Thursday, September 22, 2011

Lady in Waiting

I'm like a dragonfly today, flitting about from spot to spot, landing here and there for a moment or two.  Although now, at this last spot, I'm done flitting.  It's a little after 5:00 and I just dropped Camille at dance.  I'm in Starbucks - nestled within a Barnes and Noble - and now I Wait. 

Sometimes I like this feeling of having several hours to kill - all to myself - with the excuse of Waiting.  But tonight I'm not enjoying it.  That's because I'm not writing - I just finished a scene in my novel and now I'm at that horrible Between Scenes Phase where contemplating the next scene is completely overwhelming and so I just sit here feeling guilty and overwhelmed and like I could very well be dying of failure. 

I'm not dying, by the way.  Not from failure and not from skin cancer.  I know that because my first stop of the day was the dermatologist's office where I learned the multitudes of spots on my body are JUST Age Spots - like anything with "age" in it can be preceded by "just" in this mid-life crisis of mine. Camille enjoyed the dermatologist's office and gleefully examined all of the posters on the wall, mightily exclaiming that my frown lines were "A three at least, Mama!" on the scale of 1 to 3, and extolling the virtues of Botox.  "You should get that, Mama! It says here it's virtually painless!" 

"What?  And risk looking like Jennifer Aniston in Horrible Bosses? I think not!"  Camille looked at me like I was insane because I so clearly was.  Also she doesn't know who Jennifer Aniston is nor has she seen Horrible Bosses.  "And besides," I added.  "Nothing worthwhile is ever virtually painless."

Camille disagreed and spent the rest of the doctor's visit naming Painless and Worthwhile Things to Do. 

After leaving the dermatologist's office with wrinkles and age spots in their original and upright positions, we hopped in the car and Camille said, "I don't need a boy to make me happy, Mom!" which is her way of asking me to pop in a Taylor Swift CD.  We listened to Taylor sing about kissing in the rain and throwing pebbles at windows all the way to Payless, where we intended to buy Camille some intact and hole-free tights.  After snatching the last two pairs off the shelf we hit the register, where we were told by the clerk that the computer was re-booting.  "Okay," we said.  And then we stood there watching the clerk watch the computer screen while obviously resenting the fact that we had nowhere else to be.

"This might take a while," he said.

"Okay," we said, because really, what else were we to say?  We did not fully realize the implications of rebooting a Payless computer.  Fifteen minutes later the clerk said, "Okay. Cash or charge?"  Like I hadn't been mildly to moderately inconvenienced by the fifteen minutes of seriously awkward silence I'd suffered while pretending to look at slipper-socks. He should have given us the tights for free but gone are the days where anybody gives a rat's ass about customer service.

THEN (are you still with me?) we walked down to the craft store.  Co-op is tomorrow and we needed to buy some supplies for sewing and art.  I am not the Sewing or Art Mom, by the way, I'm the Let's All Sit in a Circle and Discuss Literature Mom.  Although I also do History with the younger kids and before I left the house this morning I had made 3 batches of sugar cookie dough to become crumbling Roman pillars in the come to think of it, I am kind of awesome, actually. 

Anyway - the craft store.....was also a somewhat awkward experience.  It was in an older strip mall and it just seemed old and ancient and sad and gloomy and depressing.  It was as if every Cat Lady Who Needlepoints Or Arranges Silk Floral Funeral Wreaths Within a 60-Mile Radius had left bits and pieces of her aura in there.   All of the Halloween stuff was already 50% off and it looked like it had been sitting there since last Halloween.  Even Camille, who goes bonkers for anything remotely Holiday Retail couldn't muster up much enthusiasm.  She just lifted up a pumpkin or a witch here and there while saying, "Hmmm..."  I don't think she actually Asked To Buy Anything which was further proof that some kind of weird magnetic current was running beneath that store. 

There were just a few other customers, most of whom were plodding along pushing squeaky carts as if maybe they'd been in there pushing squeaky carts for decades; like we were in some sort of hellish crafter's version of Hotel California.  We found what we needed (sketch pads, embroidery thread and pencils) without tossing anything fun! and extra! into the cart.  I think if we HAD found something fun! and extra! to toss into the cart, Don Henley would have started singing, We haven't had that spirit here since 1969..."

Speaking of 1969, the music wasn't helping the mood in the old craft store.  I'm not sure how you'd classify what they were playing.  It wasn't Classic Rock or 80's Cool or 70's was just old music that reminded you of that time you had to sit in the doctor's office waiting for your back-to-school booster shots.  We're talking an old Elton John piece I couldn't quite place and I Kid You Not...the Monkees.  Now don't hate me for dissing the Monkees.  Hey Hey We're the Monkees...that's all fine and dandy.  But this was that weird Daydream Believer and a Homecoming Queen song that you never really understood. 
The cashier was talking to herself (how could she not?) a LOT.  Like seriously, a lot.  Camille was fascinated.  Initially, Camille tried to answer her and politely reply to the comments and questions before she realized she wasn't the person being addressed. 

"Let's see...embroidery thread...what's this color?  Oh, Flamboyant red's the barcode...bleep! That one's done.  What's this?  A sketch pad a sketch pad a sketch pad...oh and another one I see....into the bag...what's next what's next what's next...and now we're almost done...." 

