Archive for the 'homeschooling' Category

why i don’t like numbers

I have never liked numbers. Not even as a homeschooled kid, when my mom tried to trick me into enjoying math by introducing arithmetic in the form of fairies. (Plus was a happy fairy with a fat sack of jewels, Minus was always crying because her sack had a hole, etc.) I liked to draw the fairies, but I didn’t care how many jewels they each had and how the jewels might interact with other jewels. The cool thing about the jewels was that I figured out how to draw them in a way that made them appear to be sparkling. It took a while to master, but I got there.

Tangentially, I’ve always been into guys who were into numbers. Difference is exotic. Exotic is sexy. Math skill was like a suave accent—it suggested fluency in another realm, a place with mysterious, alluring customs.

alien_planet-wide

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The SAT was the first standardized test I ever took, and the night before I wrote a dark song about it. The day I got my results back, I wrote a poem about it. The poem was titled the number I’d gotten, and it was about how I didn’t want to be a number, I wanted to be a whole person. It was pretty melodramatic, but in general: When you try to make people into numbers, bad things happen. Or they’re already happening.

Bear thinks it’s practical sometimes. When we talk about whether or not we’d consider homeschooling Eden, he brings up testing—he thinks it’s often a good idea. I think because you have to learn to cope with failure and stay competitive and be unflinching in the face of regulation and seek to improve yourself in measurable ways. I’m not sure. It was nice to not be tested as a kid. I also enjoy not being tested as an adult. But I’m mostly fluffier than Bear about these things.

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Kate on September 25th 2013 in fear, homeschooling, life, motherhood

surprise

I tell myself and other people that I started writing about beauty and body image because I moved to NYC and stopped eating dessert and realized that I was trying to be thinner all the time, and because of my nose jobs, and because I looked around, and it seemed like every girl and woman I met had also stopped eating dessert. But I think it’s more than that. I think it’s because of surprise.

I remember sitting on my moss green carpet in my bedroom when I was just barely fourteen, and a couple friends were helping me read through my box of love letters. I have, by the way, always had a shoebox of love letters. A cool one—not Keds or anything. Later, I didn’t let anyone read the letters, but then, they were highly social. It didn’t feel like a violation of anyone’s privacy, it felt like, if you were a boy writing me a love letter, you should probably know what you were getting into.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

(me as a teenager, feeling pretty damn great)

“Ohmygod!” one of my friends was shrieking. “Look at this! He says, ‘You are the stars and the moon and I am always looking up at you’! It’s like, he’s really short, you know? Doesn’t that make it sound like he’s really short, and he’s like, peering up and trying to see way up there?” She acted this out, squinting exaggeratedly and craning her neck.

We rolled around on the floor, laughing hysterically.

“Fuckin’ A,” said Sarah, who was a little older, and always had the coolest expressions, “I can’t even believe this one. He goes…’You are the most ethereally beautiful girl I have ever seen’.” She looked at the rest of us, eyebrows quirked up, her face about to collapse in laughter. “Ethereally beautiful?! Seriously?”

We laughed at the strange, show-offy word.

But she had a big vocabulary. “I mean,” she went on, patting my shoulder, “Honey, you look fine, but no one would ever think you’re ethereally beautiful. Let’s be real.”

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

(i LOVED this mysterious photo of myself, where i looked like i could be anyone)

Usually I liked it when she called me “honey,” because it pointed out how she was older and cooler but still liked me. But now I felt strangely hurt. I mean, this boy HAD thought that I was ethereally beautiful, whatever that meant. And maybe I would think I was too, after I looked it up.

But everyone was nodding agreement and moving on to a rhyming love poem called “The Wind In My Boats Sails.”

I felt like snatching the letters out of their hands. Why had I thought this would be a fun idea?

I thought about Sarah’s words for a long time after that. Her tone. The disbelief and skepticism, like a giant eyeroll. Please. Come ON. And I was surprised. I was surprised because I guess I’d just figured that I was any kind of beautiful a big word wanted to describe, before.

This was how I’d been growing up. Not particularly thinking about my beauty or lack of it, but just assuming in the back of my head that I was probably beautiful. Why? I don’t know, lots of good reasons. My curly hair, my square shoulders, my green eyes, my skill on the piano, the fierceness of my attitude, my parents’ love, the fact that boys liked me and girls liked me, the love letters, the basic reality of my me-ness, inhabiting this special, singular body, and why not? Why the hell wouldn’t I be beautiful, if I could only be this one person? It would be a waste and a disappointment not to.

