home(school) is anywhere you hang your head
Jan 9th, 2008 by wrekehavoc

here comes ms. misery.

i promised a rant on homeschooling, and i must make good on that promise, though i’ll try my best to be calm. i expect a giant learning experience of children, organized by their ardent moms, at my door, screaming that homeschooling is the best thing since sliced bread. (just let me know in advance so that i bake enough brownies for the kids.)

on the one side, i must show my admiration for those parents who want to take on the monumental task of educating their children to the current state and local education standards. i don’t believe for a second i could undertake such a mission. i don’t believe i possess the patience. i don’t believe i possess the pedagogical skills. and while i am one smart chick with the IQ test scores to prove it, i don’t believe i will be doing my kids a favor when they need to learn higher order math skills (READ: anything beyond algebra) or other topics where i am currently not up to snuff. and no one, and i mean NO ONE, will be dissecting any animals in my kitchen. (that one’s for YOU, hellboy, who’d probably voluntarily do that deed right now at age 4.)

parents who want to homeschool their children apparently have these reasons for homeschooling, according to the national home education research institute:

· teach a particular set of values, beliefs, and worldview,
· accomplish more academically than in schools,
· customize or individualize the curriculum and learning environment for each child,
· use pedagogical approaches other than those typical in institutional schools,
· enhance family relationships between children and parents and among siblings,
· provide guided and reasoned social interactions with youthful peers and adults, and
· provide a safer environment for children and youth, because of physical violence, drugs and alcohol, psychological abuse, and improper and unhealthy sexuality.

i suppose i could understand wanting to pull my kids from the public schools if i lived in a terrible place with terrible schools. i would certainly pull my kids if i thought they were going to get killed during the school day. (of course, then i’d get the hell out of the area, if it took the last cent i had.) but sometimes, when i am at local playgrounds with jools on his home day, i marvel at the women and their tribes of homeschooled children playing at the playground. our school district is one of the finest in the nation, and yet these people, who CHOOSE to live here, pull their kids out of the public school. it’s mystifying.

there’s something very isolationist and elitist about homeschooling, as if parents fear the very tainting of their children through their interaction with other children, the media, or, most horrifyingly, with alternative ideas. it’s as if homeschooling parents are building a giant bubble for their children, and only they know everything in the world that’s best for their kids. parents should make decisions for their children when they’re young, but as they get older, one of the most important skills i think kids need to learn is how to make decisions — smart ones — on their own. i wonder how willing homeschooling parents are to give up control.

and homeschooling is all about control. control of ideas and who delivers them. control over who gets to interact with the children. control of the environment. in short, i think some of these people had some toilet training issues in their past and they are taking them out on their kids.

why would anyone want to be with anyone 24/7? if your mom (or dad!) is your teacher, you, the kid, have no escape. from school. from pressure. from HER. i get to be the bad cop enough when it comes to discipline. i don’t want my kids to see me and think, oh G-d, i didn’t do my homework/my project/my whatever. i’m so busted. kids need a break from school. parents need a break from kids. when home is school and school is home, there is no division.

do the parents make conscious and deliberate attempts to ensure their kids meet other kids from different racial, religious, ethnic, and socioeconomic backgrounds? (i can see it now: let’s meet the JEWISH kids today on our field trip, children! and next week, we go visit the GHETTO!) i suspect not. probably only other kids from their church, kids who share their values and world views, need apply. (oh, except for those days when they do some church-sponsored community project. oh, how weird if your only interaction with other ethnicities is through some service project. then you get to assume that “all of them” are like that. so wrong, so dead wrong.)

what i want to know is what happens when these kids go to college and subsequently enter the real world. i am not impressed by the dearth of research on this topic (and i am a little suspect of the national home education research group, anyway). do the kids have to stay on the narrow, little path their moms and dads have made for them in order to lead a decent life? what happens when they don’t understand any of the cultural references of their peers? are they ostracized? how do they tolerate lines of inquiry that don’t have a ready answer? (do they build an answer with G-d in it instead?) do they expect the world to be a neat and tidy place, just like their home school, with all of the answers provided?

