How to stay out of ghost purgatory.

If you are a non-conformist or artsy type or you travel, homeschooling is for you. Because homeschooling means you're not following the crowd. See: Ralph Fiennes. Ditto Ansel Adams.

If you are a traditionilist or elitist type, homeschooling is for you. Because homeschooling means you don't need to do what THEY do. See: Prince Joachim of Denmark, schooling between 1974-1976. Okay, maybe that is called Homeschooling at the Palace. But you get the idea.

If you're sick of public school, homeschooling is for you.

If you're sick of the private school your kid is currently enrolled in, homeschooling is for you.

If you're happy with either or both, homeschooling is for you.

If you are married and have one kid or 12, homeschooling is for you.

If you work full time as I do, and are the sole breadwinner, homeschooling is for you.

Why am I pushing the homeschooling panacea on you? Because homeschooling means taking responsibility for what is fed to your kid's brain. So, yes, your kid can go to "institutional school" but you -- yes, YOU -- are still responsible for what your kid learns. "Oh, but my child has such great teachers," you say. "I don't know if I want to mess with what they've got going on there. And good parents don't intervene in what the teacher does." Seriously, since when did having a kid mean totally relinquishing your child's brain to others?

I do not mean storming into your child's 3rd grade classroom as if it were the Bastille and sending your child's teacher to decapitation. What I DO propose, is exposing your child to learning in ways that only YOU can do. And the beautiful thing is, you can expose your child to learning stuff anywhere and everywhere.

In addition to your child's set academic foundation, try taking your kid to a museum. Talk to your child. Tell him/her/them about your 4 (or 5) days at Woodstock. Teach your kid how to make s'mores. Teach your kid the language and/or culture of your parents that you've suppressed all your life in the aims to become "more American."

It's okay to funny. Witty. Vulnerable. You are no less of a parent if you commit to all three. Or more.

Take a look at this article on the image. Yes, if you're visiting for the first time, click on an image here and you'll likely wind up reading something or other. Sometimes a snarky definition I've put there, sometimes it is something useful.

But seriously, read about some of those kids. Some look like a parent or two may be directing their kids to be awesome SAT numbers-producers. But which kid looks like he might be actually become fulfilled later in life? Happy until he reaches his grave? You decide.

If you do choose to homeschool, LaMai begs you to NOT do it to have your kids produce venerable SAT scores or have an edge to get into Harvard. Yes, yes, I dream of a Harvard-type school for my kid, too, but I am not stupid. When I am long gone, I want to know that Alexander will be having fun in career and life, will be able to stand on his own two feet, and will have no major life regrets. Or I will come back from the grave to haunt him (and likely commit myself to ghost purgatory). Because that -- succumbing to what everybody else wants -- is a leech that sucks at you. It will affect you elsewhere in your life -- relationships, driving habits, how your knee jerks -- oh, it'll be there. Trust me. In my case, I've had my share of leeches because I did things to make other people --my mother, community, society-- happy. To this day, I am still trying to find my niche, because my strengths were never nurtured at the BEST time to do so in my life.

Think homeschooling is expensive? This is where LaMai says, MWAH HAH HAH HAH HAH!!! and provides the following:

Exhibit A -- My kid does a sport for 3 hours every week with a bona fide Olympic medalist who even wrote a letter of recommendation for my son's school admissions. Academic tutoring is thrown in for free, as a perk to attract students to the sport. Cost: $25 a year. Not a typo.
Exhibit B -- My kid takes science classes taught by PhDs that can lead to actual lab work at a world-recognized science institution. Free.
Exhibit C -- Also participates in a playwriting class with a group for teens that Steven Sondheim started. Broadway plays thrown in with dinner, after class. Also free.
Exhibit D -- Gets need-based scholarships from the most famous American photography school's teen program. I set the cost of what I can contribute (pick a number, between $25 and $175). The classes costs the uber-rich parents over $800 per session. My kid has enrolled in four of these classes to-date.

