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.

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?

TV vs. Peer Pressure

hyperlux_2005_10_18_-_03Twenty years ago, when my older son, Dallas, was his half-brother’s age, it was all about brands: Nike, Powell & Peralta, Tony Hawk. And back then; working in the film biz, I could bankroll that mindset. I wouldn’t see him for weeks at a time, but when I did, I could buy his love.

Dallas was a solid public school student, star catcher on the baseball team, had alotta friends (some with whom he still keeps in touch). Happy, kind and well balanced. Now in his thirties, he’s living that urbanite hipster life-style I could never afford. And for him, brands still matter.

On the other hand, Morgan, my homeschooled rag-a-muffin, is clueless when it comes to what’s hip in clothes, footwear and gear. And that got me thinking about what’s the biggest influence on a child to adopt those values. I’ve concluded it’s not that Old Devil Television, it’s Peer Pressure. Here’s why:

M probably watches more TV than most kids. He’s bombarded with the same commercials on Nick and G4 and MTV as public school kids. But he’s just not interested. I’ve even pointed out ads for shoes or jeans and asked if he likes and would want to buy them. “No, thanks.”

Jez, I can barely get M to wear more than boxers at home. His socks, if he puts on any, only match through the laws of probability. When we shop for shoes at Wal-Mart, he looks for the right size, not designer, label. He prefers his WWE t-shirts and will pick between them if I offer him a choice. But most of the time, M puts on whatever’s on the top of the laundry pile.

In fact, on the way to a field trip, a fashion-conscious 8-year-old girl in our co-op even commented that M was wearing the same T (The Undertaker vs. Kurt Angle) he’d worn to the previous outing. “So?”

What does influence children to latch onto labels? I’m certainly no clotheshorse. The only difference I can see in upbringing is D lived with his classmates’ judgment every day and embraced it. M is confronted only on rare occasions, and when he is, couldn’t care less.

Granted, if he’d been a girl, hormones might win out, even over homeschooling.