Monday, December 31, 2012

Top 10 Most Popular Posts in 2012

Seems like you can't swing a dead cat without hitting a top ten list on this last day of 2012, so here are HoneyFern's 10 most popular posts of the year. They run the gamut of topics, but all are firmly rooted in the mission of the school: that all children are unique and deserving of an exceptional education. Enjoy!

1. Gifted 101: a post clearing up some misconceptions regarding gifted kids. Droppin' some basic  knowledge on who they are and what they need.

2. Gifted Readers: how to engage them (harder than you think!!)

3. Election Day: staying apolitical as a non-profit was tough; this blog reflects on the value of the election process.

4. Worky Work, Busy Bee!!: one slice of life at HoneyFern

5. Accidental Montessori: Huh. Turns out we share some pretty huge characteristics. Fancy that.

6. Money and School: The blog where the school in question was called to the carpet for their crazy tuition rate; they went ahead and responded about how fabulous their program is (totally true), missing the entire point of the blog (and were curiously silent when I pointed out that even as they defended their crazy tuition price they raised it for the following year)..

7. What Should Children Read?: Everything. Every day.

8. If You Only Ever Watch One Video: I stand by this blog. So powerful and amazing, what the person in the video did.

9. Should Your Gifted Kid Take All AP Classes?: No. In a nutshell. And lots of people who know what they are talking about agree with me.

10. Something Shocking: In which one of my fabulous students does something that is amazing and incredible and makes me so proud I almost cry.

So there it is. I hope your new year is prosperous and filled with joy. I leave you with a video that I hope inspires you to live the examined life.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Diane Ravitch Does It Again

With a moronic rant that lumps for-profit schooling, online schooling and homeschooling into the same category. To be precise, Leon Wieseltier actually wrote the article, which Ravitch calls a "gift." (Wiesletier himself has been called a name-dropping elitist, and his politics are conservative and in line with ideas of self-aggrandizing promotion. but I digress.)


With that glowing endorsement, Ravitch joins ranks with all of the other extremist, public-school bashing, voucher-toting loonies who insist we completely abolish public schools (albeit on the other side but just as crazy). Ravitch agrees with Wieseltiers's categorization of homeschoolers as "hackers" whose only teaching qualifications are "love."

I can't even begin to express the enormity of the insult that this article conveys to anyone who does not follow the party line with Ravitch. I got sick of her ravings several years ago and called her on her politicization of her views (radio silence from her on that one). I can't even read her anymore with feeling vaguely ill. She believes that public schools are it, that no other options are valid, and that any straying from the standard, factory-model K-12 formula of schooling is un-American, fringe and vaguely insane.

I think it is Ravitch who is toeing the party line and drinking the Kool-Aid. The article cited above begins with a glowing ode to the author's teachers; this is simply not the case for the majority of students anymore. There are some absolutely brilliant teachers in public school, some pretty good ones, and a few that should never be allowed around kids (the first two categories far outnumber the final). HOWEVER. These first two categories are hamstrung by ridiculous, dinosaur-era policies, and very few kids would rave about the brilliance and inspiration of their teachers.

Further, the defense of college as an institution and as a practice is also oudated and absurd. College is increasingly out of reach and about as dumbed down as K-12 has been. There are good arguments for skipping college or at least re-envisioning a college degree, but both Ravitch and Wieseltier don't agree; they feel everything is great as is, and teachers hang the moon in all public institutions, which should stay exactly as they are in perpetuity.

This idea is ludicrous. Everything can and must change. One hundred years ago we didn't have cars. Thirty years ago we did not have ATMs, the internet or cell phones. College students handwrote essays and sometimes typed them. Companies hired a person, stayed loyal to that hire for 25 years, and people retired with a decent pension and a house they had paid off. This is not the world we live in now. China is a major player in innnovation, as is India. Ideas are more valuable than facts, and problem-solving, critical thinking, and information synthesis is crucial for today's high school graduates. School must change. Delivery of education MUST CHANGE.

Ravitch just alienated 1.7 million families who homeschool, and has further divided proponents of public school, and online or blended learning. There is a huge difference between getting a conversation started, and stuffing a roll in the other person's mouth so as to stop the flow of words. Ravitch has done the latter with her "gift."


Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Taking the Week Off

Boy, have I ever! HoneyFern is traveling up to the mid-Atlantic region this week to visit family, and I had some notion of blogging every day or maybe "catching up" on a few, low-stress things.


