less.  They were no longer afraid to open their hearts and hands because they saw much worse and survived-- the fear of having less no longer was as pressing.

 

What I want to teach my kids: needs and wants.  What it is that is truly needed, not just what is certainly nice to have.  We talk about this quite a bit.  I don't know that they need such an experience that I had.  I do think, though, that the most valuable thing I walked away with was not an appreciation of my privilege (a nice perspective, but not paramount) but a first-hand appreciation of the humanity in all of society-- any preconceptions of "other" were profoundly challenged if not changed permanently.  I met people of all income levels and all walks of life, and I always found that binding experience, regardless of our privileges, opinions and education.  Granted, the people I met were the people that willingly opened their hearts, wallets, cars and homes for us, and that skews my viewpoint a bit.  But I will say that those people were not the normally the ones with the nicest cars, the nice homes, the degrees.  How to interpret that?  Maybe those people gave in other ways-- ways that were indirect, or just not me personally, I'll never know.

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#28 of 34 Old 08-07-2013, 06:21 PM
 
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Great thread.

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#29 of 34 Old 08-07-2013, 07:02 PM
 
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For World Breastfeeding Week, I posted a blog about some ways climate change and breastfeeding are linked.  I saw this thread this afternoon and felt that it fit with my feelings about how many parts of parenting are supported by the privileges of time and space - living here in the western US.  The link to the blog is here: www.babysdailywork.blogspot.com.   In environmentally, economically, and socially resilient communities we are not yet as highly impacted by climate change (lack of clean water, outbreaks of disease, conflict, stress); however, we have contributed the most to climate change over the past 35 years.  It is an issue of social justice and particularly toward nursing mothers and children in places that are much less resilient.

 

Something I didn't raise in the blog post but wanted to mention here is what I learned in an online course in global poverty: those of us living in "developed" countries have many decisions made for us, and we don't even think about the many choices we criticize or puzzle over as being ones we simply haven't confronted.  For example, our financial institutions are regulated widely, so while we can choose which bank or credit union we prefer, all will operate under similar regulations and offer certain benefits of security and compensation.  (Even if they are malfunctioning sometimes!!)  Also, we don't decide where to source our water, in general.  It comes from a municipal source, which is part of a plumbed system.  It has additives, often.  We don't choose those.  So many, many choices that we'd have to make (do I use this iodine capsule?  do I give my money to x, y, or z lender at the end of the day? should I wash my clothes and direct my sewage into the river where we also collect drinking water?)  These aren't our moral choices, and we have no moral high ground on these issues, yet we frequently blame or decry the choices of those who have no infrastructure to make those choices for them.  Now that is a privilege issue!  

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#30 of 34 Old 08-09-2013, 12:58 AM
 
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We are too poor to travel, but privilege is something we talk about on a daily basis.

 

We are incredibly poor. I believe in "making do" and I don't believe in having more than I need. I don't judge others or what they do. I know that what I do is super abnormal and I don't say it to try to sound self-righteous, just answering the question. This is how we do it.

 

So yes, we are very, very poor. Only my husband works and he does not make much at all. I choose not to work. I could get a job and put my children in school or daycare, but I believe in my lifestyle and choose poverty because I know that even though we have so little, we are wealthy by world standards. So these are some ways in which I teach my children how much they have. It really is integrated into our lifestyle.

 

1. We listen to the news every morning. I turn on NPR and we listen while we have breakfast. My daughter asks questions and we talk about what is going on and why. I am careful to tell her about why there are problems in the world and how lucky we are to live somewhere that is safe and healthy.

 

2. We do not buy things we do not need. My daughter is five now and old enough to know that we don't buy things we don't absolutely need. We don't go to a store unless there is an item that we have to have. We don't "shop." Shopping is for when you have a plan and we try to find a way to make do without it first. We also periodically get rid of things we no longer use.

 

3. We have a garden. I like my children to know how much time and effort goes into producing the food that they eat. When there is not enough rain and we have to water the garden, I explain how lucky we are to live in a place with water, how some people don't have enough to grow food.

 

4. We only get new things at Christmas. We are atheist, but still celebrate Christmas as a time of joy and giving, even if it's not about faith for us. All year long, my children do not get anything at all. This leads me to make Christmas a really special affair. Many parents say that they don't like to give their children lots of presents at Christmas but because we don't get anything all year long, we really go all-out. In the days before Christmas, I tell my children that we have to get rid of our old things. Not everything, just the things that we have outgrown or no longer use. The more my children give away, the more new presents they can have. I work on the side making toys, doing graphic design, babysitting, etc. and save every penny all year long. This lets me buy very nice things for my children. I may not buy a lot of items, but what I get is really special. Waldorf toys and wooden toys, natural products, etc. I teach my children that we don't just get everything we want all the time. There is a lesson in abstaining from retail therapy. Once a year is all we need. (We don't do presents at birthdays. We do cake, a mylar balloon, a party - where friends to bring a few small gifts - and I take the kids to a local bounce-house place for a few hours which is super fun.)

 

5. Whenever I need something, I try to make it first. I am teaching my daughter to make her own things out of old things or repair them if we can instead of buying cheap new products. Often, we make do or do without.

 

6. We stress taking care of what we have. A lot of parents are more lenient and let some things get destroyed, but I am firm on keeping what we own in nice shape. My kids are not allowed to color on their toys or tear them apart. We keep our things nice so they retain their value and we will always be able to enjoy them and when we are finished with them, someone else can enjoy them. I take off their clothes when they eat (we live in Hawaii so it is warm) so that nothing gets stained. I care for everything, even down to the least significant possessions. I can sell them when we are finished with them and the money goes back into getting new things that we need.

 

7. We always obtain used items first. I don't believe in buying something new if someone has a perfectly good used one we can get. It's difficult sometimes, but it does save money in the end.

 

8. Our entertainment is usually free. I like to foster joy in things like play, parks, reading (library books), games, learning, the beach, etc.

 

9. We don't watch television. I feel as though TV paints an inaccurate portrayal of "normal." Everything on TV is brand new and shiny and I find it makes the watcher feel as if they need to live up to those unrealistic standards. It's okay to be a little shabby as long as you have everything you need.

 

10. We watch documentaries about life in other countries. Netflix is, unfortunately, the closest thing we can get to being able to travel. :)


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