Educating the Educator

libertyOne of the perks of homeschooling, besides sleeping in, is that my son isn’t the only person getting an education. Oh sure, my mind is already seeping with Final Jeopardy Question answers, film noir trivia and the names of all my fourth grade classmates. But don’t ask me the rule for doubling the final consonant when adding a suffix, the formula for calculating the area of a trapezoid or what the amygdala does in my brain.

But I (re)learned all that information during this, our sophomore year of high school. Granted, I emphasize the importance of knowing how to find the answer vs. memorizing massive amounts of info. (That’s why Al Gore invented the Internet, right?) But there is something invigorating/challenging about actually reading a fact/formula and using it to concoct/calculate an answer. It’s the little things, darling…

My most recent “Did You Know?” moment came last week when we were interpreting the Declaration of Independence. Most of us (let’s hope) remember the incongruity of its catch phrase, “all men are created equal.” But did you know that in Jefferson’s first draft the white guys’ certain unalienable rights were “life, liberty, and PROPERTY?”

That’s a slave plantation owner from Charlottesville for you. So the aristocratic signers of the Declaration decided to throw a bone to the cities’ poor and westward bound frontiersmen by replacing tangible “property” with the elusive “pursuit of happiness.”

Of course, a line like that prompts my mind to call up Johnny Carson’s late night sign-off, “May the bluebird of happiness fly up your nose…” But that’s a baby-boomer from Baltimore for you.

Hey! Old Lady…

Birthday Cake - candles lit crop…Was written on the envelope of my birthday card, signed from “Your Old Man.” The guy’s known me since he was 15. I’m two years older. Today I’m 54. And we’re still friends. But that’s a story for another day.

Point is, this “getting old” thing. It’s a fascinating process and a bad joke all rolled up in one.

Yeah, sure, we all know we’re gonna die. One day. When that day is, where we go and what we do from that point on has yet TBD. But, I kid you not, it’s coming. I know because I’ve gotten plenty of phone calls telling me someone has died. (Please Note: Do not inform people that I’ve passed. Tell’em I’m dead and hang up.)

Besides soothing sick dogs as they got the Big Needle or watching newborn kittens die in the palm of my hand, I’ve never witnessed the moment of Death. So, today, even if the finality of my own last breath is still beyond my emotional reach, don’t worry, I certainly get the “getting old” part.

More chin hair. Less head hair. The first sagging fold line around my neck like a choker. My body has gone to seed. My breeding cycle is over. My job here is done. I can die now. Most days you may feel like your life is going in circles. But, darling, it’s linear and finite. That’s the Bad Joke part.

But, from the Fascinating Process (i.e.: Poke It with a Stick) side of my brain, these slight but progressive physical changes are just further confirmation that there is no god, just nature. And I say that with the most non-deity, asexual, purely scientific terminology I can muster. We are, for the moment, merely the apexes of the biped, carbon-based life forms on this tiny blue planet. Because, come on, look up at all those stars! Odds are we’re not the only game in town.

Besides, I’m not even sure that humans are the highest form of intelligent life on Earth. I mean, at my age, would a blue whale be worried about how she looked in a skirted bathing suit?

Can We Make Do with Monopoly?

monopoly_dice cropNow that the rest of America is living hand-to-mouth like my family, I’ve noticed a huge change in the mindset endorsed in advertising. Before our nation’s official recession, it was all about what we “deserved,” regardless of whether we “earned” it. Like a way-too-big house, a gas-guzzling V8 or that Fantasy Island dream vacation.

Now you see an insurance company cajoling you into believing that playing a board game around your dining room table or watching a snowy TV screen in the garage is the new Disney World adventure. A paper towel’s absorbency is exalted when a couple, in their messy attempt to get their family budget under control, save their Starbucks’ bucks by making their own cappuccino and playfully spray the milky foam all over their countertop. And I can’t remember the last time I saw a Hummer commercial—it’s all about hybrids.

