What is the Point of School

I can’t decide if I’m falling out of love with homeschooling or if I have spring fever— or if I just despise our education system (including my own teachings) altogether. 
I know I would do wonderfully on a deserted island with my family—with no system to report to with regards to what my kids are learning. I’ve mentioned this before, and I’ll say it again: Our kids are not learning what they need to be studying in school—even when we take them out of it, the material they must learn isn’t cutting it. I believe they are absorbing the monotony of adulthood, and it’s killing—not building, their brain cells. Simply put: School is boring and I’m loosing my footing as a home-based teacher.
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The reason I feel this way is because kids should be heavily immersed in things like: Money management, insurance policies, emergency preparedness, civic engagement, abusive relationships, fair wages, diet and fitness, finding your passion, inner peace. And at an early age. This is the stuff that determines survival—not Oregon history—which always seems to be mis-told no matter which edition your textbook is. Somebody needs to take a crack at writing an age appropriate account of what really happened so that we can quit brushing it under the carpet or denying it altogether.
Am I teaching Pascal these savvy survival-based things, even with our free-wheeling homeschool curriculum? Nope, Not as a part of anything guided. There aren’t enough hours in the day with all of this other nonsense clouding our time together. And, quite frankly, it pisses me off. Imagine preparing kids for real life! Imagine a system that raised kids to be good people!
Earlier today I was reading material about how Oregon was settled, shaking my head and cutting myself off, saying: Pascal, this is bullshit. Do you have any idea what these So-Called Colonists did to the Native Americans? Our only real lesson in that entire book can be learned in one grim, hopeless statement: People can be terrible, and greedy and what’s worse—things haven’t changed much.
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So now what? Well, with six weeks left in the school year, I’m not sure I have much choice but to ride it out. And, I’m not sure I can actually do anything but complain about it. If she was my only child, I would take on the system with her on my arm, but the fact of the matter is, I still have 6 other kids that need me—for homework help, projects, extra curriculars, doctors appointments, friend making and dinner. There isn’t enough time in the day to take on the world unfortunately. So we stumble through it.
But it doesn’t remove my disappointment from our American culture and it’s frequent missed opportunities for youth impact. Pascal shouldn’t have to wait for college to kick in for some of these life-shaping lessons. They should be happening now as an intelligent strategy to build better citizens, learners, parents, employees, etc etc. I can’t and shouldn’t have to teach that on my own. For now I’m stumped about what to do. Humanitarianism should be the core of her learning and I’m disappointed that it isn’t. Everything else is just a distraction to what’s really important: human awareness and participation. Not the perpetuation of indifference and selfishness. 
Rethinking it all,
So-Called Mom

Let Them Fail

pascal so called mom

Let them fail, you say? The experts tell us that failure is good for kids.

Says who? Are any of these researchers actual parents? Could there really ever be such a thing as a parenting expert? And could we get any more counterintuitive than intentionally letting kids fail?

For me, part of the allure in deciding to become a mom is that I would be adored by someone, from day one. I would give birth and transform into this picturesque, prize-winning, nurturing body that instinctively wouldn’t—couldn’t—allow her offspring to fall flat on their darling faces.

Caring for my kids is second nature. Fly from the nest on your own time, kiddo. No rush! Even though sometimes I worry that I’m not teaching them anything, but to have a fear of leaving my side. This is also likely why my kids can’t do certain things like tie their shoes at an early age, or do laundry at 16—because I simply forgot to stop babying them. It didn’t even dawn on me to stop. My reflexes are stuck on a loop of “mother knows best,” and it’s kind of a hot mess now that I think of my oldest four kiddos leaving this over-stuffed nest soon.

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There are so many ways to let them fail, but I’m quickly learning that broken bones is the easy part. It’s what separates an accident from an intentional lesson. And of course there’s the damage you maybe can’t see  – like their development. Here’s a couple of examples.

pascal drops in bowl skate park let them fail so called mom

The first is a simple one with clearcut learning results – failure done right: Last week, Pascal, my new skateboarding aficionado, announced she was ready to drop into the bowl by herself without my assist. In a rare personal moment of “letting go,” I watched her drop in with a rush self-confidence. She sailed through the air, and promptly lost her board. She landed first on her hip, and then on her face. Before I could catch my breath, she was up on her feet instantly—shocked and hopping up and down and limping while holding back tears. She looked around the park, at all the older skater guys to make sure none of them saw her.

