Snow vs. School

illecillewaet_-_el_boggoMarylanders are notorious for panicking whenever there’s a forecast of snow. Even the threat of a few inches, creates a run on groceries stores to hoard the White Trinity: bread, milk and toilet paper. But last night, we had what forecasters can honestly call a “weather event.” About two feet, deeper in drifts. And the cable’s out. Plus tomorrow’s Super Bowl Sunday. So even without a dog in the race, Balti-morons are taking gas.

And not just because they might miss The Big Game. But because there’s a good chance that schools will be closed for at least part of next week. Not to mention the possible insult to injury a la another snowfall on Tuesday into Wednesday. But, hey, what me worry? Because although, as home educators, we are legally obligated to document 180 days of “school” over the course of a year, that’s never been an issue because we never stop “schooling.”

Come on; is education something you should simply pull the plug on once you hit that almost-half-a-year benchmark? Recently there’s been national concerns voiced that U.S. students are “falling behind” other nations in the fields of math and science, measured of course by test scores. And, in some circles, this unacceptable fall from being BMOC is blamed on our kids not going to school long enough – both in terms of hours per day and days per year.

Good fucking luck with changing that long-standing academic schedule/teachers’ union contract/families’ Summer Vacation mindset. Never gonna happen. Even now, with most counties on-the-verge-of, if not already out of “snow days,” the MSDE is in a tizzy. School closings cost Marylanders money.

And apparently a fraction of a percentage point in math test scores, too. This just goes to prove that public school kids are being taught-to-test, not being educated in a process. Because if only a few missed days in that 180-day forced march to the SATs is gonna cause a measurable decline in statewide test scores, then students can’t actually be learning for the long haul, just memorizing and retaining facts long enough to regurgitate soon after ingesting.

Kinda like the way wolves gourd themselves on a carcass, then puke it up for their pups back in the den.

WIYM? A Hole-in-One

gball01It was really way too hot for mini-golf. My octogenarian Dad quit at Hole #9. But the rest of us forged on. I had selected this 19-hole outdoor course for its “Windmill” obstacles. I didn’t want the real golf challenge of fake putting greens. I wanted the goofy attempts to get your ball across the stagnant water hazards and through the jury-rigged metal contraptions that, if you hit your ball just right, would carry it down and around and drop it into the cup for a hole in one!

Our game, however, was interrupted when two tiny boys, maybe six years old, came busting onto Hole #15, just as we were sinking our putts. They were at the higher level of the course, rolling their balls into the gutter that wound under an old wooden shed, and then hopping down to our lower level to watch their golf balls come rolling out—right onto our field of play.

“Where is your mother?” I asked, unable to resist. Looking around, I saw no adult with that panicked “lost child” gaze on his/her face, zigzagging across the courses, calling out a child’s name. I did see a few parents mindless talking on their cell phone while their children cheated on their par. But nobody was coming to lay claim to these kids.

“My mother had something else to do today,” replied one of the boys. And with that, the urchins scampered back onto the upper course to repeat their routine. All this time passes, but still no parent surfaces. We play through.

Several holes later, I notice my 30-something son staring back at Hole #15, befuddled. Those kids were still there, still playing; now with an adult male and an even-older woman both trying to talk the boys off the green. No grabbing them by the arms, swatting their butts and dragging them kicking and screaming to the car. Just quiet begging and pleading— without results.

Even worse, it turns out that I’d seen Grandma sitting nearby on the fake rocks (in the real shade) all the while her wards were wrecking havoc on our game. But she never budged. My son was flabbergasted. It’s parenting episodes like this that make for the best birth control.

Chocolate Children

marsbar2Even this fat, lazy, diabetic isolationist was willing take a shower, strap on a bra and walk across the street for a Chocoholic program at the library tonight. Of course, I used Morgan as my beard. So I couldn’t understand why several of the street urchins from our apartment complex would show up sniffing around the meeting room door w/o their mothers. Come on, put down your crack pipe for some free chocolate!

As we were getting seated for the Power Point presentation (making us wait for dessert), a librarian was shooing away Christian and a few of his elementary-aged friends. It was already 6:30 at night. In February, that means it’s been dark for over an hour. Do their mothers look out the window? Do they know their kids are at the library? Do they care? You gotta wonder. These are young children who parents can’t legally leave them home alone. But somehow it’s okay to inflict them on strangers out in the world alone.

