Monday, January 18, 2010

Dear Old Golden Rule Days

Here’s an interesting fact: when you home-school your kid, they’re always around.

This is my way of apologizing for my relative quiet and also bringing you up to speed. Yeah, we’re home-schooling again, have been since this start of the school year. But two years ago I loudly announced our general home-schooliness only to put Daughter back in school after a semester. This time, I wasn’t going to announce until it looked as if the Quinn Cummings Home School would last longer than a vase of cut flowers. Halfway through January, I’m feeling as if I can safely talk about this without lapsing into silence and staring moodily off into space.

Finding a math tutor helped. No, let me rephrase that; finding a math tutor meant my daughter and I now have a chance to make happy memories this year, not just memories aerated by sighing and seasoned with tears. A few parents who home-school suggested I let the math go and take it on faith that when it mattered to her she’d learn it; but she is half me. I am a person who decided to become an actor and eventually a writer because they seemed like two careers where no one would ever make me do long division. And it would have worked out perfectly were it not for the fact that I fell in love and had a terrific child and now am staring down mean, median and mode, which I’m convinced didn’t exist when I was in elementary school. And after two months of sighing and muttering and doodling and tears, I found a math tutor who is very good, very reasonable and has the happy luck to be very pretty. Being pretty shouldn’t matter in a tutor but studies have shown even newborns look longer at attractive people. Also, Daughter might be getting a subliminal message that being good at math gives you ringlets, which will encourage better work habits than pleasing her mother ever could.

Educationally, there’s a lot of writing and there’s American history and there’s science and there are Latin and Greek prefixes and suffixes and I think the kid is learning a few things. I can tell you that I’m getting smarter, because it seems as if I forgot nearly everything I learned before twelve. Unfortunately, my new knowledge is in things which don’t actually matter once you’ve gone through puberty. Consort and I went to a cocktail party of work friends of his and I quickly realized that unless the conversation swung around to George Washington Carver, the Gold Rush or the prefix hydra, I wasn’t going to be contributing much.

Which brings us back to my first thought: when they home-school, your kids are always around. And this is lovely in its own way and I admit freely to enjoying seeing what kind of person Daughter is becoming when allowed to follow her own interests. But I’m never not Mom. I settle the kid down with a chapter to read, go to pick up an actual adult book and become distracted in ten minutes because even though I can still hear silence from her I instinctively know it’s the nonproductive daydreaming kind. A friend calls to discuss some deep, meaningful philosophic concept (or George Clooney) and I beg off because I’m supervising Daughter labeling the parts of a cell and if I stop supervising she’ll sketch dresses on the Golgi apparatus. And some dress-sketching and some wool-gathering is totally fine and even to be encouraged but some isn’t and if we don’t at least glance at the American Revolution she’s going to think the Battle of Bunker Hill took place in 1939 and what fiendish troll thought up factoring?

And then, if you’re me, you worry about your child having real time with peers, learning how to bump up against other kids socially without getting bruised psychically. This means I spend five afternoons a week standing on one sporting field or another, watching kids get commended on their hustle [As with mean, median and mode, I don’t think hustle existed when I was a child.] It’s nice to be outdoors once I’ve taken a Claritin and I’ve become quite the dab hand at handing out orange slices, but I’m hesitant to call it Quinn Time.

Consort is a brick, taking on far more of this educating than most fathers, but he’s working, and I want him focusing on his job. I’m focusing on my job, which is to make sure my daughter is happy, curious, brave and not one of those high-school kids who think Vietnam is in South America.

I’m exaggerating. My life isn’t that hard. Certainly there’s less shouting than when she was in school, doing homework every night. Then she was doodling jewelry on cross-sections of the planet Earth and we had to be out the door at 7:45am, a time neither Daughter nor Consort really believe exists. But the fact remains that the hardest lesson I learn this year might be how to give myself fully to the people I love without giving myself entirely away.


Anonymous laura @ hollywood housewife said...

I watched you on a panel at the west hollywood book fair, and have been following you since.

I really, really like this post. I don't homeschool - my daughter is only 3 months - but I am walking the fine line between losing myself in a good way and losing myself in a terrible way.

12:26 PM  
Anonymous Robin Raven said...

I don't have kids and never plan to...yet, I related to this post immensely. Cause I'm strange like that? The ending was perfect, beautifully expressing that universal struggle for sensitive souls. It's exactly what I'm struggling with. That is the thing to learn. Hard. Hard. Hard. I gave too much of myself to various people and pursuits that I got totally lost last year; fixing that this year. :)

12:35 PM  
Blogger Debbie St.Amand said...

I didn't homeschool, because it's illegal to murder your child, and I surely would have done that if we'd tried it. My hat is off to you, because it sounds like you're pulling it off . . . not only without murder, but with a good balance and a high degree of success. Go, Quinn!

1:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great post. You have captured the fence ride, some call it the art of parenting, that is required when you don't want to fall off on either side into the murky stuff that you know would greet you.

Ree, of blog, also home schools and has a page devoted to homeschooling with useful links that you might find helpful (if you haven't discovered her already).

Good luck. I always wanted to try homeschooling but my boys did not want me to. In hind sight, I wish I would not have made it an option for them. I think we would have all fared better in the long run.

1:12 PM  
Blogger Sara J. Henry said...

Ah, and what a wonderful lesson it will be to have learned: not to give yourself entirely away. I'm still working on that one.

1:17 PM  
Blogger Leta said...

I'd second Pioneer Woman. Also, Danica McKellar, who is both very pretty and very smart wrote a book called "Math Doesn't Suck" which this Humanities major liked very much. Good luck!

2:22 PM  
Blogger OHN said...

Feel that breeze?? That is me bowing rapidly in your honor.