i am the child of a teacher, a niece 0f a teacher, a relative and friend of teachers galore. i’ve been a student of education policy. my bias is obvious here. i believe firmly that there is a certain level of pedagogical training, a certain level of knowledge necessary, to truly lift all boats for all children. i’m not naive enough to think that our public schools are churning out 100% success stories, 100% of the time. please.

but i like to think that my kids are getting taught by people who usually have their best interests at heart. (obviously, not always or else we would have avoided last year’s trauma.) and i intervene when things go seriously awry. that’s my job as a parent — i am my child’s advocate.

and i like to think that what they learn by going to public school — with children who may not be just like them, who may eat different foods and celebrate different days and who may have more money or less money than we have — is how to live in a starter microcosm of our big and diverse world. one lesson at a time. i can’t give them that if i keep them in my cozy, sheltered home. and i need them to learn how to cope with situations, how to become increasingly responsible for their own learning and lives, and to discover that sometimes, life is incredibly ambiguous.

and that’s ok.

i don’t want my children to be dependent on me for decisions and answers. i don’t want them to necessarily be dependent on assuming that G-d has all the answers or even IS the answer. i probably will never be able to teach them much beyond how to treat people and how to bake a mean brownie.

but i damn well know how to guide them to the places and the experiences which will help them grow. and guide them i will. toward being independent, forthright, unsheltered and open-minded citizens of the world.

Jan 7th, 2008 by wrekehavoc

oh, no. don’t go down to doledrum.

yesterday, i was in a foul, foul mood. i was getting a nose and ear infection. while in conversation with BS, i had a random nosebleed, which made me burst into tears (i don’t really have nosebleeds, and the last time i had a big ol’ burster was when my platelets were in the toilet. the proverbial damn broke, and there was nothing to stop the bleeding. it was scary.) my platelets can’t possibly be in the toilet, though, as i got some terrific numbers back last week on them. time for that deep breath…

anyhow, the icing on the cake: i dealt with an hysterical son who didn’t want to go to sunday school and who felt like i wasn’t listening to him even though i told him countless times i was (repeating his words, even), but that the answer was still the same. you try to teach your children to use their words, and they do. but then, there’s lesson #2 — sometimes, you use your words, but it doesn’t mean you will get the desired result.

believe me, i hated hebrew school. hatedhatedHATED it. the best part was running races in the front before class and hiding out in the toilets. which i did. all through third grade. cos the teacher and her long, pointy, chewed-on nails terrified me. but after being bat mitzvah’d, i felt like i had accomplished something. i had learned something. i want that for my kids. i don’t care if the very next day after the bat/bar mitzvah, BC decides to become a hare krishna and jools decides to become a satan worshiper. halleluyah to both of them. but i just want to share a little of their culture with them. after all, you can’t reject it if you ain’t got it in the first place, right?

jools ended up having a wonderful time at hebrew school. he made me a cardboard tree in honor of tu bishvat and planted a little parsley seedling (the dirt kind of shifted upside down on the car ride home, so we’ll see whether there’s any parsley for the seder.) he told me that trees give us air. maybe i need to stand closer to a tree and breathe in, as it drives me insane that this child has the short-term memory of dory from finding nemo. he always has a great time, but then he forgets and carries on for the next time. and i just don’t know how to get him to remember.

ah well. the day improved. i raced with jools and played in the backyard with both kids. BC asked if we could finally make the pinecone feeder treats for the birds, the project i’ve been stalling on. see, normally, i cringe thinking about the mess this project (peanut butter and bird seeds, anyone?) would make. but i thought, aw hell. let the kid take the lead. you’re not doing a very good job with your day, so maybe this will improve things. and it did, with us covered in peanut buttery-seedy goodness. oh well. have sink and broom; will travel.

then, after we hung the pinecones in the tree, i took a deep breath again and let jools out on the street under BC’s watchful gaze. i have a hard time letting the kids out without supervising them. (it’s so different from when i was a kid and i would just leave the house and roam the neighborhood without anyone worrying i would end up in a bad place.) the two were going to see whether anyone wanted to come out and ride scooters on our dead-end street. after ten minutes of angst, i looked outside to see 6 kids, two parents, and a dog. in short, my kids started a little impromptu neighborhood scooter party. which i joined. (BC even was permitted to walk said dog. she shoots, she scores!)

