Showing posts with label climate change. Show all posts
Showing posts with label climate change. Show all posts

Monday, January 23, 2012

Dressing for the Weather

It is another warm, yet rainy, day in Buffalo.  It takes me back to a dinner party many years ago in the winter when a gentleman mentioned that the weather didn't concern him because he got in his car in his garage and drove to the office and got out in a covered garage.  What if you are an urban homeschooler reliant on walking and public transportation?

The right outerwear takes priority over cute outfits, first of all.  Second of all, it is great fun for kids to look out the window check the outside temperature on the computer and learn to select the right coat or footwear for the weather.  Preschoolers can even practice dressing themselves for different scenarios.  As a city dweller in Buffalo, the right outwear saves us the very large expense of a car.  Paying attention to the forcast on weather maps can even help with geography.  I myself learned the placement of states in the US by watching the the Weather Channel as a kid.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Thermostats and Why Our Schools Are Failing Us

First of all, in the effort of full disclosure, I keep my house at a lower temperature to save energy and money.  I set my thermostat at 63 during the day, wear several layers and even let it go lower at night.  It seems to work.  Despite my older home with little insulation, my gas bills are pretty low.  This year's more mild temperatures helped too, but during the most recent cold snap when lows got into the single digits, I observed some scary behavior which I will get to shortly.

When I was in college, I had several roomates, not all or most, but several that reacted to temperature.  If they were cold, they put the heat on 80 degrees they as soon as they were hot, they put on the A/C down to 68, back and forth.  I knew that thermostats set a floor and no matter your preference you generally picked a temp and stuck with it.  68 degrees indoors is 68 degrees indoors whether it is 30 degrees outside or 5.  It was clear that despite graduating high school and getting into college that they were still clueless about how a thermostat actually worked.

Recently, some people I know (adults in their 30s), also high school graduates, were complaining that when it got really cold that they couldn't turn their heat up.  It was 68 degrees in the apartment and they were desperate to get 74 or 76 during the cold snap.  Because of the older house their apartment was in and the older furnace combined with already being about 60 degrees difference from the outside, the temperature struggled to get up that high.  While they are entitled to whatever temperature they want in their home, it is still quite puzzling as to why 68 degrees was fine for them when it was 25 degrees outside, but not when it was 5 degrees.  It just doesn't make sense.  Rather than logic, there was a knee jerk reaction that more cold outside had to mean more heat inside.  What kind of a country are we in that this cluelessness about basic home features is so widespread?  It is especially horrifying with climate change and energy costs being such hot issues.  Kids go to school full-time and don't know this.  This is why homeschooling is so important.  While book smarts are very important, so much time should be spent on it that there is no time for basic common sense day to day living skills?  Really?  Time for us to wake up.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Being Thankful for the Bus

We are finally getting the snow, and I can't tell you how grateful I am for the bus, the NFTA Metro bus.  When we had a car, I remember how nail biting driving in the snow was.  We would avoid unecessary/semi-necessary trips out.  Work, school, and maybe church were it, not much else.  Today, however, I went out walked a few places and took the bus downtown to the central branch library of the Buffalo & Erie County Public Library.  I didn't need to go to the library - I just wanted to - so I did without any stress and without risking my life (which we all should acknowledge we do when driving a car especially in the snow).

Public transportation is critical for homeschoolers even though most people in a smaller city, like Buffalo, don't think of going without a car.  First of all, using public transportation is a good skill for kids to learn including reading schedules and maps.  Second, there is an opportunity to learn about science and climate change.  Third, homeschoolers can more safely go on local field trips.  Fourth, there are all kinds of people on the bus and that builds general community awareness.  Fifth, and maybe the most important, is that the bus is less costly than a car.  This is critical because expense reduction is the best way for a parent to reduce their work hours to be able to homeschool.  Certainly it isn't easy in all cases, but would both parents need to work if the family went carless, got rid of cable, went to prepaid cell phones and Skype, did their own hair cuts, and ate out less (not hard if one parent is home to cook)?  Something to think about.

Our bus dependence is a little more complicated than just homeschooling, because there are other financial factors with which we are dealing.  That being said, strong public transportation may be the way to combat some of the lack of upward mobility going on these days.  Saving money on transportation may be one of the final sources of funds for the middle and working classes if the economy stays in its current state for the longer-term. If you live in Buffalo, please sign the petition to restore NFTA funding.  If you live in another small to middle size city, pay closer attention to public transportation in your area and support it.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Outdoor Art Class Meets City Surprises

I know that it seems that weather keeps coming up, but this long warm spell we have had in Buffalo has put the focus on the outdoors despite the winter season.  For days, T and C have been begging to try new 3D chalk they received for Christmas.  Today, we finally made it out to give it a whirl.  That is one of the best parts of homeschooling, the ability to take a advantage of good weather days in the winter.

On our way to Delaware Park, we came upon the local balloon artist who made balloons for the kids.  He is often at the Elmwood and Bidwell Farmers' Market but I never expected to see him in January.  Of course, that is one of the great things about city living even in a smaller city, walking out your door and feeling like the world has come to you. 

It seems that the best homeschooling happens when you take advantage of your environment particularly in either very rural or very urban settings.  While I have never lived in the country, I imagine rural dwellers have the benefit of a great connection to the land and the pride in producing things they need.  In the city, it is the exposure to a variety of people and experiences so close to home.  There are also great conservation opportunities in more dense land use, climate control of multiple unit dwellings, and the use of public transportation.  Homeschooling can give you the time and focus to fully benefit from your surroundings!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Drinking Smoothies in Winter

While still not all that winter like today, when you look at the calendar, it says January.  Why the heck are we drinking smoothies?  Ideally, we would be eating local and organic fruits.  Organic gets expensive so we do this for some items, but not all.  By January there aren't many local fruits in Western New York it seems except for well-stored apples.  Since produce must be brought in from further away and the nutrients start to disintegrate, frozen is a great option until the local farmer's market starts back up in the spring.  Most people think of smoothies as a warm weather food, but for us it is a small part of adjusting our food habits to the season.

It feels strange trying to explain this to my 5 and 4 year olds who walk through the local grocery store begging for fresh fruits that have traveled very far.  Of course our frozen fruit travels too, but it may be the most nutritious alternative until great local produce is back!

Friday, January 6, 2012

Homeschooling on a Balmy Day in Buffalo

It’s hard to believe that it is the first week in January. We are smack in the middle of the solstice and the peak of winter (around the 3rd week in January) and it hit 50 degrees today. While other parts of WNY received more significant snows this winter, the City of Buffalo itself has received very little, several dustings and about two inches at my house. I (Liz) am very much torn between fearing that we are in for a horrible February and believing that it really may be a mild winter courtesy climate change.

Today we skipped the bus and took the stroller on our errands. They are pretty big now so they take turns walking and riding. We got a little over confident about the weather and hit the playground, but didn’t last long due to the mud that is quite prevalent in Buffalo in winter and spring. While I look forward to being able to teach the kids about climate change and good environmental stewardship, it is amazing how much they’ve absorbed already from our conversations and use of public transportation Once when we walked home from the playground and errands, T told me that he knew “why all the cars had angry faces.” When I asked him why, he told me that it was because they were “hurting mother Earth and making God sad.” I know for sure that we never told them that cars had faces, but it is satisfying to hear them express some understanding of our values.