Interview with LaMai
I have decided to interview myself. Just because. The interviwer's name is Alter Ego ("AE").
AE: So you've got some free time to interview. I consider myself lucky.
LaMai: Not really, but I hate not blogging, and I couldn't think of anything else to to do today.
AE: Fair enough. So, tell us, what got you started on the homeschooling journey?
LaMai: A long time ago, in a galaxy far far away, I think I was part of some type of movement without really knowing it. I had a homebirth in Miami Beach when it wasn't really fashionable to do that. Actually, we lived in Bal Harbour, so for sure, it wasn't fashionable there. My neighbor was Bob Dole. THAT Bob Dole. Anyway, I did the homebirth thing, then breastfed for a really long time (let's not go into how many years, lest the bloggy reader faint, but it was under the World Health Organization's recommendation of four years, okay?). We did French school full-time, which was also unconventional. Alex learned to use real cutlery there; I was impressed that he could slice a bit of steak at age four. They actually taught him that. And oh yeah, he could speak French. When we arrived in New York and institutional school wasn't working out for us here, I knew I could educate my son. It was just a logical progression of how I did things.
AE: You say that - "how I did things" - singularly. Which means you are single.
LaMai: Indeed. You have a problem with that?
AE: Not at all. But that's doubly unconventional.
LaMai: It is. But I am not going to go into a "Oh man, it's so hard to be single and homeschool" spiel.
AE: Really? It's not hard?
LaMai: Oh, it is. At least, it can be. There are financial considerations, certainly. And I can never be on that show Wife Swap as a single parent to make an easy $20,000.00. Or is it $50,000.00? Anyway, if there is a fight to be fought, I do it alone. I've had some daunting moments. But it just depends on how motivated you are, and how unwilling you are to feed the Fear Monster. This year, I decided to adapt my life to fit my son's needs. I worked in the legal field when I first arrived here, now I write. I am a writer. Things are tough financially. But for A, for his growth, for his learning process, things are amazingly good now. And that's enough validation that I'm doing the right thing.
AE: Do you date much?
LaMai: If I do, you won't know about it. I swore to myself that A would not have an unstable life, with this guy or that showing up at home. I've seen other kids of divorce watch their mothers switch partners frequently - that's not my style.
AE: Back to homeschooling. What surprises you about it?
LaMai: In New York, there's an amazing amount of resources for homeschoolers. You have the community to learn from. You have museums, knowledge, information - everywhere. It's mind-boggling. We joined a homeschooling association this past year - NYCHEA. A attends classes with some of the wittiest students I've ever met. And the parents! I've met an interesting bunch of parents. Most great, some not so great, but this is as much of a learning process for me as it is for A.
AE: How so?
LaMai: For example, just the other night I was meeting with some homeschooling parents about having a Career Day. One parent lamented that her teen daughter wanted to learn publishing, but didn't know to whom to turn for an internship. I asked her if she had any friends in the publishing industry. She said "no." I couldn't believe it. I think I almost flipped. That woman has been in New York and homeschooling for eons. Look, I just got to this town. I've met more people than I can even tell you, in the most diverse professions imaginable. Manhattan is the easiest island on the planet to meet people.
AE: So you do that a lot?
AE: Does your child learn as much as he would in an institutional school?
LaMai: Depends on what you think kids actually "learn" in schools. Do we follow the guidelines of the New York City Board of Education? Yes. Do I go beyond what those guidelines are? You betcha. Do I say "ding, ding, time's up!" every hour, on the hour? No. If we need to finish something, we finish it, irrespective of what's on the clock. That's the best part of a flexible education like this one. And we do not move on to the next lesson and until the current one is thoroughly understood.
AE: That might be a problem for traditionalists, no?
LaMai: I think the most offensive thing I've heard recently was when David Tokofsky of the Los Angeles Unified School District said on CNN, something like, "How will those homeschool kids learn geography?" I nearly flipped (again). Nevermind that National Geographic Bee champions are typically homeschoolers, most public school teachers don't teach geography too well. And us homeschoolers can just jump on a plane and take off and learn about the world during the school year if we need to do that. Or RV around the country, like Lisa Welchel. Many homeschoolers do travel for educational purposes. Sure beats reading a book. Or ignoring it, as the case may be.
AE: You watch Jay Leno.
LaMai: When he asks random people on the street those geography questions? Yeah. Just last night, I asked a homeschool parent what her ethnicity was. She looked exotic, so I thought I'd ask. Her answer was "Mexican." Oh, from where in Mexico? I asked. She explained she was from Colorado. And I understood. We've had some dramatic border changes between the United States and Mexico in the last two centuries. When this woman said she was Mexican, but her family was from Colorado for several generations, I got it. I'd like to see that question on Jay Leno, actually. The Standard Deviants actually exclude Mexico from North America on their little DVD show.
AE: So, should everybody homeschool?
LaMai: [Nearly chokes] Can everybody spell? No.
AE: Oh, I forgot to ask what's on everybody's mind. Are you an alcoholic? You talk an awful lot about martinis.
LaMai: Probably because I drink so few of them. It's like Teuscher Swiss chocolates. It's good if it's only an occasional treat. I once tried a watermelon martini at Bungalow 8, and a really nice lavender martini made with real lavender at Dove in the West Village. I drink a pint of Guinness once a week at my knitting circle, and that's about it. Sorry to disappoint.
AE: Last but not least. Your CBGB's campaign.
LaMai: The bane of my existence. Hey, at least I got to meet cool people. One day, both Jonathan Demme and Fab 5 Freddy called me on my cell phone to help out. Debbie Harry called me, too, she said because Chris and Tina of the Talking Heads referred her. My favorite interview was with MOJO Magazine. And I saw a copy sell on eBay, and the person who sold it on eBay included my interview as a selling point. That was weird and cool.
AE: So you didn't actually Save CBGB's?
LaMai: Their lease is up October this year. Whether the club will be designated a landmark, remains to be seen.