Homeschoolers’ Rap

thin_iceAsk certain curators, naturalists, librarians or docents who have worked with home educators and they will tell you to Beware. The kids are feral and the mothers expect us to run a program that works for the 3, 8 and 14 year olds while they’re off nursing their infants. Gee, sound familiar?

I’m helping a local nature center organize their first Homeschoolers’ Open House in the Spring. At our next Board Meeting, I need to present some specific classes and programs to finalize funding for the event. I’ve given them my opinion, but I posted to several local yahoo groups to learn the type of programs other homeschoolers want. Not just in terms of the Open House, but what specific science opportunities are lacking in our area.

I know the staff is approaching this event with trust in my word and trepidation from their experience. As it turns out the naturalist with whom I’m working is the same woman who was our guide for a hike at another center several years ago. It was miserably hot. Some of the little girls wore their flip-flops. There was much whining from and carrying of the younger children. A relaxing ramble morphed into a trail of tears.

And I remember the group finally arriving at the stream for our geology lesson where Kriste announced that some of the rocks were slightly magnetic. She knelt down to find a few samples, but by the time she stood up, the kids had scattered to the wind—all picking up and pocketing their own stones. Let’s hope there’s no Minebank Run curse.

So here I am, on the homeschool/real world cusp. I certainly feel the frustration of their no-shows, lethargy and general flakiness. But as one who still uses our pilfered magnetic memento to hold open textbooks, even my tight-ass needs some leeway.

Shards of Homeschoolers

glass shardsOkay, riddle me this: If your family were going to an art glass studio to make a glass marble or a glass flower, what would be the operative word in that sentence? Maybe, ah, glass? And if you were bringing your 4-year-old, 2-year-old AND 1-year-old to the activity, what would be your major concern? Maybe, ah, glass? No, apparently not.

Because soon after I posted to the homeschool group thanking the organizer and warning tomorrow’s class to watch their little kiddos because the artist has finished pieces spread out in his adjoining office and that it would be unfortunate if someone wound up having to pay for making glass shards, another mother posted that, moments after my family left, her daughter (the 2-year-old) had indeed broken a glass orb in his office. Punctuated with: LOL.

Come on, is it me? (Well, yeah, it is…) But first of all, would you even TAKE three children that wobbly into a warehouse with an open furnace, a huge hot oven and hundreds of glass objects? Well, if you’re a preschool-homeschool hipster with your baby in sling you sure would. And that this post-teen could characterize her irresponsibility, her daughter’s accident and the destruction of somebody else’s shit a laughing-out-loud moment, it frightens me. Seriously.

The real LOL irony is, when I posted my original caveat, it was based on watching that very cutie wander more than once in and out of the office on her own accord. Parents oblivious to her travels. Only once did I witness that “Shit, where is my kid?” realization/panic flash across the face of her father, who then prompted his wife, who went off looking—outside. (I’ll give her that: a squashed kid is worse than a broken vase.) Mom eventually scooped her up. But I guess nothing was learned by that second kick of the mule.

It’s a thin line between unschooled and unsupervised.

Suppose They Gave a Co-op And Nobody Came?

empty parking lotI’m only late when I’m lost, when I don’t give a shit, when I know I can get away with it, or any variation thereof. So when a homeschooler signs up to attend an event and then doesn’t show up at all, I’m insulted. Because I know, in her case, it’s not because she’s lost.

Online databases are set up where families can register for field trips, single classes or on-going co-ops. There’s usually an RSVP date with columns for the parent’s name, the number of kids, any payment needed or job assignments like bringing a craft, story or snack. Please and Thank You.

Now, I’m no Emily Post, but I’ve always held the belief that when you Répondez s’il-vous-plaît, that means you are committing to attending the event. And while French is not my native language, I don’t believe RSVP translates into “Do whatever the fuck you want.” But, apparently, I was wrong.

Listen, we have all used the-dog-ate-my-homework excuse. And I’ve boned my parents more times than I like to admit by being beyond fashionably late or a total no-show at family events. And I’ve crapped out on many an appointment, party and dinner date in my half-century. But to post a rambling regret the morning of a kids’ co-op is inexcusable. Even for me.

