A Week In The Life Of…

What does the life of a homeschooling family look like? 

It’s one of those subjects that homeschoolers love to ask about, read about, blog about, compare, and borrow from.

It’s also one of those subjects that people who don’t homeschool want to gawk at, assuming (rightfully) that it’s a $%^@ show.  It’s also so different from the norm.  A person can make assumptions about life at traditional schools.  Subjects, teachers, classrooms, gymnasiums, recess, cafeterias… we all have a picture in our minds of what that looks like, and it’s woven tightly enough into our culture that it doesn’t actually need much description.[1]

Well, I’m a couple of months into this crazy venture now, and whoa, where did the time go?

I thought it would be fun to do a week-in-the-life-of post.  Gawk away, friends, family, and total strangers.  I wrote this during Halloween week, but was planning on adding pictures to make it livelier… but alas, that didn’t wind up happening.

MONDAY

On Monday morning, we spent the morning with our Classical Conversations (“CC”) community.  Before we left for that, our epic lateness prompted a tantrum (mine), the death of a cauliflower (as I smashed it to the ground in a surprisingly gratifying expression of frustration), sore boobs (once again, mine, because I didn’t have time to nurse Fitz before we left), and a breath of fresh air as we walked into the familiarity of these other families that have chosen a similar lifestyle to ours, who all believe in Jesus, and who all are so willing to freely offer the grace to overlook each other’s shortcomings.

Our three hours there consisted of an assembly (with a family presentation, a prayer, the pledge of allegiance, a pledge to the Bible, and general announcements) before we broke into smaller groups of eight kids per class, 30 minutes of “new grammar” (new memory work for the week over a variety of subjects), 30 minutes of fine arts instruction, 30 minutes for a science lesson/experiment, 30 minutes for presentations from the kids (yep, they give a presentation every week), and 30 minutes of review.  Afterwards, the kids play outside for 30 minutes of recess, and we all meet together for lunch.

When we leave Classical Conversations, introverted Oliver and I are a bit wiped.  This week, Henry fell asleep in the car on the way home, so I nursed Fitz in the car while the kids practiced their tin whistles outside (apologies to any of my neighbors who may be reading this) and Henry got a bit of sleep.  I put Fitz down for a nap, and was able to transfer Henry to his bed, where he also napped.

Oliver and Hazel both took a math assessment (they have them every five lessons), and both did a writing lesson.  I made three loaves of whole wheat bread for our family, and the kids rode their bikes and scooters outside.  When Henry woke up, the weather was glorious, so we took a walk to a friend’s house and spent the rest of the afternoon with her and her three kids.  We came home to dinner and bedtime, and then I spent time making second dinner (for Kullervo and me) and running a couple of loads of laundry.  I also spent a significant portion of the evening scrubbing the entrance way in our home because one of our kittens has decided that it makes for a good litterbox.

TUESDAY

Tuesday was a fairly straightforward day.  Henry has preschool on Tuesdays and Thursdays, so after making and enjoying breakfast with all of us, Kullervo dropped him off on the way to work while I put Fitz down for his first nap.

We got down to business—I began working on drinking a large pot of coffee while Oliver documented the last science project we did at home (making homemade ice cream) in his chemistry notebook and I worked on a math lesson with Hazel (using tangrams to cover a larger shape and documenting the different ways and shapes she could use to make it, as well as practicing her simple addition facts).

Then Hazel worked on her science. She chooses an animal from one of our books about animals, reads about the animal, and then writes down a few facts she remembers from what she read.  She also draws a picture of the animal.  While she was occupied with that, Oliver and I did his math.  He was working on learning and memorizing his multiplication facts (the 4s).  We talked about how many quarters were in one dollar, two dollars, and so on.  I had him write the products down.  I then told him he had to cheer about how much he loved his math work.  He wouldn’t, so I made him rewrite it.  We laughed, and he continued to refuse, so he rewrote the math facts twice more after that before I convinced him to get up and do a happy dance.