my kids nearly send me down the proverbial rabbit hole sometimes, but they always know how to find me there and pull me out.

i just have to open my mind and let them.

how to be a millionaire
Jan 6th, 2008 by wrekehavoc

BC and i are talking just before bedtime as we always do. usually, she demands that i tell her a story from my life, or a story from someone in my life’s life. i’m full of stories (among other things, an impolite but probably accurate person might say), so after some prompting, i conjure up a tale.

but last night, after imagining what BS and i looked like on our wedding day, it is BC who launches into a mini reverie.

mama, i know what daddy should dress up like for halloween next year!

what, i reply.

daddy should dress up like a millionaire.

intrigued, i pursued. and how, darling, do millionaires dress?

well, daddy could wear a white suit, with a white top hat, and a golden sash around it. his suit would have gold buttons on it.

is that how millionaires dress, honey?

yes, she replied.

do millionaires ever dress like daddy and me? i ask.

no. a very definitive no from our lady of macaroni and cheese.

oh well. there’s no hope for us, i guess.

wait til i tell BS he needs an october costume that’ll make him look like a cross between the monopoly man and a pimp.

jesus of suburbia
Jan 5th, 2008 by wrekehavoc

recently, i TIVO’d jesus camp, an indie movie documentary that lost out in the land of oscars to an inconvenient truth. i thought it would be something BS and i would watch at some point; however, when BC got hold of the TIVO and found it, she asked what it was about (evangelical kids going to evangelical summer camp! wheee!) and whether she could watch it. i told her that the only way she’d watch this was if i watched along with her, and voila! we watched this amazing documentary. (not the mother-daughter experience i was envisioning — little women is also on the TIVO — but no matter.)

hey — you out there — you citizen who reveres the separation of church and state. the charismatic christians in this movie will make you bark at the moon. you first meet some of the children at a children’s christian conference in missouri. one child passes out pamphlets while at a bowling alley (after praying to jesus to help her bowl well. no, i am not making this up.) one child wants to dance to christian heavy metal — she’ll dance not for the flesh, but for jesus. (the subject: go-go boots. the question: what would jesus do?::snerk::) and another child wants to grow up and be a preacher. you see kids crying, speaking in tongues, squirming uncomfortably. i was especially shocked to see parents in there, just standing by, letting their children undergo uncomfortable and upsetting experiences with no guidance and little support. i felt like i was watching parents throwing young christians to the lions.

most of the kids, by the way are — SURPRISE! — homeschooled. G-d forbid they actually have to interact with people who believe in things different from the beliefs touted by their church.

[note to self: the day will come when i will rant a HUGE, SUPERCOLLOSAL RANT about homeschooling. but not today.]

anyway, you end up at camp in ND, at a megachurch in colorado springs (which looks more like a concert venue — with diamondvision), and driving around scenic missouri with the camp organizer, pentacostal minister becky fischer. oh, and lest we forget washington, DC, where the children have tape on their mouths with the word LIFE scrawled across it as they pray outside the supreme court. (they wanted to make sure judge alito replaced sandra day o’connor. which, unfortunately, he did. today, a justice. tomorrow, abortion rights.) for me, the film is punctuated with occasional bouts of sanity from radio host mike papantonio, who even duels with fischer on the air over how children should be learning, not indoctrinated, at young ages.

anyway, i tried reallyreallyreally hard to keep myself quiet and available to BC should she have questions. we ended up talking about abortions, we ended up talking about heaven and hell, we talked about creationism. i carefully pointed out that this is a specific group of christians, that not all christians are like this. i did my duty for Dog and Country. (you’re welcome.)

but girlfriend couldn’t help but be creeped out by it all. mama, she pointed out, these people are terrorizing the kids! they’re making them scared and they’re making them cry! why are they doing that to kids?

