Thursday, September 07, 2006

Smells Like Mom's Angst

My senior year of high school I had a fabulous English teacher. He had been my speech/forensics coach for three years prior and I finally was able to arrange my schedule to take one of his classes. The Nirvana song Smells Like Teen Spirit played a prominent role in the class that year. I am currently feeling "stupid and contagious" and agree that "I'm worse at what I do best,
And for this gift I feel blessed (sic)." I have not written for many days because I am in conflict with myself over unschooling and I hate looking like I don't know what I am doing--just to clarify, I DON'T know what I am doing, we are always making it up as we go along, usually I am just more comfortable with that.

It came to a head last week when I was with a group of homeschooling folks and as the kids were off playing wonderful things the talk amonst the adults turned to organic food. Please remember that my dad is the director of the largest Farmers Market in the country, we are total foodies, Evie and I sold heirloom tomatoes at markets last year--we get the whole "organic, sustainable, free trade thing." The discussion turned into an session of organic one upmanship. One mom even talked about how her daughter bursts into tears when offered food by anyone but her mother and will tell her father she can't eat something because "Mommy might get mad!" (the little girl is 4). The mom said this casually and commented how funny it was, "I guess I created that, eh-ha, ha." Another little girl kept questioning her mom about eating some crackers that had been given to them by a relative because they contained hydrogenated fats, something the family usually shuns: "Are you sure its okay mom?" She asked over and over again. I was completely outnumbered. I wanted to yell "LISTEN TO WHAT YOU ARE SAYING!!!!!" They have completely robbed their children of the ability to make decisions based on information instead of rules. They kept their kids out of school because school is too "rigid" and yet they are completely govered by a series of harsh rules regarding something that is necessary (food is necessary, school is not) and that is supposed to be pleasurable. Secondly, it makes me crazy when families refuse to acknowledge that they are parts of a greater culture/society. In America we have fast food, television, commercial radio, movies, shoot-em-up computer games, restaurants and endless choices. Keeping your children away from all those things robs them of part of their culture. Keeping them completely away from the mainstream, status quo will handicap them if they continue to live here. Having a proficiency in cultural literacy is essential in allowing citizens of our society the ability to truly choose how they live here. I am not saying you should tutor your kids in SpongeBob or Skittles flavors. I am saying that denying children food, TV or anything else, solely on the basis of arbitrary rules (you think it is "BAD") is a really, really bad idea because you are robbing your child of autonomy and the abililty to think for themselves. ARGGHH!

Now to the other side of my angst. School started again this week and I am in my usual August/September "freak-out" mode of "oh-my-god-what-if-I-am-handicapping-my-kid-by- not-making-her-go-through-the-societal-rituals-of-school." What if she really does need to be drilled in STATIC SUBTRACTION NOW, THIS YEAR in order for her to be able to be a surgeon when she is thirty? What if she MUST WRITE PERFECTLY AND IN COMPLETE SENTENCES NOW, THIS YEAR in order to get into college and become a research scientist? What if she has to LEARN SIX NEW SONGS AND HOW TO STAND IN LINE NOW, THIS YEAR so that she can joing Cirque du Soleil when she is 21?

You see my problem? I freak out when parents restrict their kids' food choices and I freak out when my daughter is not doing the exact same thing that every other 6 year old is doing in our town. I love schedules, I wish we had one. My daughter loves to play, I am not as creative nor do I have the stamina she needs me to have. She is very patient, I am very rigid. I am asking her to practice cursive everyday, she likes it, I am not sure she would choose it everyday. Am I sliding down the slippery slope to "school at home?" I want to see things "produced" to have proof of our homeschooling "success." I also want a happy and free-thinking child. Those things might be mutually exclusive. I really want to hear stories of families who were able to ride through the angst. What did you do everyday? What do your kids do now? How did your kids decide what they needed to know when?

I bought a new "flavour" of deodorant yesterday (oversharing, I know). It is cucumber-melon. I am hoping it covers the smell of my angst. Comments very welcome on this one people!


Thistlebee said...

Hi, I was surfing through the blogring and found you.

Boy, can I ever relate to the September angst! It seems to get better every year, but I'm still prone to attacks of "We must DOOOO something!" And then I can settle down again and realize that we actually are doing things, it just doesn't look anything like standard academics.

I'm hoping that someday I'll be able to bypass this altogether, but it may take unschooling psychotherapy! ;-)

Sandra Dodd said...

One of your paragraphs is lifted for posterity, but I don't know where to put it yet. :-) Some posterior position, no doubt... It's that paragraph about robbing kids of the ability to make decisions. Pretty powerful.

About this bit (from which you might be fully recovered by now anyway)" -=- Am I sliding down the slippery slope to "school at home?" I want to see things "produced" to have proof of our homeschooling "success."-=-

My thought was yes. Every time you "produce proof" or require practice on a schedule, you're seeing the impossibility of unschooling success. If you keep pulling the plant up to look at the roots, you'll NEVER know how the roots would have grown if they hadn't been pulled out and measured. Every time they're pulled out, roots so small you couldn't see them are broken off. Tests and measures keep natural learning from following its own course, I think.