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Wednesday, February 24, 2010

All Old-Fashioned and Homey

Munchkin #1 and I were talking about plans for the day as we were out running errands yesterday morning. We decided that re-potting some plants and starting seeds for the garden were high on our agenda. Then we decided to stop by the library and pick up a book tape that all of us might enjoy. Munchkin talked of bringing down the spinning wheel to finish spinning some wool into yarn, and we knew that Middle Munchkin had some drawing projects she was working on. It sounded like a nice way to spend an afternoon -- listening to a book tape while spinning and planting and drawing.

"So basically, we're talking about being all old-fashioned and homey for the afternoon," Munchkin commented.

That's us... all old-fashioned and homey. It's funny how you can be those things, but not necessarily be those things in the way that people imagine those things.

A health practitioner asked me recently, in fact, if we owned a television. My initial reaction was to be confused. Sure we own a television. Who doesn't own a television?

But then I started putting things together, through her eyes, just taking the bits and pieces she knows about me. Our family homeschools. That's a word that comes with a lot of baggage, a lot of preconceived notions. That fact alone was probably enough to make her wonder if we might be anti-television people. So I fumbled, first explaining that we love TV, or maybe access to what's on TV since we watch most of our media online now, but in fact we don't watch a lot of television. I suppose it depends on who you compare us to. I mean, we do enjoy it, but our television is not on all the time. It is not our default form of entertainment. My kids probably have more freedom than many kids when it comes to television and movies, but I would guess they watch far less than average. I'm not above putting on a movie to get some time to myself. At least, I wasn't when they were little. It works a little differently now. They are pretty much in charge of their own television viewing, negotiations revolve around how television is handled once some household members (usually mom and dad) want to be in bed. We do encourage mindful watching rather than just plopping down and watching whatever happens to be on. I've been known to request that the television be shut off. I suppose I am a TV snob in some respects. My feelings on many reality TV programs, for instance, certainly influence my children's viewing habits.

Maybe I work too hard to make sure my answers are complete and understood. Instead of simply saying, yes, we own a television, I find myself falling into this mode of explanation. I'm trying to stave off the inevitable line of comments that seem to follow.

"Kids watch too much television these days." True in general, but is this a problem truly limited to our under 18 population?

"Television is evil and brainwashing." But also entertaining and educational. Let's face it -- sometimes it feels good to just zone out. I can't begin to tell you how many "subjects" get covered in our house, often introduced by something somebody saw on television.

Perhaps I should be content when people view me as old-fashioned and homey. In many ways I am, after all. I just hate leaving the wrong impression. I don't want to be seen as a wonder woman, super teacher/homemaker, who plops my children at the table every day for lessons and manages to serve meals on time, as well, because what I am is so, so much more fun than that.

Yes, we have a television.

No, my children do not take state assessment tests.

Yes, we "have school" every day.

Yes, we have summer vacations, too.

No, we're not playing hooky from school today.

Okay, this trip to the grocery store is part of our consumer education class, or we're studying nutrition (quick, read a label!).

Those are the easy answers. The ones I should stick to for 90% of the questioners out there. It's much more difficult to explain that learning isn't separate from life, to talk about choices and beliefs and motivations and what drives us. At least, in the three-minute window you have at the check out line as someone nearby is asking why your kids aren't in school today. Yet sometimes I find myself trying to explain these things anyway.

I had my hygienist, at the dentist's office the other day saying, "So that's why I hated reading so much as a kid." I wasn't trying to convert her, but she was a sharer and I guess I was in a sharing place, so I found myself talking to her about the dangers of pushing all kids to learn to read at such an early age and encouraging her to honor her daughter's "shyness" and "difficulty" in getting up in front of a crowd rather than pushing her to do things that made her daughter anxious.  

If I encourage people to ask more questions of themselves, their own beliefs and lifestyles, I guess that's okay with me. I just don't want to be perceived as the mother sitting there with fingers in her ears waving nanny-nanny-boo-boo and declaring that my choices (and my family) are superior. "My kid knows their ABC's better than your kid." 

This is not what I do, yet this is the reaction I sometimes get when people learn that we homeschool. It's part of the baggage that comes with not sending your kids to public school. This is why I think I sometimes find myself rushing to the defense of the mother who declares, "I could never do that with my own kids."

Sure you could, if you wanted to. Or maybe it truly isn't what you should do. We are all from different circumstances. We all make choices, or at least have the power to make the choices that are important to us. But just in case you are really interested, I'd like you to understand a little more about what I really do. Forget what you know about homeschoolers. Forget what you believe about people who are all old-fashioned and homey. Forget, and just imagine what could be.

Yesterday, our plans got derailed when six boxes of books were delivered to my door by the FedEx man. The Kansas Authors Club yearbooks are done and I was eager to view the final result (beautiful!). After re-potting plants and starting our garden seeds, we turned to stuffing and labeling envelopes to distribute the yearbooks. Actually, this was my activity, but all three kids ended up joining me, making it much more fun. Good company makes even the most tedious job a good time.

All-in-all, a lot of time was spent around the kitchen table yesterday. We topped the day off with homemade pizza (my efforts at making pizza crust were finally a hit) and fruit smoothies for dessert.

Old-Fashioned and Homey?


It's really not a bad way to be.


Anonymous said...


I loved reading this and can so relate. After finishing a novel that had us all engrossed, we made some homemade pancakes and popped in a history documentary we've been waiting for a chance to watch. Maybe it's the blend of old-fashioned and technology that makes our lives so sweet.:0)


Anonymous said...

Thanks, Tracy, for such a sweet reminder of the beauty in this journey we are on. Sometimes, I forget these simple truths.

Sandra Dodd said...

Did the doctor want you to say yes or no, about TV? Was there a "right answer" in that conversation?

I'm at Jill Parmers, and they don't have a TV. What!? Not that I came here to want to watch TV, and I wouldn't have anyway, but from where I'm sitting right here I can see six computer screens that live here, and two that Holly and I brought. When the kids rented a movie, they set it up on a laptop on a table, to watch from a VERY comfy couch.

The world changes and moving pictures with sound are easily portable now! "A TV" isn't such "a thing" to need or judge life by at all. And "screentime" makes no more sense to me than "printed page time" would.

Tracy said...

I usually assume that question is an attempt to judge just how "out" there I am, or which direction "out" there I am. Homeschooling often equates with extremely conservative around here, so when people find out we homeschool, they aren't sure if they should invite me to church, or offer me a margarita, or whatever. ;-) It felt like a way to determine where we might have connections -- we had already established similar interests in integrative medicine and such, but I think she was just determining how far she could let her hair down, so to speak.