I guess the nice library lady felt bad enough (and there was enough chocolate) to allow the three kiddos to come in for the sampling part of the program. Not fair! But in they burst. Grabbing their paper plates like Dickens orphans and squirming to the head of the line. The two librarians had the foresight to cut and serve their portions of pudding, brownies, cookies, candy, cake and ice cream. Least there be childish gluttony, followed by adult anarchy. We are chocoholics, mind you.

The sugar babies were still licking their plates when we left at 8 o’clock. The library closes at 9. And it’s a school night. Even for nocturnal homeschoolers, that’s too late for any nine-year-old to be runnin’ the streets with a chocolate buzz.

Stealing Friends

handcuffsNo, this isn’t about some catty girl gang’s inter-personal dynamics; it’s about kids who steal from their friends. More specifically, it’s about two incidents when boys who were welcomed into our home, given food and drink, played in Morgan’s room, show their appreciation by pocketing one or two of his video games and walking out the door. Smiling faces sometime…

The first theft occurred several years ago, when Roberto (remember sister Valerie?) made off with two PS2 disks. It had struck me odd that R had come over that afternoon with his games in a small zippered carrying case. He’d never brought more than one disk in its original plastic box. Within hours after he left, Morgan wanted to play GTA San Andreas and couldn’t find it.

And it snowballed from there. You know how it goes with a kid. He can’t find something. You tell him to look a little harder and maybe blow it off when the object of his desire still doesn’t turn up. But eventually the kid asks for help. And maybe you’re a little smug, figuring you’ll just walk in there and pull the rabbit outta the hat the way Moms are prone to do. But you can’t find it either and now it’s a quest.

We tore that little room apart. And as shamelessly messy as Morgan keeps it, he knows his game inventory. And two were gone. Period. We went over and over the events of the day. Roberto had the means, motive and opportunity. A circumstantial case, yes. But come on: They play the games. Roberto leaves. The games are gone. Go figure.

This is when Morgan’s Dad took over. He’s used to conflict. I get so mad, I’m afraid I’ll cry or kill somebody. Bill tries talking with Roberto (who is several years older than M) but it’s deny, deny, deny. He calls R’s mother, explains the situation, minimizes and says we understand how shit like this can happen. (Not really.) But no yelling, no threats. But, again, denial. His mom makes excuses for her son. Although she’s never adamant about his innocence, she doesn’t offer to cough up the 80-replacement-bucks either. We just dropped it and the friendship faded.

Earlier this week, same thing. Substitute Mitch (who claims to be a homeschooler), a winter coat, one Xbox 360 game, Jackass, Mitch’s father, 50-bucks. Except this time there was a reluctant witness to the theft. Even with Austin’s confirmation, nada. The Dad wouldn’t even wake up his son when Billy went knocking on their apt. door. Man.

The saddest thing? Once I was satisfied that the games really were MIA, there was never a moment when I didn’t think it was within the character of either of those Lost Boys to steal from Morgan. Yet I was willing to let Morgan befriend them and bring them into our home?

Who’s really at fault here?

Ways to Ask “What?”

DSCN7286“What are you doing?” is a question I’ve heard a ga-zillion times in my life. And since beginning to homeschool we do so many off-the-wall things, I hear it even more. But I gotta tell you; inflection is everything when it comes to the REAL meaning behind that word “What?”

When Morgan says it, his tone has that quick cadence of curiosity. He realizes that even though he doesn’t quite get what it is exactly that I’m “doing,” whatever it is, he’s interested. Because his next question usually is “Can I help?”

When his friend Austin says it, his tone has that nervous blurt of befuddlement. He can see I’m doing something probably not even allowed in his house, leaving him clueless and concerned. Because his next question usually is “Is that safe?”

Now Roberto, Valerie’s older brother (you remember Nails on the Chalkboard Valerie, right?), he’s another story. When Roberto asks, “What are you doing?” his tone inserts a silent “the fuck” right there between “What” and “are.” Doesn’t matter if it’s one of his latchkey lackeys, his own mother or me. You better be ready to justify your existence.