America is for Americans

freaky friday

Quotable
Something I wrote last Friday was quoted at both The Life Learning (Unschooling) Happiness Project and Life Learning Magazine. I love it when I’m quoted without an accompanying descriptor, hee. And in the case of Life Learning I mean look who else is quoted there. Come on. Who wouldn’t feel just a teensy bit awesome about that?

Culture & Pop Culture
“A Decade of Fear” from Information is Beautiful
I wonder how many people think of the toll that obsessive fear plays on our own and others’ psyche.

Kanye’s new video got leaked, so they’ll be much this-and-that discussion. Right out of the gate PostBourgie and Ta-Nehisi Coates came forth with pieces I enjoyed.

Refiguring the Passive Girl Toy at SocImages (Yeah, that’s me that made the submission. SocImages has the readers do a lot of their legwork, I think they should work harder on the linky-love, but then what do I know. I have a tiny site with small readership).
The first commenter asserts girls won’t like having their toys chopped up (so I guess this person doesn’t understand the concept of a child owning his/her own toys and getting to make that decision on their own?). Never fear, many readers (several of which who were once, you know, actual girls) chime in with how very much they DID like hacking their toys. Yarp.

Health
The new issue of Squat! is available. If you’d like you can read last summer’s first issue gratis, which features a piece by reader and friend Kat (“Unassisted Birth Story of David Elijah Kirkwood”).

From The Unnecesarean: “Nitrous Oxide for Laboring Women in the United States”. I am truly gobsmacked with what women face in the hospital, this form of low-risk and near instantaneous assistance (which has the additional advantage of being in the mama’s control) is not available.

Some perspective on the obese monsters who are Ruining America (and the concern trolls who love them), brought to us by Idzie’s tumblog and from Fat Heffalump.

Work
“A Plentitude of Work” by WendyPriesnitz: “unjobbing”, not just for SNAGs anymore.

Race
Re: Huckleberry Finn – I read easily a half dozen pieces this week. I enjoyed the summation “Voices: The Huckleberry Finn Controversy” at Racialicious, Renee’s perspective, and The N-word belongs in “Huckleberry Finn”, by Elon James in “This Week in Blackness” at Salon

This isn’t a case of political correctness. This is a case of being racially uncomfortable [ … ] America, in its constant obsession with being seen as “awesome,” will actively try to Photoshop its own historical portrait. (Um… is this last sentence pretty much the best sentence I’ve read about America? Yeah. I think so)

“Nickelodeon Gets Diversity Points, But Still Overlooks Race” at Colorlines

Also from Colorlines: “Two Young Girls Climb U.S./Mexico Border Fence in 18 Seconds”; please do watch both videos.

“Racists Totally Freak Out Over Muslim ‘Batman of Paris'”; this came to me via Ralph. I don’t know how many times I’ve seen (white) fanboys froth at the mouth regarding the God-given imperative to cast white actors in supposedly white-sourced roles. Guess how many mainstream Hollywood films have featured black superheroes as title character? No, guess. (I’d cite non-black poc statistics but I actually don’t know the answer on that one).

Make/Craft
Milk Punch at smittenkitten (h/t Paige). We made a non-booze version and it was delicious; Ralph especially enjoyed it.

The Soul Roll by Emeril. Made this two days ago and? Yeah. Delicious. Do make the sweet cornbread with this meal. It perfectly balances the NOMNOMNOMness.

Environment
“It is the main topic along the border. And the strange thing is it’s very hard to find anyone for it.” Speaking of the U.S./Mexican border fence, as the largest country-dividing construction since the Great Wall of China (h/t reader and friend Jeanne), the levels of suckery are boundless: “The US-Mexico Wall, it’s Borderlands, Wildlife, and People” from triggerpit. Beautiful, amazing photos and a wonderful and informative perspective in the text.

“Nobody disagrees on how this is affecting the environment, the only disagreement is how important the environment is in the overall discussion.” Ana Cordova, Ph, D, Institute for Northern Border Studies. US-Mexico

Tweet Of The Week
Yeah, I totally agree.

