Hey, you with the new haircut, wanna buy a card?

I’m awake.

How am I going to do this school thing, y’all? I’ve been lying there for an hour trying to figure and reconfigure and work out hours, how to fit it all into a week, and still have time for my child. The time I’m going to have to spend away from her is a looming mass of badness. Melissa, too, but Melissa and I have been together eight years (Happy Anniversary!) and can weather time apart. The fact of the matter is that Rocky is going to be three in April. Three. I’ve never seen that before. And I’ll never see it again. And I’m talking about spending Three away from her.

It has been so hard for me to work at all the past two years. And not because I’m a slacker – I need work, it would seem, to stay sane. I enjoy working. Yes, even housecleaning. For all my complaining, there are enjoyable things about working by myself, for myself, in people’s quiet homes. What has been hard, aside from the fact that I have to clean toilets, is that every part of me has ached to be at home with my baby. When I went back to work it was like physical pain. Part of that is because Rockster had the heart defect, and I was so afraid of losing her. Not that that makes the need to be with her less important – if anything, more so. Also, Melissa is pretty much a full-time parent. She doesn’t work many hours, and when she does work it’s in the house – so really, I haven’t had much one-on-one time with Rocky. Melissa is a wonderful parent, very involved, always there when Rocky has needed anything. She’s engaging and delightful to be around. She loves horsing around and doing things I would normally sit back and watch Rocky do. I usually would rather sit and read books with her, or make art projects, or bake – that kind of thing. So which do you think she’s going to choose? What happens, no one’s fault, is that I’ve spent a lot of time in my house, standing back, watching Mo raise Rocky. I also need more Me Time than Melissa. I’ve got that creative itch that requires my attention. Plus in order to make enough money to help support the family, I have to work longer hours, away from home. So what this boils down to is that the time I’ve spent with Rocky hasn’t felt like enough. If you compare me to other working moms, I would seem to have it made. But I’m not going by the conventional standard here (do I ever?). I’m going by what feels right. And it hasn’t felt right. I’ve spent a good chunk of the past two years heartbroken over having to leave, having to pry my crying daughter off my legs.

And now I’m sitting here, having successfully brought myself to tears, wondering how the hell I can make this work. I just don’t know if I can do it. But if not now, when? When Rocky goes to school? That is an option, but here’s the thing. We might home school her. My idea is to home school her for the first few years, at least. Then see where we go from there. Melissa has deep misgivings about this, so this is probably not the last time you’ll hear about it. If I’m not going to have time to make her breakfast in the morning before I head out to my day job (work and studying for school at a coffee shop), when the hell am I going to be a teacher?

OK. I stepped away and worked it out. I buy the cheap groceries (and hope that buying pesticide-and-hormone ridden food for one year won’t give us cancer), and we eat a lot of beans and rice, and I don’t do anything fun like travel or go out to eat ever, and I can find those pre-pregnancy naked-with-boots photos and make them into cards and sell them to lesbian college students. I personally had a whole wall full of those cards, the ones you used to be able to buy in shops in Northampton, P-Town and San Francisco. You can get young lesbians to buy anything, if you look at them the right way.

So after my tour of colleges, selling my wares, I’ll come back to Austin and marry a rich and senile old man who will give me money but not remember that he married me, and I won’t have to work at all. Just for good measure I’ll start looking into selling the body parts I don’t need, like my lungs.

Ok, y’all, our rent’s about to go up. We don’t know by how much. But that studio Harry the Landlord is building downstairs, for the massage business? That’s not going to be free. Whatever money I’m able to save by buying cheaper groceries and cutting out the travel budget is going to be swallowed up by that.

Which is all the more reason for me to go to school, to get a job where I’m making more money. Three times as much per hour, in fact. Because in the long run, with bills getting bigger, if I don’t get a new job I’m going to end up working longer hours than I do now.

At this point, 4:15 a.m., one Blue the Ox must go lie down in bed and do quieting-the-mind exercizes, and trust that there’s an answer, and that all will be well.

Won’t it?

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11 responses to “Hey, you with the new haircut, wanna buy a card?

