No Good Deed Part Deux

wooden boy readingSo I’m volunteering again on the last day of the library Book Sale. Same deal: a dollar a bag, get a second bag free. This time, pickings were really down to the dregs: Nora Roberts paperback romances and movies on VHS.

In walks a Mom – late 20-something with a row of ear piercings and her generation’s version of a Metacilla black t-shirt. With her is a six-year-old child with hair as short and face as round as Tatum O’Neal in Paper Moon. Plus two post earrings. Boy? Girl? You tell me…

Almost immediately, the child is itchy to leave. What starts as alotta “What’s this?” questions, soon turns to “When are we going?” By the voice, I’m thinking a boy. (Later, when I bait him with a Barbie DVD, he balks.) “Soon,” is the mom’s innocuous reply.

Even when she pawns off the best of the worse remaining children’s picture books on her kid, she keeps wandering the aisles. Frustrated, she takes her child by the arm, pushes him up onto an office chair, tells him to “look at your book,” and continues her browsing. I can bear it no longer. I take a pregnant pause and a deep breath and ask the child, who has now been identified as Ripley, if he would like for me to read his book to him.

Turns out the book is entitled Finding the Titanic published in 1993. I tell Ripley about how the ship was considered “unsinkable,” but on its first trip, “Guess what happened? IT SUNK!” The kid looks amazed. I equate the unseen iceberg to ice cubes in his soda glass. He insists he sees a skull in some of the black-and-white photos of the wreckage.

I’m figuring when I finish reading to Ripley, his mother will take the hint and finish her shopping. But no such luck. What in God’s Green Earth could be taking her soooo long? So I get her six-year-old to help me pack up paperbacks. But by about the fourth cardboard box, we both had had it. He went back to bugging his mother and I didn’t try to stop him. Finally, after a few sincere “Thanks,” they give me a dollar and go.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I can ignore my kid with the best of them. But for an hour-and-a-half, all that poor little boy wanted was his mother to pay attention to him. And all that meant was stopping what you’re doing, looking your kid in the eyes and fuckin’ listening to what he has to say. Several times, Ripley had asked his mom when was he gonna learn to read. Given his mother’s pat answer “Soon”, let’s hope he’s NOT homeschooled.

Public School as Baby-Sitter


Surprisingly enough, this is not a rant about children being bused off to public schools every day. This is a rant about a homeschooling mom who’s using her local public elementary school as a baby-sitter for her six-year-old, twice a week.

The woman posted that announcement, without apology or embarrassment, merely ISO info about “the laws reagarding education in the state of MAryland.” (Is it just me or is there something about a home educator who doesn’t use Spell Check…)

And apparently, on whatever planet she had been living, this part-time public school option had been her modus operandi, as she explains: “If there is an activity going on like before when I homeschooled her she just went without a problem.” [Turns out there is a “dual enrollment” option in Virginia. But I thought that was for high schoolers to attend college, not for six-year-olds to stay home.]

Now, I’ve got to cling to the belief that out there among the almost-400 other members of this homeschool group reading her post, most of them were screaming at their computer screens, too. I admit I can be impatient and intolerant with any parenting more irresponsible than my own. But I have NEVER in my ten-plus years of home educating heard of any homeschooler who in her wildest fucking dreams thought that she could send her kid to public school whenever she needed a babysitter.

A few people did respond, rather graciously, including the Moderator of the group who explained that sorry, no-can-do-dual in Maryland. But did suggest searching for a babysitter instead, especially after the mother had asked if, in terms of public school attendance: “IS there a minimum numbers of days? OR does she have to go regardless every day the school is open. I am so confused.”

Darling, you’re confused?

Soon after that thread ended, the woman posted again. This time, she was ISO a babysitter for the aforementioned six-year-old AND a two-year-old. So now I’m confused. What’s she doing with her toddler while her older child is in public school?

Where Did the Dinosaurs Sit?

dinosaur toys cropThe recent unveiling of the 4.4 million year old hominid fossils, “Ardi,” reminded me of the first time I heard a Creationist homeschooler make a comment about “that evolution thing.” In my 50+ years, I’ve met many people of many faiths, beliefs, crazy notions or no notion at all. But it wasn’t until that afternoon in the gym’s waiting area, where parents chit-chatted and breast-fed, that I encountered a scientific (not religious) concept so far afield from my own.

I guess Morgan was nine or 10. About a half-dozen moms were waiting for the Homeschoolers’ Gymnastic class to finish. A conversation had started about field trips, specifically Nature Centers. I can’t remember the location, but one woman commented that her family had really enjoyed its woodland walk. And she was especially thankful that the naturalist hadn’t gotten into “that evolution thing.” It was the friendly, nodding responses that caused me to excuse myself to hide in a stall in the Ladies’ Room to talk myself down.