It took a long time for that surprise to wear off. I kept being sideswiped, jolted a little off-balance, as my assumptions about my fundamental coolness, my birthright beauty, my essential worth, were interrupted.

I didn’t recognize myself in these moments. I had to frantically recalibrate, reposition. It didn’t come easy.

I was surprised, when I started hating my profile automatically. Underneath the hatred, was a sharp surprise. Wait—but–

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I don’t want to analyze my parents anymore

I was thinking about therapy the other day. My therapist and I have drifted apart over the past six months or so. We had been doing phone sessions, which was great because it allowed me to eat while talking to her, and also load the dishwasher. But eventually, even those became complicated, with her new job schedule and my relentless morning sickness. And, without any formal farewell, we became unhooked and slipped apart.

The dishes have suffered. I’ve been trying to decide if I should make an effort. If I should reach out to her, or find a new therapist.

It’s often hard to explain to myself exactly why I maybe should, because therapy is often vague like that. I used to get annoyed at listening to my own problems. And then I’d have to talk about that. Which is awkward. The whole thing is awkward. Once my therapist said to me, laughing, “Kate, you overthink everything!” I liked her for that.

But when I think about therapy now, the part that frustrates me is really more about storytelling than anything else. Actually, a friend of mine who is a successful storyteller, like, as a thing, not just as an expression, said something about how in therapy she feels aware of the things she has to leave out to tell a certain story about her life. There are all of these contradictory, complicating details. There are all these details that are really the beginning of a totally different story or interpretation.

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The truth is, we all need to tell ourselves stories about our lives all the time. It keeps things manageable. We get this sense that we have some idea of who we are. We sort out characteristics and assemble something that comfortingly resembles a personality. People, like dogs and chimps and probably caterpillars, too, like the reassurance of identifiable patterns. We pat ourselves on the back for being a person who consistently hates the taste of licorice—it’s a clue! Have you ever notice how proud people sometimes seem of their little weirdnesses? Oh, I NEVER wear periwinkle! It makes me nervous about buying people gifts, because what if I am forgetting one of their major quirks? What if I get them something in periwinkle by accident?

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already smart enough, without even trying

This piece is a part of my Little Victories series. 

I don’t know the names of the parts of grammar. I remember “prepositional phrase” from this big purple book I had growing up. I remember that there are articles that can be definite and indefinite, but I can’t remember which one is “the” and which one is “a.” And it’s been embarrassing for a long time, but not embarrassing enough to google.

There are all of these things I should probably know that I don’t, and I sort of wish I knew them, and I’m hoping no one will call me out on them, but I’m not exactly making an effort to learn them. Instead, I’m making mac and cheese. Instead, I’m writing the way I would talk if I was better at talking. And for the first time in a long time, I am OK with that. It’s a good sign—I think it means that there’s always hope. Unless it means that my inquisitiveness has curled up and died in a corner somewhere and I will be the counterexample in a future New York Times article about how intellectually active people can stave off Alzheimer’s.

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No. It’s progress. It took me a long time to let myself feel smart enough, without making a huge effort to sound smarter. I am just now reaching the stage where I can make occasional small talk in an elevator without the evil voice in my head snarling, “Say something witty, you pathetic nitwit! Yes, the dog is shaggy and cute, but doubtless everyone makes that obvious observation. DISTINGUISH YOURSELF.”

(The voice in my head is like the British butler in movies about how Americans think England used to be, except he’s become unhinged and he’s about to kill everyone.)

My mom made an effort to teach me grammar. I recited “behind, beneath, before, on, in” and whatever else. But it didn’t stick. I was building a lean-to in the woods, and I got good at latticing the branches and packing the gaps with moss and leaves. I practiced sketching faces almost every day and finally I could make their eyes gleam and give them realistic expressions.  I was learning lots of things. People are always learning lots of things.

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introverted woman in a tutu dress

My mom is really social. She’s probably a “connector,” or whatever. She started all these local groups when I was a kid. She started like ten book clubs and a science club and even a magic club, for kids to do magic tricks. Not even kidding. I could do one magic trick, and it took me WEEKS to learn it. It involved magically tying a rope in a knot, just by moving it around a little in a non-rope-tying-looking fashion. Yeah, I was talented. I did that trick at every meeting of the magic club.