Usually the posts involve sick children or dead cars. Some of us can play the “gotta work” trump card. But this week, we get a straightforward “We won’t be there.” No contrived excuse. No ambiguous “We CAN’T make it,” like a 100-year flood or Klingon force field has blocked their way. Not even an obligatory “Sorry.” Just your basic “Screw you.”

These co-ops don’t happen through spontaneous generation. Even something as seemingly simple as a Moroccan bangle bracelet craft or Nigerian caramelized bananas snack takes thought, effort, expense, time and creativity. So when a parent casually reneges on her promise to provide an important element to an activity, like her family’s attendance, she goes on my “No, screw YOU,” list.

And that, my pretty, is a place nobody wants to be.

Permanent Mark(er)

perm markers crop“Wild,” was the word the librarian used. Her observation wasn’t about a new Best Seller. It was in reference to the kids at today’s workshop. And, until they finally settled down for my slide presentation, that’s exactly what most of them were. Like rambunctious puppies let off their leash to run loose and shit all over the Dog Park. Then roll in it.

The “wild” quip came after our class had left the library and I walked back across the street with my nail polish remover and paper towels to scrub off the permanent marker scribbles caked like blood along the bottom of the library’s dry erase board. Our popular preschool co-op (and you know how I feel about this ludicrous preschool homeschooler concept) met there earlier in the week with an invitation to use the large paper pad and markers on the easel. Obviously, none of this damage was my teen’s doing. But apparently, it was my job to undo.

Well, okay, I volunteered – but only through default – after several librarians scolded us over the graffiti and questioned how to get it off. I told everyone: nail polish remover. Yet not one mother who attended the Monday’s free-for-all jumped in her car, drove a quarter of a mile in either direction to a convenience or dollar store, bought a bottle of acetone, grabbed some TP from the bathroom and right their wrong right there and then. Instead, two women pulled out their date books to figure out the NEXT time they’d be at the library, while the mom in charge of the co-op that day slinked out the door in mid-conversation.

Their matter of fact explanation about the mistaken markers consisted of, oh yes, having seen the kids writing on the pad and the board underneath, but they figured the markers were of the dry erase persuasion so, hey, what-me-worry, nobody bothered to take those few big-girl steps across the room just to make sure.

Gee, Officer, I thought the gun wasn

The Messy Mess

glitter mess_xOne of my frustrations with some parents is their protestations over any proposed activity that even hints at the possibility of dirty hands, clothing stains or food spillage.

After much fanfare, when it came time to get a final head count for a Summer afternoon tie-dye party, several families took a last-minute pass. Not because of Baltimore’s oppressive, hair-curling humidity but because flashbacks of pouring RIT Powder Dye into a bucket of steaming-hot water while wearing Playtex Living Gloves popped into their heads. We used pre-mixed Dharma Dyes in squeeze bottles and wore surgical type latex gloves instead. Groovy, man.

For Halloween, my older kids’ craft was painting pumpkins. Again, there was some fuss. “The paint won’t dry and will get all over the kids’ costumes. It’ll be messy.” Don’t tell, but I was gonna use glitter glue on the gourds’ stalks. Beware! One of the few things in the world of Make-and-Take crafts scarier than paint is glitter, much less glitter mixed with glue.

They lucked out. After I had to tell Morgan he couldn’t wear his Leatherface mask or bring his matching chainsaw because they would be too scary for the little kids, my teen decided even the promise of trick-or-treat candy wasn’t worth it. I shoulda known. These are the same women who won’t attend a local theatre production of 101 Dalmatians for the same reason. Scary…

The last straw was the decision to serve only eggless cupcakes (with as little icing as possible) and cheap-ass Dixie Cups ice cream (that come with those flat wooden spoons) at our end-of-year fundraiser. In part to save funds and in part to avoid—you guessed it—mess. Obviously, my Sundae Station suggestion got nixed.

Tell me—how can you raise creative kids if one of your prime directives is to NOT create a mess?