“You will be an enthusiastic boy, or you will be a boy who knows his times tables!”  It turns out he chose to be a boy who knows his multiplication…

The kids both did English lessons—writing, spelling, and grammar.  After that, it was about time to pick Henry up from school.  In the pickup line at school, we increased our carbon footprint in the car line and practiced our CC memory work that we learned on Monday.

We got home at about 12:15, I made lunch, and after we all ate peanut butter sandwiches and I nursed the baby, I put Henry and Fitz down for naps.  I told Henry to stay in bed for twenty minutes, and then, if he was still awake, he could get up and play in his room.  He did not stay in bed for twenty minutes.  I returned him to bed four or five times, and the last time he got up, I pretended that this time he had stayed in bed for twenty minutes because that routine gets exhausting.  While Henry and I were doing the no-nap dance, Oliver and Hazel read independently.  Henry played in his room for awhile, and then wandered downstairs to wreak havoc on the living room so it would match the state of the bedroom he shares with Oliver.  While he played, I read a chapter of the Bible to the kids and then a chapter of Little House in the Big Woods.  By then it was getting near to 3:00, so I started making a snack for Hazel’s gymnastics class and started preparing dinner for the kids.

Between 3:30 and 5:00, Oliver worked on his Latin vocabulary and his map drawing skills (we are working on our maps of the USA this year).  I picked up one of Hazel’s fellow gymnasts from school, and dropped the girls off at gymnastics.  I came home, fed Oliver, Henry, and Fitz dinner, and then changed for the gym where I take a Zumba class.

When we got home from the gym, I put Henry and Fitz in the bathtub, and then Henry stayed in to play while I dressed Fitz, nursed him, and put him to bed.  Then I put Henry in his pajamas, read a story to him, and we said a prayer before I tucked him in.  I sat down with Oliver, who was all ready for bed, and we read together until Hazel was dropped off at home after gymnastics at about 7:45.  Hazel and I chatted about her gymnastics (yes, it is three hours long) and I read to her while she ate her dinner.  Then I put her to bed and collapsed in a fit of exhaustion.  Just kidding.  Kind of.  Actually, I wound up spending a couple of hours on Tuesday evening trying to figure out how to get a library book onto the Kindle before Wednesday morning, considering that I couldn’t find my library card.

WEDNESDAY

Wednesday was pretty exciting for us—I had scheduled our first homeschooling playdate.  We drove over to another family’s house and spent the morning with our kids playing.  They played outside in the leaves, they built marble runs inside, we had lunch together, and the other mom and I got to know each other better and had a morning break from the usual routines, as well as sanity checks that we are all still normal and socialized and generally capable of maintaining conversations.  It was lovely.  And, since the other kids were 6, 4, and 2, I brought the Kindle with a library book on it for Oliver in case he got bored.

When we got home, Henry had fallen asleep in the car, but when I brought him in, I put him on the couch and he stayed asleep.  This has never happened before.  Ever.  With any of my kids.  So we made the most of it, and did a writing lesson and read together on the couch.  Oliver was supposed to have a soccer game, but it was canceled for rain  Intead, I met one of my dearest friends at the gym to lift weights together.  Thank goodness for great friends who will accommodate my crazy schedule.

THURSDAY

Henry had school, so, as usual, we tried to pound through as much school as we could when he was gone.  Since his preschool isn’t free, I feel like it’s important to make the most of the time he’s gone.  It makes the days that he’s home easier because I know that twice a week we will hit all or most of our subjects.  And, as always, in the pickup line we practiced our memory work.

