Everything I Know, I Learned From The Internet


It took me, like, ten years to give a shit about Instagram, but now that I’m a homeschooler, I use it.  I don’t post much, because I take pretty shitty pictures, have no interest in selfies, and don’t really like too many people looking at my shit.  But I do check in, at least once a day, to see what everyone else is doing.

I search by #homeschooling and #wildandfreechildren and #gooutside because these are three things that. . .uhhhh. . .kind of make up my world right now.  I have got the nuts and bolts of a classical education down, and I know my kids are learning.  Actually, it’s mind boggling how much they’re learning and how far they’ve come in such a short span of time.  I’m totally enjoying overhearing them talk to their friends and realizing how far ahead my kiddos are in the quantifiables.  (My six year old is ahead of her eight year old brother’s friends in math.  Booyah.)

But none of that is why I pulled my kids out of school, and I’m less than certain about how I’m faring with the rest of it.  The shit that actually matters.  Like, having my kids out in nature.  Having them manipulate their environments.  Letting them be creative and wild and free (but somehow still understanding the teachings of Aristotle).  I mean, I attempt all of this shit, but I don’t know how I’m doing with it all, and it’s easy for me to lose inspiration for it altogether.

So I cautiously look at Instagram and even Pinterest to see what other people are up to.  Some of their pictures are breathtaking, and all of it needs to be consumed only when I’m feeling at least 50% confident.  If my confidence dips below the halfway mark, I’m almost certainly going to be all, “I know jack shit about jack shit and my kids are going to be the weirdest, brokest, most homeless homeless people in the world EVER.”  Or else, even worse, I’ll be all, “All of these people are fucking LIARS.  NOTHING IS THIS PRETTY.  NOTHING IS THIS EASY.  YOUR KID DIDN’T MAKE THAT.”

But I’m not usually that bad off.

So anyway, the whole reason I’m writing this post is because I have noticed an unmet need in the online community when it comes to homeschool.  Humor.  Like, real, honest, dirty humor.  When you search “Homeschool Humor”, you get lame shit (that I’m too lazy to source and copy and credit, so you’ll just have to trust me) like Kermit the Frog drinking a cup of tea and saying things like, “My first year of college was so easy.  I remember it all from my sixth grade homeschool class.”  That’s not funny.  That’s, like, the opposite of funny.  If you’re so smart you have to tell people how smart you are, you’re a fucking loser.  You’ve gone too far in the smart department and you probably have no friends.  This is not the type of people I’m hoping my kids become.

Or else you’ll see that weird kid in front of his computer and it’ll say stuff like, “Phone call?  RECESS!” Because, ha ha, when the phone rings and mom answers, she can’t also teach you.  I fucking pray to god that by the time my kid is that kid’s age, he won’t need me to stand over his shoulder to get his freaking work done.  But even if he does, it’s still not funny.  (Also?  You really need to set that shit to silent during school time.  That’s Homeschool 101, yo.)

The Ryan Gosling meme is funny.  Kind of.  Except it’s still more dorky than funny.

If you look online, my point is, you will think that all homeschoolers are big, fucking dorks.  People who never drink, never swear, never get laid.

And this, THIS, my friends, is why my kids and I are lonely homeschoolers.  If you know of any truly funny, gritty, “I get it” homeschool stuff, please send it my way.

Make You Strong Little Girl

Probably you’re not supposed to rank family.  At least not verbally.  But if I were to rank family, I’d put my Aunt Darlene somewhere up in the top 5, and that’s saying a lot, because I’ve got a rather large family.

My Aunt Darlene passed away this morning.

My Aunt Darlene was a force.  Almost all of her days, she was a force.  She was fierce and powerful.  She could be mean and spiteful.  She was tough as any woman I’ve ever known and every bit as vulnerable too.

My aunt was sixteen when she fell pregnant with my cousin, a fact I only learned when my parents found out their 16 year old was also having sex (albeit protected).  “You’re going to end up like your Aunt Darlene!”

Alas, I did not.