I most likely would have made myself and my children miserable had I attempted homeschooling. My palms just broke out into a sweat typing that last sentence.

Now go back and conjugate a sentence or split an atom or something.

2:56 PM  
Anonymous Riin said...

I remember learning mean and median in school (I'm 44), but mode? Huh? That one must be new. As far as hustle, that was a bad dance we had to do in gym class. Shudder.

4:18 PM  
Anonymous Cat Connor said...

I am in awe of your ability to home school.
I considered it for Squealer because she's been let down so terribly by the school system... but when it came down to it, neither of us would survive. :-)

8:32 PM  
Anonymous Deb said...

I never mastered long division -not even close. It turns out, you can fail a minor portion of elementary math, and be a fully functioning, professionally successful adult (providing you learn to use a calculator and/or Excel). With that said, I lump long division in with George Washington Carver, the Gold Rush, and hydra-.

8:43 PM  
Blogger kate sweeten said...

When you're done making sure that Daughter knows where Vietnam is located, can you come tutor my husband because - no joke - he thought that China was in the Southern Hemisphere. *sigh*

10:46 AM  
Blogger Quirky said...

Vietnam isn't in South America? China isn't in the Southern Hemisphere? Looks like I should have been homeschooled! On the plus side, I do remember mean, median, and mode. I think that should cancel out my dismal lack of geography.

Love the idea of homeschooling, hate the actual time and energy it would require. Hats off to you Quinn for managing it all so well!

12:05 PM  
Blogger Miss Cavendish said...

I have three children, and although I completely support the philosophy of homeschooling, the Monday holiday this week reminded me why I do not, nay, *can* not homeschool. Hats off to you!

3:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have long enjoyed your blog and thought you to be very wise so I have a question, Why the home schooling? Are public schools so bad in CA that they aren't a good option? Do you really think that it prepares one for the rigors of college, and life in general, where, yes, you have to get up and yes, you have to tolerate things that bore you and put up with people that you may not necessarily like. I know of many Christian home schoolers that want religion in their schooling but I would love to hear a secular explanation of why one would prefer this over a classroom.

7:36 PM  
Blogger Dodi said...

And, who invented lattice multiplication? Was the old fashioned way really SO difficult?

Mean, median, mode... when going through this with daughter last year I muttered under my breath, "Other than figuring 'average' I've never had to know this stuff..." She smiled and said, "Mr. P told us our parents would say that!"

6:46 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

lovely post :) and i am so glad you chose to get a math tutor!!

this sentence just about made me fall off of my chair:

"A few parents who home-school suggested I let the math go and take it on faith that when it mattered to her she’d learn it;"

There is so much wrong with that sentiment, and clearly you share it (to some degree) since you did not choose this route. It should be illegal, I think, setting your child up for failure for life. And not learning math will lead to failing at life (income? tax? savings? retirement? stocks?)!

10:54 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nice! I admire homeschool moms. I taught my children to read and write at the ages of 4, which, when they got to school, seemed like a curse to the teachers who now had students who they had nothing to teach. You would think a pat on the back, but no, I got a lot of "You TOTALLY screwed up my cirriculum for the entire semester!"

Good luck. Even when your kids aren't homeschooled, it's too easy to lose yourself. I've never been one to look forward to when my children are gone but now that one is in college and I have two left at home, the prospects of having adult children on their My worst fear is that by the time I DO make a life for myself, it will be time to take care of parents. God is SO freaking funny.

2:20 PM  
Anonymous Charlene Ross said...

Quinn, a friend of mine just gave me your book and I am loving it. Have just recently started reading you blog and it is fantastic. (Which of course makes sense since I am loving your book!) It is so funny and so well written. Which makes me love/hate/be so very jealous of you!

I just posted a link to your blog in my latest blog with many compliments.

This was a great post - you are a brave woman. My psychotically wonderful ADHDish daughter would probably do so much better if she were home schooled, but alas, I just don't have it in me - one of us would definitely end up dead with the other in a mental institution (not quite sure which of us would be where!) The last line so beautifully poignant. Yes, that's what we all want isn't it - to give all of ourselves to those we love without losing ourselves completely. THANK YOU Quinn for stating it so eloquently!

12:26 PM  
Blogger Jakarta Rocks said...

I have three kids and I find helping them with homework to be excrutiatinly painful. Homeschool - that makes me physically ill just to think of spending more time trying to get them to concentrate and not playing lego or running around.

But they leave at 6:45 for school without complaint or nagging (so they can be there at 7:30 for half an hour of soccer before school starts).

I don't understand why private schools are not an option when public schools are not adequate. But hats off to you for putting the effort into your child. Hope she appreciates the extra effort that you are putting into her upbringing.

11:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It doesn't matter, but I can't resist--it's the knee-jerk math teacher in me.

"Mode" is easy. Think of fashion. What's the mode? What's everyone wearing this year? Applying this to statistics--the mode is the one that crops up the most.

Of the three--mean, median, mode--mode is the least often the most interesting or useful, so other than defining it, it's rarely addressed in the school curriculum (and pretty much NEVER in a meaningful way), which is probably why y'all don't remember it.

7:24 AM  
Blogger Bella Voce said...

Hi Quinn,
Good luck with the home schooling. I think you made the right decision. I am a woman who is good at math and good looking - somehow girls get it into their heads they can't be both-but they can. I had strong parental encouragement to study math and be pretty. As a kid I found role models helped a lot - think Sallie K. Ride - doctorate in astrophysics, dances salsa, astronaut -and refuses to be anything but pretty. BTW - I took a degree in engineering with high honors. Check out - all sorts of fun things science based. All the best-Kathryn

8:20 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Use math role models- Sallie K. Ride

8:21 AM  

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