The Lady Gaga Approach to Education

blue bottles

I tell of it here: how Lady Gaga influenced my spiritual practice for the upcoming year.

It has something to do with the surprising complexity of her music. (Frankly, I never paid attention to her, until she broke Amazon.)

What struck me about the Lady? Her influences. You can listen to her music and hear an over-the-top, rather naughty lyricist, or you can listen and hear the past: Rock, Classical, even Spirituals. She's paid attention to details. She may play the counter-cultural naughty girl, but she's got creative roots. And they're what make her music so fascinating. (Even if you don't catch it at first, because all you see is black leather and bleach.)

It occurred to me today that I take the Lady's approach to home education. I have taken my girls to the past and around the world, whether it's through history, architecture, food, science, or literature. They've developed roots through a complex array of details and experiences.

There was a time that this approach to education made me nervous. What if they missed something important that could be provided in a pre-packaged curriculum? What if all our uncharted reading and looking and touching and eating and listening wasn't enough?

By now, it is too late to be nervous. The core of their education has been provided. They are 12 and 14.

But I look at their writing. I listen to their improv music. I hear their opinions. And I realize it is okay. They have what they need to be creative, interesting people in this world. And, if all goes well, they won't break much. (Unless it's Amazon for a day. That would be all right with me. :)

Blue Bottles photo, taken at one of our favorite places: Kitchawan Farm.

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Do You Think Book Selling is Headed Towards Monopoly?


When I was a little girl, I loved playing Monopoly with my sister. Collecting those green houses and the cards with purple or yellow strips at the top. I loved getting my $200 when I passed "Go." And I loved the little metal playing pieces, especially the dog.

The point of the game was, of course, to win.

In the world of book selling, I wonder if there's a game of Monopoly going on. And I wonder, is there going to be one clear winner in the end?

I've been having this conversation with various book sellers and book promoters like Hearts and Minds, Eighth Day Books, Elliott Bay, and Englewood Review of Books. I will continue to have the conversation with them as the months go on, particularly as part of my work with The High Calling, where we're interested in the idea of keeping the game open to multiple players, rather than having The Win go to one major book seller like, say, Amazon.

We are interested in this because good business usually needs multiple players. There is something inherently unsettling about a monopoly. We are interested in this because we like the humanity and passion we see behind businesses that really are "more than a bookstore," as Hearts and Minds claims.

Right now, I don't have any grand ideas about how to make this a better game, but I'm playing around with things like IndieBound. Today, I am also showing Elliott Bay how I can make a widget that will send people to their store, so to speak.

My page on IndieBound also showcases the other booksellers I'm in contact with, see?

Indie Bound

We'll be continuing this conversation at The High Calling and behind the scenes. But I wonder...

• what do you think about the book selling landscape right now?
• do you think it's okay to have a monopoly?
• if you don't think it's okay to have a monopoly, what tempts you to promote One Big Winner over others? (I have my reasons, but I'd love to hear yours.)

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How Do We Learn Words?

Delicate Machinery Cover

Today I've been writing about words. Just in a tucked-away place. Out on the back porch, with a cup of Red Velvet tea.

I've been writing about my girls, and all the words we've shared for so long. This makes me happy. It is taking me to worlds where purple moths and fireflies teach me how delicate and beautiful and sometimes amusing life can be.

Because I have been writing in a tucked-away place, I feel a little guilty for how I've been ignoring my blogs. (You noticed, didn't you? :)

Yet sometimes we need to shift spaces, write alone, away. Or we need to read, and read, and read.

I have been reading The Art of the Sonnet. I cannot really write sonnets, but I like reading about poets who can. I have also been reading the new title from T. S. Poetry Press, Delicate Machinery Suspended, by Anne M. Doe Overstreet.

Anne has learned words. Carried words. She speaks of the purple arils of pomegranates, the sensible heels of a grandmother, the daughter "hung from the morning like a pearl pendant." She speaks of the dark that "draws down to cover our tracks, to divide us/from what we have just done."

I learn words from words like that. I carry them and share them with my girls. We kick off our sandals and lean closer to one another.

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