All of this was mumbled. When she finally gave me the total I didn't realize she was speaking to me and Camille had to poke me in the ribs.  We got out of there just in time... Seriously.  I think if we had lingered one more minute we would have become permanent fixtures...scarecrows maybe, or possibly cake toppers.

We felt yucky and depressed after the Craft Store Experience, and being girls, that made us hungry. We needed something cheap.  I named all of the usual cheap places as we got in the car and none of them sounded good to Camille.  We pulled onto the freeway and tried to ignore the looming Chick-fil-A sign.  Camille, a non-vegetarian child, made the decision months and months ago to never set foot in a Chick-fil-A due to their stance on gay marriage.  A good chunk of our friends are Gay/Lesbian (in fact, we seem to have our own personal League of Lesbians) and Camille decided it was Just Wrong to eat at Chick-fil-A.  But the sign loomed ahead, nonetheless, and it was super duper Conveniently Located and and when I looked in the rear view mirror I saw that Camille was drooling.  "Do you...umm...want a Chick-fil-A sandwich?" I asked somewhat sheepishly.

"Yes," Camille whispered. 

And before you knew it we were parking the bus in a compact spot right by the WE'RE CLOSED ON SUNDAYS sign.  We did our best to look White and Christian as we opened the door, and I did a better job of it than Camille I'm just sayin'.  Other people were just lolling about eating their chicken sandwiches with no sense of shame whatsoever, like nudists on a nude beach...and we did our best to fit in...Yeah, that's right, we often frequent homophobic anti-gay rights establishments....Yo! 

After ordering (and yes, I ordered a chicken wrap even though I DON'T EAT CHICKEN because hey y'all - I was already in a freaking Chick-fil-A hatin' on the homos and so I might as well eat factory-farmed meat while I was at it and THAT'S HOW IT ALL STARTS I'M SURE) I headed in to the bathroom.  It sparkled.  It smelled good.  There was plenty of toilet paper.  Wow! I thought to myself.  Christians really are better than the rest of us! 

There were signs everywhere explaining that they were CLOSED ON SUNDAYS AND SHAME ON YOU FOR WANTING TO EAT OUT IN A FAST FOOD ESTABLISHMENT ON A SUNDAY INSTEAD OF GOING TO CHURCH and I found that a tad bit annoying.  You don't see Kosher Delis explaining enthusiastically that they're closed on the Sabbath (even though they are) as Proof That They Love God.  There was unfamiliar music playing so I assumed it was Country but then I realized it was Actual Christian Music of the kind they play at the homeschool skate days that we don't attend and I listened to it with an Open Mind but it only reminded me of that South Park Episode about Faith Plus One.  Camille and I ate in companionable and guilty silence while thinking, Damn but those Christians make a good chicken sandwich...

Next?  We headed to Krispy Kreme.  We had another hour to kill before ballet and they're right Smack Down The Street from the ballet studio - which seems somehow cruel, if you ask me.  We weren't either one hungry but we both managed to slam down a cream-filled doughnut while listening to 80's Dance Music that did not make us sad and out of sorts.  "This is the Bangles," I said. 

"Cool," Camille said.

Then we sat and read until it was time to go. 

I dropped Camille off at the studio and she did her usual Goofy Routine of crying and clinging and acting like she'd never see me again while People Watched.  She especially likes it when People Watch. She thinks she's hilarious, but really, the People often look alarmed.  Then she skipped off down the sidewalk and I watched her with that little bit of sadness that I've somehow carried around since Ellie Left For College.

With the looming Free Time resting firmly on my shoulders, I cruised by the nearest locally owned coffee shop.  I peaked through the windows and was disgusted to see that all the good seats were taken, leaving only the stupid cold aluminum seats in the middle of the room where everyone who walks by can look at your laptop screen and discover you're writing smut - if you're lucky enough to be able to kick out the smut on that day.  If not, they see that you're just wasting time on the Eff-Book - which is just as embarrassing.  Normally, I would have done the stiff upper lip thing and gone inside anyway but What The Heck, people - I'd already eaten Actual Chicken at a Freaking Chick-fil-A so I figured I might as well head on over to Starbucks where all the good seats were also probably taken but at least everyone wouldn't seem so smug about it.  I can't even remember why I quit going to Starbucks - I'm sure I felt very strongly about it at the time - but as I've already pointed out, I'm shedding principles right and left.

So here I sit. I walked through the book store to see if either of the Two Comfortable Chairs were available, but they were not.  I passed back through the aisles, noting that Rob Lowe has an autobiography on the shelves, thereby confirming my opinion that Rob Lowe believes himself to be Worthy of an Autobiography. I thought to myself that I missed the hell out of my Borders, where they had more than two comfortable chairs and lots of cozy spots to sit on the floor. I'm sipping a tall Americano that is already making my hands shake, and avoiding my novel by blogging.  I look industrious, though.  I really do.  Type, type, type....

