Tuesday, May 28, 2013

When I Grow Up

I was twelve when I got my first guitar (a Lotus, from a pawn shop) and shortly after I learned how to play "Love Me Do" and "Feelin Groovy," I decided what I wanted to be when I grew up: I wanted to be "a hippie."

I started out on the right foot, listening to the Bee Gees (old Bee Gee's, far before the white pants and disco moves) on my garage sale turntable, wondering what the heck Abercrombie & Fitch was and why the girls in my class went there on the weekends. My idea of a hippie was the beautiful part of the picture of the 60's and 70's; girls with long flowing hair and flower necklaces and fun shirts. I didn't even know what marijuana was until I was in highschool, so you can imagine how foreign the concept of free love and LSD were to me. Clue.Less.

My mom and my grandparents tried to dissuade me. They told me hippies were dirty. They told me they smelled bad and that they were homeless. (they didn't mention the drugs and sex.) What I really remember is them stressing to me how bad hippies smell. This really is interesting to me now, as I just got a stick of Nature's Gate non-antiperspirant deodorant from my monthly organic food co-op order. I don't think I smell bad. Well, not too bad, anyway.

This post is not really about deodorant though. (Unless, of course, your deodorant is what makes you who you are. Mine really has very little to do with my identity, I just was curious about ginger deodorant. My underarm stick useage ranges from Anything-Nothing and has very little to do with Who I Am.)

This post is about being true to yourself and how important that is. I'm realizing that for possibly the first time as I prepare myself for sending my oldest child to kindergarten next fall. This school year is over--the preschool year, which we sat out--and I have until July to make my final decision about whether or not to homeschool. I go back and forth on this every day, thinking through the pros and cons of both options. And since I'm only a year out from having to make the decision all over again with the next daughter, I tend to do a kind of two-for-one thought deal and consider both kids while thinking through this tough decision.

I went to Catholic schools from preschool to my highschool graduation and I turned out just fine. I never had any issues with bullying, I never had much drama, I never tried to keep up with the other girls in my class. I mostly didn't care. I'm not sure I had any enemies, and I had a small group of really great friends. I never felt like my identity or freedom of person was at stake just because I spent every day in a classroom, however, I remember our classrooms as being very free. I don't remember spending a whole lot of time in my desk. When I was in school there was a lot of "doing." And even if you were stuck in your desk for awhile, there was always the promise of some kind of doing right around the corner. I never felt my creativity was stifiled. I drew all the time. I wrote stories. In highschool, when the rest of the class was reading The Scarlet Letter, I simply didn't read it; I read something else that I really, really enjoyed, and I would tell my English teacher all about it. It was not classic literature, it was some stupid pop fiction book, and she told me I'd still have to take the Scarlet Letter test, and I didn't care, I never read it. I failed the test. She was never mad at me. It was what it was. (Except for that test, I did very well in her class.) I was being true to myself in the moment, and she didn't judge me for that.

Then I think about what I know of today's schools. It's very different. I feel like I've blogged about this before--about how creativity is being pushed out of the classroom. About how the fourth graders I subbed for weren't allowed to draw in their free time--they were expected to do worksheets. Always more busywork to do. Always in your desk. Always paying attention. Always following these exact directions. Never thinking outside the box.

I recently had a short email discussion with a friend about homeschooling and his response was that schools, as he has observed, are turning out people who are "intelligent, but dull." Martin and I thought that was dead on. Intelligent, but dull. Prepared for college. Prepared for work. Prepared for The Nine To Five. Prepared for a life of drudgery, following the rules, following the other sheep, doing what others do because that's what is expected and that's what they've been trained to do.

I so don't want my kids to be made out of ticky tacky. I talked to their ballet teacher last week and thanked her for being kind to them, (without saying "even though they are the worst ballerinas in the class") and she responded that they are a joy and that it's wonderful to see free spirits. And it reminded me that not everyone IS a free spirit. Not everyone is encouraged to be. Not everyone is encouraged to think outside the box, to be themselves.

Where the heck am I going with this blabbering post?!

I don't even know. I just know that I've been listening to a lot of Joan Baez lately and I realized that Joan Baez isn't very cool anymore, but that I don't care because I love her anyway. And I love anti-war songs because they are passionate. And I love Joan Baez for more than her great hair.

Listening to Joan Baez makes me want to homeschool forever.

Here is the point of this post: BE TRUE TO YOURSELF. If you can, that is. For example, before I got my guitar, I really wanted to be a veterinarian. But then I realized that I really suck at science and math and that maybe a medical profession was not really my calling. But, I still love animals! I can still have a few goats or sheep and a lot of dogs and cats even though I can't administer vaccinces or anesthesia to them. I can play music to them. That's being true to myself. I can teach my kids all the words to "The Battle of New Orleans" because that is being true to myself. I can wear outdated clothes and ginger deodorant because that is being true to myself, even if it makes people stand a few feet farther away from me in checkout lines.

There are things I'm into and things I'm not into; there are things about me that are hip (maybe... I'm still trying to think of one, actually... oh, I have a small garden!!) and things that are out of style. (everything else.) There are things that are "in" that I wish I could be into! (Like bike riding--love the idea, hate the traffic.) But I am happy with who I am because I am the person I've wanted to be since I was twelve. I have two dogs, two cats, and I'm still obsessed with anti-war folk songs from the 1960's. I think it's really important to be true to yourself. I want to teach my kids the same thing. I fear it will be harder with Anja, as she ventures out further into the world. She might be affected by judgement in a negative way.

Greta, on the other hand, doesn't give two hoots about what other people do or think.

It's funny--I worry about Anja in a way of society having a negative impact on her internal person. I just worry about Greta wandering off and getting lost. Haha. Actually, I'm serious.

At the end of the day, I'd rather live in a tree than in ticky tacky boxes. (Anja and I have grand plans about living in trees. Maybe someday.)

I have another post in my head about daughters. Another time.


Anonymous said...

Annie: What a great post. I'm so proud of you. But I have to say, I'm not sure school really determines all this. You have to have the confidence in yourself to have more effect on how your kids develop than school. We did some pretty unorthodox stuff while you were growing up and I think that helped send the message that you could be whoever you wanted to be.

Anonymous said...

I wrote a great comment, but it is gone into cyberspace. Ditto what Daddy said and we support homeschooling or whatever choice you make! I am so proud of you! Too bad my first post disappeared.

Mike Byers said...

I used to think most of the problems you find in public schools could be overcome by good teachers and concerned parents. Maybe that was true at one time, but from what I've seen in the last five or so years it's not true today. From what I can see, public schools are just a system: a very big and very expensive system that has nothing at all to do with "education." In fact, I'd bet that a significant part of the money spent on "education" has nothing at all to do with children or learning and has everything to do with bureaucracy, spending huge amounts of money and the administration of (from a strictly scientific viewpoint)of highly questionable testing programs.
So if you want your kids to learn and to place any value on learning at all, then it seems to me that homeschooling would be the way to go. Sure, there are great teachers out there; I know several of them. But they have no more chance against the system than the average kid does. I don't suppose home schooling is easy, but there's lots of material and help out there. And I bet you and your husband would be great at it, too. And BTW, I've got a 60s-sounding anti-war song for you...

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