those who can’t teach

14 Sep

Welcome to the September Carnival of Natural Parenting: We’re all home schoolers

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month our participants have shared how their children learn at home as a natural part of their day. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.

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If we lived in another part of the country, one of my friends recently pointed out, we’d be vying for a spot in a choice preschool right now. In fact, for certain preschools, we’d have already been accepted or denied based on an assessment of our at-home routines, plans for the future both near and distant and “philosophies.” The thought of putting on my best button-up blouse and smug half smile to sit opposite some douche in an Aeron chair and justify my parenting style in order to be granted the opportunity to write a check for thousands of dollars – ugh. It makes me shudder so hard you might mistake my disgust for a sort of rhythmless shimmy.

Luckily, we don’t live in New York or LA or any other place so cutthroat as to pit infants against each other. There’s an abundance of small preschools, co-op schools, Montessori and Waldorf schools and preschools of the arts in Bellingham, and many of them are steps from our front door. On our walks, George and I like to stop at the schools’ fences to watch kids play for a few moments before we move on to chase a neighborhood cat or admire someone’s garden. It’s undeniable that George likes people, likes to engage socially a lot more than I do and I can’t see this changing before it’s time to start thinking about school. And yet.

My main criticism of homeschooling involves humility. It takes someone with a high opinion of her (or him)self to homeschool. You have to be so confident in your ability to provide all the knowledge your child needs that you forsake other in-person input. Of course, there’s reference. There’s the library and the internet and “field trips.” But you, as a parent, are the keystone…and all the other stones, and like 3/5 of the gargoyles on top of the building. Your bias becomes theirs, for better or worse, by design or otherwise. And knowing all this, feeling the way I do… I would still consider homeschooling George for the first couple of years at least.

See, Bellingham is a liberal town for sure. Everyone recycles. Everyone rides their bike and shops at the co-op and wants or has chickens and loves composting with a passion they used to reserve for Death Cab circa ’06 or Obama, for those two months in 2008 when they cared about politics. But! These are tricksy hippies who fool you with their homebrew and yearly contribution to Planned Parenthood; they are just yuppies in disguise. Yuppies who don’t love Emma Goldman. Who don’t daydream about Summerhill. Who don’t appear on the no-fly list for their involvement with the ALF (um… I mean… not that I know anyone who fits that description).
There’s an odd sort of dichotomy at play with these folks and their kids. They advocate for educational freedom, as long as that freedom includes really extensive knowledge of OPEC. They support the arts, but “the arts” are kind of bad acrylic paintings they purchased to justify the “buy art not cocaine” sticker on their Subaru. They call their Subaru a suby. CUTE! There’s no place that I’ve heard of or seen, yet, in town, that offers real democratic schooling or even some version of AS Neill’s model but is also academically rigorous. Why does educational freedom have to equal linen pants and lessons in blackberry picking, you guys?!

This, for me, is the crux of the issue. I want my son to enjoy learning, but I want him to learn valuable lessons. I want his inherent curiosity to remain intact but I don’t believe his every fascination should be thoroughly indulged at the expense of other knowledge. I want him to be happy, confident and well-adjusted but I also want him to be smart, with marketable skills that will enable him to earn a living. Am I thinking too far ahead? Maybe, but I’m operating under the assumption that good habits start early. This is why we haven’t signed up for infant classes at the community college (yet — report from friend pending), why we may not be sending our child to school. Why I’d rather we listen to dynamic and honest music than kidsbop, watch documentaries and Stan Brakhage films than wow wow wubbzy. Why I don’t speak to my son like he’s a half-deaf dog. Because, despite (and because of) my acknowledgement that homeschooling is equatable with a superiority complex, I think I am pretty damned well equipped to teach my son to learn on his own. If that just makes me a different kind of douche, well, you heard it here first.

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Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

(This list will be updated September 14 with all the carnival links.)

22 Responses to “those who can’t teach”

  1. Seonaid September 14, 2010 at 12:29 pm #

    I’m laughing so hard that it is hard to type. I usually categorize your fake hippies as Yuppie Granolas. And of course I have a lot more to say, but I’ve spent the day blogging, and I’d better go and spend some of the evening parenting. :)

    • veryveryfine September 14, 2010 at 3:13 pm #

      yuppie granolas is a great term. i’m still looking for a suitably awesome portmanteau for this phenomenon, but if i can’t find one i may have to adopt your term of, err…endearment. :)

      • Seonaid September 15, 2010 at 7:12 am #

        Adopt away. Alternatively, there is the term “BoBo” for Bohemian Bourgeois, which came from a book called BoBos in Paradise. I haven’t read it, but my cousin offered it as an alternative. :)

        I still prefer Yuppie Granola, though.