I saw an Honest to God Exhibitionist here one time but no such luck tonight.  She had been pretending to read while sitting and facing the room in a short skirt with no underwear and her legs, predictably, apart.  I was obviously Between Scenes and not writing or I wouldn't have noticed her.  It appeared I was the only person who did notice her, and that seemed particularly lame.  I wanted to somehow acknowledge her efforts but couldn't think of a way to do so...clapping seemed inappropriate. There are students here tonight, a guy who keeps falling asleep, a guy who keeps clicking his pen and when I kill him in a moment nobody will blame me, and a girl meeting with a geometry tutor who seems just as confused as she is.  There are a lot of tables with a single person at them - people who are killing time....or people who come here to be alone with other people. 

And I'm here...a lady in waiting. But waiting for what...I can't exactly say. 

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

A Long-Long-Long-Long Time AGO...

Reuniting with old friends is risky business.  You know how it is - you find that guy from college on facebook....that guy who was so freaking hilarious and rebellious and SMART in that he shared all of your opinions about EVERYTHING *generally accepted definition of smart* but then you discover via status updates that he's now on fire for the Lord and heavily into the Tea Party in the same way he used to be into clove cigarettes.

I have been reunited with an old friend - and the friend has changed - but in all the ways that are right and meaningful - not the ways that leave your head spinning. It's hard to believe it is still the same friend, because we're talking some Big Changes.   

You probably saw this coming, but my old friend is the Red Hot Chili Peppers.  It had been a really long time, my friends, since Stadium Arcadium. 

And those of us hardcore Chili Peppers Junkies spent that time  snooping the Internet or consulting the Googles for any little bit of news.  The news repeatedly stated that the band were on "hiatus," and we were seriously concerned they were on "hiatus" the way the Rolling Stones or Aerosmith are on "hiatus," and that we would be forced to wait pathetically for Reunion Tours to which we would take our clients and waste space on the expensive floor by schmoozing instead of moshing or sit in the nosebleed seats with our grandchildren while complaining bitterly about the inconsiderate people STANDING up in front of us instead of SITTING POLITELY and watching "the show."  We were afraid the Red Hot Chili Peppers had become an Institution instead of the band we adored.  The anxiety about the "hiatus" fed our mid-life crisis, yes it did.

We tried to soothe ourselves with John Frusciante's solo albums, of which we became increasingly fond in an OCD sort of way.  At times, we donned dark sunglasses and lurked among the RHCP message boards, listening to people much younger than ourselves discuss rumors that the band were going to be heading back into the studio yay! or whisper about the Big Daddy of All Rumors...the possibility that John Frusciante (who we truly believed was the secret spice that made the Chili Peppers Funk Stew so super tasty) would not be joining them shit!  

We worried and we worried and we worried.  What if it were to be like that One Hot Minute when Frusciante quit before?  That One Hot Minute right after Blood Sugar Sex Magik when John flaked out in Japan and flew home and locked himself in his house for six years and traded in his guitar picks for paintbrushes and hypodermic needles and the band slipped Dave Navarro in there like maybe nobody would notice, although honestly, who wouldn't notice Dave Navarro - the hottest Pepper to have ever Rocked the Sock and the world's most perfectly groomed heterosexual male - and we had gone, Really? We couldn't have been more surprised if you had replaced Frusciante with the Viena Boys' Choir - because it would have been the same amount of awkward.

Actually, looking back at the Dave Navarro Era of the Chili Peppers - it seems surreal - like a vague memory after a rough night of partying where you go...Wait a minute, I did WHAT?  Or like that morning you woke up after a really lucid dream convinced you owned a horse.... It was just a strange and confusing winkle in time. 

DISCLAIMER *I actually do not HATE One Hot Minute at all.  I own it. I just don't consider it part of my Chili Peppers library because it just doesn't belong there.

The Big Daddy Rumor turned out to be right.  Frusciante wanted off the Rock Star Roller Coaster and he exited the ride and made a solo album and produced some other bands and oh yeah, Married a Woman...

....and I was devastated as to what all of this meant for ME.  Because I had been with these guys for a long time!  They owed me something, didn't they?

I'm With You delivers. It's no One Hot Minute.  This time, Frusciante is replaced by close friend and cohort, Josh Klinghoffer, a frequent collaborator on Frusciante's Projects.  In fact, when the Young Kids on the Message Boards asked if Klinghoffer would be able to pull off Frusciante's famous background vocals...wondered if he could hit the high notes, I found myself wanting to defend the new kid.  "Seriously?"  I wanted to say. "Have you listened to Shadows Collide With People?  The ten-year-old girl singing on Carvel is Josh Klinghoffer!" Because it is. This is a picture of Josh Klinghoffer and John Frusciante together.  Josh is on the left.

Klinghoffer is not gifted with Frusciante's virtuosity.  He is not a guitar genius - he's more of an all-around-really-good-musician.  BUT, he knows the secret recipe.  He's added some kind of new spice that you can't put your finger on....but the dish is still the same great-tasting Chili Pepper stew you grew up on.
Klinghoffer is a nostril-flarer, and that's going to take me awhile to get used to.  It's not nearly as appealing as Frusciante's Silent Scream, after all. 