  1. “My idea is to home school her for the first few years, at least. Then see where we go from there. Rukan has deep misgivings about this, so this is probably not the last time you’ll hear about it.”Here’s the thing. I love home school as a concept, especially for gifted and talented kids who have gifted and talented parents, but as a bonified K-12 educator and former gifted student myself, I’d strongly recommend doing the reverse of what you’re contemplating. That is, send Rocky to school for the first few years, then consider pulling her out later once she’s gotten a taste of the school experience and learned the basics. Here’s why:For most kids, even the ones who cry every day when you drop them off, the first few years of school are the most memorable, the most beneficial, and the least harmful for their social, emotional, and intellectual development. An added benefit of starting kids in school between ages 3 and 6, especially for only children, is that they learn social skills that they will simply not get from even the best home school environment. This is especially important for only children. Also, as far as home-schooling goes, it is much easier to help your child build on skills that they have already been taught in a formal, school setting than it is to teach them the basics informally, then send them off to school when they are older. Not to mention that the older a kid gets, the more twisted and unfair the school social scene gets, so if you keep Rocky home when she’s little then put her into school just when the kids are perfecting the art of cruelty, she’s going to get few of the benefits of school and all of the crappy, hurtful parts. I share many your misgivings about the public school system and the value of a formal K-12 education, but with what I know about child development and the educational system combined, I would be more likely to send my kid to school through at least second grade, then offer her/him the choice to go back or stay home every year after that. Ultimately, giving your kid choices AND a fair basis of comparison about her education is more important than protecting her from whatever you don’t like about schools. Trust that the values and skills Rocky is learning at home will help her to navigate and learn from the pitfalls she encounters, and resist the urge to overprotect her, which always does more harm than good.And if you do decide to homeschool her at any point in her life, I strongly recommend that you take a course in Child Developement and another one in the Methods of Teaching Reading, at a bare minimum. There really is a lot more involved in teaching than most people know, especially in the younger grades.Not that you asked for my advice or opinion on any of this, but for what it’s worth …

  2. There’s a really good case to be made for homeschooling, too. Both ways have advantages and disadvantages. I’ve known a lot of people who went to school and a lot of people who were homeschooled, and there definitely are differences – but so long as they had sane, loving, semi-stable parents they all turned out ok. I have watched several kids grow up homeschooled, and then enter school as teens, and they do just fine. As for the social benefits of school, I hear where you’re coming from. However, that homeschoolers are socially lacking seems to be more myth than reality, at least around here. Austin has a large and diverse homeschool community, and not just the Fundies. There are lots of programs here specifically designed for homeschool kids, and the parents and kids all seem to come together as a community. The homeschool kids I know here have many opportunities to both learn and play with other kids. The only way Ru and I will consider homeschooling is doing it this way – with the support of other parents, with programs that will get Rocky out of the house, with other people who can teach her things we’re not as good at, and with a bunch of other kids for Rockster to hang out with. It would be a different kind of social group than that found in school, to be sure, but a social group nonetheless. The homeschoolers I’ve watched grow up are very smart, ahead of the curve, self-assured and wonderfully individualistic (a trait I particularly value).As you can see, it’s not about protecting her from school. I have seen homeschooling work very well for other kids. Austin has plenty of good schools Rockster can go to, if that’s what we decide is best for her.It’s all still up in the air (after all, she’s only two). We have a lot of research to do. I’m open to any ideas and experience, and I’d like to talk with you more about it – especially about the teaching classes you reccomend.Love,Blue

  3. That all sounds great about the homeschooling community, B.O., and I want to stress that I do not ever mean to tell you how to raise your kid. Looking back at my message, I realize I got a little assumptive on you and more than a little preachy. And you’re right. There are advantages and disadvantages either way. Ultimately, I have complete faith in you and Ru to do right by Rocky, no matter what you decide on the schooling issue.

  4. BM,

    I didn’t mind your comment at all. I appreciate that you’ll speak your mind with me. I am always interested to hear what you have to say. It takes a village, indeed.

    Love,
    BO

  5. Please, no one jump down my throat for expressing unorthodox ideas.

    In my view, school is jail for kids because it’s compulsory. I think ideally kids should get to choose how and when they learn the wonders of the world. They don’t need adults to shove facts down their throats; they have a natural thirst for knowledge that school just kills.

    Among many school things I disagree with, I find the authoritarianism in schools reprehensible and horribly disrespectful of the children. I remember crying in 5th grade because some kids had been talking in class, so the teacher made the whole class put our heads face down on our desks. For sensitive kids like me, that kind of harsh, punitive treatment does not foster emotional well-being–and I doubt it does for the thicker-skinned kids either.

    I don’t think it’s “overprotective” to keep kids out of school anymore than it would be “overprotective” to ask your 18-year-old to please not enlist in the army. I don’t agree with any of the values or conditioning that take place in either institution, so I wouldn’t want my child to participate in either one. Besides, isn’t it parents’ job to protect their children?