I know alotta Christians who believe in evolution. Granted, they might not be able to explain how Darwinism actually meshes with the Holy Bible’s version. But when I went to Methodist Sunday School, I don’t remember any mention of dinosaurs being on Noah’s Ark. “You’re gonna need a bigger boat.”

Not a problem for Young Earth Creationists who totally buy into the literal interpretation of Creation by God’s clock. Meaning T. Rex, Adam, Eve and all their kin appeared on that sixth day, about 6,000 years ago, in happy coexistence. Which, to me, sounds ludicrous, given what science has shown. But that’s the thing – some of us have faith in Genesis, others in carbon dating.

The great irony is, you know, if I were a Christian, I’d be a Creationist. I’m so black-and-white, if I’m gonna believe, I’d have to swallow it all—hook, line and sinker. “Because the Bible tells me so.” This, of course, is why I’m not a Christian.

No Good Deed Goes Unpunished

42-16022395So I’m volunteering on the last day of the library Book Sale. A dollar a bag, get a second bag free. That kinda Bargain Basement price brings out the frugal, the geeks, the hoarders and me.

In walks a Mom, a little girl, a tween boy, and the oldest child – a taller-than-me, lanky, kinda jumpy teen boy. I can tell by the intensity of the teen’s circling, he’s looking for something. So I ask. He wants some fiction “like The Hardy Boys.”

A few years ago, Morgan read some of the NEW Hardy Boys series and enjoyed them enough that he/we created a board game patterned after Clue but based on Frank and Joe’s adventures. I apologized, knowing there were no Hardy Boys left. But I tell him the series is available for checkout back in the library. He smiles, thanks me and wanders over to the audio table.

Now I can hear the brothers talking as they flip through the CD and DVDs. The teen says, “I’m not allowed to listen to The Beastie Boys.” (Remember You Gotta Fight for Your Right to Party! circa 1986?) Ooops. If this kid’s not allowed to listen to old punk rock, maybe the NEW Hardy Boys recommendation needed to be rescinded. You see, these guys are not your mother’s Hardy Boys. More violence, more murder, and even worse, the whole girlfriend/boyfriend thing.

So at checkout, I mention those aspects of the books to the kid’s mother, since given her son’s listening limitations, she’d want a heads-up. I would. Truth is, however, if I’d really looked at the woman BEFORE opening my big mouth, I woulda just taken their dollar, thanked them and let the Hardy Boys books fall where they may. Come on, it’s the Hardy, not the Mitchell, brothers.

The mom, with all her plain, sweet, 30-something smallness, also had those watery eyes and peaceful half-smile of polygamists, Hare Krishnas and Stepford wives. She sincerely appreciated my caveat. I felt better. Unfortunately, it initiated her witnessing to being born-again and she was gonna tell me all about it– no matter what I said– including the fact that I was not. That just spurred her on. Luckily her children pried her, still trying to save me, out the door. Thank you, Jesus!

Okay, Maybe Not Murder

geometry toolsNot every homeschooling mom fantasizes about murder. But every single one has plotted her Great Escape, one way or the other.

That Wednesday night, sitting at the table with my teen, waiting—watching—waiting for him to compound that fucking interest, I was coming out of my skin. If you’ve never helped with homework: Imagine a friend telling a story that’s taking waaay too long and at some point, you just wanna scream, “Get to the fucking point!” (But you don’t. )

As the primary home educator in our house, it’s all on me, Baby. Whatever my son has/hasn’t academically learned over the past nine years has been my doing. Even if it’s just been taking him to a docent-led museum tour, another parent-led co-op or sending him and his father off to some homeschool game day so I can dance naked in the living room, I spearhead the projects. Most of the time, however, it’s been him and me doing time at a table.

Yeah, yeah, yeah – all that kids’ self-directed learning crap. It is absolutely true. Kids DO explore and learn about what interests them. But I doubt if Morgan is ever gonna ask to learn Geometry. But that’s what I’m gonna teach him this coming school year. Or I should say, “that’s what we’re gonna learn together.” (Come on, how much Geometry to YOU remember?)

So get real. There are moments when we who homeschool have our doubts. Not so much about our child’s ability, but about our own.

Eight years ago, sitting at the table with my six-year-old, waiting—watching—waiting for him to sound out the consonant blend “CH”, I was coming out of my skin then, too. So does that mean I shouldn’t be home educating my kid? No, if anything, questioning my abilities/motives/sanity has made me a better teacher. But I’m still keepin’ that rock on the table.