And Klinghoffer does this funky rhino-charge thing on stage instead of the spaghetti legs thing that Frusciante did.  I feel slightly embarrassed for Klinghoffer when watching him perform - like I want to take him aside and tell him that all of that really isn't necessary - we're not holding it against him that his hips don't swivel and he doesn't thrust his left shoulder out all adorably when he plays.  Scratch that. We totally hold it against him.  Because we're only human, after all.

This is a deliciously catchy album with all the requisite Chili Peppers Parts except for maybe the Nasty Business.  There are times when you think it's about to get nasty but then it just goes into rhyming nonsense, instead.  There's no Sir Psycho Sexy on I'm With You.  In fact, this is a completely G-Rated Red Hot Chili Peppers.  It's even more G-Rated than By the Way, if you can believe it.  Like, I don't even have to skip any songs with the kids in the car (thanks guys!).  The fact that the kids know exactly which songs I do skip on the other albums, and exactly why I skip those songs, tells me that their daddy isn't nearly as anal about the skipping as I am.  The worst thing on I'm With You is the B-Word - a far cry from Party on Your P*ssy, that's for sure.  Our boys are growing up (sniff sniff).

Or Maybe Not

Red Hot Chili Peppers.

All the essentials are on I'm With You.  Anthony's in his Prime With The Rhyme.  Seriously, the day he rises above Sesame Street Rhyming is the day I cry my eyes out. 

There are some rhyming stand-outs on I'm With You.  For example, this beauty shows up in Look Around:

This is for the folks in Fayettville
It'll come true if you say it will

Woot!  And from Did I Let You Know we have:

I like your cheeky,
So Mozambique-y,

GOOD JOB ANTOINE....the swan.    That's right, back in the '80's Anthony referred to himself as Antoine the Swan - because it rhymed.  It was a sign of things to come. 

Speaking of poetry (and I use that term loosely) - one of my favorite songs of the album is Even You Brutus?  It isn't mentioned much as a favorite with the critics, but I are ignorant and not a critic.  The beginning of Even You Brutus? is like a session of Poetry Slam.  Much Awesomeness.  

Monarchy of Roses is a great choice for crashing out of the gate - first song up and also one of my faves. 

I could go on and on about each and every song but I've already indicated my Complete Lack of Credentials in Music Critisism-ship and honestly, none of you want to read it anyway.  But I do want to comment on the Partridge Family Feel of Happiness Loves Company.  Seriously.  Is that Shirley Jones singing backup?  No....just Josh again.  But it is a great song.

Oh, and I'd like to comment on Did I Let You Know...we're talking a FANTASTIC trumpet solo (it's not Flea playing on the album - it's a guy named Mike Bulger and he's awesome).  Flea plays some extra special smooth and smoky bass on this one.  Josh floats in and out with little riffs and does some heavenly girlish vocals that make me happy. 

All in all, I'm With You has some great jazz undertones - more than usual - and features four Master Musicians who seem to be completely at home with their current sound - and their new guitarist.  Throughout it all - Chad Smith has shown up for work - solid rock hard drumming. As usual. 

The band have an adorable nervous air about them at the moment, like they're quite desperate for us to like them.  We don't have John Frusciante anymore but don't hold it against us!  Here!  Meet Josh!  He's really nice!  And he does seem really nice.And  he has certainly stepped into some big shoes. They're not a perfect fit, but he can definitely walk in them.   

Good job, guys.  I'm still with you.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

I Will Now Take Your Questions

I was feeling badly for you guys.  Really - I totally was.  Because tonight?  I was going to write a very unprofessional yet highly spirited (!) review of the new Red Hot Chili Peppers album, I'm With You.  It was going to be so very good and awesome and totally uninteresting to 99.9% of my peeps. But I'm going to have to hold off on that because a reader left me an incredibly heart-felt and detailed comment with many questions regarding my last post about homeschooling and so I'm going to be hitting on that, instead.  But the Chili Pepper review is coming and c' know you're gonna read it.  You read my erotica critique, after all.  Don't deny it.  House of Holes in is in your Kindles.

OK.  So my reader has a blog and I checked it out and she has a couple of adorable kiddos she's considering homeschooling.  And can I just say, Dear Reader Considering Homeschooling, that we have the exact same picture of not quite exactly the same kid with the hair done up in the tub like a narwhal or a unicorn?  Made me chuckle.

So, the reader had this to say (and I'm going to interject my comments and answers in italics):

I'm strongly considering homeschooling my kiddos due to the deplorable state of the public schools in this city (some of the worst in the nation) and the high cost of private ones.

Many (most) people strongly consider homeschooling for the same reason or some similar and very specific reason. There is A Reason...mine was a child with learning disabilities....that serves as a catalyst for this monumental decision.  What I have found (and don't let this discourage you) is that The Reason, at some point, ceases to become "enough" if the lifestyle of homeschooling is one that is at odds with the family's structure.  Basically, what I'm saying is that tons of people choose to homeschool for This Reason or That Reason and then a year later you run into them and their kids are in school and it turned out to not be so horrible after all....because homeschooling, for them and their expectations, Just Plain Sucked.  So - good reasons you have there - but unlikely to sustain a long-haul experience in homeschooling unless, at some point, you find yourselves doing it because you love it and would do it even if good schools were available.  It has to become a lifestyle you cherish or you can't keep it up. That's what happened for us.  Obviously, not all of my kids are learning disabled - yet they are all homeschooled (except for the one currently in college).

