Just Say No…

dazzle…For as long as you can. Because once you start having sex, you’re not gonna want to stop. And it’ll distract you from all the other things that you really wanna do.

That was my sex talk with Morgan.

I went on a little about how sex can be alotta things—including fun. But once it gets past that stage, sex can become a problem. All the emotions, the head games, the hots. How could a kid concentrate on geometry? But that’s not an issue with M. Yet.

Twenty years ago, when my oldest son turned 15, I gave him a box of condoms. I explained that I was 15 when his father and I started having intercourse. So I would be deluding myself to think that sex at that age wasn’t a possibility. Nor was I encouraging Dallas to run out and rip open his new present to use one (or two) that night. But when he was ready, I wanted to make sure he was really ready. No lame-ass excuses about not having a condom, but having sex anyway. STDs, pregnancies and broken hearts alter lives.

So when I heard a recent study announcing that when it comes to parents having “The Talk” with their kids, it’s a matter of “too little, too late,” I’ve gotta wonder what are these people’s fucking (excuse the pun) hang-ups? I mean, the adults speaking with these children are their parents, right? And people become parents (in most cases) by having intercourse. Or at least, somehow, somewhere, somebody’s sperm is fertilizing somebody’s egg.

So why would it be so awkward to share info about a process that resulted in creating the very person you’re talking to? Afraid you can’t sell abstinence? If you tell your kid not to do something, doesn’t that make it all the more mouthwatering? I prefer to admit to my kids that sometimes sex is all it’s cracked up to be. But I’ve warned them that it’s also a Pandora’s Box. And being human, sooner or later, we all peek inside.

15%. Is That Failing?

Numbers 15Another homeschooling mom shared an online article in The Baltimore Sun about the dismal results of math tests given in 15 states, including Maryland, to determine how high schoolers would fair in their freshman college math class. According to the article “The Algebra II test was given to 100,000 students across the nation, including 1,295 in Maryland, and showed that nationwide, 15 percent are prepared for their first college course. The Maryland pass rate was equivalent to the national pass rate.”

Granted, I’m not convinced that the mastery of a skill is best determined via traditional testing. And I can’t swear that Morgan could walk in, plop down with his #2 pencil and pass the test. Not so much because of the subject matter. But because Morgan has never walked in anywhere with a #2 pencil and taken a test. Yet that whole teaching/studying to test has been these high school students’ educational mantra since Pre-K. I remember the deathwatch in M’s elementary school when the Maryland School Assessment tests were being administered.

I’d be curious if the tested kids were prepped in any way beforehand. I’m also assuming that when the article said most of the Maryland students tested were from Baltimore, they mean public schools in Baltimore City (where test scores, on average, are lower than surrounding counties.) But regardless of how skewed these results may be, an 85 percent failure rate is appalling. We all know if these results were from some type of standardize testing of home-educated kids (however illegal), Mommy-heads would roll.

One of my greatest responsibilities has been to help M be academically prepared to pursue his Life’s goals, including college. That doesn’t mean he’s Harvard-bound (even if we could afford it.) But if he can’t pass snuff to get into a State college (if we can afford even that), his failure will lay totally at my clay feet. We’ll see…

Ironically the test was created through the American Diploma Project “in an effort to raise academic standards and graduation requirements for high schools around the country.”

But don’t worry, this test “doesn’t count.” Because if it did, they’d just lower the testing standards.

Somebody’s Somebody

Shadow SomebodyIt’s easier to see Morgan as the teenager he is when we get out into The World. Out there, for better or worse, he’s beyond my minute-by-minute influence. He can project whatever persona he wants. He can be Morgan. Not Susan’s son. I know the feeling. We’re all somebody’s somebody.

Yesterday I ventured out to my first Teen activity that Bill and Morgan have already attended. Laser tag and Chuck E. Cheese were too much visual stimulation for me. Besides, Bill told me I couldn’t go. “You’ll just come home in a bad mood.” He’s probably right. But a game day at the coordinator’s home seemed safe enough.

When I first got there, it was all women of all ages sitting on all the sofas. I wasn’t sure who were the mothers and who were the daughters. Morgan took off with the two other boys. I managed to cull the herd using M’s Creepy Crawlers maker. Most of the daughters were lured to the dining room and given my one-minute bug-baking lesson. The sulker stayed seated besides her mother. I know that feeling, too.