Thursday we did a health lesson (good posture!), math, writing, grammar (diagramming adverbs and adjectives!), spelling, and history. We’ve been reading through the third volume of The Story of the World (because it corresponds with the timeline of American History, which we are studying at Classical Conversations this year).  The chapter this week revolved around Japanese warlords, and after reading about the beginnings of sumo wrestling and how to recreate a sumo wrestling match at home, we watched a youtube video of a sumo wrestling match.  While I’m generally not a huge fan of watching videos on the Internet, it is pretty cool to have access to everything, all the time, and to be able to use real life examples showing things that we don’t have a cultural context for.

Oliver made flashcards of all of his Latin vocabulary from the Latin we’ve been studying at home.  He’d been struggling to remember all of his Latin from Classical Conversations as well as all of the Latin vocabulary from his studies at home, and I thought this would help.  Both kids did some handwriting work.

I did the usual carpool for gymnastics, and then took Oliver to his cub scouts meeting.  I got to enjoy a bit of time with just Henry and Fitz while the bigs were gone, so after I got Fitz to bed, Henry stayed up a bit late so we could play Candyland.  Kullervo picked Oliver up, and then drove down to see a good friend while I put the kids to bed.  I went on a rampage trying to purge the house of everything to help deal with the mess, and listened to the new Taylor Swift album (verdict: I like it).

FRIDAY

It was Halloween!  The local elementary school does a Halloween parade around the neighborhood every year (seriously, best neighborhood ever), and Oliver and Hazel dressed up so that we could go watch it.  We hadn’t finished (started) making Henry’s costume yet, so he put on a baseball helmet and a cape, and walked to the parade with a sword and his fireman boots.  His non-costume was awesome enough that strangers were taking pictures of him.  Oliver and Hazel were very excited to see their school friends, and their school friends were over the moon to see the kids.  I wondered if it would make the kids sad that they weren’t going to school as well, or joining with their friends who were all having a great time together, but it seemed to bother me more than it did them.

We came home and did a math lesson.  Hazel learned that if you subtract a number from itself, it is zero.  It’s funny—I hadn’t realized that was something that would need to be taught.  She hadn’t realized there is a distinction between 7-7=0 and 7-0=7.  Things like that always make me realize how easy it is to take everything we know for granted.  And it makes me appreciate whoever taught it to me.  Oliver learned how to write a check (and in so doing, practiced writing the numbers in numeric and written out form).

We also did writing (Oliver took down his longest dictation work ever—27 words/3 sentences—with only a couple of mistakes, while Hazel listened to a passage from Charlotte’s Web and answered comprehension questions about it, handwriting, and grammar.  I made sure to take time to read to the kids because I knew we would not have a chance before bed.

After that, Kullervo came home and we put the finishing touches on our Halloween costumes and joined our block party before trick or treating, coming home, and eating a squash soup before gorging on Halloween candy.

Hazel was a witch.  She charmed everyone she met.

Hazel was a witch. She charmed everyone she met.

Oliver dressed up as Manny Machado, Orioles player.  He limped to all the houses, and got extra candy from many an Orioles fan.

Oliver dressed up as Manny Machado, Orioles player. He limped to all the houses, and got extra candy from many an Orioles fan.

Sweet Henry was a ghost.  He wasn't spooky and wouldn't make ghost sounds.  He was just a ghost.  With fireman boots.

Sweet Henry was a ghost. He wasn’t spooky and wouldn’t make ghost sounds. He was just a ghost. With fireman boots.

Fitz was a spider!

Fitz was a spider!

I got to be Fitz's web!

I got to be Fitz’s web!

Kullervo dressed up as Martin Luther, complete with German Bible and 95 Theses.

Kullervo dressed up as Martin Luther, complete with German Bible and 95 Theses.

*****
And that about sums up a typical homeschooling week.  We have since started a regular, family Bible study in the morning that consists of singing a psalm, saying a prayer, reading a Bible passage, studying a catechism, singing a hymn, and praying again.  Also, there isn’t a playdate during the school day every week, and it isn’t Halloween every Friday (my waistline approves), but we do have to occasionally go to the grocery store or run other errands during the week (or so Kullervo keeps telling me when we have no food in the house).  In any case, I try to hit English and math 4-5 times a week, science and history twice a week each, handwriting when I need to occupy one kid, health about once a week (it’s state mandated).  We listen to music all the time, and do arts lessons at CC.  The kids are also constantly drawing, creating, building, and playing.