Random Awesomeness
America is for Americans

No matter how mean the internet is sometimes, mashups #FTW:

“it’s called ‘self-directed learning’, dad. & no, i don’t have to live here.”

Relatively frequently I get an an email, a DM from Twitter, or an in-person inquiry regarding our choice to homeschool. Over the last couple years I’ve observed the concerns are almost always a select few: “But what about socialization?” being the (predictable) first query (answer: Ha! You have to be joking!* although perhaps soon I will write an actual answer in detail), followed by, “I think it’s best for kids but… I could never get so organized / stand being with my kids all day” as a close second (more about this in a minute).  Finally, trailing third but still frequent enough, I get a form of: “Um, I wonder if homeschooling is right for me?” (or the emphatic “I know homeschooling would not be for us because blah-blah-blah”, although most who say this A. were not asked, personally, to consider homeschooling as far as I know and B. do not have an informed or well-rounded view of what it can and does mean to have kids out of school). In my inbox rests a handful of earnest, lengthy email queries to the latter effect; and this question – or occasional emphatic statement – is one I’d like to address here for a minute.

First, there’s so much to unpack on the subject, and the public sphere has done poorly in creating an intelligible, honest discussion. Like, so many people think if your kids aren’t in school – and you aren’t doing something nefarious with them – that you are “homeschooling”, and it means means you get up in the morning, have breakfast, your kids do some cirriculum according to a color-coded lesson plan, you take field trips with like-minded gentle Subaru-driving families, then sit at a picnic table and eat granola and drink goats’ milk kefir.  And maybe Bible study to boot.

Of course, this is only a (generalized and stereotyped) structure that some families hold to – that is (food-snark aside): a lesson plan and curriculum, possibly faith-based, taught in the home bolstered by organized group activities within the family or a narrow group of friends.  And this is where the lack of realistic, open discussion around out-of-school kiddos fosters a lot of ignorance.  Because besides a vague idea along those lines, many people accustomed to the mainstream don’t even know the differences or philosophies that can be referenced through various terminologies: homeschooling, unschooling, radical unschooling, deschooling, life learning, and self-directed learning (like, reader! I literally know you do not know what the hell I am talking about here!). Wendy Priesnitz writes a wonderful article making several relevant points about such terminology – although if you aren’t a homeschooler and familiar with authors, articles, and movements concerning those who live without traditional education, I fear this article will make little sense and seem an exercise in hair-splitting.  And yet the terminology isn’t throw-way or frivolous, whatever you many initially think, any more than knowing the much-beloved traditions, details and foibles of anyone’s unique family life are throw-away or frivolous.

To get back to the stereotypes: my kids are not in school.  But this does not mean, as their parent and caregiver, I am especially fearful of the World At Large (anyone reading here for long knows I am decidedly not), especially groovy or granola, especially fringe or religious, especially mellow and able to handle a messy house and rowdy kids (I actually totally cannot handle these things!), or especially organized. Getting up at the crack of dawn, sitting at the table and gently leading my youngsters through my well-researched lesson plan?  This is so not me.  Eating stone-ground wheat and stuff I dug out of the garden, then drinking deeply from our recycled-urine-greywater system? – okay, at this point, I’m being a dick.  But still?  Not me.  Reading about Jesus and praying as a family?  Nope.

I am also not neglectful, lazy, or interested in keeping my kids “special” and excluded because they’re smart / “slow” / ADHD / special / bullies / bullied (by the way, why, in your view, would those be those such assy motives anyway?).  Nope, nope, nope.

Enough about what I’m not.

Here’s something that living without formal childhood education does mean: you can’t use Public School as babysitting in order to pursue paid employment.  And that, yup.  It’s a bit rough.  Many people I know could afford to do this (even if they don’t currently believe this), but can’t bring themselves to.  And: fine.  Most America does use Public School as both an economic help and/or to avoid the realities of living with children.  You’re in good company if that’s what your family is doing.

And of course there are those who cannot lose a job to be home with kids – although it must be pointed out most who directly consult me would stack up pretty well according to the Global Rich List.

