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.

When I became pregnant, I made the conscious decision to a full-time stay-at-home mother. Eight years later, I have come to the conclusion that what I thought was a personal decision is more than that. It is political. It has been made abundantly clear to me that such a decision is supposed to be only the purview of married women whose husbands work at jobs where they earn a wage that makes the lack of two incomes a non-issue.  It is not a decision that society permits low income, not-completely college-educated women-such as myself. My status as a mother is, apparently, qualified by the pejorative “single” as if the way I mother my son is somehow qualitatively different than the way I would mother him if  his father and I hadn’t divorced before he was conceived…and also by the fact that I turned down his father’s remarriage request after our son was conceived.

The links below provided today discuss this “situation” in terms that define the saying “the personal is political”.

http://socialistworker.org/2012/07/23/single-mother-myth:

As long as our society is organized around the existence of the nuclear family, no matter how mythical that ideal has become, those who live outside it will be punished. In our society, the entire cost of raising the next generation of workers is pushed onto the private family. This represents a massive savings for those who run this society. Women’s unpaid labor in the home–in the U.S. alone–represents more than $1.4 trillion each year, according to the estimate of United Nations researchers in 1995.

http://bit.ly/MA7YMC:

Rather than opining on whether [Marissa] Mayer will be a good mommy, what we really ought to be talking about is why the workplace remains so incompatible with motherhood in the first place – and why we assume that fixing that incompatibility is women’s work.

http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2012/07/why-women-still-can-8217-t-have-it-all/9020/6/?single_page=true

EIGHTEEN MONTHS INTO my job as the first woman director of policy planning at the State Department, a foreign-policy dream job that traces its origins back to George Kennan, I found myself in New York, at the United Nations’ annual assemblage of every foreign minister and head of state in the world. On a Wednesday evening, President and Mrs. Obama hosted a glamorous reception at the American Museum of Natural History. I sipped champagne, greeted foreign dignitaries, and mingled. But I could not stop thinking about my 14-year-old son, who had started eighth grade three weeks earlier and was already resuming what had become his pattern of skipping homework, disrupting classes, failing math, and tuning out any adult who tried to reach him. Over the summer, we had barely spoken to each other—or, more accurately, he had barely spoken to me. And the previous spring I had received several urgent phone calls—invariably on the day of an important meeting—that required me to take the first train from Washington, D.C., where I worked, back to Princeton, New Jersey, where he lived. My husband, who has always done everything possible to support my career, took care of him and his 12-year-old brother during the week; outside of those midweek emergencies, I came home only on weekends.

the things children say

July 16, 2010

my child asked me the other day if someone we’re familiar with "thinks well"? i laughed and laughed. what a question from a six yr old! after i finished laughing (and calling everyone i know) i asked him "do you want the truth or a child appropriate answer?

he’s my child: he wanted the truth.

"some people just have ‘boo-boos’ in their head but don’t think they have boo=boos in their head. they think you have the boo-boo”. my son looked at my like i was crazy. i started laughing. “it’s true!” 

of course, being a child, he still wants to talk to this person. the innocence of children. such innocence is admirable but in the real world such innocence is at a premium. i can’t have my lil black star be a sitting duck for the irresponsible people {aka boo-boo heads”} of the world but what i’m realizing and accepting [with sincere thanks to the universe] is that it’s not my battle. it’s his.

my psyche will not be the landscape on which this “battle” will be fought; his will. my only duty to him in this matter is to make sure he comes through without a boo-boo of his own in his precious head.

sinew under skin stretches as i open my eyes, look at the clock and start counting. ninety minutes until the other human being who resides with me has to be at school. as i run through the ritual, i find myself missing those days when time was an entity to enjoy, not count.

i hate counting. i hate constantly eyeballing the clock but i what i hate most is what i’m teaching my six yr old as i tell him over and over he’s wasting time.

i heard myself tell him that this morning and even after the flag went up the first time, i heard myself repeating it several more times.

how can time be wasted? i mean, literally, when time is constantly being reborn. there’s always going to be another minute coming. if not for me, then for someone. and if not for them, then for someone or something else. can something that doesn’t stop be wasted? is time the one thing that has an endless flow? how to demonstrate the endless nature of time…and still get him to school on time?