Darlene got married and had a baby at seventeen.  She had another baby a few years later.  Her relationship either became or else had always been physically abusive.  She told me, just last month, that her only way out was a frying pan to “that bastard’s” face.  Meanwhile, my cousin stood by, kind of rolling her eyes, letting me know that the bastard may have a different story to tell.  I have no doubt.

I don’t know the details, but I think my cousins weren’t always raised by their mom.  Or else if they were, it maybe wasn’t the best of situations for any of them.  What I do know is that my eldest cousin went on to become amazing.  She has amazing kids, an amazing career, an education and an out-of-place positivity about her.  The younger cousin become drug-addicted, suicidal, bipolar.  The younger one eventually fled the state and wasn’t heard from for years and years.  We thought he was dead.

He wasn’t dead, just almost dead.  He came back.  He’s doing okay now.

He came back just in time to learn that his mother, my Aunt Darlene, had been in a scuba diving accident that had rendered her paralyzed from the chest down.  That was in 1996.  I’ll never forget the night that phone rang to tell us the news.  Overnight, she went from the glamour girl to the wheelchair girl.  Although, my thoughts of her never involve her sitting up.  She spent most of the next twenty years lying in bed, not too many options.  She tried to take her life at least once.  Nobody faulted her for it.

My aunt used to write to me, back when I was a kid.  She’d write me long, sweeping essays on womanhood and burden, on love and loss.  At the time, I think I recall those letters feeling self-serving.  They probably were.  I’d devour them and then tuck them away, feeling rather used.  But as I grew up, my aunt’s words echoed around in my head and became, unknowingly, the chorus I now sing to my own little girl.  Love and loss, pain and strength.  They’ll knock you down and you rebuild.  Rebuild.  Rebuild.

slap them boys when they’re naughty
make ‘em crawl, make you haughty
make you strong little girl
you paint them toes that reddest color
and you know one day you’re gonna be bigger than a flea
you’re gonna be bigger than that old poison ivy tree

My aunt was messy.  Not physically messy.  Indeed, she was known for being meticulous in appearance.  She had money once, at a time no one in my family had any.  Nobody still really does, and we all still remember Darlene as the one with money, even though I’m sure that must’ve dried up years ago.  But when you think about Darlene, you think about a woman who drives a sporty car, wears pretty clothes and makes herself look nice.  Still, she pulled no punches when it came to detailing the difficulties of life.  I loved Darlene for never faking it with me.  She may have with others.  In fact, I’m well aware that I knew a different Darlene than most did.  But I’ll take my Darlene as she was.  It’s who she wanted me to see, and it’s who I loved.  My Darlene was messy and unafraid.  She was fierce.

I spent many hours with Darlene, but not nearly enough.

I’m profoundly sad at her passing.  I’m sad for my grandmother, who has to bury her daughter.  My grandmother has had such an unbelievably difficult life, and now this.  I’m sad for my father, who, in my mind, took the easy way out by pigeonholing her and not making space enough to love a difficult person.  Loving difficult people requires space.  Some people don’t have it to give.  I worry about his list of regrets.  Or maybe they’re just mine.

I’m sad for my cousins who have been through more than enough for anyone.  I’m sad for my entire family.  I don’t understand why it is that some families parade through life so smoothly and some seem to take on far, far more than their fair share.  It’s not fair what my family’s been through.  It’s not fair that we get judged by those who have had easier times.  It’s not fair.  I’m alternately outraged and sad.

I’m sad for her.  I’m just really, really sad for her.  In her last hours, she apologized over and over and over.  She knew she lived a messy life.  We all knew it with her.

I miss my aunt, the first person to present to me, without apology or disguise, an untidy life.  We lost a member of the Fierce Lady Tribe this morning, and I’m just so sad.

(lyrics by Tori Amos, not me.  Obviously.)

Fascism and Things That I Like

I’m going to tell you something I like and why I like it.

My kids have a gym class every Monday afternoon.  The son of one of my friends is also in the class, and after we collect our children, the parents go sit at the park and drink beers from the 7/11 and the kids run around like jerks.  After our beers run out, the adults wander over to one of the restaurants in the square and nestle in for Monday night 2 for 1 dinners.