The past few days have been blissful. First stop was Nana's, with her homemade biscotti, cioppino for Xmas Eve dinner, amazing sushi on Xmas day, along with an evening stroll in Longwood Gardens (with hot chocolate!) and Jiro Dreams of Sushi before falling into bed.

Today is shopping.

Tomorrow is...who knows? The point is that I am mostly taking the week off, but, in the interest of doing some project-y things with your family (if it's not snowing or raining; we had Xmas Eve snow!!), here is a lovely site that has multiple options for re-purposing the lowly pallet, starting with a bench.

Happy holidays to you and your family, and thank you for your continued support of our little school. We wouldn't be here without you, and we love that you are part of creating something amazing. See you next year!

Friday, December 21, 2012

Last Day, in Photos

(Brie and Lucy decorate)

(Cindy Lou Who)

(It takes a village)
We watched Elf, wrapped and delivered presents for a local church, drank hot chocolate, and had a white elephant exchange. A lovely way to go into the break...
Happy holidays!!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Failure and Play: Keys To Divergent Thinking

Timely! Love this blog about "divergent tinkering," especially as I just finished lecturing Will on the quality of his go-kart schematics and we had a long conversation as a school about how challenging it is to draw accurate, helpful blueprints to scale.

Today, America develops innovative ideas, not manufactured goods. This means we structure our schools so our kids can work on an assembly line, while our students need the skills to draft blue prints on a drawing board.

This is an important feature of HoneyFern, and another one is the next point the author makes: how important play and failure are. I have written many blogs on failure (almost equalling the number of blogs I have written on motivation), mostly about reframing our idea of failure and pleading with parents to let their kids fail (that's a hard nut to crack).

If we guide our students to think divergently, “failing” would mean testing out new ideas. Perhaps students need to “fail” multiple times in order to come up with a creative solution to a problem.

There's no "perhaps" about it. Failure is absolutely essential. If our kids don't fail, they don't learn. I have plenty of students, gifted students especially, who suffer a crippling fear of failure, so much so that they will not try anything they don't know, which in turn causes them to fail (in a traditional setting vis-a-vis grades. Not so much at HF.). Yes, failure is frustrating. There is a lot of huffing and sometimes tears. Sicily drew probably 10 blueprints before getting the very basic floorplan right, but MAN does she now know about space plannning and drawing to scale!! Sarah is just starting her greenhouse and hydroponic system, and her first set of plants rotted and failed miserably; we went down to Atlantis Hydroponics and got some more knowledge and now we are trying again. Part of everyone's willingness to keep going is the fact that grades aren't used as a weapon here, but also that they are in an environment that encourages them to try new things without penalty.

Play is the other essential part to thinking divergently, but I move away from the article and their idea of what play does 9and should) mean a little:

“Play” has come to mean free, unstructured time; something synonymous with recess. Play can also mean investigation, experimentation, and tinkering.

Although I believe in the second half of the sentence, I feel the first is essential also; free, unstructured time to take a break, move around and hang out with friends without a task, assignment or adult hanging over their heads is essential to student well-being. This is taking care of a student's soul, not just their mind. This is the time when kids get to relax, and it is also a great way to really get to know them and build relationships. Essential.

Of course, I also love the tinkering part of this where students get a pile of stuff and have to solve a problem or complete a task. This is very Rube Goldbergian, and it makes them think, and hard. This is where cooperation and "soft skills" come into play, too.

Bottom line? To foster divergent thinkers and help students be successful in a world where manufacturing is obsolete and ideas are king, we need to change our attitudes towards two key things: failure and play.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Dread Post: Grades

You may have noticed that HoneyFern is a progressive school.

Only two vestiges of the traditional remain: a standardized test (required for accreditation) and grades (not required, but certainly part of the system we have with regard to college admission). The standardized test will remain in place for now, but I have been thinking about grades for many years and am thinking of how to satisfy the system we have in place while still offering appropriate, instructive and useful feedback for students.

I have always attempted to ameliorate the meaninglessness of a letter with plenty of narrative feedback; Mark Barnes set forth his method for grading in this blog. In a nutshell, he eliminated grades in his classroom years ago, replacing them instead with SE2R: Summarize, Explain, Redirect and Resubmit. This feedback cycle

"...eliminates [the subjective nature of grades], creating a true cycle of learning that overcomes the traditional instruct-practice-test-grade-move-on approach to education, which completely fails students who don’t master concepts."

