[Image: A bland banner with a rainbow of deciduous leaves that says ” Raising Luminaries Shenanigans! 2020 Autumn Recap”]
What we tackled this autumn
Hello conspirators in cahoots!
Gosh, there’s a lot going on right now. This autumn was…well, okay, it was a very 2020-kind of autumn.
- A back-to-school process that exposes all the inequity in our school system and how little we value care-work.
- Bizarre snowstorms and summery November in New England (thanks climate change!), fires and air pollution and devastation (thanks climate change, over-development, and colonist arrogance!)
- That nail-biting and underwhelming election where it turns out our country didn’t learn anything about racism or hate in the last 4 years, just that half the country is okay with 45’s values and actions, they just don’t like his tone. (Seriously, WTF?!)
- Dealing with extricating ourselves from the sitting president like a toxic garbage ex-boyfriend who won’t GTFO without throwing a tantrum, vengeance-peeing on the sofa, and ruining any hope of getting our security deposit back.
The slow crawl toward 2021 feels like living through an agonizing indie art film. Like we’re all running full-speed and yet, locked in place and failing to do much at all.
Maybe it’s just me? It’s not like I’ve left the house in 8 months, so perhaps folks are dancing in the streets, and I’m just not invited to the party. I’m so frazzled I can’t even remember what we did this autumn – so let me check my records, and we can all revel in (or mourn?) the experiments we tumbled through in the past three months. And the stuff that blew up in our faces! :: exhausted and enthusiastic yaaaay for learning from failure! ::
Exhaustion aside, I am still excited to be in a community with you. Raising kind and courageous kids in 2020 has been…hard. And honestly, we were so isolated and overworked before the pandemic, it’s not like any of this is new. But in this community, at least we’re not doing it alone.
Parenting is Praxis:
The Earthquakes (ages 6 & 8) took everything I taught them about nonviolent resistance and dammit – the little monsters used it against me. They assailed me and their dad with a disorganized assault of non-compliance – going boneless, ‘losing’ supplies, faking IT issues, hiding, fleeing, disrupting class for teachers, ‘forgetting’ appointments, and copious whining, all to avoid participating in online school.
I wanted to stay connected to our local public school – not for my kids (Who are we kidding, our industrial test-based, age-segregated school model is not designed for folks like us), but to stay connected with our community and build stronger ties for interdependence. Participating in public schools builds trust and connections, giving us influence and opportunities to identify and start courageous conversations about curriculum violence with teachers and admin.
Pulling our kids out of public school defunds the affordable education system for families like ours, who can’t afford private school and don’t have the resources to create pods or pay for community education. Our public school system is already working with skeleton budgets thanks to a steady attack from Reagan, Bush, and now, DeVos, who want quality private education for the wealthy, authoritarian, fear-based curriculum, restrictions on educator creativity, and an industrial compliance model to funnel the working poor into deeper poverty. Capitalistic Darwinism that sends beloved and brilliant kids into the private prisons for profit.
But around the 4-week mark, we just broke. How much pain and trauma should we take on our own shoulders to support an education system that isn’t designed for them? My neurodivergent kid spent every zoom class hiding under a blanket sobbing. We spend our days begging, pleading, yelling. Managing their zoom schedules and assignments was turned us parents into full-time personal assistants, basically robot arms who try to figure out confusing instructions and deliver our kids to class on time.
So at some point, in a community who can’t support families like ours – we had to at least reduce harm within our own family. I am deeply uncomfortable with our choice to opt-out (and defund) our local public school. It feels selfish. But it was a solace to read the visible relief of all the educators who were trying to help us as they cheered our decision to homeschool – it means two less difficult kids to juggle so they can focus on the quiet and patient kids who don’t need so much support.
Beyond Books: Fighting the attention economy
I’ve closed down our public social media pages. It feels amazing to stop being complicit in that nonsense. Two weeks in, my brain is functioning calmly(er) and with a mighty efficiency! I wrestle with anxiety and a compulsion disorder, and like 90% of the petty bullshit that used to drain my spoons just doesn’t matter anymore. My family is happier and I’m able to give more attention to my friends. I highly recommend it when you’re ready to get off the bullshit highway.