Together, our families have five kids and four adults.  Among the kids, there are two with sensory needs, one boy who identifies as a girl, and two with ADHD.  They all like cats.  And running.  Among the four adults, there is one with a Ph.D., two with degrees in sociology, two with degrees in English, two with degrees pertaining to world religion and two with masters degrees.  (Lots of these overlap, as you can see.)  All four of us teach: one at the college level, two at the high school level and one schmuck at the homeschool level.

The kids mostly run the entire night.  They show up at our table just to get a Band-Aid, (hourly), to snag a drink or to scarf down their food.  Then they disappear.  I don’t know what they do, but it involves a lot of sweat.  And dirt.

And the adults talk.  And talk.  And talk.

Last week, our talk centered on the movie Pixels and why my kids aren’t seeing it (because of the world ‘slut’) and why they brought their kids to see it.  We wound up talking about the power of language, the importance of diversity in film, the weight of existentialism, the self-important agony of atheism.  We talked about evolution, both social and physical.  After awhile, I was accused of being both a fascist and an anarchist, and I spent the rest of the night laughing, trying to defend myself.

I’m one of the sociology majors.  The dad of the other family is the other.  Can I tell you how goddamn refreshing it is to just talk academic bullshit with someone?  These thoughts are not going anywhere.  They’re not going to change the world; they’re not even going to power the freaking hamster wheels of our children’s heads.  But I was raised on a steady diet of lies saying they were important nonetheless.

The only place in the world where they’re important is at tables like these.

Last night we talked about Syria, about media’s incredible means of emotional manipulation.  I posited that Americans don’t care about any international issue until there’s a toddler in the ocean or a lion with a name.  I was lambasted.  Someone else suggested the toddler’s photo’s release was timely.  He was lambasted.  We talked about social media as media.  We talked about the discrepancy between what we ask of ourselves and what we ask of our leaders.  We talked about Shakespeare and poetry.

We laughed at Donald Trump.  We talked about how people used to laugh at Reagan.  And then we all laughed at the insanity of American politics and celebrity.

This is what I’ve been looking for.  This is what I miss.  Since having babies, it seems conversation can only be about children.  I’ve missed all these -isms.

And that’s it.  That’s something I like.

Ramona Quimby: A Public Apology

I might be a little bit drunk, but that has never stopped me from publishing a blog post.

Not too long ago, I wrote a post about how much of an asshole I thought children’s book series heroine Ramona Quimby is.  In said writing, I sarcastically thank-you-very-muched author Beverly Cleary for normalizing asshole child behavior.

I spoke a little too soon.

Since writing that post, I’ve continued reading the rest of the series aloud to my kids, and I have to say, it’s picked up a bit since Book 1.  I cry, shaking voice, heaving shoulders, at the end of every book.  She’s nailing it.  Everything past Ramona kicking the wall has been gold.  My kids are completely invested.  I am completely invested.  I have to feign allergies worse than they actually are (and they’re already, like, steroid-level bad) often throughout the book just so my kids don’t see the tears for what they are and grow up knowing they’re mired in emotional instability.

And I’m not too big of a jerk to not tell people when I’m wrong.  (I have so many chances to perfect the art. . .)  So, yes, I was wrong.  Cleary was going places I didn’t foresee.  I’m WORKING ON IT, OK?

Also, I’m not putting my kids back in school.  That was crazy, desperation talk.  Mind you, I’m certain said talk will resurface, but the solution, right now anyway, is not to put them back in the institution from which I withdrew them.  I have a problem of responding to any-sized problems with big solutions.  I’m WORKING ON IT, OK?  But really, whatever issues we are having with homeschooling at least involve variables I can tinker with.  Whatever problems I had with them in traditional school are problems beyond my control.

Also, we homeschooled through the summer so that we could take the winter off.  I keep forgetting that.  It feels like I’m at the end of my rope, because I’m at the end of my rope.  There is a break on the horizon.  And when I am in the United States, free from the mountain of workbooks and freaking classic freaking children’s literature, the craft beer shall flow likes the Ganges River, about which my children are currently learning.  Under my tutelage.  For better or for worse.


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