My mom loves to throw parties. My brothers and I always had three birthday parties each, just because she liked them so much. She would bake these enormous, elaborate cakes. Alligators and Darth Vaders and turtles; for me, a cream and lavender castle, with actual spires and tiny windows. I think if she asked me now, though, I’d want Darth Vader, too. I didn’t understand how coolness worked back then.

I never really liked the parties my mom threw for my birthday. When I was a little kid, I was infamous in the family for crying every time people sang happy birthday to me. I think I was just overwhelmed. Like, why are they all singing at me?! What do they want? What am I, some pony that’s supposed to perform a trick now, for their amusement? If there was any compassion in the world, they would just give me my cake and leave me in peace!

My mom was a good sport about my whole, you know, personality. And later I became outgoing and good at my pony tricks and fancied for a brief time that I was hysterically funny and felt that I was on the verge of composing the world’s most hilarious joke, which I then intended to submit to Boy’s Life, since my brothers got that magazine and it had great jokes in it. The joke was going to involve a kid making fun of his dad for being old (it was a boy, because of the target audience). He was going to point out something about his dad’s age by suggesting that the dad had gone for rides on dinosaurs. And then the dad was going to have a witty comeback that would take it home and leave all of the Boy’s Life readers chuckling helplessly on the toilet.

 

 

(definitely one of these)

It never really came together.

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Kate on September 24th 2012 in being different, family, fear, homeschooling, life

being friends with other people’s moms

Oh, and you should read my better beauty rules column over at The Frisky. When you get a chance, I mean. 

My friend was having a birthday party, and of course I didn’t want to go. I know people like parties. I know parties are supposed to be fun. But I dread them. I force myself to go to them sometimes, when it’s someone who is a close friend, or because there is this voice in my head that is definitely my mom’s that is always saying “you never know! It could be a great opportunity!” and otherwise I make something up.”I think I have swine flu. Again.”

(i don’t have the right hat! source)

“My mom is coming,” she texted. “Just so you know.”

“I’m in!” I wrote back. “Of course I’ll be there!!”

Thank god for my friends’ moms. I love them. I have loved them since I was a kid. You know what kind of kid– one of those secret introverts, loud and friendly on the outside, dying to get home and curl up with another Tamora Pierce book on the inside. I always wanted to hang out with moms. I don’t know why.

Guesses: they’re nicer than kids. They are impressed when you’re friendly and polite. It doesn’t take much to impress them. They know interesting stuff.

Once my friend’s mom farted in front of us, and she was like “Oops.” And she didn’t even care. It was an amazing moment. To be at the point where you don’t even really care that everyone just heard you fart. Hell yeah.

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Kate on August 21st 2012 in friendship, homeschooling, life

little victories: the kind of beauty that stands out in a crowd

I like to stand out. I like to be different.

Writing the buzz cut piece reminded me.

Well, getting the buzz cut reminded me. And then writing about it. For me, everything is two-pronged: the doing and the writing.

As a little kid, I was shy, but I liked to stand out. People don’t think those things go together. They think when you’re shy you want to disappear. But I was just particular about the ways that I wanted to stand out.

I hear that kids are supposed to be afraid of being different from other kids. And I’ve definitely had those moments, of course. But for some reason, there weren’t many of them. Instead, there was this fierce pride. Like a little unquenchable flame, just inside my belly, a tiny eternal light like the one that hung over the ark where the Torahs are kept on the bima. But mine didn’t have cobwebs like the one at temple.

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“Why doesn’t the school bus pick you up in the morning?” my neighbor, Benny, asked me when I was ten. He sounded a little accusing.

“Because my mom doesn’t let it,” I said.

“My mom says you probably go to school at a special school. At your Jewish church.”

“No,” I said, “I don’t go to any school. And it’s not a church, it’s called Temple Har Zion.” I felt important.

Benny made a face at me that said, “you aren’t saying real words.” “That’s weird,” he said.

“Do you want to learn a prayer in Hebrew?” I said.

“Okay,” he said.

So I taught him the Sh’ma, the central prayer. Sh’ma yisrael, Adonai eloheinu, Adonai echad. I sang it. I convinced him to sing it, too.

I was the weirdest kid on our street, of course. Jewish AND homeschooled, in a town where no one was either. In a town where once the boys down the street cut a swastika in a nearby cornfield. So I don’t know why I liked to stand out. Maybe because I was always with my mom, and she was always comfortable standing out.

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