I love the cyclical nature of this system. Learning isn't linear, and we often need to revisit concepts as we apply them in new settings to reinforce what we know. I am a huge fan of narrative feedback, and most parents are huge fans of a structured way to measure growth. This combines both.

The main benefit, the lasting benefit, of a structured system of feedback is felt by the students. Grades, good or bad,  are no longer arbitrarily given by a teacher, and they are no longer the motivation for working (or not). When done well, narrative feedback gives students specific things to work on, specific areas in which they are improving, and things to think about for the future. A grade gives them a letter.

The middle school parents are all on the no-grades bandwagon; although I do still keep grades, students are an integral part of them, sitting with me to discuss their work and give their own grade, explaining what they did really well and what they need to think about for next time. There is no one-shot assignment here; they get chances to improve on what they have done.

Today's pertinent example: Ella had a a materials list for her coop due today. She started this morning (totally acceptable), but when her list was "done," she had a few glaring errors (e.g., not enough wire, missing some materials, etc.). I asked her to evaluate herself, with comments about why she gave herself that grade, and then I gave my take and why. We were far apart, and we talked why that was. We hit on crucial points (could she build her coop with what she had?), and she decided to finish it tomorrow. Yes, she is accountable for the work. Yes, she needs another day to do a good job. So what? She got experience critiquing her work, an understanding of what "success" in this assignment means, and the opportunity/requirement to get it right. That conversation is worth more than the grade she would have gotten which would have told her nothing about why she got it.

Still continuing the thinking and conversation. For parents, if grades were eliminated what would you need to feel like you had a good handle on your kid's progress?

Out in the World

We have had so much going on this month that it has been hard to keep up;  truthfully, when the kids leave at 3, blogging is the last thing on my mind. Mostly I need a big glass of water and a long walk. Sometimes I do both. Sometimes I just sit on the couch and breathe.

We have been on three fieldtrips in the past two weeks, and below are pix of them. The first trip was to the Shakespeare Tavern for A Christmas Carol; they do an incredible job of this play, told in a storytelling style with an ensemble cast, each of whom plays multiple characters.

Our second trip, a last-minute one, suggested by Mandy, our lovely parent chaperone and sometimes-substitute teacher, was to the BAPS Hindu temple in Lilburn. One of our students was studying world religions, and this seemed like a great place to experience one of the oldest religions. The temple was breathtaking.

This temple took only 17 months to complete, but that isn't even half of the story. There are three kinds of marble used in this temple, and not a single piece of metal joins it. The temple is hand-carved by craftsman in India, some working on the same piece hundreds of miles away from each other. The pieces are then shipped to Atlanta where they are joined using a cetral piece that is turned and locks all of the pieces in place, or they are locked into each other, like these columns:

Ella talks more about it in her blog, too. Mandy (our intrepid parent chaperone) took a lovely picture of us to end the day:

Our final field trip was not a whole-school trip; rather, just a few students and I went to Atlantis Hydroponics to take a class on hydroponics. Sarah's first attempt at hydroponics did not end so well (rotten roots and smelly water), so we decided to try to figure out what went wrong and  get some professional advice. David and Robin were AMAZING. The girls...

pollinated Chinese eggplant,

planted green peppers (in December!!),

and took advantage of free samples.

Sarah started some spinach and lettuce seeds, so we will see how that goes.

Looking forward to 2013 and more adventures in the world! Julius Caesar, manatees and ziplines are just a few of the highlights as we move forward. Look for other pictures of our last day before the break; I have surprises planned!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Tiny House Construction: Day 1

Well, the tiny house begins.

Sort of.

Saturday, December 15th was the first day of construction, and as with all projects, it did not go quite as planned, and we only got about 1/5 of the work that we want to finished. We started with a trip to get supplies.

(Dane Kolbeck was a guest star; he will be a mentor of sorts for La Petite throughout the process.)
From there, I will let La Petite tell you what happened.
Funniest part of the day?

(Dane's Indian name is Takes Many Breaks)
This is going to be quite an adventure!!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Bilingual Students, Or Why Learning Another Language Matters

Unbeknownst to La Petite, I have enrolled her in the spring session of our local online virtual school for French I.