i hate counting. i hate to be counted even more; which is why the census form is still in its envelope. is statistical data really a requirement for fixing neighborhoods across the country? i would’ve thought having the desire to fix neighborhoods across the country would be the main ingredient for success. plus, when i think of how the government’s little counting games can end up in gerrymandering, i’m even more reluctant. 

in addition to the other reasons are the fact that it brings to the mind the plantation when africans were counted as things…and sometimes not even fully things but 3/5ths of a thing.

and if that isn’t enough….

it also reminds me of when i used to visit my ex-husband in prison and if i went at shift change time, i’d have to wait almost ninety minutes while they counted every single inmate in the place. they did this several times a day – even w/o a single report of a prison break or any other possibly legitimate reason other than capitalism’s insane love of counting.

i hate counting. i hate being counted but certain people can count on me.

Contraband Marriage

March 17, 2010

We make it work by inches.

Our hands extended above our heads

pushing at the concrete

understanding that

even if it’s turned into a wall

that wall will one day crack and then break

under the pressure of our hands

and we will breathe free

Contraband Marriage book cover

In prison, a place where emotions based on affection are just about non-existent, love becomes the rarest of commodities; and as such is both highly prized and legislated.

By falling in love with a man who was incarcerated, I was participating in an activity considered contrary to the status quo on a variety of levels. Black people aren’t supposed to love one another. Black women aren’t supposed to love Black men. And no one is supposed to love the prisoners. But it happens and such love becomes contraband; something to be smuggled in and experienced on the sly.

Contraband Marriage covers those oppressive times and travels along the hemline of loving after incarceration, digging deep into its affects on that love, my walk into motherhood and how simple the decision to disentangle became when a child was involved. In multi-color, it paints the pains of the personal being political, the bumpy terrain of healing and the beautiful difficulty that can be forgiveness. It is a love story written in lyric and free form, set in reality with a different ever after.

ISBN:  978-0-9789355-5-9

For previews and ordering info, please visit my storefront.

For Women and the Nation: Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti of Nigeria:

I’ve started reading this already but have been interrupted by other reading interludes: A Thousand Splendid Suns; Something Torn and New; I, Alex Cross; The Epic of Askia Mohammed; Our Sister Killjoy.  I’ll be discussing some of them in later posts as they do fit the meme.

After reading the above paragraph, I realized someone reading this might think that my detours on the reading path are the result of a disinterest in Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti (FRK). Nothing further could be the truth.

The other day after a reading bout with Something Torn and New  by Ngugi wa Thiong’o, I had the thought that he just might transplant Malcolm X as my ideological father. However, I quickly realized it doesn’t have to be an either/or proposition. As a writer, Ngugi helps me to be centered and connected to what is ultimately most righteous about writing. As an African, Malcolm helped me to be proud. Both help me to be a better human being. But there’s no denying they are both men. As historian Edna Gay said in her introduction to Wives of the Leopard (another book on my list),

“Dahomey seemed a place where women prior to the colonial period had enjoyed extraordinary liberties and powers – an ideal subject for a young woman, like so many others at the time, looking for patterns of female autonomy different from the experience of the West”.

I didn’t realize how hungry I was for “patterns of female automony different from…the West” until I started reading about FRK.  All the contradictions black women, in general and conscious black women, in particular, face were experienced by Funmilayo. She responded to these pressures and contradictions by drawing closer to Africa (and African culture) rather than divorcing herself.

I believe that part of her ability to do so was fostered by her parents’ belief in educating girl children. In fact they believed in it so much, they sent her to England to continue her education…even though she was deeply in love with her future husband. While in England, she chose to drop her Christian first name of Frances and be known only by the African Funmilayo. This, at age 19 in 1919. Also at some point in her activist life, she also chose to forgo wearing european clothing.  All this while still remaining a Christian. How was she able to manage what seems to be incompatible identities? What was it about her husband that made him supportive of her goals? Basically what lessons can we glean from her life and doings that would enable us to be healthier and whole instead of fractured and ill.