because, i replied, it’s kind of like brainwashing. you have to break people down and then build them up again — but this time, with your ideas getting planted in their brains. they want them to not question the ideas but to just believe them. and then, make everyone else believe them, too.

we were both horrified. it’s one thing for parents to teach kids about their religion, to share their core beliefs. i support that 100 percent. it’s another thing to train them to be soldiers for G-d. these kids are not learning about tolerance. i’m not christian, but i always thought jesus was a pretty tolerant kind of guy — he hung with people like mary magdalene, right? i wonder how many of these people would go within ten feet of her now?

and when they started praying for george w bush… and when they started to smash mugs, which represented government, with hammers — well, my bullshit detector went off. i could barely stand this. hello, division of family and youth services? anyone out there? anyone home?

you don’t have to be a grownup to realize just how effing perverse this all is.

give blood
Jan 4th, 2008 by wrekehavoc

one of my oldest friends, wah, has moved back into the area from scenic wisconsin (motto: hey look — another cow!) i am so thrilled beyond belief that she’s in chevy chase (even though i’m not.) today, we were going to try an exercise class together — something called nia, a sort of meditation, stretching, and dancing kind of experience which my friend adores, especially since it relieves some of the agony and pain she has from a condition. i’m all about that earthy-crunchy old fashioned spirituality stuff, so i’ve always wanted to join her. and we were going to go this morning but alas! wah had a flare up and the poor girl was in serious pain. another day. (feel better, wah!)

so back i went to the community center to do my BFL workout. as i walked in, i noticed that there’s a red cross blood drive going on. i looked at the woman at the sign-in table. she looked at me. i continued to look. she continued to look back at me. i finally snapped myself out of it and walked over to the locker room. damn, i thought, one more thing i can no longer do.

see, BS and i used to give blood all the time, so much so that you’d think we were deeply concerned about the vampire community. i gave at my workplace, he gave at his, it was just something we did. something easy that really helped people. i always loved talking to the people i’d meet when i went at work. once, while i worked at ED (motto: education is a state and local policy area, but somehow, here we are!), i ended up giving blood and chatting with Senator Rockefeller’s daughter, Valerie, in the cot beside me.

we gave blood on our anniversary. (i figured we were happy and this was one way to share it with someone who needed a little happy in his life.) the funny thing about giving blood with your spouse is that you pretty much are forced to have a conversation. it’s hard to hold a magazine (though believe me, BS tried), and you can’t exactly walk away while it’s happening, so it’s actually a perversely solid bunch of uninterrupted couple time. and you get to toast each other afterwards with oreos.

i even remember when we had a day off, the day after hurricane katrina. we were going to go to six flags, but OOPS – it was closed. so we figured, what the hell — we’ll donate (cos they’ll probably need more blood thanks to the hurricane) and then go out to lunch. there we were at PF Changs afterwards. the server noticed that we had bandaged arms. he asked us if we had just donated because of katrina. we said yes. he excused himself, then came back a few minutes later. my manager and i would like to thank you for your public spirit by giving you a free appetizer. well, woowee! that’s better than the free cookies and juice the red cross gives out!

but now, i can’t do it anymore.

see, i had a transfusion when my platelets decided to run off to brazil. without that blood, i might not be here, annoying you with my blather. (no one say yay about that. i’m lifting weights now, and i’m strong enough to smack you silly.) and now, i get IVIG infusions for CVID, which are ::drum roll please:: gammaglobulin, a blood product. so no one wants my blood anymore. it bums me out, because this is one of the easiest public service things anyone (over 110 pounds!) can do.

so think about it today. (not you, dee. you’re about to drop two puppies.) and hell, find a blood drive here, at your workplace, or through your local hospital. you’ll be doing a good deed. and maybe your blood won’t be the blood that saves my life, but you can damn well be sure it will save someone else’s. i’ll never know who gave the blood that saved me from total brain bleed-down. but i’ll always be eternally grateful.

and maybe i’ll have to find a new way to contribute… maybe organizing something like this.

breaking the girl
Jan 3rd, 2008 by wrekehavoc

it has happened yet again. BC loves to go over her buddy ella’s house to play. apparently, it is more fun to go there than for them to come here. why? because ella has a dog. they spend a lot of time playing with the dog, which, for animal-loving BC, is heaven on earth.