[1] No, really!  Look through books that talk about school.  How detailed are the images presented of the classrooms?  Of the cafeteria?  Of the school grounds?  Unless they are remarkable in some way, writers have the freedom of leaving the details up to the imagination of their readers.

If Superintendent Dance’s Goal is Communication, why won’t He Meet with RFCA?

katyjane:

Kullervo’s thoughts on the superintendent’s (lack of) communication with regards to the renovations at the middle school.

Originally posted on Sailing to Byzantium:

The Baltimore County Public Schools’ vision statement, Blueprint 2.0: Our Way Forward, lists “Building Community Through Communication” as one of the top priorities.

communication

Right now, there’s a plan moving forward to bulldoze precious community greenspace in the heart of Rodgers Forge, including the destruction of trees that may be as old as 270 years, in order to move and expand parking lots and create a new bus staging area for Dumbarton Middle School. And here’s the thing: this is all completely unnecessary. There’s just no need for any of it. There’s no parking problem, there’s no traffic problem, there’s no existing safety problem. This is paving for the sake of paving.

This whole plan is a Thneed.

And this isn’t just my opinion; a panel of architects, urban planners, landscape architects, and transportation planners from the community came together to independently evaluate the planned “renovations”…

View original 102 more words

Open Letter to Baltimore County Board of Education

Hi,

Have you driven through Rodgers Forge lately?  My family moved here a year ago because we saw that it is a unique neighborhood.  The rowhomes were built in the 40s, but the trees have been here for longer.  On any given day during the school year, the roads are littered with children and their parents. The green space is filled with shrieks of laughter, kids playing tag, and people walking their dogs.

We know our neighbors’ names.

In a country full of people staying indoors, hidden behind their screens, in the world where I grew up where I had never met my next door neighbors, this is where I want to raise my family.  I have four kids, aged 8, 6, 2, and five months.  I want to send my kids outside to play and know that they are being watched by me, but also by the people who live near me.  I want to watch my daughter, wearing her frilly tutus and fancy shoes, climb trees that have a history.  I want my kids to spend lazy days lying on the grass, watching these trees that have witnessed more American history than many of our states.

We can’t cut these trees down.

I understand that renovating Dumbarton Middle School is important.  The updates look like they will be fantastic.

But the internal renovations can be done without affecting the exterior.  We do not need more concrete, we do not need more pavement.  The kids are just as capable of walking to school under and around the tree canopy as on sidewalk.  Tuning out of a history lesson in middle school while looking out at the history of our neighborhood is so much more inspiring than looking out at yet another parking lot.

It is 2014, for crying out loud.  We are supposed to be beyond this, we are supposed to know better than to destroy property.  We are supposed to care more about our ever-shrinking green space.  We owe our land more than this.

Please don’t cut down the trees.  I beg you.  My children beg you.  They want to grow up surrounded by the majesty and beauty of these trees.  I want them to grow up imagining the stories that the trees would tell if they could talk.  How many kids had their first kiss under one of those trees?  How many skinned knees?  How many dares have those trees seen fulfilled?  How can we destroy those memories and that history?

The opaqueness of BCPS’s plans for what will happen is alarming.  The lack of response from school officials is frustrating.  And the idea that these ancient trees will be cut down to make way for more parking is heartbreaking.

Come up with a better plan.  Baltimore County is filled with great minds who can come up with a plan to work around the trees, who can preserve our tree canopy, who can keep our neighborhood the hidden gem in the suburbs.

Save our trees.  Please, save our trees.