You get the idea? This is DO-A-B-L-E. You can structure it the way you want, at a cost which you can afford. You have to do the research and find what is out there. If you can't afford it, don't do it. Don't put it on the credit card. Your kid can pick up a book and learn whatever is in the class that you can't afford.

Somewhere along the way, you will want to Turn It Off. Yes. I mean the television. You as teacher will find Mr. Telly-Box to be the Distractor of Grandest Proportions. It's okay. Try it. Madonna did it. So did my filmmaker friend whose wife works at VH-1. No t.v. makes for surprisingly literate children. Just take this precaution: Mr. Telly-box is NOT Mr. Verboten Telly-Box. You will still need it for occasional useful educational viewing. Or your kids will wind up like my friend who was raised in a teepee by her Canadian white-folk alternative-lifestyle parents. They banned the t.v. from their teepee, and now she watches t.v. every day, 24/7, on digital cable and knows every single show frontwards and backwards and in cryptic code.

If you choose to do "homeschooling" as a supplement to institutional school learning, think about going to museums. Museums generally take "suggested donations" which you actually determine, or have free days. Hint to folks who don't live in New York: If it's all that you've got, you can present ONE AMERICAN PENNY and still get in to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. That's what endowments are for, darling. Give the penny, smile, and thank the museum clerk for letting you and your kids learn "about all the amazing and educational things" in their wonderful museum. Here's another reason not to feel guilty: my friend the self-made millionaire does it each and every time he goes to that museum.

Go to free concerts. Bring your blanket and sit on the park lawn and boogie. Yes, I am talking to you.

If you do this enough, you will find something to be true: your child has interests all his or her own. Your child likes museum art, or likes to play blues guitar or wants to learn about locksmithing. Or how maracas are made. Or has taken an interest in Micronesia. Or Victor Hugo or Shakespeare. And you will say, "Great. I'll help you find out more about locksmithing or Micronesia or how maracas are made" until your kid has been doing it for a while. Maybe figuring out a way to land a scholarship to fly to Micronesia. Or to the best Mexican maracas factory to become its first tween apprentice. Whatever that interest is, discover it (DO NOT dictate it, because that will yield less than maximum results) and then, this is the IMPORTANT part: nurture it.

Somewhere along the way, your child will become so good at that one thing, or maybe that and another thing, that on top of your kid's decent grades and extracurriculars, your child will be...a true Super Applicant.

Because it's not what the admissions applications expert gets out of it, it's what your child gets out of it. And that, my dears, will keep you out of ghost purgatory.
Heh, I found this post-blogging: http://www.jackpo.org/2006/11/23/new-york-magazine-the-bastion-of-journalism-idiocy/

Turns out one of our Super Applicants may be padding her resume. Am I surprised? Erm, did I write this post for a reason, or what?


tavox said...

wow, excellent site!!


L said...

Hey, La Mai!

Great post, intimidating though. I am hoping that excelling in the Aussie system, where many (most?) of the students opt for vocational training and apprenticeships, will enhance the girls' chances to pursue higher education (if they choose that route.)

Gone are the days when I could have entered Yale based entirely on my high SATs and legacy.

We're heading out tomorrow morning. Can't believe I didn't find the time to fill up on some good black beans and rice. Damn.

la Maitresse said...

Intimidating? This, from the woman who whisked her family away to the South Pacific and is involved in her daughters' lives there to the point of putting me to shame? HAH.

Black beans and rice....yummm!

Manda said...

Thanks for the encouragement! My Alexander is a way off from formal schooling, maybe, but we still "learn" each day. I haven't figured out if I have the guts for full-on homeschooling, although I suspect that's what I'll want to do. It's finding all the best opportunities that scares me--finding activities he can participate in, like what your A has.

la Maitresse said...

Manda, when did your name and hair color change? And is that a cheerleading outfit I see?

Goodness. I'm gone for two seconds and L is somewhere else, and Manda is putting Angelina Jolie to shame.

Elizabeth said...

So great to see you back!!!

Manda said...

Changed my name (to my actual name) due to some confusion by family and friends. That's a Red Sox jersey--had that pic taken on my 31st birthday!