As I stated at the beginning I haven’t finished the book yet. Therefore I don’t feel qualified to post this like it’s an actual review. These are simply my first impressions. When I finish it, you know I’ll have more Mad Reader thoughts.

Even though I am not a gourmand à la Julia Child or Julie of Julie and Julia fame, I do lay claim to being proficient enough in the kitchen to be able to tempt my child to eat. but for what seemed endless days in a row, he has refused to eat my roasted chicken, my potatoes roasted in butter and dill, my spaghetti and meatballs. Basically anything, as I tell him imploringly, designed to have him grow into a strong man. Of course, he will eat my apple crumb pie w/vanilla ice cream as well as devouring my chocolate lava cakes, also with vanilla ice cream. He has even expressed his delight by telling me how to eat the apple crumb pie in order to get the most delight out of it. But still, I wasn’t playing around in the title of this blog. I was preparing myself…and him…for an impending strike. I was going to refuse to cook for him…or order any food. I knew there was enough leftover food in the fridge for him to eat if he got  hungry enough.

EUSFT202L

The whole exercise in tyranny of the minor was made moot when the grand idea of star shaped food to tempt him hit me. But what could I use for the star? The only molds we had in the house were of airplanes and trains. Then my desperate mind thought of his play dough star mold. We both went in search  of it; although he didn’t know why. Pay dirt behind the closet door! I snatched it up, cleaned it, dried it and then pushed it down in the small mound of seasoned raw ground turkey. Then I washed it, dried it and did the same with thawed pie crust; which then went in the oven while the burgers went into the frying pan.

15 minutes later the food was assembled and delivered to the ultimate food critic (and picky eater) who after devouring two of them (they were so tiny, I gave him four) graciously offered to sacrifice his play dough star for the sake of such culinary delight.

Dirty Words

September 19, 2009

Don’t hyperventilate, Tichaona. That’s all I kept telling myself. Don’t hyperventilate. I could feel my heart pounding in my chest. I started muttering to myself. As the rage began to constrict my vision, I told myself “leave, Tichaona…leave this auditorium, this space where they are attempting to indoctrinate my child. So I did and I went straight to the school secretary to find out what I needed to do to stop my son from participating in the pledge of allegiance. “You don’t want your son pledging allegiance to the country of his birth?” Don’t hyperventilate, Tichaona. Is she really saying such a thing? I could only stare at her for a minute. Then I asked her (trying to rein in my shaky voice) is it your job to ask me that or is it your job to help me find a way to solve it? Then she got down to business and gave me the information I sought.

This happened on a Friday. All weekend I thought about what to do. I vacillated between pulling him out of the Friday assembly altogether and letting him continue without saying anything. Not saying anything further about the matter left me feeling like a collaborator. Then the mother in me acknowledged he’s only five and won’t understand being separated from the rest of the class…and the rest of the class won’t understand him being separated. All the mental furor brought to mind my conundrum when I became a citizen. So I decided to have my child participate…but say his own pledge…one that’s directed inward instead of externally.

I talked to him about pledges and how they are promises to someone or some thing. I told him his pledge should be “I promise myself I will learn how to read”. I say it with him everyday. Let him get indoctrinated by that!

Situation resolved but it did remind me of a poem by Shakur Towns

Dirty Words

Kids say the damnedest things…
Like the time
one of my babies said
“shit”
at the dinner table
or
the time
my baby girl said
“booty”
in front of my mother.
Where do they get this stuff from?
I try to watch
what they
watch
and listen to
what they
listen to,
and we are all
careful
of what WE say…
but still
they come up with some doozies…

My four year old
stopped me dead
in my tracks.
She said something that I will
never
forget.
And she smiled
and said it over
and
over
again.
My heart stopped
my breathing got shallow.
She smiled
like she was PROUD
of herself.
I think
that’s what hurt
most of all.
She smiled like she was
PROUD.
I grabbed her
and all I could do
was just
hold her
tight
against me.
A tear ran down my face
as she kept reciting
like some insane mantra,

“I pledge allegiance to the flag…”