Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Time to Teach the Kiddies Some Life Skilz

In case you're wondering where I've been: about a month ago we moved. Now, we only moved about a mile away but given that we moved into an old-buy-as-is house, there has been a fair amount of work to do. Oh, there are no medicine cabinets in the bathrooms. Better get some! Goodness, the floors are crooked. How to stabilize the furniture so we don't roll out of our beds at night? Hey, lookie there, we've got mice behind the stove.

One good thing (besides loving our beautiful new old place and wonderful new old neighborhood) about moving is that it forced me to take an extended break from writing, blogging, and tweeting. This has not been good for my writing practice, but it has been very good for me. I can take breaks from twitter and not miss anything. I should pay more attention to my family. I like interacting in person with real, live people. Don't get me wrong, I'm not giving up tweeting and blogging, but as long as I'm just doing it as a volunteer, I am going to stop treating it as a job.

Speaking of one of my current jobs, I almost never write, creatively or otherwise, abut parenting. No offense, but there's little more boring than reading about what someone else's child looks like while they're sleeping. I'm also not so interested in parenting or mommy debates. You wanna be a Tiger Mom? Go for it! As long as you don't abuse your kids, I don't care. I don't really need to read an entire book that is either a justification of someone's approach to parenting or an annihilation of someone else's. Sure, I enjoy talking to other parents about the joys and challenges of parenting and I do read some parenting magazines (Brain, Child is a great one), but just as I don't want to limit my teaching to one pedagogic practice or ideology, I don't want to limit my parenting to one philosophy or approach.

When moving forced me to take a break from my own work and social media, I spent a bit more time with my own kids, especially my eight-year-old boys and I realized all of the things I could do when I was their age and all of the things they can't do. Granted, I was very independent and granted both of my parents worked full-time, but by the time I was seven I was popping over to the nearby supermarket by myself to pick up a gallon of milk. I was walking home from school with my sister and some playmates, and I was making dinner for my family one night a week.

My boys have learned a ton academically, both at home and school, but there are some big gaps in their knowledge of practicals. They can read the Harry Potter books and do advanced math, but they don't know how to cook an egg. They can dribble a soccer ball around me without breaking a sweat, but they can't fold their own laundry. One son has memorized in order all of the past US Presidents (he did this on his own, mind you) and the other knows every single Star Wars character, but neither knows our home or cell phone numbers. They can converse adequately about any number of subjects, but they don't know how to properly use a fork and knife. Finally (and this is more academic, I know) they have almost no knowledge of any foreign language.

So, while I will continue to encourage them academically and facilitate their book reading, lego building, painting, and soccer playing activities. I am going to focus this school year on teaching them more of practicals. How do you pick out an outfit? What do you do in an emergency? How do you find your way around our (albeit small) town? How do you answer a telephone? How do you prepare a simple meal? Finally, I'm going to see to it that they learn some Spanish.

So if I blog or tweet less these days, it's partly because I am still putting things up on my walls and killing mice (sorry, but we tried every other way), but it's also because I'm busy teaching my kids some sel sufficiency. That way I can spend even more time arguing in favor of rich and varied curricula, solid pedagogy, well-educated and respected teachers, and an end to high-stakes testing.

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