Homeschooling Journey #2

November 20, 2016

It’s been two years since I posted about homeschooling. Yes, we are still doing it. When it comes to my son’s education, I claim unschooler more than any other identity in the homeschooling universe. I admit that when we first embarked on this journey, I was still in the grasp of traditional schooling and therefore, printed out copious amount of worksheets, bought books that contained things I assumed he needed to know, etc, etc. We, my son and I, both struggled with the workload I wanted to assign him. Eventually, as we got into the groove, I let go of a lot of traditional education thinking that was, truthfully, handicapping the process. That was year one.

Year two, my ideas were still muddied about the whole thing but I had to consistently remind myself why I pulled him out of school and what I wanted to accomplish with this new process. I wanted him to be a free-thinker. As I said, over and over, to family and friends and acquaintances, I’m not raising a slave. If unschooling was something that required a mission statement, that would be it: I’m not raising a slave. Of course that means he is free to disagree with me and frequently does; which sometimes raises my parental ire. As I tell him “sometimes, it’s just best to say yes, mom” and leave the “battle” for another day when I’m more open to his entreaties.

Heading into year three, I have to say that I am simply amazed by how much my son learns if I step outside the process! As a result of him sharing what he’s researched, I’ve learned things I had no interest in learning but still…I am amazed and proud. Not only is my son intelligent but he has a sense of self I didn’t have at his age (12) and he feels free to share his growth (although he doesn’t yet see it as such) with me.

Of course, I can’t totally let go of things I think he should know; especially as high school creeps up on the horizon. At this point, I am thinking he should go to the local high school and experience what that is all about. But I am not sure. I don’t want arbitrary standardized testing to negatively impact on his educational growth. I also am firmly opposed to some educational bureaucrat trying to track him. When he was still in traditional school, a teacher called me to advocate for that and I shut that down. Quick, fast and in a hurry.

I was tracked as a kid. My mother, an immigrant, assumed that the educational professionals knew something she didn’t know about her troublesome girl child and let them put me into “special” ed. As painful and contradictory as that decision was, I don’t blame her. I understand, now,  that she didn’t understand the context in which such decisions are made. The minute, figuratively speaking, I graduated from high school, I started reading about education. As “troublesome” as I was, I was never anti-education. I was, simply, anti-school.

One of the books I still remember was authored by Jonathan Kozol. Savage Inequalities changed my educational life but still, I couldn’t totally repudiate my mother’s sensibility because I was raised to respect and honor the elders in my family. The fact that their reality  didn’t correspond to my reality was neither here nor there. It is only now, as I approach 50, that I have the ovaries to say a respectful  yet direct no. I refuse to put my son through what I went through. I will not sacrifice him as I feel as I was sacrificed.

So here we are, approaching the third year of unschooling. I find myself starting to think about the high school on the horizon: whether I actually want him to attend in this current environment and what I need to do to prepare him if the mutual (yet parental-directed) decision is for high school  or to go straight to community college as a readying environment for a 4 year college.

 

 

 

Today is my son’s 12th birthday. 12 years! Time flies and flies! Motherhood has, of course, changed me…for the better. Over the years since I’ve become a Mother, I have seen a lot of things that assault what it means, for me, an African woman who is consciously single, to be a Mother. Be clear, when I say consciously single, I mean that. I ended my marriage but not my interaction with his dad (my was-band). It was after our divorce that I got pregnant. His dad and I discussed remarrying and my answer was a resounding no!

Don’t get me wrong. I still have love for his dad. We went through a lot together…and apart…and there is no other man in the world, if it was possible to go back and re-choose, that I would have chosen to be my child’s father. I recognized, even at that stage when my child (aka fetus) wasn’t formed enough to move inside me, that two different things were at play. There was the relationship of a man and a woman. And there was the relationship between father and child. I believed then and still believe now that it’s wasn’t necessary for his dad and I to be together in order for his dad to have a relationship with our child.

Still, I was a womanist and when I found out I was carrying a boy, I sat in the ultrasound room and cried my heart out. Of course, now I look back and say “that was hormones”. But still, I had spent a lot of time and emotional energy deciding on a name for a girl. I was convinced, in my heart of hearts, that I was going to give birth to a girl. Still bound by a patriarchal understanding that women can’t raise boys to manhood, I wasn’t at all happy about the fact that my child was going to have a penis!  So I cried, something I do only when I am extremely upset!