    I think unschooling is a fabulous way for children to learn. Adults don’t need to control learning with a rigid curriculum because children’s natural curiosity will set a spontaneous curriculum that adults can then help with.

    To learn more about unschooling, read books by John Holt, read The Teenage Liberation Handbook, and check out this article:

    http://ledger.southofboston.com/articles/
    2006/12/09/news/news01.txt

    Tree Frog

  6. Thanks, Tree Frog. They all seem to turn out ok, so long as their parents are aware, involved and basically sane and loving. Aware, involved parents would see that their kid is suffering in school, and choose another option for them, if possible. Also, if kids are raised with self-esteem, I think the kinds of things we suffered in school are not as much of a problem.

    I think that school is good for some and bad for others. Same with homeschooling.

    Nobody’s going to jump down your throat, Froggy. We’ve just got a lot of wise and powerful people here, with differing areas of expertise and strong ideas and strong voices. I welcome everyone’s opinions.

  7. And TF, I hear you about the compulsory, spirit-crushing thing. I’ve had the same thoughts myself, about making kids sit in classrooms all day and stand in lines and be quiet. I think it does have the propensity to stifle young, creative minds. But I have definitely seen some kids thrive in school settings. I just don’t think it should be seen as the only way, because a lot of kids do not belong there. I wish you (and I) could have had an education more suited to our needs and personalities. I couldn’t stand school, either, and I think there’s just no reason a child should have to hate eight hours of five days a week for eighteen years.

  8. Not going to jump down your throat Tree Frog. In fact, I’m very interested in your ideas, but I have to say that all of the negative things you are describing are things that, as a teacher, I’ve been trained never to do (though, of course, I did have lots of teachers who did those things to ME, so I know just where you’re comin from).

    Like you, I believe that everyone has a natural, intellectual curiosity that can be either squashed or cultivated by the adults around them, which is why I design my lessons to facilitate and encourage personal exploration, give students choices in how and what they learn, etc. Not all teachers do this, but these days most of us are trained to.

  9. This is getting really long, but as an aside: I had a subbing experience once in special ed that was both sad and rewarding. All of the kids had some sort of mild diagnosis like ADD, ADHD, etc., and so naturally, they were all pretty fidgety. The teacher’s aid, who was in the class every day, seemed obsessed with getting the kids to sit still, and got frustrated when I interrupted her very structured lessons to encourage higher order thinking. Finally I got to have the room to myself for an hour to teach math, and the kids were trying really hard to focus on the problems, but kept getting the wrong answers over and over again. Deep down I felt it was sort of pointless to make these naturally fidgety kids sit perfectly still in chairs and write their math problems out on the board, so I decided to try a more kinesthetic approach. I pointed at the most fidgety kid in the room and said, “You there! Do 2 to the third power in jumping jacks!” A big smile spread across his face and he jumped up and did the correct amount of jumping jacks. Suddenly, all of the kids were interested in the math lesson, and within five minutes, they were all solving their math problems by doing jumping jacks, and they were all getting the right answers! We had a great time without any bad incidents and the students were able to prove that they knew the math afterall. Then the teacher’s aid came back and everything went back to “normal,” but for one hour I had harnessed the natural energy of these so-called disabled children and proved to myself and them that they had untapped gifts.

    I’m not trying to say that I’m some kind of super-teacher or anything, but I do believe that there are a lot of teachers out there who are doing their damndest to make school a nurturing, freeing environment instead of a soul-crushing prison, and I aspire to be one of the good ones. That said, I meet teachers all the time who give me the shudders, including one who tried to convince me that teaching her students to endure a boring lesson was more important than trying to make the lesson fun.

    Finally: in general I think that tweens and teens need far more autonomy than society gives them. One of the biggest challenges for any parent or teacher is to recognize when we cross the line from protection to overprotection.

  10. And B.O., you rock. I wish I could be homeschooled by you and Ru, too.

  11. I really want to homeschool Julia, but we’re thinking that’s not going to be possible since we both have to go to work so as to feed and clothe her.

    But I always dreamed of homeschooling my children. Just because I was so bored and stifled in school myself.

    But, Blue, homeschooling wasn’t the sum of your post. I really feel for you in your dilemma. Kristin’s been having some of the same stress with her school and practicum and need to hold a full time job. I can tell you that I make sure that the time Kristin does get to spend with Julia is quality bonding time, and though not as much as either of them would like, is working to let Kristin go to school without feeling too left out. And, actually, Kristin gets to see more of the best of Julia because I’m the one doing all the dirty, necessary, mean-parent jobs while Kristin just gets to play and cuddle…

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