This is not very HoneyFern-esque in the sense that A) the online school is a traditional school, and B) I have not consulted her first, but here is why I don't care, in no particular order:

1. She is my lab rat. La Petite test drives everything and gives me feedback before I unleash it on other students. I need her to check out the school and give me honest feedback.

2. She is only in 7th grade, but she has finished a year of high school French independently and is a bit lazy moving forward. She desperately wants to speak French fluently but does not want to listen to her teacher/mother. This is when a good outside party helps (and is also why parents come to me for HoneyFern and tutoring; kids reach a point where they need to separate from their parents or need an intermediary). The course is a high school French class, but I am not concerned about that. I want her speaking and writing in French regularly, and this will make her. Plus, it will give her confidence in what she knows and push her in what she doesn't.

3. Being bilingual is an essential skill, and the Innnovative Educator outlines why in this blog. In a nutshell, learning another language makes you a smarter and better person. Good enough for me.

I took French for two years and Spanish for two years in high school.  I can understand both if native speakers talk to me like I am a toddler, and I can communicate very basically in both. This is not good enough for students today (or me, for that matter); the world has changed, and we need to help them change with it. If learning another language is the norm everywhere else in the world, we cannot continue to be so arrogant as to think we needn't learn more than English.

I need to break the news gently, though. We will see how it goes!!!

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Site of the Week: More Food

Oh, Nigella Lawson, you are such an evil temptress!!

This woman makes the most luscious, comforting, simple, non-fussy food, and the Site of the Week is horrendously bad for you Christmas Rocky Road.

We are going to ironically prepare these for the last night of Hannukah. Maybe we'll chant some Buddhist mantras before we eat, just to round things out.

Happy Holidays!!

Sandy Hook Elementary

There are not enough words in the whole of our language to express the grief I feel for the parents, students and teachers at Sandy Hook School in Newton, Connecticut.

Indeed, as I try to write my pitiful condolences to the town in a blog, I am speechless.

It is not enough to say that I am so sorry, that I grieve with you and carry you all with me, but it is all I have.

You are in my thoughts and heart.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Movies = Literature?

Love this blog from Education Week regarding using movies to teach literary analysis.

I am a hardcore, traditional reader. I think kids should read, often and widely, stuff they love and stuff they don't love, to get practice with not only the discipline of finishing and understanding a text but also to be exposed to a wider worldview. Not every student agrees with me, and many teachers get sick of trying to make it happen.

There is a middle ground: use movies to get them into the skills, then transfer to literature. Easy-peasy.

I like to think that education is like climbing Mt. Everest. There is more than one way to the top, some more difficult than others, but they all reach the same point. If we can teaching lterary analysis skills with less danger of falling into a crevasse, why not?

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Losing Students

Today one of our students is returning to Nicaragua so that she can finish her final year with her friends at her high school. Monica has been with us since January, completing one full year with HoneyFern on the same calendar as Nicaragua, whose school year runs January to November, so that she could learn English and still stay on track.

Monica is 17 and very intelligent. When she first came to America, the public school system decided to place her in 9th grade, and her aunt decided just as quickly that was unacceptable for a multitude of reasons. Thankfully she found HoneyFern; Monica started an intensive course in survival English while at the same time getting multilingual instruction in physics, biology, Spanish literature, politics, culture and history.

The transformation in her is astonishing. She is still very soft-spoken, but now she sees the possibilities and knows herself better than when she first came here; she is more confident. Practically, her command of English is amazing; she just finished a research paper in English on World War II and routinely has in-depth conversations with us in English.

I have to be very honest, though, and say that this is the absolutely hardest part of the school: losing students. I have always gotten attached to my students, from my very first year of teaching, but the relationships we develop at HoneyFern are so much deeper. I miss them terribly when they go, and I wonder how they are doing. I am still in touch with most of the students who have left. They are so much a part of my life that when they are not here, I feel a void. Perhaps this is a sad commentary on my personal life, but I really don't think so. I feel "called" to be a teacher, and it makes sense that I would invest so much of myself into the students.