Then she looked at me, completely pissed, and said, “Why did you let me do that?”

pascal bails in bowl skate park let them fail so called momAnd somehow I found the right answer, “Because skateboarding can be as shitty as math. You only get better by getting it wrong.”

HA! Wise words, but I’m sure this one hurt me more than it hurt her. I know this is true, because I’m still cringing about it, while she’s dropped back into that same bowl at least 15 times since.

But as hard as this was for me, it was actually one of the easier examples. You’d think I would have learned as much as Pascal.

Example Two: Jake, my 17-year-old. Somehow the idea of “letting him fail” translates in my mind into letting him down. That’s because his upbringing has been different from Pascal’s. He has experienced divorce twice, early childhood abandonment (His birth dad din’t raise him and Pippin is his second step-dad). Feel my guilt yet?

jake bloody nose let them fail so called momSo with Jake, I tend to walk around with a safety net and a huge roll of emotional bubble wrap at the ready.

Whenever he goes through something even slightly difficult, I want to fly to his rescue—and I usually do (in a tutu and heels of course, just so it looks extra impressive).

While I understand this is probably rule #1 in the book of resilience, I have a hard time watching Jake, or any of my kids for that matter, struggle. It’s like throwing your babies in a pool and trusting they won’t drown. As a result, I’ve come to wonder if the real issue is in watching them fail, or the unbearable fear of that failure backfiring on them. What if a So-Called Life Lesson turns into trauma? What if that one time I was really needed, was the one time I wasn’t there, because I wanted them to fail? What if they blame me?

I struggle mightily with this concept of failure. For me and for them. It makes me feel like a screwup, like I skipped over entire chapters in that rule book. I feel unsupportive and cruel. As though most of the time, I have the answer or solution, and they don’t, yet here I am working hard just to refuse help.

I’ve always wanted a better way to help all of my kids, but I have yet to find one.

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In fact, I’m terrible at it. This is especially hard when you are a parent in a blended family—it means you co-parent; some of your kids don’t stay with you all of the time. It’s not just Jake, it’s Phoenix, Milla and M.J.  Are the other parents teaching failure? I have no way of knowing what any of it looks like, and it can be scary to think I might be the bad guy.

And yet I know that failing is a necessary skill. It is the only way we learn resilience – all of us. How to get back on a skateboard and face that fearful drop that completely owned you, or working harder to understand why you flunked your math test—or working harder to understand why you flunked the mom test. It’s when you really learn what it means to be human, and what imperfection feels like.  Failure is not just for teaching life lessons to the kids, it’s also for the moms—when we don’t say the right things or laugh when we shouldn’t. Or just aren’t there when we should have been.

pascal so called mom beach let them fail so called mom

As hard as it is, I am trying little by little to let my kids fail. Sometimes I just quit doing things for them, cold turkey— like making beds, folding laundry, picking up dirty dishes, or keeping track of their library books. Things they have grown used to my doing. Mom things. I stop with no warning, knowing they’re not going to like it. I see it as basically pulling the plug to their life line, to see if they can breathe on their own. And for awhile, all I can do is watch them gasp for air. And when it doesn’t work out—and it usually doesn’t—I dive in and save them.

So in the end, letting them fail and not letting them fail feels like losing.

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Like I’m not doing my mom job. It’s hard to stop caring, when you really, really do. So I cheat—which makes the lesson they are supposed to learn really confusing.

In any case, they need to begin to wrap their heads around the experience of “where did I go wrong and what do I do now?” So I keep staying in the game, because it is also a valuable lesson for me, as I learn to do the impossible: let them go.

Predictably Yours,

So Called Mom

Next Post:  Teenage Love & Pheromones