My main misgiving isn't that my kids would turn into those *weird home schooled kids* or anything like that.
Good! Because I'd really hate to go all judgemental on your ass - but ahem - it would be hard because I'm pretty sure I worried about my kids becoming weird homeschooled kids at one time or another when I was agonizing over this decision myself so....yeah.  All I can say is this:  Good for you for not worrying about it....we know some spectacularly awesome and brilliant and smart and sweet and kind and incredibly loyal weird homeschooled kids.  I love them and their quirky selves to bits.  Also?  I have as Asperger's kid who might very well qualify for this....and Jasper definitely seems to be headed in the weird direction.  But I do know how the stereotypes and That Family You Saw At The Park That One Time can send chills through your body when you consider your own children forced into wearing tube socks and jogging shorts with polo shirts tucked in...oh and the tube socks are worn beneath sandals, by the way...while talking about Star Wars for twenty-nine billion consecutive hours.  I GET IT.  But - those kids are being themselves.  They are grateful for the opportunity to do so - they will accept your kids and their possible quirks without the slightest hesitation - and they will probably grow up to invent something quite amazing that you might be able to ride at Disneyland or watch in the movie theater or use to control the environment of your eco-bubble. Also?  There are weird kids in school.  They were there when I was in school - and they're there now.  Often they're bullied and humiliated and depressed instead of doing all the awesome things they would be doing if they were homeschooled and not bullied and humiliated and depressed.  Alnd?  You can make your kids be cool with Peer Pressure.  That's how we do it over here. Of course, in order for this to succeed, you yourself....must be cool.

There are a lot of social options for home schoolers around here.
Yay!  There are around here, too.  Our house is as full of cheap and meaningless trophies and ribbons as anyone elses. All the museums and nature centers and art places and dance and music schools offer homeschool classes.  There are homeschool groups out the wazoo and they are all taking field trips (I HATE FIELD TRIPS but a lot of folks enjoy them) and performing musicals and other such nonsense and forming co-ops and there is absolutely no reasons for homeschoolers to sit around at home unless they want to.

I'm mostly concerned they wouldn't respect me/listen to me like they would *a teacher.*
Talk to a teacher and ask them how much respect they're getting in their classrooms.  Also?  When I talk like a teacher to my kids they don't tend to listen to me for very long because I become boring and I begin to spoon feed them information they do not find relevant or are not interested in.  I know this happens because I am driven to do it several times a year for reasons I do not understand but am pretty sure have something to do with a past life as a one-room school teacher.  In fact, Laura Ingalls was in my class and my name was Miss Beadle. I have strong urges to ring bells on church porches and to whack kids across the knuckles with rulers.  Most of the time I can resist my urges, but sometimes I cave and put on my homespun dress. 

I'm already noticing this attitude from my toddler.
Did you say toddler?  That means she's developmentally RIGHT ON.  Good for her!  The more egocentric she is at this age, the more capable an adult she will be.  The smart ones look out for Numero Uno - it's encoded into their survival DNA. They will continue learning how to advocate for themselves and devise ways in which to meet their needs unless this instinct is effectively stamped out by well-meaning adults....who will then later complain that kids don't know how to be independent.

She knows what makes me tick. She knows which buttons to push to drive me insane.
I knew it!  She's a smart one.  Good for you - you should be quite proud!

She knows that she can ignore me or be mean to me and I will still love her. 19 months old, and she knows this already.
This warms my heart.  She has a good mama.  Do not fret about this, my friend.

I have a feeling we would get into far more "battles" on a day to day basis than she would with an outsider.
Now I feel we might be getting into parenting issues rather than educational ones - and here's my revelation that we practice Attachment Parenting and subscribe to Unconditional Parenting.  *Read Unconditional Parenting by Alfie Kohn for more info.*  But, that aside - you are absolutely right.  Your child will and should have more battles with you than an outsider.  If a child trusts an outsider with her emotions as much as she does a parent - there is a severe disconnect.  You don't want to have the same level of trust and intimacy with your child as a stranger would.  This means, a child is going to trust you enough to argue with you, to make her demands known, and to become extremely upset when her efforts as communication fail and she doesn't get her way or doesn't understand your reasoning. (Until the Age of Reason has been reached - Parenting is Pretty Much Hell unless you accept the fact that you're dealing with a tiny person who meets all the clinical requirements of Actual Insanity and adjust your expectations.)  The battles can be quite trying and stressful depending on the nature of the child and your relationship, and honestly, if it is too difficult - the break that school provides is welcomed by most parents and rarely results in the Actual Ruin of the Child.

My mom taught me the violin for 16 years of my life. I hated/loathed/etc. playing the violin. I learned in spite of that and became quite good at it too, but I didn't develop a passion for it, mostly because I felt like my mom forced it upon me all those years.