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Sincerely,

katyjane

Rodgers Forge resident since 2013

The Itsy Bitsy Duck Farm

Whenever I talk to my sister, she tells me all the sweet songs that my amazing, adorable nephew can sing—you know, typical kid songs (Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star, etc).  I realized that the fact that Henry’s repertoire is limited to Britney Spears, many of Kesha’s songs, “Thrift Shop”, and some Brad Paisley isn’t quite as endearing.  So I have determined to sing more playground appropriate songs to Henry.

I started today with Old MacDonald.  I sang a round, and Old MacDonald had some chickens.  For the next verse, I asked Henry to name an animal.  He chose a duck, and with a quack, quack here and there and a rousing E-I-E-I-O, we were ready for the next animal.  Again, I asked Henry to choose the animal.

He chose a duck.  I said, we just did a duck.  Does Old MacDonald have any other animals?

Henry said, “No!  He ONLY HAS DUCKS.”  So we kept singing about the duck farm.  Over and over and over again.

He's going down... he's yelling TIMBER!

He’s going down… he’s yelling TIMBER!… 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Henry was eating his lunch and I sang the Itsy Bitsy Spider to him.  Fitz started fussing, so I picked him up and was dancing him around the kitchen while we sang.  When we went through the song again and I was still holding the baby, I obviously had to change the lyrics.

“The itsy, bitsy Fitzy climbed up the water spout….”

Fitz took a ride up the water spout, fell down (gently) with the rain, and lived to climb another day.

I got baby giggles, toddler cackles, and an arm workout to boot!

The Itsy Bitsy Fitzy...

The Itsy Bitsy Fitzy…

You Don’t Deserve Your Children’s Love

You don’t deserve your children’s love.

Got your attention?

Well, it’s true.  You didn’t do anything super special to get your kids.  You either had sex—which might have even been great sex, but that was its own reward, eh—or you adopted or fostered or something.  And while the paperwork and all of the hoops you have to go through to adopt are incredibly challenging and time consuming, you still didn’t earn your kids.

But you love them.  You love them unconditionally.  (And if you don’t, well, you can just stop reading because this blog post isn’t for you, and also, what’s wrong with you??)  Even when they’re horrible.  Even when they make terrible decisions.  Even when they hurt you.  Even when you don’t like them, and you’re angry and frustrated and tired and they’re annoying, you love them.

So what do I mean that you don’t deserve them?  Well, I think that we take it for granted that when our kids grow up, they will love us and respect us and our relationships with them will evolve into a mature friendship with mutual respect and affection.  I think we take it for granted that our kids’ love for us is unconditional.

It isn’t.

Now, I’m not saying that your kids don’t love you.  They probably do.  If they’re young, they definitely do.  Even abused kids love their parents and it messes those kids up because the relationship is so wonky.

But your unconditional love for your children is not reciprocal.  They love you, but you can mess it up.  The relationship you have with your adult children is wholly dependent on how you show them love and respect while they are young and when they grow up.  You will have a much more challenging time with an adult connection with your kids if they don’t grow up feeling like you are interested in them and respect them.

Think about it–how is your relationship with your parents?  And what do you remember about growing up, and how do those things correlate?

Parents and their children do not have equal footing or a two way relationship.  Kids don’t love their parents unconditionally… but they do love their own kids unconditionally.  And your parents probably loved you unconditionally.

We are all broken people and we all mess up.  Just like I have to regularly ask forgiveness from Kullervo for the days that I’m irritable and cranky, I also have to ask forgiveness from my kids for the same.  Just as it would be totally rude for me to ignore a friend when they’re talking because I’m reading a book or checking my email, it is also rude to do that to my kids.

I’m guilty.  The other day I was reading with Oliver.  Taking time with each kid every day, individually, to read together is something that I think is really important, and I try to hold as sacred time.  But, and I’ll admit that this is absolutely shameful behavior, while I was reading, I got a text.  I checked my phone quickly, and saw that it was important that I answer soon, so I sent back a quick response.