Our private spaces – such as the Student Ignition Society, and the Luminary Brain Trust community for Luminary+ supporters, are still active on Facebook until I can find volunteers to help me explore non-evil spaces to gather together.
If you have to use social media for work, or want to engage in those spaces without getting sucked into Facebook doom-scrolling, bookmark them and use the FB Purity plugin to avoid distractions. I’ve been using it for years, and it’s saved my sanity.
Help us resist scarcity capitalism & avoid paywalls
This week, I looked into other orgs that provide similar resources (if I can find a good one to send you to, I can retire!) and it turns out folks who provide similar resources hide them behind a paywall. I’d really like to avoid that – it shouldn’t be only rich people who can afford to to raise brilliant leaders.
If you’re one of the lucky few who can afford to support my work, please help me support for my family while I support yours. Join our patreon community and contribute what you can – $50, $15, or $5. Pick a level that won’t impact your family’s grocery budget.
New & Updated Articles
Having trouble keeping up with the fire-hose of articles that I cram on this website? Here we go, a nice easy list for your binge-reading pleasure:
- Equity, Education, and Validating Frustration with ‘On The Day You Begin’
- Following Indigenous Calls To Action with ‘We Are Water Protectors’
- Countering Myths about Christopher Columbus with ‘A Coyote Columbus Story’ (this one has a read aloud video that will only be available until Dec 31, 2020)
- Exploring Black Futures with ‘Freedom, We Sing’
- Understanding Autistic Masking With A Tiger Called Tomás
- How inspiration porn humiliates women in ‘The Truly Brave Princesses’
- 6 Kids Books For Trans Day of Resilience
We started these over the summer, and since we’re not on social media with all the clicks and shares and feedback, I have no idea how helpful they are. So leave comments at the bottom of posts to let me know what’s working, and what’s not.
Recommended Reading Lists & Good Finds
Now that we have Bookshop as a way to support indie bookstores, I have a quick, easy, and ethical way to share recommended reading lists with you. Yay for supporting small business and also getting awesome book recommendations!
Most of these lists are a work-in-progress, and I’ll be sub-dividing them as they get cumbersome. For example – all the books for the 0-6 month age range have been divided into categories based on stages of development. This messes with the url link. I’ve reached out to Bookshop about it, and they have long-term plans to address it. Meanwhile – if you bookmark the main Raising Luminaries Bookshop directory, you can find all our lists easily, even if I shift them around.
Unlike the unpolished booklists and collections on this site – these lists won’t contain problematic books, how to use them, or caveats for small issues with otherwise great books – so keep that in mind.
Meanwhile, a sneak peek (don’t count on these links working later) of the books we research, screen, and discuss each autumn:
- Autumn Favorites
- Kids Books About Labor Rights
- Forest School
- Children’s Books on Indigenous Residential Schools & Forced Assimilation
- Death Positivity
- Inclusive Kids Books For The Mid-Autumn Moon Festival
- Inclusive Halloween Kids Books
- #OwnVoices Kids Books To Honor Indigenous Peoples’ Day
- Columbus-Free Kids Books About Italian Heritage & Culture
- #Ownvoices Kidlit by Latinx Authors & Illustrators
- Día De Los Muertos
- Elections, Politics & Democracy for Kids
- Transgender Representation & Resilience for Kids
Those should keep you busy enough while I tinker with the rest!
Patreon Community Updates
Since I’ve unlocked everything except the Luminary Braintrust for free through the pandemic, this is a …moot (? am I using that word right?) space. Nevertheless, for the amazing-awesome-kickass members of our patreon community helping me to work sustainably, here’s what I got for ya:
BUT ALSO – Please let me know if you are financially impacted by Covid-19 and need a contribution refund, and I’ll send it as soon as my account balance is high enough.
- Recap of our Summer Shenanigans
- ‘If I ran the zoo’ problematic video analysis
- ‘Coyote Columbus Story’ Guided Family Reading Questions
- How to use these books to discuss Elections, Politics & Democracy with Kids
- Updates to the Luminary Word Bank
- Letter Template to curriculum developers: De-Centering Whiteness in ‘Classic’ Children’s Literature Education
- November Resource Roundup
Luminary Brain Trust
Luminary-level members, come hang with us! This autumn, we made space for each other and connected at a slow and sustainable pace.