But then the day came. When I felt the first contraction, I immediately gave up any idea of giving birth naturally and said “give me the epidural”. I look back now and say “you punk, you were so scared of the pain, you allowed the nurses to give you a shot in your spine” and said shot numbed me so much I was unable to feel my legs, let alone “push”. And the white female doctor, who was so unfamiliar with black women’s health issues, that she had to look up, in my presence, what it meant that I carried the sickle cell trait, decided, eventually, that she would have to bring my child into the world through a Caesarian. And she also gave me a scar I haven’t been able to eradicate to this day; presumably because black people heal unlike white people…

Still, I love that scar and I love the boy I gave birth to. I realized, pretty quickly, that my womanist bent meant I was more qualified, emotionally and culturally speaking, to be a mother of a boy than I was of a girl. In other words, I wasn’t a “girly girl”. I don’t wear makeup. Whenever I wear a dress or a skirt, people in my circle feel it necessary to exclaim and exalt me for doing so as if a dress or a skirt suddenly demonstrates to them that I possess a vagina; even though I do so whenever the weather is conducive. I don’t torture my feet by wearing what I call “hooker heels”.

I used to agonize about the above like it meant that I was, inherently, deficient in feminine qualities (aka “ain’t I a woman?”). And then I had a conversation with a now-former Sister-friend and said conversation resulted in me saying “I’m okay and have been for quite a while”. I realized that it wasn’t me that was deficient. The motherhood model was what was deficient.

Once I realized, and embraced that I was and continue to be, able to raise a boy to manhood. I realized that all the patriarchal/hotep folks who were very vocally against women raising boys weren’t against it because they doubted a woman’s ability. They were against it because they disagreed with the kind of man women such as I were raising. We weren’t (and are not) raising our boys (they don’t consider the girls) to be the Barack Obama version of Kaitlyn Jenner. (Ponder that for a moment)

As I routinely state on my private (friends only) Facebook page, I am raising a man, not a slave. And as my child (and I) celebrate his twelfth year of existence in a country where black children can’t play in a park without being murdered by those who are alleged to “protect and serve”, I give thanks to all I am that enables me to do so (raise a man, not a slave).

So…happy, happy bornday (he was born, I gave birth) to my very, very beloved yng blk star. May you continue to thrive and grow…and define for yourself what it means to be you!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blerd Mom Chronicles

February 2, 2016

Urban dictionary describes “blerd” as such:

A nerd who is of African American decent [sic]. A BLack-nERD.
Turk: “My cousins a blerd”
Carla: !?!?!
Turk: A black nerd.

Based on their definition I am not a blerd because I am not of “African American decent [sic]”. It’s not necessary to go into my ancestry. Suffice it to say that at 48, none of the elders in my family were born in America. So I may not be a “nerd who is of African American descent [sic]” but I am a black nerd, a blerd.

My son, who is, partly, of African American descent, agrees; pointedly and comically. The other day, when I was near the completion of a marathon session of watching all seven seasons of Buffy the Vampire Slayer (something I do every once in a while),  I told him that watching Jessica Jones reminded me of Buffy and Buffy reminded me of Jessica Jones so I would be watching both series of Jessica and Buffy again. He hugged me, thus cementing his reputation as the “huggingest boy in the world” and showed me (with his finger) the tear he was “shedding” because his mom was turning into a nerd. I’m African-centered so of course I corrected him: “blerd not nerd”.

Recently, the huggingest boy in the world has surpassed the previous holder of World Record of number of hugs given in the space of sixteen minutes. And he achieved that stature as a result of his delight at my pointing him toward Black Nerd Problems. We bonded over this article: Ancestry For Nerds: How I Found My Blerd Roots Hiding in Plain Sight. I was regaled with tales of racist encounters he has has in gameville: “Oh, I didn’t know your people like sci-fi”. “I’m not racist. I love the character of Guinan on Star Trek. She was so magical and feisty”.

(I thought to myself they don’t know about the Color Purple Whoopi.)

I said “yeah and I bet those are the same people who objected to John Boyega playing Finn in the latest Star Wars movie or a Black actress playing Hermione or  Rue in The Hunger Games being black.” The minute I mentioned Rue and the Hunger Games, I knew it was confirmed that I am indeed numbered among the blerd universe. My son knew it too and we did the thing that is fundamental to our family: we laughed.