Then I looked for my place in reading to Oliver and realized something horrible.

I had been midsentence when my phone beeped.  And I stopped reading aloud midsentence.  To check my phone.  Seriously.  I’m so embarrassed, but it’s true.  My phone beeped, and I stopped reading in the middle of a sentence to see what someone else was saying to me.  During my time with my son.

In that horrifying moment, so I thought of so many things.  Immediately, there was rationalization—it was an important text!  It only took a second.  There was also the realization that if Oliver had had a phone and checked a text while we were reading, I would have been So. Incredibly. Annoyed.  I would have gotten angry and probably stopped reading to him.  I would have had my feelings hurt that this device was more important than our time together.  I realized that I was subtly telling my kid that external people were more important to me than our time together.  And, perhaps most humiliating of all, I noticed that he didn’t even bat an eye.  Is this normal behavior for me?

I stopped reading.  I turned to Oliver and told him what I had just noticed.  I told him that if he had done that, I’d be furious.  I told him that that wasn’t how I wanted our relationship to be—where I can be disrespectful of his time and of our relationship, where I can abuse my power and he is stuck accepting what I dole out to him.  I apologized.  I silenced my phone and turned it over so I couldn’t see any lights blinking.  And we continued reading.

One day this kid is going to be a teenager, and then a full-fledged adult.  And how he feels about me, and whether he trusts me is going to be based on all of our history together.  I need to preserve that.  I want to have a good relationship with my teenagers.  I want, when I set boundaries for them, for them to understand that the boundaries aren’t arbitrary, but based on our values.  I want them to trust that I can set good boundaries for them because they trust that I see them as whole human beings with feelings and thoughts and value.

I did not show Oliver that he had value that evening.

I love my kids.  I love them so much.  I think they’re cool, they’re funny, and they’re interesting.  I like hanging out with them.  They are these tiny humans who add so much to my life.

And I need to show them that.

Just like I need to constantly work on my relationship with Kullervo, tweaking behavior patterns to soften our edges, regularly checking in to make sure we’re on the same page, and generally being interested in him, I have to do that with my kids.  And I, the parent, need to be initiating that relationship maintenance.  It’s not their job.

My kids do not love me unconditionally.  They don’t know it yet, but they don’t.  If I play my cards right, if I work really hard, maybe they’ll never realize it, or at least not until they have their own kids and realize that the way that I loved them was so much more than they could have conceived of when they were little.  They’ll be able to tell me about it—want to tell me about it, even–because they will still love me and still trust me and know that I not only love them, but I also respect them as the individual people that they are.

I am not entitled to my children’s love, but hopefully I can earn it.

To Homeschool or Not To Homeschool

If you know us, you probably know that we have been considering homeschooling for our kids, on and off, for about as long as our kids have been in school.  It’s an incredibly complex decision, and not for the reasons that I would have guessed.

Here’s the thing.  We have special needs kids.  They aren’t delayed and they don’t have any of the other issues or problems that people assume when they hear the words ‘special needs’.  But, all the same, they have special needs that a school is going to be hard pressed to meet.  Oliver and Hazel are off-the-charts smart.  Both were reading at age 3; Hazel is in kindergarten and reads on at least a second grade level.  Oliver is in second grade and reads on at least a sixth or seventh grade level.  Oliver intuitively understands mathematical concepts and remembers everything he reads.  Hazel’s writing skills and attention to detail are incredible, considering her age, and her spatial skills are probably better than mine. Continue reading

Helicopters, Freedom, Broken Bones, and Risks

So, I read this article (op ed?) in The Atlantic.  You should read it too, especially if you have kids, even more so if you tend towards being hypervigilant about what they do, when, and with whom.

Oh the guilt!  The guilt!  There’s the actual guilt, the guilt you assume you should feel, the observational guilt, and all sorts of other guilty feelings.  There’s so much guilt that guilt starts to sound like a dumb word.