Here’s the other thing about keeping your children out of school: yes, you have to be around your kids.  The idea of “me time” – or the “real life” of having a job / career / money and business-casual wardrobe – because, you know, if you get paid for something it means it’s worthwhile!  That’s awesome because as a worldview, it means if I can pull in a dollar no one needs to question anything! –  yeah, you will not get the benefit of those!  Sure, you can carve out that “me time” – in fact, I think I do a rather excellent job, maybe better than lots of Mamas I know.  But you won’t get a most-days-guaranteed eight hours worth.  So yes, you will be around your kids.  A lot.  Kind of weird how some people believe Nature made us these babies and coincidentally we can care for them up until four or five years of age but then something happens where you would literally tear their head off if you were to not immediately farm them out for eight/nine hours a day five days a week! Nature is so crazy that way!

That’s about it: those two things listed above.  That’s all it really requires, and really means FO SHO, to have your kids home.

And you know, I really don’t have time – not here, not right now – to go into the many benefits of deciding to keep them home, the individual challenges and frustrations, the glorious and amazing bits, and my whole WHY do I keep them home thingy.  Some other time.  I just wanted to give you a little chat, unless you were deciding to Other me as a completely different person than you with a totally different family.

See, some (most?) people like labels.  Some like the idea that if I chose to have my kids home, instead of in school, it means I’m a Supermom who has all my shit together (Ha! Ha hahaha! < sob! >).  Alternatively, they might enjoy thinking I believe my darlings are more precious than other kids and should be separated from the Grimy Masses (so in other words, I’m an Elitest Asshole), or that I’m trying to insulate and isolate them (in other words, I’m fearful and controlling), or that I have a series of unconventional faith-based beliefs (America was partially founded on freedom to worship but please don’t worship TOO WEIRDLY!).  So if I’m a “homeschooler” maybe I’m preaching to them from the Wiccan handbook or the New Testament (or both!), maybe I’m feeding them Class Five Vegan cuisine and braiding my armpit hair into thick, supple ropes.  So, you know, these people want me to subscribe to a label so they can decide what it means without thinking much about it.  Those who are threatened by my concept of staying home with my (perfectly smart, active, academically proficient, happy and healthy) kiddos, will want to make fun of me or – a more charitable diagnoses on my part – suddenly come forth (unasked) to me and tell me all the reasons they don’t or can’t stay home (this latter means they don’t have to go through the scary experience of actually considering it!). This is why, online and in books, you’ll see a lot of articles trying to define Unschooling, Life Learning, all the above – simply because in doing something different, you are too-often assumed to be doing something weird.

My life is profundly normal, and yet I’m put at a social disadvantage where people assume it’s freakish, uncanny, odd, or exceptional.  And I really don’t know a way around this odd little facet of living a non-mainstream life. A summation up at the end of the article “Does the unschooling label help or harm?” (unschoolinglifestyle.com) reveals an existence so typical, family-based, reasonable, non-SCARY or -FRINGE**, that it’s almost easy to wonder why one would have to pen it at all:

My family learns through life experiences, as well as through direct academic pursuit, as well as through play. We live spontaneously, as well as by design. We take classes, as well as pursue new skills autonomously. We follow a biological clock, i.e., sleeping when tired, as well as a schedule when we choose to make appointments, i.e., classes, play dates, parties. We live flexibly and authentically, adapting to new needs and wants. We live communally and respectfully, aiming for peaceful and contented family relationships. We attend to discord one situation at a time, knowing we need not take disharmony for granted. We continually create our life.

Ha!  What weirdos, AMIRITE?

Photo By One Of My Kids

* Socialization? See: Hogaboom kids, and how fucking awesome they are at all times in pretty much every social setting, ever! Maybe because they get to hang out with all-ages in a more varied setting…  I dunno.

** Oh and P.S.? You can’t honestly think I, personally, am scared of “fringe” or think it’s wrong; my point is, “fringe” often ends up being used in a pejorative sense and to dehumanize or distance those who think, believe, or do differently than the herd.