I'm truly sorry this happened to you - not uncommon for parents to wish certain things for their children thinking they have their best interests at heart - only to discover they didn't know what their best interests were.  We do not force our children to do anything.  Force doesn't play into our relationships at all - unless we're talking safety (they must wear seat belts, etc) and they are generally cooperative because they have so much control over their lives in other areas.  My daughter plays piano - she debuted with a major metropolitan symphony as a concert soloist at the age of 16 and is now studying Piano Performance in music school.  She had her first lesson at 11 - loved it - and we've invested much time and effort and $$$ into this pursuit of hers.  And just recently, when she was joyfully complaining about how much work it all is, I told her again..."You're not a prisoner of your talent.  Walk away at any given time and nobody here will blink an eye.  You have ONE LIFE."  She knows this - but I still like to remind her that she's in charge of her life - the last thing in the world she needs to consider when deciding what to do with it is whether or not she will disappoint someone else, who has their own life to worry about.

I'm intrigued by unschooling. It seems very logical to let a child drive his/her own learning in order to prevent the dying of passion. Similar to the Montessori method in that it allows a kid to just become fully immersed in a topic and direct his/her own learning without the distractions of the traditional schooling environment. Love that thought. On the other hand, what do you do when the kid shows absolutely NO desire to learn a particular topic that's super important to know in order to function in society?
I want to be frustrated by this question but again - it was one that I had - and one that I felt was never adequately explained to me.  I once said to an adamant unschooler (before I homeschooled) - "But they can't learn calculus from gardening or cooking experiences!"  To which she replied, "Most people don't need to know calculus."  She was right, of course, but I remained unconvinced. 

However, now that I can look at this from the other end of the rainbow - I can see just how ridiculous it was to worry about if they'd learn what they needed to learn.  We all learn what we need to learn.  If there's a particular topic that is super important to know in order to function in society - we learn it.  Maybe we don't learn it in 1st or 3rd grade....but eventually, we learn it.  Back to calculus - my oldest daughter took it.  She didn't need to know calculus in order to play the you might be wondering how it made it on the list of Things Super Important to Know.  Well, she needed to go to college or conservatory, and we knew this, and so we checked to see what was required by the colleges to which she might want to attain entrance.  There were a lot of things on their lists that my daughter then studied in order to gain admittance to the colleges - because she saw a reason for it. In fact - she was accepted into some very good schools because of her coursework and her SAT scores.

My 16-year-old just registered for an online distance learning biology course, he's taking algebra, and although he's unlikely to NEED these things in order to write storyboard animation scripts (what he plans to do with his life), he WILL need them if he decides college is in his future - a possibility he has not completely ruled out.  Again - he sees the need for this. Now my 7-year-old?  Doesn't see the necessity of knowing anything other than really long complicated dinosaur names.  At some point, I'm quite certain, that will change and he'll learn the things that are necessary for his particular life plan.  With the exception of the 12-year-window known as formalized education - that is how and why we all learn things.
I was a writing tutor in college and it was mind-boggling how many college students didn't know how to follow basic grammar rules. Their sentences were a mess to the point where I felt like I had to hire an interpreter to understand them sometimes.
And had these other college students been homeschooled?  If not - it's obvious that having been enrolled in institutionalized learning environments didn't amount to success in this area.  As a writer, I feel your pain.  When I was in college (back in the day), I was also amazed by the lack of writing skills of my fellow students.  I continue to be amazed by the lack of writing skills of adults I interact with (oops!  I ended my sentence with a preposition!!!).  Anyway - another reason to homeschool!

I recall learning grammar through pure repetition/ritual back in gradeschool. The teacher *made* us do "easy grammar" worksheets where we had to underline the subjects, double underline the verbs, cross out the prepositional phrases, put the implied "you" in commands in parenthesis, etc. We even had to memorize the most common prepositions. "Busy work," yet so invaluable.
Here's the part where Real Radical Unschoolers call me a fraud.  Are you ready?  I freaking LOVE the Easy Grammar Systems curriculum.  We go through spurts where we actually do this stuff!  We have the Daily Grams (takes like 5 minutes) and my 9-year-old eats it up.  She goes through periods of whininess where she does not eat it up - and then we just don't do it.  But often she is quite happy to sit at the table for a few minutes doing these things. She can string a sentence together and is already ahead of 60% of the average incoming college Freshmen LOL.  (*I just typed LOL - shoot me now.)   Early Intervention is simply not necessary.  Let me give you a lovely little example.

We sometimes participate in a very loosely run and somewhat insane small family co-op.  I use Great Books Foundation to teach the teenagers how to think and how to write (the program requires them to record their thoughts in the form of essays).  I had a delightful unschooled 15-year-old boy who had never written a word in his life....(he's at Rice University now, having earned an impressive academic scholarship).  He read a lot (I've yet to meet unschooled kids who don't love to read) and he was good at organizing his thoughts.  There were, however, a few grammar issues.  "Galen," I said...(I just outed him on my blog, didn't I?)...."You should begin your sentences with a capital letter and you should end them with some form of punctuation."  

"Okay," he said.

And from there on out, he did.  The next grammar class he took was a college course.  I know!  You people are kicking yourselves now for all the hours spent trying to teach a 6-year-old who wasn't listening to you that he needed to start a sentence with a capital letter while wishing that someone was pulling your fingernails out with a rusty pair of pliers instead because it would have been so much more enjoyable!