These are a few of the things that I regularly feel some measure of guilt about:

  •          Not spending enough time with my kids
  •          Spending so much time with my kids that they don’t know how to play on their own
  •          Being nervous when they want to do risky things at the playground
  •          Going camping with them, telling them to go explore and get dirty and do whatever, and have them look blankly at me              like I’ve told them to go walk on the moon
  •          Not enough activities
  •          Too many structured activities
  •          Letting them out of my sight
  •          Not letting them out of my sight

Seriously.  I can drive myself batty going around and around and around with these issues.

I remember being an elementary schooler, walking to the school bus stop alone (a little more than a quarter mile away, if I remember right), and waiting for the bus with a handful of boys (they were all boys!).  I remember snowball fights.  I remember them teaching me to play hockey (sort of).  I remember one boy getting seriously injured because of a snowball (ice) fight.

I remember learning to roller blade with those boys, and going too fast down a really steep hill, and having to hobble home, legs scraped clean of skin.

I remember taking my dog for walks, all alone, to meet the boy I had a crush on so he and I could walk around the neighborhood together.

I remember being in middle school and biking for miles and miles with my best friend.  Her brother’s bike had a radio, and we would listen to music while we biked everywhere.  The library, the school, around her neighborhood.

I remember walking through the woods and getting lost.  I also remember finding shortcuts to the nearby shopping center, and walking to the stores all alone.

I felt so grown up.  I felt like I was taking risks, but I also felt confident about my ability to take on those risks.

I participated in organized sports.  I remember family game nights.  But I spent a lot of time alone as a kid.  And it was okay.

In fact, the times that I actually had the worst, most traumatic experiences of my childhood were actually when I was being supervised by “trusted” adults.

But yet, all of that said, I can’t fathom the idea of letting my kids walk to school alone.  Or go outside and explore the neighborhood unsupervised.  Or walk to a store alone.  Or even run far enough ahead on the walk home that I can’t see them.

Part of that is their ages, I’m sure.  Oliver just turned eight.  Hazel is six.  I think (hope) it’s natural to be more hesitant with your oldest child.  Part of it is that I really like walking to school to pick them up, and I really like hanging out with my kids.  I’m trying to give them more freedom to experience “danger”—Oliver gets to use sharp knives at dinner, not just butter knives.  And I let him help me cut vegetables.  I let Hazel cross the street unsupervised (I was feeding the baby—I didn’t even watch her out the window!).  I sometimes let Oliver stay in the car when I’m running errands (I hope that’s legal).

So, why is our entire society so bent on keeping kids carefully under wraps?  I mean, obviously part of it is fear driven—in our age of the 24 hour news cycle, one Horrible Thing happening to one child affects all of us for days or weeks at a time.  It feels more prevalent than it is.  It’s still a Horrible Thing, but one Horrible Thing happening to someone else, somewhere else makes us hug our children so tightly that they can’t breathe, and we don’t realize that our children are more likely to suffocate than suffer from said Horrible Thing.

I wonder if part of it is also control.  We can’t control if our kid gets cancer, or is the loser at school who gets picked on.  We can’t control if they will be autistic, or bad at sports, or if they will experience Horrible Thing.  But we take on the illusion of control by not letting them out of sight.  By keeping them close.  By making sure their activities are monitored at all times.  By not letting them lose.  We can keep them from having their feelings hurt, their bones and hearts broken, and ever having to deal with whatever it was that made our own childhood insufferable.

Except, of course, we can’t control all those things.  And at what cost do we keep the others under control?

Kullervo and I were heartbroken (me) and furious (Kullervo) when we took the kids camping and while we (Kullervo) set up camp, we told the kids to go explore the campsite.  Find bugs.  Dig a hole.  Have an adventure.

They didn’t know how.

WHAT HAVE WE DONE????