  2. Kristin September 14, 2010 at 2:12 pm #

    Ha ha, yes, those fake hippies also populate Seattle as well! And I may in fact be guilty of some of those characteristics myself (gulp), though hopefully not on the education front!

    I’ve heard of Summerhill, but had never read anything about it — wow, that looks amazing!

    I definitely share your concerns about being THE ONE person teaching my children — I like the idea of my kids getting their information/knowledge from a variety of people. Me included (heavily so) but not to the exclusion of others, who may have different knowledge sets, teaching styles, personalities and experiences that may be effective and meaningful to my kids in different stages in their journey.

    • veryveryfine September 14, 2010 at 3:15 pm #

      well, if the newly-acquired chicken coop that’s sitting in my backyard is any indicator, i can’t really cast stones. also, the seattle ones are probably the bellingham ones of a couple years ago…on their way to portland, ha ha.

      • Amy September 14, 2010 at 5:09 pm #

        Hilarious! You Bellingham and Seattle crunchies can come visit me in Portland anytime. =)

        I loved this post–so honest. Thank you.

  3. jen September 14, 2010 at 2:57 pm #

    “those 2 months in 2008 when they cared about politics.” Awesome. (I miss Bellingham already.)

  4. Jenny September 14, 2010 at 3:43 pm #

    “You have to be so confident in your ability to provide all the knowledge your child needs that you forsake other in-person input.”
    This IS the main reason I don’t want to homeschool. I went to school for 22 years of my life (preschool, gradeschool, highschool, college, lawschool and masters) and LOVED school. Currently, my daughter is in preschool in the mornings and she looks forward to going to school every night. Locally, there are curriculums that homeschoolers follow but how do you know that you’re not missing out on something being taught in the regular school?

  5. Kristin September 15, 2010 at 7:31 pm #

    As the parent of a HSed child, I don’t really relate to your comment about being The One who teaches my child everything. In fact I see myself more as a facilitator than a teacher. I do remarkably little teaching, beyond that of what every parent does, regardless of the education modality they employ. My role is to link my child in with community resources and learning opportunities and to support his independent learning.

  6. Michelle @ The Parent Vortex September 15, 2010 at 8:53 pm #

    ha! So true. I think you do need a fair amount of confidence in yourself to homeschool, but not because you need to be the font of all knowledge for your child. (I don’t think public school teachers are fonts of all knowledge either, nor do they need to be). Homeschooling takes confidence mostly because bucking the normal and taking responsibility for your family’s education is a scary thing to do.

    I definitely want my girls to have lots of other knowledgeable adult role models in their lives, and lots of other friends their own age too. The good thing about homeschooling is that as a parent you have more control over who those role models are. The downside is that arranging for those relationships to happen takes more work.

  7. Lauren @ Hobo Mama September 16, 2010 at 2:53 am #

    You write so very well. What a joy to read your post!

    I think maybe every teacher has to have a superiority complex, yes? I remember being astonished, sometime in high school, to realize that all my teachers did not, in fact, know everything. That a few of them were — gasp! — a little dumb. It struck me even more when I grew older than most beginning teachers (sigh). But, yeah, I don’t think of myself as the person who should be listened to above all else. That would scare the pants off me when there’s so very little I know.

    It’s a hard balance to find. The restrictions of homeschooling vs. the restrictions of formal schooling.

    And we live in Seattle, and are probably also part of the fake hippy movement. Another sigh there. :) And I used to eschew kids’ music and TV shows, but dang it if that’s not all my three-year-old likes now. Ah, well, I guess I have to let him have a say.

    • veryveryfine September 21, 2010 at 12:57 pm #

      Lauren, thank you! I dearly love your blog so that means a lot. I’m sitting pretty over here, planning to watch nouvelle vague films with a 9 month old. Check me in a couple of years and I’ll likely be singing a different tune. One that goes, “who lives in a pineapple under the sea…”

  8. Dee October 27, 2010 at 10:31 pm #

    I grew up in the heart of Yuppie Granolasville in Brooklyn so I know the type. I did have some childhood friends/neighbors that were unschooled though. Anyway, with my two whole weeks of experience (heh), I hadn’t considered homeschooling egotistic. I spend a small chunk of each day freaking out that I’m going to mess this up and screw my children up for life in some irrevocable way! But that’s bound to happen anyway, right? Right?

    • veryveryfine October 30, 2010 at 7:43 pm #

      i think your worry that it will go wrong is the fail safe. it’s the people that think they’re unequivocally right in un/homeschooling that freak me out. or worse, the people that think god will provide the education and they just gotta sit back and soak it up. i chatted with a woman once who said, “if god wanted my kids to learn math, he’d have included it in the bible.” it was no surprise to me that her children didn’t understand the concept of a (buffet) line and how to stand in one, wait your turn and serve yourself some food.

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