at play

Today I didn’t eat until almost five o’clock. Ooops!  I did drink a bunch of milk.  I’m still doing that whole allergy food plan thing and testing individual foods to discover if they are causing me discomfort (it’s borrrring). So far so good on the milk front although we’ll see how tomorrow goes (my prediction: “tummy troubles”, by or to put it more delicately and specifically, cramps and diarrhea and sweating over both).

I got a little grumpy mid-day after reading a supposed fair and balanced blog article regarding homeschooling which was, let’s face it, a handful of garden variety concern-troll points.  Instead of merely reading and digesting I chose to reply civilly and directly – as it was meant to be a discussion after all (I was pleased to notice later many other commenters quite effectively shut down some of the homeschool fallacies).  After posting I could tell by the irritation in my body that I’d put off eating long enough.  The kids and I got our asses out of Dodge to get some food, in this case at the winsome little bakery in Aberdeen.  I was so late I had to call ahead so they could fix me something to pick up before closing time – which they did, the dears.  Sitting in the sun-dappled car at the park and having a bite with the kids? I felt a bit better in general.

Because let’s face it, I am not made of stone and things get me down. No matter how well I have it in my life I can get overwhelmed and despairing; in this case over the same sort of silly myths one hears over and over about supposed homeschooler issues – that children won’t be effectively socialized, that their parents are Caspar Milquetoasts who can’t handle the Real World and they’re raising little Milquetoasts to dither about in the same manner, that there are secret homeschooler “religious” factions preaching non-stop Right-Wing hate in the ears of their little ones.  I can know for a fact these issues are not concerns unique to home education and I can be one hundred percent thrilled with how things are going in my family but – Really?  Must we?  Over and over again?

In the car at the park we finished our lunch – the kids devouring ham sandwiches in no time flat.  They discussed the new water park installation at this specific locale (which I call “Tobaccy Park” as it is located right next to a cigarette shop) and speculated on when the waterworks would commence; not thirty seconds after this the jets blasted into full force.  Of course (as it turned out upon reading the info board) the park will be running daily for the duration of the summer – but to Sophie and Nels’ eyes it just blossomed the moment they wished it to.  The looks on their faces; I’m glad I was there to see it.

The kids were out of the car and under the water jets in no time flat, Nels cutting an especially striking figure in his Max suit which, as it is made almost exclusively of terry cloth, was heavy and soaking in only a few minutes.  After a bit both kids were in their underwear and playing joyfully (mind you, it wasn’t especially warm today).

Sophie hesitated at first before stripping down.  “I don’t want to embarrass you, Mom,” she said, her hazel eyes full of depths I’ve seemingly known my whole life.  My heart melted and I felt so sad that she had sensed my very slight trepidation at the thought of her bare body  – who the hell begrudges a small girlchild the freedom a boychild has, to run and splash and feel cool water and hot sun on the skin?  I said, “Sophie, it won’t embarrass me.  You can do what you wish.” She let me pull her sweater and jeans off and she and her brother giggled and splashed and played with pressure differential in the many recessed spigots – putting their foot on one to make the others fountain all the higher.  They let me know when to warm up the car so I could tuck them into the gloaming and the leather seats and they’d be warm until we got home.

My kids are a reminder that there are people on this planet who have (mostly) only good impulses; who live truly freely, enjoying the gift of Life and enjoying those they love, people who have a light touch and can demonstrate Live & Let Live.  Our (Ralph and my) children are unfettered with troubles most of their day, and when they have them they confront them directly and with passion and clarity.  They are critical thinkers who are rarely prone to Cynicism (a disease of humanity that causes me much grief).  Today in the park I felt a gladness they were in my life, because at times my mind is eaten through with darkness. I truly wish I was smoking whatever they have; I’d be the better off for it.

ask me your questions, and i will ignore your ass

Computer stuff is always ebbing and flowing at Casa del Hogaboom; as a result of being busy writing and sewing and cooking and pissing and moaning about this and that, I missed out on a handful of excellent formspring queries. Today I took a few minutes to catch up and post. I want to say I truly do love formspring questions, and I don’t want to deter the occasional fellow who comes along and asks, turning my formspring page from a desert with tumbleweeds and buzzards to a brief, lush and verdant oasis where I get to write and talk and act like I know stuff.

Here’s what I got today:

How does it work if/when homeschooled/un-schooled kids want to go to college, an exchange year, or something that typically requires transcripts?
There are a handful of typical concerns many home/un-schooling “outsiders” or those new to the concepts ask – “But what about socialization?” is one, handily followed by the college question … (read the rest of my response here)

How is Anna del Geckaboom? Is her tail growing back?
Anna’s tail is growing back nicely. She has been molting regularly and seems quite healthy. But I have terrible news … (read the rest of my response here)

How’s the “class 5 vegan diet” going?
Two words: BORRR-RRING! I have four more days of total deprivation before … (read the rest of my response here)

Thank you for your questions, readers!

“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.