Yeah, yeah. It just warms the cockles of my heart (if I had one…) but what I wanna know is—has America had a mass epiphany about family values, or are we just trying to talk ourselves into being happy about accepting less? It’s like asking for a Louis Vitton handbag and getting an L.L. Bean backpack. The knapsack will work just fine, but it’s not what you had in mind. Oh well. Welcome to my world.

Personally, I think some of this 180-advertising is Corporate America’s way of keeping the masses under control. Fearful that consumers will rise up and scream out “Hey—what happened to all our money?” we are being placated into believing that it’s okay to be broke. Granted, a lot of individuals’ fall from grace has something to do with their personal greed. But some of problem is bigger than even that.

According to the National Debt Clock, at this moment, our Outstanding Public Debt is $11,808,207,536,564.75. Let me check my pockets, I think I’ve got the 75-cents.

You’ve Gotta Like Your Kids to Educate Them

school buses cropEarlier in the week, another homeschooling Mom posted a link to a blog about education needing to be “turned on its head.” The writer suggested some unschooling/child-directed learning techniques, most starting with phrases like “We need to…” or “We can…” or “We should…”

Now, that sounds all very well and good. Unfortunately, the “We” to whom the blogger referred was the Parent. And I gotta tell you; I don’t think alotta parents really like their kids enough to make that type of commitment.

These past few weeks, I’ve been suffering through local news coverage of kids going back to school. Local reporters loom outside of the schools as parents’ vehicles roll up, then they ask the occupants how it feels on the first day of school.

Granted, you’d expect the kids to be moaning. And in all fairness, a few girls did said they were excited to be heading back, but didn’t say why. Given the way those teens were dressed, that anticipation appeared social, not academic.

But most of the parents were absolutely giddy about shipping off their kids for 8-10 hours/day. Then the newscasters would laugh and play up that whole “I’m soooo glad they’re going back,” angle. Moms did not mince words, making it very clear that these young relatives had long over-stayed their welcome.

So how can “We” turn education on its head when most parents don’t even wanna spend Summer Vacation with their kids? I thought a vacation is suppose to be fun. Shit –if you threw anything academic into the mix, parents would probably petition to lengthen the school year.

Don’t adults consider how children are affected when hearing their parents shamelessly admit that their own kids are driving them crazy and they cannot wait for them to go back to school? And then laugh about it.

Momma in a Jar

jarI keep my mother’s ashes in a small red ceramic jar on my bedroom bookcase. Sometimes I shake it, asking “Momma? Momma, are you in there?”

Funny, I think more about my mother now than when she was alive. I mean, I always remembered her birthday, anniversary and Mother’s Day. I saw her several times a month, called her more, though not as much as she’d like. So it wasn’t as if I didn’t think of her in those obligatory ways adult children do. But recently I find myself contemplating her feelings and how they relate to my own.

When I was in my 30’s, I began to sound like my mother. Any 30-something, especially if you have kids, is shocked the first time a statement spills out of your mouth that you can only attribute to your parent. One of those “I don’t care what the other kids are doing,” flashbacks that stings with the memory of swearing you’d never say that to your kid. Yet there you go. Never say never.

When I was in my 40’s, I began to look like my mother. Truth is, I’ve always looked like my Mom, especially in photos as teens with the same shoulder-length, wavy hair. But I don’t remember her hair ever being that long. But I do remember her as she worked her way through her 40’s into menopause madness. Oh, yes, I’m a Walsh woman, all right.

When I hit my 50’s, I began to feel like my mother. And this is an aspect of relating to Alice that I never considered. Granted, I know we share alotta OCD traits. But now when I find myself wishing for a little more than I’m ever gonna get—be it a gift, time, or praise—I realize my mother must have felt that same twinge. That “It’s downhill from here,” despair that any crone in her right mind will acknowledge.

It’s sad. Because you don’t know how you’re gonna feel until you get here. And by the time I got here, Momma was gone.