Sunday, May 5, 2013

A Crash Course in Citizenship and Business

What better lesson in citizenship than using the court system?

As urban dwellers, we live in a traditional Buffalo double with lower and upper apartments.  For us it has turned out to be an economical way to live in one of the best urban neighborhoods in the country.  While being owner occupied mitigates many problems of being a landlord, it isn't without its moments.  We had to evict our last tenant as well as have her arrested for harassment and criminal mischief due to a string of actions she took against us including an abusive letter, yelling and swearing at our kids, and dumping garbage in a hallway after the tantrum in which she yelled at the kids.  It appears to me that she isn't mentally stable, but of course, I don't really know.  (Yes, we did check out her background and from what we learned about her as she lived here, she would have passed even a stricter check.)

Anyway, we spent quite a bit of time during the past several weeks making trips downtown to Buffalo City Court.  Many of the trips involved getting forms and filing papers for eviction over non-payment of rent.  However, the kids also had to accompany us when we went to court for the actual hearing.  Not only did they get the courtroom experience, but they got to see Mom and Dad win the eviction by, not only being in the right, but by being knowledgeable in the laws pertaining to the situation.

Their experience was not limited to housing court, but less than a week later, they accompanied me to one of the criminal hearings where I went as a victim/witness.  Actually, since they were discussing plea bargains, I was more of a spectator, but I think they are learning.

I was impressed with their respect for the court too.  While they sort of acted up and drove us crazy waiting to go into court and immediately afterwards, they were on perfect behavior in the court room each time.  I take it to mean that either they really were watching what was going on or that they at least grasped the seriousness.

The final phase was helping us get ready for and look for a new tenant.  While they didn't fully understand all steps, they were present for showing the apartment, taking down e-mail addresses, and finally explaining our lease and collecting the security deposit.  They are getting a head start on learning how to rent out property.  We learned by our own experience which was difficult. 

Hopefully, we are also showing the possibilities of a diversity of income by having some business of our own and not solely relying on employment for our income.  There is some freedom in running a business even though it clearly has headaches.  We have our little soap business too, but that is still in its very early stages.

What do you think of all this?  How have you taught citizenship or business?


  1. Hi Liz, I have stopped by your blog a few times this year as we are doing our Buffalo research. My husband is taking a position at Buff State this fall and we are looking into communities and lifestyles as we decide were we might end up. I have been connected through friends to other Buffolites, we made a quick trip up a couple weeks ago to look at neighborhoods and houses, and yet I still haven't found "our niche." A lot of that is for personal reasons, as we don't want to be further than 4miles from BS (preferably not further than 2m), we want an active and engaging, but "quiet and safe" neighborhood preferably with good public schools (although it seems that might not be a reasonable request), and yet, all this needs to be in our price range, which we are finding near impossible thanks to the great tax rates. Anyway, all of this is to say...hi, do you have any insight for us? Where are all the families that do fun things during the day live, where are the families who bicycle everywhere, are we being unreasonable? Are there other Buffalo family bloggers?

    You can read more about us at

    Thank you!

    1. I am sorry for the delay in responding. There are many families who bike and walk in the Elmwood village, but I have to admit that you kind of get to know people at the playground, and other places when you are out and about. Some of the people we spend the most time with us found us through my blog or homeschooling e-mail lists and realized they were close by. Other people we just met out and about so to speak. We also have college friends in the area, but their kids don't homeschool so we are on very different schedules.

      The rents and real estate seems to have recently gone crazy. It was good news for me rerenting my upstairs, but I have noticed that people trying to buy are having a more difficult time even having to pay over asking price in some cases which used to be unheard of in wny. Hopefully, you are getting advice from good sources in the area.

      The lack of good public schools is a problem although that isn't why we homeschool. People slam the public schools a lot here, but honestly there is a broad range, some of the best schools where students test to get in and some of the worst very much like one would expect. There are also a large number of charter schools. Obviously, I am biased towards homeschooling.

      If you would like to chat further please e-mail me at

  2. I am sorry to hear you went through such a difficult time with your tenant. When I still resided in Canada, we also owned a home and the above apartment was rented out. I remember going through a similar situation and it was MOST unpleasant. That's behind you now which really should be the focus and as you have said, perhaps a lesson in citizenship and business.

    For citizenship in our family, we have focused on issues that are the most concerning to our 8 year hold whom we homeschool and have run various events to raise awareness and funds, from open mic concerts to bake sales! This will continue to be our focus as we move forward.

    I hope you will take the time to visit us at as we are a stone's throw away from you in Niagara Falls!

    1. Thanks so much for stopping by the blog. I will check out your site. It must be interesting to experience homeschooling on both sides of our border.

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