Im’a throw in some afflinks here, because honestly I do need the pennies.
Grown-Up Book Club Discussions
I try to keep track of the books we’re reading together over here.
- Wow, No Thank You – Sometimes you just gotta hang out in sweatpants and binge TV that isn’t a documentaries or social commentary.
- Sorry I’m Late – What steps are we taking to step outside our comfort zone?
- Nice White Parents (this one is a podcast) – How can we defend ourselves from whitewashing, domineering wealth, and intrusion in the quest for desegregation?
- Mindful of Race – How can we avoid burnout in anti-racism work?
- Each Tiny Spark (disclosure, the publisher sent me a free copy) – How are we teaching our kids to let go of relationships that no longer work for them? How do the institutions in our community (like schools) divide groups by culture and wealth – and what steps can we take to advocate for integration?
- When They Call You A Terrorist – How can we humanize our heroes and avoid putting them on pedestals?
- The Poet X – What tensions come up in the generational and cultural conflict between our generation and the next?
- Pleasure Activism – How are we talking with our kids about sex positivity and the body as a space for activism?
- The Next American Revolution – How are we modeling sustainable transformative community for our kids?
Family movie Night
- Worked through 1998’s Mulan while boycotting 2020’s Mulan and discussing orientalism with the kiddos.
- Spies in Disguise – predictably problematic, but at least we had fun cringing through it.
- Up continues to pull on all our heart strings and break ageist tropes.
- When we first watched Wreck It Ralph, I was excited for neurodiversity representation. Years later, I’m less sure about that.
- I had completely forgotten how badass the women of Sleeping Beauty were
- Re-watching 1989’s The Little Mermaid through a parent lens is…a whole different experience
- The Earthquakes made me watch The Little Mermaid II, and I will never get those hours of my life back.
- We celebrated all the single ladies in Over The Moon
- We tried to watch the 1991 live action Addams Family movie! It didn’t turn out well. So instead we celebrated autism representation in Loop & Float.
- Got very, very confused through Storks (although are we sure those are storks? They look like seagulls!)
Ongoing Conversations & Mutual Support
- Each Friday, we’re hosting a #FridayFailureParty, where we speak openly about the stuff that we totally messed up, the things that flopped, and how we’re learning from these experiences.
- In the #LuminaryDemolitionCrew, we’re identifying habits, relationships, and standards that are no longer working for us, and need to be DESTROOOOYYYYED!
- In our #WeeklyOpenThreads, we’re acknowleging our skills and centering ourselves in identifying where and when we feel safe.
- Advice: I’ve asked for advice for kid-friendly news sources, and our community delivered!
- In our #InitiativesInAction, we’re sharing new projects, updates on the stuff we’re working on, and troubleshooting roadblocks and challenges
- April B. has started a new post series – #ParentingIsPraxis – getting down in the weeds on the challenges we’re facing in real-time caregiving and how we’re putting activism into our parenting practices.
- New series, we’re discussing traits of #WhiteSupremacyCulture, how our behavior and habits embody and empower white supremacy, and what we’re doing to cut it out.
- New #LuminaryOfficeHours: I’m experimenting with regular times when I’m online and available for videochat – where Luminary members can join me to discuss current events, challenges, books, cute animals, or whatever we need to make it through another week.
Contributions & Accountability
Patreon support is down a little as more of our generous community members are hitting financial hardship.
I know in our last recap I promised to establish contribution boundaries – but dude my kids quit school so I’ve been busy! I’ll work on it over the winter. You can read more about why I started funneling a portion of my income into #OwnVoices orgs before covering the out-of-pocket expenses of running RL in my Accountability Statement.
Meanwhile, through September, October, and November, I’ve directed 22% of my pre-tax Patreon income to:
- The Greater Boston Food Bank
- Direct aid to a local essential worker: In solidarity with the Essential Workers Bill of Rights, we’ve been paying a local mother from Guatemala who supports her family by cleaning houses so she can stay home and support a family member with pre-existing conditions. I’ve heard from MULTIPLE PEOPLE who aren’t financially affected by the pandemic and yet have ceased to support the folks who keep them clean, fed, and cared for and like WHAT? Rich folks reap the benefits of no-conracts, no vacation or sick pay or health insurance or safety net for domestic workers and then drop them when a pandemic hits?! DO BETTER.