My 16-year-old and my 13-year-old do NOT care for doing any kind of Easy Grammar work and they rarely, if ever, cooperate with me on this.  But recently my college kid said, "Hey, when did Jules learn to spell and use punctuation?  I noticed on facebook that he's like almost literate..."  And he is!  In fact, compared with his peers (many of them in school) he writes like Hemingway on the F-Book.  "Hey mom!" he called from the study.  "When do you use the too with two o's? I'm writing a status update!!"

"Double o's are used when the word means ALSO or in front of the word MUCH."

"Okay - thanks!"

The end.  Once we get down the concept that "there" and "they're" and "their" are not interchangeable - he's ready for the Big Leagues.

In short, I'm curious how you teach a kid to write properly if they show no interest or motivation in wanting to take on that goal themselves. Is there a point at which you just go "it's too bad you don't want to do this. You're doing it anyway" or do the child's whims reign supreme i.e. if they don't want to do it, you can't make them do it?
I do not say, "Too bad," to the 7-year-old - or even the 9-year-old.  And I don't even say it to the 16-year-old, preferring instead to be passive-aggressive and say things like, "Don't blame me when you're rotting in jail because you had to resort to ripping off liquor stores in order to provide for all of your illegitimate children...."  Like I said, with goals in mind - the kids simply WILL do the things they need to do in order to meet those goals.  They might not be doing it in elementary school - but by about the 7th grade - they have some loosely formed dreams and ambitions and it is super easy to get on the Internet and Google "What Kind of Education Does One Need to Become an Anthropologist?" and then devise a road map. 

In summary, I'd like to point out that, as a society, we only approach education as an All or Nothing on a Timeline for twelve years.  It is a hysterical 12-year-window and we've convinced ourselves that it shuts and then we're ruined for life if we didn't get through it in time when in fact, the average human lives to be what....80?  Don't you think that if everything we need to know about life and general subject matters could be compressed into twelves years it would be a very sad state of affairs?  The reality is: We learn new things and utilize that knowledge to better our own lives and the lives of others from the day we're born until the day we die.  The 12-year-window of opportunity can be completely ignored with the same (or better) results.

I liked answering these questions!  Should I do it regularly do you think?  Let's try it out occasionally.  If you have any questions pertaining to Unschooling, Attachment Parenting, or the Red Hot Chili Peppers - send them my way!  I will now take your questions.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Naysayer Numbness

It's that time of year.....that Back to School time of year....and each year it becomes less and less noticeable to us. This is our tenth year to homeschool. I can't believe it. By the end of this school year we'll have been at this nonsense for an entire decade! A DECADE!!

What a journey it has been. Not just the homeschooling - the whole shebang. Because I don't know if I've mentioned this....I think I might have once or twice....but Ellie is now settled into college life. On a full music scholarship that had nothing to do with me as I can't even play Chopsticks BUT what I might not have mentioned is that she also received an academic scholarship that almost covered the full tuition. And I am taking credit for that. Now then, you might be imagining me standing before the kids....chalkboard behind me...some sort of book in my hand....but honestly - we unschool. I don't "teach" and they haven't been "taught." So what do I do? I encourage learning. I show them how to find information. I help them set goals. I help them devise road maps for meeting those goals. I drive them places and buy them things and make sure they have what they need to get where they're going. I talk to them, ask them questions that make them think, and most importantly, discover and learn new things right along with them. I will take credit for raising kids who know how to learn, and who can figure out what to learn in order to do the things that are important to them.

When we started this whole Homeschooling Business there were many naysayers. Naysayers you say?? Yes I say!! Naysayers! People saying, "Nay!" We heard it all, let me tell you.

You have a learning disabled son - don't you think he should be in school with professionals who can help him?

You have a *GIFTED child* - don't you think she should be in school so professionals can challenge her?

You have Jules - don't you think he should be in school so you don't kill him?

Addressing these issues one by one:
There are professionals at the school. Many are dedicated and want to teach. Most are overworked, stifled, tied up and pushed down, and basically unable to teach the way they want. They're using their own money to buy things for their classrooms, which are overcrowded. Some are talented at teaching "the middle" while simultaneously keeping the go-getter challenged, as well. Very few have the time or resources to deal with the one who just isn't getting it at all - due to normal developmental variances or do to some sort of undiagnosed learning disability. Pretty much everyone knows that this is what the schools are like...and yet....all I heard (and sometimes continue to hear) was Don't you think the school would do a better job? Ummm....maybe if I were Actually Dead.

Joel made it through first grade and on his last day the Entire Institution breathed a big old sigh of relief. His teacher was so thrilled to say buh-bye that she was literally tossing free stuff at me and giggling like a little girl as she ushered us out the door. I think it was the first time she'd ever actually smiled at Joel - but what a smile it was! "So long!" she shouted. "You'll do great!" That was my one big vote of confidence and it was really just giddy hysteria. *Before you think this woman might be a horrible person, let me just share something Joel recently (he's almost 17) said to me about his first grade experience.

"So like there were a lot of kids in the classroom and some of them were up in the front of the room and The Lady was like doing stuff with them and talking to them. I just sat in the back with my buds peeling the paper off crayons and tossing them at people. I really didn't think what was going on up there had anything to do with me at all."