Not much consolation as Monica packs up her papers and prepares to leave. We hope she comes back for the tiny house open house in May 2013, and we are thinking about going to Nicaragua for her graduation in November.  I wish her the very best on her journey, and send out my heartfelt gratitude for all she has brought to me and HoneyFern.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

13 Sacred Cows in Education

...and HoneyFern has already smashed nearly all of them (still working on the grading paradigm, but that is down the road as we grow). Here are the 13 sacred cows the author argues need to be done away with; read more about each in the article:

1. Uniforms and Dress Codes
2. Flags and Anthems
3. Walking in Lines
4. Timetables and Tardy Slips
5. Grades and Report Cards
6. Grouping by Age
7. Bells
8. Desks in Rows
9. Exams
10. Morning Announcemens
11. School/Classroom Rules*
12. Fixed Classroom Walls
13. Desks and Chairs

What say you? Are there other things that need to go now, or do you think this list is all wrong?

*Common sense rules, like treating each other with respect, still belong in school., as in life

Monday, December 10, 2012

The Chickens Are Coming!

Meet Ella and her homemade chicken incubator:

(voluntary school on a Sunday; can you believe it?)

Ella is designing and building a chicken coop for her backyard this year, and she has decided to try to hatch out her own peeps. She is blogging about her work and also writing a pamphlet to help like-minded kids take care of their own chickens (we are hoping to put it in the local feedstore!).

Can't wait to see the finished project!

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Site of the Week: Cookies

I hesitate to post this because, according to this site, you are already behind, and I hate that kind of pressure regarding holiday stuff. Generally, I advocate doing only what you feel deeply this time of year, and letting the rest fall by the wayside; in other words, if you are staying up until 2 a.m. writing holiday cards to people because you feel you feel you have to (not because you want to), probably time to reconsider that activity as a source of holiday cheer.

Cookies are different, though. Last year, La Petite and I tried to do 25 Days of Christmas Cookies and were felled by a ridiculous amount of butter, six pounds to be precise. The attempt was fun, though, and I was happy to find something more moderate.

This year, Saveur has put out a more reasonable challenge, and it is our Site of the Week: a cookie Advent calendar. So far we have only made the Chocolate Mint Krinkles, but I will be consulting this site for more as we move through the winter. I also suggest the Rugelach for the first night of Hanukkah, only I am going to replace the raspberry with homemade fig jam.

Happy baking! Enjoy!

Friday, December 7, 2012

Challenge-based Learning And Other Buzzwords


Leaving public school allowed me to shuck off buzzwords like "best practices" and "research-based." This does not mean I am not doing these things or concerned with these things; it simply means I don't have to listen to people who have no idea what they are talking about throw buzzwords in their daily speeches to me. This is a beautiful thing that one can only really appreciate if one has been in the public schools.

I still read research, though, because that's what (good, professional) educators do (as opposed to doing it because an administrator told you to and for no application), and this latest piece popped up this week, happily. "Challenge-based learning" is the name of a "new" pedagogical model that has kids identifying a challenge in their community and addressing it; the authors of the article say it differs from "problem-based learning" (semantically, in my view, and not totally) in that in problem-based learning the instructor gives kids a problem to solve, and kids come up with the problem to solve in challenge-based learning. An excellent example of both is Studio H in rural North Carolina.

Both types of pedagogy focus on issues, collaboration and problem-solving. They tend to use the design process in conjunction with the scientific method (both are remarkably similar in their approach to problem-solving).  Both utilize technology in creative ways; both require significant engagement and commitment on the part of student and teachers. Both don't teach to a test but end up teaching what needs to be learned for the test.

Both are hot buzzwords, but that's okay. This is the kind of instructional model we should be investing in, not more test prep and assessment, so I don't really care what people want to call it. For more research on the validity of this approach, here is some further reading. Enjoy!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

A Christmas Carol

Once again, mad props and much love to The Shakespeare Tavern and their excellent production of A Christmas Carol. This is our second year going to this holiday show, and they just seem to get better and better (read the book here).

Thanks also (again!) to parent volunteer Mandy Conn for driving us all over the place in her spacious and accomodating Odyssey. HoneyFern is at an odd place, transportation-wise: too big for a Camry and too small for a bus, so mini-van it is. It is an excellent problem to have, but a problem nonetheless. Thanks, Mandy!!! A little plug for her that will probably embarrass her terribly and is totally unsolicited: she is an awesome professional photographer who takes gorgeous pictures. If you need some work done, leave a comment below and she will see it!