- On Patreon: Black Girl in Maine, Bellamy Shoffner (home alone 24/7 with two kids while running Revolutionary Humans!), Alice Wong, Ramp Your Voice! with Vilissa, Lydia X. Z. Brown (Autistic Hoya), and a new org called My Reflection Matters which is supporting BIPOC families who are un/schooling at home during the pandemic. I’ll be honest – I haven’t had the energy to keep up with any of the folks we support on patreon or what they are doing. I just like the idea of them covering stuff I don’t have the spoons for, which makes me feel less overwhelmed.
- Rosie’s Place: A local women’s shelter.
- The Wôpanâak Language reclamation project – I was born & raised on Wampanoag land where I raise my family today. This is our family’s small contribution to undo some of the harm from colonizers forcibly erasing Wampanoag language and culture.
- Donors Choose to support boots-on-the-ground educators as they gather in classrooms. Specifically, a classroom in Lee Academy in our neighboring city of Dorchester, Massachusetts. In MA, school funding is mainly based on real estate taxes – so cities like mine (my neighbor is a billionaire!) have lots of money for education, and cities like nearby, like Dorchester – where staff and folks who support the wealthy live, have underfunded schools. IT’S A SUPER MESSED UP SYSTEM.
- Muslim Justice League – Sounds like super-heroes, right? Accurate. MJL is a Black/Queer/Muslim-led organization that organizes and advocates for ALL communities whose rights are threatened under a US administration who labels people ‘suspicious’ simply due to race, faith, or other targeted identity (not just Muslims).
- Jessica Kellgren-Fozard, cause she does what I do – works super hard to create free resources. And even though we have some overlap in topics – I use her videos to support arguments with people who can’t be won over with examples of bias in kidlit. Helpful resource, she deserves all the support!
- Movimiento Cosecha – #ownVoices immigrant-run organization supporting targeted immigrants.
- Keep the Mendez Family Together – supporting a local family targeted by ICE.
- Free Matthew Rushin cause failing to mask disabilities shouldn’t be a crime.
- Our local public school parent-teacher organization (even though we’re no longer enrolled in the school), which pays for classroom computers, basketballs, library books, and basic stuff like that for our school BECAUSE OUR SYSTEM IS COMPLETELY MESSED UP and some d-bags decided to privatize funding for educational supplies instead of making important stuff like this a part of the taxpayer-funded school budget.
- Kiva loan for Graeme Seabrook’s Mom Center, a Black & woman-founded support community for parents who identify as moms (gender-creative inclusive) so she can build her small business.
- Trans women of color collective, in honor of Trans Day of Resilience
- International Rescue Committee to support, ugh, everybody. There’s another famine in Yemen, thanks in major part to countries like mine.
Stay Curious, Stand Brave & Put That Down
Late autumn is a good time to let things die – so we can focus our energies on the key initiatives that make a deep impact. As we approach winter, I’m asking you to take a few minutes to think about everything you’ve felt obligated to take on this year – and identify a few tasks that are safe to put down.
You know that meme? About picking too many battles, and needing to put some back? As caregivers, we’ve reached a point of mass delusion about how we should be living. Because it looks like so many people who were carrying an unsustainable workload before the pandemic are still managing the same output, in addition to navigating all this chaos. That’s nonsense, and we need to stop lying about it. We are, collectively, doing way, way, way too much, and we’re getting sloppy and burning out.
Everything here – I made this for you. Cause you are important and you deserve safety, health, and support in the work you do. So take a few minutes and identify a thing or two that you can stop doing for a season. Less obligations about what you must do for others, just accept that you also are an important person we need in the world. I like you and want you to be okay.
I, too, am a part of that mass-delirium homeschooling young kids + working full time + creating resources for you + 24/7 childcare + managing my disabilities + dinner again, how?! If you think this kind of unglamorous education and care-work (usually left to disabled women of color to provide for free) is valuable and necessary for human progress, please support my work on Patreon.
(BUT DONATE TO DONORS CHOOSE FIRST to support educators and students struggling to provide PPE and school supplies through a pandemic.)