Every once in awhile, I’d go to the door of the den where the boys and a few of the older girls were playing PS2/3 videogames. I’d always pretend to “knock-knock-knock” and not violate their space. Once, to give Morgan the camera and remind him to take movies. The other time to ask the teens what they’d like to do in March. (The moms kept trying to come up with ideas among themselves. I announced I’d go ask. A seemingly simple solution.)

Each time, Morgan was one among many. Still a standout. But not a stand-alone. Once he was digitally recording a three-year-old Guitar Hero. The other time, he was cracking up his youthful audience as he repeatedly shot his faithful yet virtual steed. Always cracking wise. Trying to impress the girls…Where do you think he gets it?

Life Enrichment

microscopeWhat’s that? Well, apparently it’s the new buzzword for any type of activity where you’re not getting paid. You know, fun. Hopefully. And in the context I’m talking, it’s a non-credit class at a community college for Morgan, my 8th grader. Next year. That’s high school. Sweet Jesus.

Here’s an example:

High School Biology Lab-Part 2 $149?A two-semester course designed for homeschool students who are looking for additional laboratory experience to learn the basic concepts of biology. It provides an overview of the basic principles of biology including human biology, evolution, genetics, and ecology. Laboratory experiences teach and reinforce the use of scientific method in problem solving. This offers a broad introduction of biology to the non-science student, and provides an appreciation of the beauty and intricacies of the biosphere.

Today Morgan would shit his pants. But you know what? It’s coming. Maybe not this year, but that Bio course is exactly what we’re working towards. With our half-assed labs and spoon-fed scientific method, I’m preparing M for the day when hecan walk into a classroom (The World), participate in a semester-long program (Life) and come away “enriched (Happy).” All without me.

Some homeschooling families don’t seemed geared towards those academic goals, external educational opportunities or The Bigger Picture. Yet that type of investigative process just seems intrinsically important in a human’s experience. Every kid needs to flame-on a Bunsen burner, overflow a test tube or break a Petri dish. Plus we all have a dissection story. Pithing the frog’s brain is mine.

Luckily, Morgan continues to independently take nature workshops and programs at the library without any prodding. He’s certainly suffered through enough homeschoolers’ co-ops. And of course, there was first grade. “One-two-three! Eyes on me.” So given what I know about the nature of organized education, even if he couldn’t read or write to spec they’ll get him through. Especially for 150-bucks.

What’s Your Favorite Word?

Mine is “More.”

scrabble_champ_2002More food, more time, more bad habits, more stuff. Whatever it is, gimme more. If I consume it, I will feel full-filled. And it’s all my mother’s fault. Well, yeah, sorta. I mean, isn’t just about everything that makes us us traceable to Nurture or Nature? It’s never really our own fucking fault, right?

So when I, just like my mother before me, offer my overweight child more cake, maybe that’s not as good as it sounds. Although Pepperidge Farm Coconut 3-Layer Cake (when it’s still cold—but not frozen) sounds pretty darn good to me. And Morgan, just like his mother before him, understands the consequences of that second chuck of cake, but eats it anyway.

And when I give Morgan more time to play his Xbox 360 instead of doing schoolwork, I gotta wonder if his boss will give him more time to “Finish this level and Save,” before getting back to his j-o-b? Even panhandlers have to put in a few hours a day.

Now, in terms of bad habits, I thank the stars that I do not smoke cigarettes or drink alcohol. Because I’d be a chain-smoking lush on the sofa, sippin’ on my big plastic cup of spiked iced tea. Luckily any vice I may want to indulge, I can’t get more of at the 24-hour Farm Store down the street. So the only advice I can give my kids is don’t start any bad habit you’re not prepared to have the rest of your miserable life.

My older son bought more Powell Peralta boards than he could skate. Of course, twenty years ago, I was bringing down a decent blue-collar union wage and could afford the deck and all its accoutrements. That was when a hundred dollars meant something. I still have one of Dallas’s large slogan buttons that reads “It’s not who you are, it’s what you wear.” As a reformed pre-teen fatty turned urban hipster, he knows that’s no joke.

“More,” I suspect, will always be part of my mothering mantra. Because I believe the only word worse than “More,’ is “No.”