Friday's fieldtrip is to the Hindu temple in Atlanta. Can't wait!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

The Common Core Kool-Aid

Rick Hess, an EdWeek blogger with whom I have not always agreed, writes this week regarding the lack of substance behind the Common Core reformers' intentions and goals, breaking down their agenda and poking big, gaping holes in it.

Common Core may not seem like much if you aren't in education. Even if you have kids in school, you may have no idea at all what the hubbub is.

I can boil it down for you: money and politics. These two things make the world of ed reform go round and prevent any real, substantive reform from taking place. But I digress.

What Hess points out in the blog above is that the standards themselves guarantee nothing. Supporters tout "more critical thinking" and "higher, uniform standards" as key features; the former is unproven, and the latter is necessary because of the transient population in the US, something that we should address at the root before slapping a standard on it (as in, why are people moving around so much and how do we get a more settled population, which is better for kids and families and communities? But again, I digress).

The Common Core Emperor has no clothes to speak of in the sense that standards do not improve teaching - teachers and teacher training improve teaching. Changed mindset improves teaching. Understanding the purpose of education improves teaching.

This country is looking at the surface of the problems in education and slapping a standard on it. We need to change the way we think about education and the way instruction is delivered (I am not a fan of packaged online curriculum either, and the push for online learning is not what I am talking about). We are thirsty for real change, and Common Core hands us a glass of saltwater - wet, but ultimately damaging.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

26 Amazing Facts About Finland

This morning, a little slideshow about Finland, home to one of the world's  best school systems, from start to finish (no pun intended).

Highlights include the fact that kids start formal education much later, have more individual support earlier and for longer, have the same high standards regardless of level and take only one standardized test.

Detractors note Finland's homogeneous population as the reason why Finland does so much better than the US, but when compared with other, similarly populated countries, Finland still surpasses them. So piffle.

We have a lot to learn.

Monday, December 3, 2012

The Holidays

I'm no Scrooge.

I LOVE giving people stuff. I would way rather give someone gifts than get them myself (my mom says I am hard to buy for anyway, so it works out).

I am just fairly well tired of mass consumerism, this obsession with BIGGER and MORE or MOST. There is a commerical on TV right now where this guy in a suit is sitting around a table with four little kids and he asks them, "Which is better...bigger or smaller?" and they all scream "BIGGER!" and then the one little kid goes on to explain that if you have a smaller treehouse you cannot fit your big-screen TV. This commerical makes me sick to my stomach, literally. I cannot watch it with the sound on.

On Black Friday, 427 million Americans went shopping for things they don't need, and over that weekend, they spent 52 billion dollars. Cyber Monday raked in another 1.7 billion dollars in spending. We have learned nothing in this recession.

But maybe I am taking it a little too far. I told my family last week that I don't really want to give presents, that I'd rather spend our money on our trip to DC (where we will visit this community!! SO excited!!) and other people (like the families at the food pantry who are asking for coats for their children for Christmas). This suggestion was met with blank stares. The husband grew up with fond memories of tons of presents at Christmas (and poverty for the other 364 days), and La Petite is still a kid who likes to open presents.

I can't help myself. I think we are ruining ourselves with stuff. I think we as a country are addicted to buying (food, clothes, cars, things, you name it); our kids play with their toys for five minutes and toss them in the trash (check out thrift stores the week between Christmas and New Year's - you'd be amazed at what gets tossed). We complain about jobs going overseas then buy our families the cheapest, most disposable items out there, made in factories by poorly paid, poorly treated workers with no rights (and then complain about how manufacturing has fallen off in America).

This is not a political rant. Both parties and all people are doing this. We are buying ourselves into oblivion, and we are set up this way; our country rises and falls on consumer spending, so we can justify our spending by saying we are helping the economy (which, to be sure, we are; all trends are upward). But what is the cost? Can't we help the economy with our spending in different ways? According to ABC World News, if everyone in the country spends just $64 on American-made goods this season we can create 200K jobs; we can also spend our money on experiences that boost the local economy, like dinner at the family restaurant in town, or ice skating at the pond that brings money in for the state. Why does it always have to be stuff?

It doesn't always have to be stuff, but changing minds is harder than changing habits. I am hopefully weaning my family off the need to buy stuff on one day of the year, but I am guessing this year we will fall somewhere in the middle; we will all get a stocking, and we have decided to only buy American-made goods, and our budget is very small. We will spend most of our cash on our trip to DC and fun with friends and family.

What traditions will you keep, and which will you change?