Thursday, October 07, 2010

The Grind

First, some Chubble-ness; she'll happily plunk away at the keyboard for at least half an hour, which is a LONG time for a five month old to stay occupied with anything.

We're back into fall. The "school year," which can be a confusing designation for an unschooling family. So, to clarify, we're not exactly sitting at home playing video games once the rest of the underage world gives up on summer and starts spending ungodly amounts of time in their desks; we basically attempt (largely in vain, due to the shortening days and the crap...ening (? how do you make THOSE verbs agree?) weather) to continue the hustle-and-bustle high activity level of summer. This year we are, however, also spending an ungodly amount of time at the YMCA. Our YMCA fills classes by lottery, and we had the ill fortune to have our classes spread out in a really inconvenient way that basically necessitates that we stay put, in the area if not actually in the building, for over 5 hours two days a week, with a bonus swim lesson late in the afternoon on another two days.

This means two days of the week get "eaten" by the Y, another by piano lessons/lunch with Nana, and another at art club. By the time the weekend rolls around, we're just as ready for a break as anyone else.

We try to cram family things in on days when Fran is off, which unhelpfully coincide with Y and piano days. This Monday, we shoved pumpkin-carving in before and after the Y:

And I shoved pumpkin-cheesecake making in after a full day out for doctor appointments and playdates and that bonus late-afternoon swim lesson, yesterday.

It seems like despite the lack of nameable things to fill our time (we can't say "the kids are at school from 8 to 3"), we are always struggling to accomplish all those little day-to-day things that we set our sights on; not just the notable achievements like baking cheesecake (that was a nice use of the unwieldy hour between getting home from the store and needing to get ready for bed last night), but the everyday miscellanea like laundry folding and living-room-vacuuming.

This all makes me wonder - because we are pretty happy with the pace of our lives right now, if not with the entirety of the details therein - how many families are living in "survival mode." You know, that just-get-through-the-day glazed-over attitude that so many parents of young (and young-ish) children exhibit.

There would be a certain ease, I'm sure, to sticking the kids in school. I certainly wouldn't have to spend car rides attempting to sneak in math drills without making them SEEM like math drills anymore. I've seen the wholesale abdication of personal responsibility with reference to schooling/education that happens when parents assume their children will go (of course) to the neighborhood school. It's never disputed, then, whether the parent is doing well enough to make sure their child is educated; the onus shifts, the new variation on parental responsibility becomes a kind of habitual nagging of ones' children to finish everything someone else thought they should be doing, while involving oneself as little as possible in the actual details. Most families never even consider doing schooling - really, childhood - another way and thus never face up to the fact that there are options at all, that accepting a public schooling route is actually a choice in and of itself (regardless of whether that family has looked at alternatives, the fact that they are existent means that there was a choice made). It's an interesting paradox; I had to think long and hard about my choice before I decided to homeschool while the parents who send kids to public school often do so with little thought, and yet which of us is questioned - by perfect strangers, even - as if our decision were a mere flight of fancy? And yet, my choice to opt out of that particular childhood institution is viewed with a level of skepticism that is usually only allayed by my childrens' high standardized test scores (I am convinced that they'd have to be drawing pictures with the bubbles to fall below the median, but that's besides the point at the moment), while it seems that the decision to send a child to public school is rarely if ever questioned.

While I have painted a less than rosy picture of parenting a public schooled child, I have to say that I'm not opposed to public schooling at ALL; what I'm trying to point out is that there's an assumed and widely sanctioned absence of attention to education (and I'm not talking, here, about the homeroom-parent type of "paying attention" - I'm talking about knowing the scope and sequence of what your children are learning and why they are learning it) on the part of public-school parents, while those of us who are conscientiously making a choice and taking the minutiae of what makes children well-learned into our own hands are assumed to be the ones who just might not be paying close enough attention. The constant question of whether we're "good enough" is enough to drive a smart and well educated mom and dad of smart and education-in-progress kids a little zany. We ask that question of ourselves every day. We don't need anyone else to be asking it of us, thanks.

I feel the need now to state that I'm not talking about friends with whom I chat constantly about how we're schooling (or not) and what our progress is or what our plans are. Nor am I talking about the kind of curious and well meaning questions we sometimes get, particularly from family, when people are just not familiar with the whole process.

I've wandered far in the writing of this blog. I don't do well writing about issues, I have trouble compartmentalizing and avoiding "and you know what else?" kinds of statements.

The original purpose of this entry was, I suppose, to state quite simply that our days are full, our lives are relatively happy, the kids are learning and growing, and we're getting our fun in there too.

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