Thursday, February 16, 2012

Snow and other Stuff we don't have

I spent my blog time this week reading more than writing.
I love all the wintery posts with snow on the ground, rosy cheeks,
colorful hats and scarves, steamy cups of cocoa,
sitting around the fireplace early in the morning...

I spent 10 years
in Midwest US as a child,
so I know snow.

My mother, being from Guatemala,
wasn't used to the winter-time custom
of listening to early morning radio
to hear if a snow day was called.

Many days I walked the six blocks

in waist-deep snow to an empty school
with a SNOW DAY sign on the door.

- Here's me, age 10, mid-80's
(Check out Mr. Snowman's Ghostbusters cap)

Lu was 7 years old when he saw snow
for the first (and so far only) time.

It had been 15 years since I had seen or touched it myself.
So magical.

- Here's Lu in the New Mexican winter, 2010

Anyway, back to reading other people's blogs...

Snow on the ground is just one of the things that I don't have.

I also don't have the artsy-craftiness of many a homeschooling blogger. I'm a performing artist by trade, but never had much patience for glitter and glue, or needles and thread. And as pretty as those crafty homeschool blogs are, I can't help but think of how much reading we get done in the time it takes them to glue on all those sequins. Luckily, Lu also prefers reading. He is much craftier than I am, but he likes making practical things like knitting, or making jewelry to sell.

Another thing I don't have are learning labels for my son. If he has any learning problems or giftedness, I am unaware. This is partly because there are no specialists anywhere near us, partly because I don't have other children to compare him to, but also because I don't feel it's all that necessary to know. Lu does some strange things with numbers and letters, which I'm sure fit under some dys-something label, but I don't need to know the medical term to be aware of it and work with it. Labels are needed to explain why a person isn't standard in x, y, or z. And since I'm not going for standard... If I can go with my son's flow, I don't need to have him tested over why he doesn't learn this as quickly as that, or as well as other kids, or faster, or sideways, or backwards, or upside-down.

Another difference, and one that makes me feel slightly disabled as a homeschooler, is not having a library. I know we're not the only ones, and there are other homeschoolers who live out in the middle of nowhere too, but I so envy those pictures of dozens of library books spread out on the kitchen table, and I can't help but think how much easier they have it - with all those books available for free. But then I remember, in places with good libraries, the books are free, but everything else is crazy expensive, which is why we choose to live where we do. My father did the opposite. He left the jungle because he couldn't be without the libraries. But I can't be without the jungle. Go figure.

So, we're all different, and I mostly love looking at other homeschoolers' blogs to appreciate the diversity among us and to get new ideas. A lot of those crafty moms are really good at what they do, and I'm sure that their kids will greatly benefit from learning those skills. A lot of parents who have their children diagnosed for learning disorders do it because their governments will actually help them (whereas mine wouldn't do a thing). And a lot of those families near great libraries wish they had as much green and nature around them as we do.

There are infinite ways to homeschool, probably as many as there are ways of managing a family. Our choices are shaped by many factors - circumstantial, geographic, physical, ideological, financial... There is no one right way, except for the one that works for the unique you and your unique family.

This week I learned that there is definitely no way for me to get Lu's papers in order and get our homeschooling accredited in any way here. He will have no official papers to back his education. But I believe in what we're doing, and that my son is learning at the speed of light, and that the world is changing. I don't believe in the way universities work (with some exceptions), and want to see us go back to apprenticeships. I don't want my son to have a 5-digit debt for a PhD without a guarantee that he'll get a job in his field. Screw that.

So I guess it's a matter of trusting that:
My son is brilliant. He will know how to find a way to make a living, and he will be an expert in knowing how to make a life. He will follow his passions, and that can only lead to an extraordinary life. Creativity and innovation will compensate for any lack of paperwork. And if he still really wants to go for that PhD, he will do what it takes to make it happen.

But from where I'm standing now, trying to go through all the bureaucracy for something I don't believe in reminds me of trudging through the snow to get to that empty school building. I think we'll just stay home and read a book.


  1. Beautiful post!

    Btw, I want to mail you some brochures from our museum visit...can you email me your address at maleab {at} earthlink {net} ?

    1. Thanks Malea!
      Lu will be so excited.

    2. Hehehe...just realized I made a little mistake with my email address... It's maleab {at} earthlink {dot} net

    3. Hi Malea,
      I've been trying to write to you at above email, but it keeps bouncing back. And what's even weirder is that your blog isn't letting me leave comments. I'll keep trying, but I hope you see this.

  2. Gabriela, I read an article in the last few days about apprenticeships and why real world experiences are so important in maturing and growing the teenage brain. I didn't take much convincing :) I think there is an increasingly important role for mentors in a child's life as she gets older and just as much need to learn through doing as learning through study. The wonderful thing about home education is that there is time to do both!

    1. My friend's daughter attends a charter school for high school, and every quarter the students apprentice or intern with a different person out in the world. Her daughter has gotten to do, and learn, some quite amazing things as a result! She's one of the most well rounded, mature young ladies, and you can really see the results of the program when you talk to her.

  3. Each child's homeschooling experience and life experience are unique. I'm sure many people will look with envy (even if they don't admit to it) with what you have around you, as well as the unique learning opportunities that come with being in your environment. The internet has made being in a physical location less important than before. Keep up the good work! :-)