BC (AKA the girl who would be a vet) has asked for a dog at least one hundred zillion times. unfortunately, the answer is always the same: i’m allergic. i love animals, too; but when i get allergic reactions to pets, i have trouble breathing. when i have trouble breathing, i often end up with an infection. and the rest, as they say, is history. i do fine visiting most pet people’s houses (unless they have massive animal hair covering everything), but i draw the line at living with a shedder. to her credit, BC has pointed out that there are animal breeds that work better for the allergy sufferers of the world. that well may be, but i have enough health issues to warrant my not adding yet another potential source of joy.

so today, i had to tell her for the umpteenth time: no dog. she was getting a little frustrated with me. the feeling was mutual; and finally, blearyteary-eyed, i said to her: do you really think i feel great about not being able to do certain things because of something i can’t control?

don’t you start crying again, mama. i think she was trying to make me laugh. it didn’t work too well. it’s hard to explain to your child why she can’t have a dog; why she needs a flu shot; why all sorts of things just are, simply because your mom is built the way she’s built: goofy in the mind department and not exactly perfect in the health department.


dreaming is free
Jan 2nd, 2008 by wrekehavoc

so today starts the day when i am officially trying to eat better, sleep more, and somehow magically become a more patient, calm human being. maybe not in that order.

on the eating better/exercise front, i have once again started on the body for life bandwagon. i don’t intend to turn into a major bodybuilder, but i know that i want to have muscle. and i also don’t want to end up like some cardio bunny who spends three hours at aerobic activity but who has no muscle tone. (there’s a lady like that at the community center, a pert and perky 90 pound-soaking-wet lady who probably lives in fear when it gets windy out; every day i am there, you can find her walking around the track, walking and walking and walking.)

there are two areas of weights at the community center. one is the area for the regular people, i like to think. it’s loaded more with weight machines, although there’s a row of free weights and one lonely bench. you usually find seniors here, along with most of the women who deign to use weights. in an enclosed glass area, you’ll find the grunt area, loaded with mostly men (like arlington firefighters, for example), many of whom i think i’d be scared of in other circumstances. lots of free weights, barbells, benches, and truly heavy-duty machines where you have to actually load the weights onto the bar.

today, i hung out in the latter. there was one other woman there, a hardcore lifter. the rest were all guys. now you have to ask yourself what these guys are doing here at 10:00 a.m. on a wednesday morning, but that’s a whole other issue for another time, i’m sure. i had my BFL book and was trying to follow the different lifts when i noticed people occasionally looking at me, like i was some sort of dancing dog. it was weird (to say the least), but i persisted. i’m going back there tomorrow, even though i worked my arms so hard today, they already feel like jello. i’ll focus on my legs and abdomen.

sleeping more is a challenge. i never get to bed early — there are always 56,000 things to do before i go to bed. and i always wake up at 6 because that’s when BS’s alarm goes off; and anyway, i have to get jools ready for school at 6:30, latest. maybe i will buy a giant neon sign to hang over my kitchen which goes off, alarm-like, at 9 pm. GO TO BED it will flash. and i won’t be able to ignore it (like the dirty dishes.)

now, the patience and calm part? you got me there. it’s pretty damn hard as a parent to do so, i can tell you. there’s always something to worry about (is my child learning to IM people on the internet? is my child spitting at his teacher? is my child currently visible on a post office wanted poster?). when the kids are alright, there’s always something to worry about regarding the house, especially considering that my masters is not in housekeeping or maintenance. and, if all else fails and there’s nothing wrong with the kids or the house, i can always worry about world affairs. (i’m still reeling over the assassination of benazir bhutto. obviously, i am not happy that pakistan is in an uproar; but the jewish mother in me wonders how bhutto’s children and husband are handling things.  in short, i want to bring them some soup.)

if anyone has bright ideas regarding steps i can take to achieve my own private nirvana, i am all ears. until then, a girl can dream, i suppose. assuming she gets to sleep, that is.

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