I don’t worry too much about my kids getting hurt, honestly.  The thing that makes me cringe is fingers getting squashed in doors, but that’s small and just as likely to happen regardless of supervision.  I have a fear of falling, so when Henry climbs really high on a playground, it makes my stomach lurch.  My stomach reacts that way to circus performers on the high wire, too, I might add.  I try not to let it affect my kids—I try really hard to look away and let them take those risks.  (Although thinking about that makes me also fear the judgmental looks from other people should my kids fall off the playground equipment.)

So, aside from fear and control, there is the other issue—why do we think we should spend all of our time with our kids?  There’s the guilt factor.  Obviously, we should want to spend all our spare time with our kids, right?  But why do we think that?  I don’t want to spend all of my time with anybody—I’m an introvert and really want to put my head in the sand and avoid all y’all folks and hope you go away and leave me alone.

My kids are fantastic.  I love spending time with them.  I love hearing their ideas—they’re smart and funny and creative and silly, and they help me be smart and funny and creative and silly too.  I love playing games and reading with them.  I love going on hikes and yelling at them to ENJOY NATURE DAMMIT.  And their school day is SO LONG, and their bedtime is SO EARLY, so I actually don’t get a lot of time to just BE with my kids.  We certainly can’t do all the things together that I want to do.  But I also can’t be on all day long.

And they’re still kids—which means that a lot of the things they want to do aren’t interesting and a lot of their jokes aren’t funny (to grown ups).  Cases in point—Hazel just told me two new jokes today:

Knock Knock!

Who’s there?

Daddy!

Daddy who?

Get me a beer.

 

Knock Knock!

Who’s there?

Interrupting table!
Interrupting table who?

EAT YOUR DINNER.

Not funny.  At all.  But yet Oliver and Hazel are currently in our basement cracking each other up with their horrible jokes.  Kids need other kids around because kids get that stuff.  And they need time away from adults to be able to explore all of the horrible jokes they want without annoying anybody.

I’ve also noticed how much my kids gain from me severely restricting screen time.  They had a half day of school today, and came home and immediately wanted to watch television.  I said no.  They wanted to use the iPad.  I said no.  I said they were being too loud (Henry had just gone down to nap), so I sent them to the basement.  They played truth or dare.  They told unfunny jokes.  Now they are playing pretend.  All of which they would have missed out on if they had had the television on.  I’ve watched them take their boredom and turn it into creativity.  I’ve seen them build towers of milk crates (and climb them, and fall down).  I’ve seen them come up with weird games to play in the car on long drives because they don’t have a television in the car.

I want my kids to be kids.  I want to hang out with them, I want to spend time with them, teach them what they need to learn.  But perhaps I need to remember—perhaps we all need to remember—that part of teaching kids, part of raising them, is giving them opportunity to fail and opportunity to take risks and mess up.  It’s certainly easier to help them learn to make good decisions when they’re younger than when they are older and are taking on riskier behavior.  If they are confident that they can take risks, if they know that they can make good decisions without parental supervision, maybe when they are being offered cigarettes or drugs or alcohol, or pressured to have sex, they’ll be able to say no because they will know their limits and they won’t need to take those risks in order to feel like they are more grown up.  Maybe the high they get from living their lives fully will outweigh the high they would get from using drugs.

So, all that said, what do I do to implement this?  There are definitely downsides to kids playing unsupervised—oftentimes, other people’s kids are rotten.  Or is a moderate level of unchecked bullying okay, because it helps our kids develop a thicker skin?  Is the social hierarchy of unsupervised kids harmful, or does it teach kids negotiation skills, political skills, and other skills that (sorry to say it) will be necessary in the work environment when they get older?  And with other parents helicoptering their kids constantly, is it possible to avoid the guilt of giving my kids more freedom (obviously they love their kids more than I do because otherwise I would want to be with them all the time, right?)?  And the guilt of being afraid of the judgment of said parents?

How much freedom do you give your kids?  When do you start giving them more freedom, and what freedoms do you allow?