There you have it. But let me just add that Joel was doing this out of boredom, not out of any sort of longing to start a life of crime and corruption. He was later diagnosed with four learning disabilities, one of which makes it hard for him to understand English - (I'm not kidding) - and so the kid was just trying to entertain himself because he was stuck there for 7 hours, after all. He was pulled out of the "regular classroom" several times a week. This confused the heck out of him and did nothing to address his specific learning issues. The woman who was in charge of helping him read (something he didn't do successfully until he was ELEVEN and that was with a ton of help from a whole bunch of us non-professionals pouring our blood, sweat, and tears into it) was mean. Plain and simple. I haven't met many mean teachers - but I have met a couple and she was one. So he went to her for reading because he was "slow" and she basically did nothing to help him. In fact, she kept him in at recess to "write lines" and then became angry when he couldn't do it (he couldn't write his name at that point, much less I will listen in class.....). He also went to Reading Fluency because his reading speed wasn't up to benchmark standards. The fact that he couldn't read at all, much less quickly, didn't figure into the equation. So he went to Reading Fluency where two professional women who may or may not have finished high school timed him as he sat quietly not reading. He also went to speech, where he told the therapist he "wuved" her. Because he did. And she was a doll, although he continued to say "wuv" for many more years. The one place he almost never went - was the playground. Because he was constantly being punished for not understanding what someone had said to him, or for not being developmentally able to cooperate with their demands. People would listen to all of this and then say, "But there are professionals don't know what you're doing..." and I began to get suspicious that the institutions of learning were actually factories of stupidity.

Ellie made it through third grade. She made it through third grade because she did, in fact, have some truly wonderful teachers. But by the time she entered fourth grade - Joel was being homeschooled and it just seemed a natural progression for her to come home, too. Since she was bored out of her mind and not quite getting it in the social arena - it wasn't hard to convince her. Four years later she was taking college courses through community college - banging away on the piano for six hours a day - and the rest is history. And yet, throughout it all, people would say, "But don't you think she'd be doing EVEN better at school with the professionals?" It was as if she were learning in spite of the horrendous circumstances of her homeschooling. I couldn't win the naysayers over because they had been quite successfully brainwashed and were unable to form logical conclusions. So I quit trying and we just quietly went about our business.

Even now, when met with skepticism....if I point out that Ellie is in college (as are all of her other homeschooled friends) I am told that she must be an exception because Ignorant People Are Trying To Teach Their Kids At Home!! "You're obviously not ignorant! You know what you're doing! You got it goin' on girlfriend!!" Okay - they don't actually say that last part - that's just the little voice in my head. But they do say the other things - and that's without having any idea of how I teach, if I teach, whether or not I know what I'm doing or the fact that I am, indeed, ignorant about any number of things.

Jules simply could not have survived school with any sense of self intact. I knew that before I knew he had Asperger's. He would be one heavily medicated kid in school, and I doubt he would be learning much at all, because he has very specific ways of learning - none of which involve sitting down or being still. Who was going to read to him while he spun in circles with a light saber held triumphantly above his head in school? What professional person was going to be ABLE to do that for him? "But there are professionals in the schools who attend WORKSHOPS in order to know how to deal with spectrum kids! Don't you think he'd be better off with someone who has attended a workshop?" Right here - at this point - I'm not even going to comment.

Camille and Jasper have never attended school. Camille, I'm quite certain, would love it. She's right smack in the middle of the learning curve, loves Justin Bieber and knows How To Dress (it's a recessive gene apparently). But she's doing great at home - she has a gaggle of girlfriends who are also homeschooled. They do fashion design together. They sing together. They giggle and put on make-up and paint their nails. When Joel sees them he usually likes to comment that they could pass for school kids.

The one thing Camille would not be doing if she were in school is receiving 6 or more hours of classical dance instruction per week. And Camille simply must dance.

If Jasper had been placed in school he quite possibly could have ended formalized education as we know it, leaving the whole mess in an even bigger pile of ashes than it already is. That's just the way he operates. Your logic and reasoning mean nothing to him. One of his favorite comments is, "What's that got to do with me?" And usually, he's right.  What does it have to do with him?  Luckily for him, his idea that the rest of the world doesn't really relate to him or necessarily require any contribution on his part....well, this doesn't bother me in the least. He's rocking awesome and I wholeheartedly support him in his eschewing of well.... Basically Anything Anybody Wants Him To Do. My little man can just keep on keeping on. Sometimes I get the feeling that he's the only person on Earth who sees things as they really are. He's the dude who notices that the emperor's not wearing any clothes. Nobody likes that dude - he makes us all feel stupid. It's frightening to think of what he'd be like when faced with the day to day Obvious Insanity of Mindless Busywork. They'd have to invent new workshops to deal with The Clarity That Is Jasper.

All of my kids can read (even though Jasper has tried really hard to Not Get It and when he does get it he refuses to say it out loud). All of them can write (even though Jasper has tried really hard to Not Learn How), and most importantly, they know stuff. Important stuff that they find relevant.

So let's summarize, shall we?

I'm a Success.

The End.

What say you? Yea or Nay?