Funny You Should Ask

This is an excerpt from “Funny You Should Ask”, Book 1 in the Life without a Field Guide Series which is available at Amazon.  Read it for free with Kindle Unlimited.

We were paying for gas at a convenience store and the kid behind the counter – who looked all of twelve to me – must be the new bifocals – asked the question, “No school today?” Sometimes, it’s, “Why aren’t you in school?” Sometimes, it’s “Doctor’s appointment?” My daughter usually answers, “I am in school. I’m an unschooler.” Sometimes this stumps the chump who asked the question and he or she just smiles and nods and we go on our way, each thinking that the other one just wasted a few minutes of prime talking time that could have been used to comment on the weather or Maine roads or whether it’s too early to plant peas.

Sometimes though, we run into someone who isn’t just asking to make conversation. These are people who firmly believe that kids should be in school and they don’t hesitate to let us know that. “Don’t you miss your friends?” is one of their questions. “Don’t you worry about socialization?” “What about college?” “How will your kids ever learn to fit into the real world?” “Kids need to learn how to deal with bullies” (Or homework or doing things they don’t want to do or fill in the blank.)

We got tired of answering these questions a long time ago, so I’m thinking of carrying a FAQ sheet around with me, so that I can hand it out. It’d save a lot of time. Here it is if you’d like to use it. If you think of anything I’ve forgotten to list, let me know.

  1. Q. Why aren’t you in school?
    A. Why aren’t you in therapy? A. Why would you ask? A. I’m still contagious. A. If I can’t take my gun, I’m not gonna go. A .Head lice. A. My religion lets me marry at 9 and I’m on my honeymoon. A. Leprosy A. Psychiatrist appointment. A. I had to see my parole officer. Court date. A. My parents refuse to make me go to a place I hate where I’m cooped up for six hours with 22 other kids my own age and completely separated from both the real world and the people who love me the most.
  2. Q. Don’t you miss your friends?
    A. Yes, I wish they’d quit school so they could hang out with me and my unschooling friends.
  3. Q. Don’t you worry about socialization?
    A. Yes. That’s why my kids aren’t in school.
  4. Q. How will your kids learn to deal with the real world?
    A. By watching reality shows, just like everyone else.
  5. Q. No, really, you can’t raise them in a bubble. What about the real world?
    A. Please refer to the last answer to the first question on this list. Then consider that we’re standing in this store/home/community/park/library/restaurant/restroom interacting with another human being with no artificial strictures on our conversation, thoughts or actions. Now, define real world.
  6. Q. How will your kids learn to deal with bullies?
    A. The same way they’re taught to deal with them in school. They’ll tell a grownup. The only difference is that they’ll have a grownup who’s paying attention and who’ll actually protect them, which is what kids have the right to expect from grownups. When they get old enough, we’ll help them learn to deal with bullies, but not until they have the maturity, experience and several self-defense lessons.
  7. Q. What about college?
    A. College shmollege. If you raise kids to know that they can do what they want, and college is what they want, they’ll find a way to go.
  8. Q. How will they ever learn anything/get a job/turn out right if you just let them do what they want?
    A. How will they ever learn anything meaningful unless they’re free to follow their interests and spend time on what’s important to them? How will they know what kind of job they want unless they’re encouraged to explore and not forced to learn what other people think they should learn? They know what’s right by using their brains, their hearts and their judgment; the same way you and I know what’s right. Scaring kids into behaving isn’t a workable long-term solution for us.

Q. What do you do on your day off?
A. The same thing we do every day: live, learn, love and laugh. A. Fight with my brother/sister and drive my mom crazy. (Actually, she’s so close; it’s a walk, not a drive. Some days, she could fall over and be there.) A. Play video games and watch Jeopardy. A. Draw A. Read A. Run around outside. A. Play with friends. A. All of the above, which I can’t do in school, which is why I’m not in school.

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Does The Marriage Bed of Satan Have A Memory Foam Mattress?

This is an excerpt from “Funny You Should Ask”, Book 1 in the Life without a Field Guide Series which is available at Amazon.  Read it for free with Kindle Unlimited.

As usual, Daughter and Son and I went to the library last Monday. While there, I perused the new books and had a hard time finding anything at all to read, so I browsed the stacks and found a couple of ancient books that looked intriguing but turned out to be more like bible tracts than books when I read them later. Daughter, on the other hand, found a stack of books and was already putting them into her cloth bag when I joined her in the children’s room.

Now, some of my relatives and a couple of friends, have criticized me for not monitoring my kids’ reading material. When I was a kid, one of my late mother’s church lady friends told me that reading the wrong kind of books when you’re a kid leads just one step closer to the Marriage Bed of Satan, a phrase that pops into my mind when Son takes out books with covers that show warrior women wearing the latest in leather bikinis. But I still let them read what they want to read.

Daughter’s reading tastes are, like mine, varied and eclectic, and tend to run in spurts. Lately, she’s been reading a lot of American Girls, Ranger Rick and Discover for Kids magazines, joke books and her constant favorite: animal encyclopedias. Son, on the other hand, enjoys a range of non-fiction, but only sci-fi and fantasy fiction. Lucky for him, fantasy seems to be the genre du jour lately and he also found bushels of books. So we were all booked up and went home to read our heads off.

A few days later, while I was working at the PC and Daughter was reading on the couch behind me, I heard mutters and mumbles and exasperated sighs. When Daughter sighs, work is impossible. If Tolstoy had been blessed with a daughter like Daughter, War and Peace would have been a shopping list. However, I’m not writing War and Peace, although it feels like it sometimes when ideas won’t come, so I turned to her and asked what was wrong.

“Her father’s a jerk,” she said.

“Whose father?” I asked her.

“Elizabeth, the girl in this book I’m reading. He’s really mean. First he’s nice and then he’s not nice. And her stepmother is a wimp. She says she’ll help and then she says she’s too busy to even see Elizabeth. And I think he killed Elizabeth’s mother. Elizabeth thinks so too.”

This did NOT sound like an American Girl. Well, unless the latest AG takes place in Prohibition Era Chicago and Elizabeth’s daddy is a gangster. I didn’t think that was likely, so what the heck was my ten year old reading that had this level of domestic violence in it?

“Are you sure about her father killing her mother?” I asked. “Maybe you read it wrong?”

Sometimes, Daughter’s attention wanders and she misses facts and the odd sentence or two in books, although she’s a very good reader otherwise. This is one of the reasons she learns at home – so that someone else can fill in those little gaps. Like when she read the book about American government, but couldn’t answer the question about why we have an electoral college. Oh wait, that was me! Well, anyhow, she misses things sometimes.

“I’m going to go back to the beginning and read the part where she talks about her mother dying,” she said, “Maybe that’ll help.”

So she did and it helped.

“Yup, he killed her. Killed a bunch of his other wives too. What a jerk.”

Light dawned.

“What’s Elizabeth’s father’s name?” I asked.

“Henry Vee or Vie. It’s V-I-I-I but I don’t know how to pronounce it. What a jerk.”

So there you have it, folks. Daughter’s pithy but accurate review of Henry VIII. And they say unschooling kids can’t do book reports. Hah! Later Daughter finished the book and treated me to a scathing, but realistic report on most of the Tudors and a couple of the Stuarts with a short but compelling airing of her views on Phillip of Spain, who was, according to Daughter, also a jerk.

If your daughter or son would like some painless – and actually enjoyable – history lessons, sashay to the shelf in your local library that has The Royal Diaries, published by Scholastic. And if, like me, your library books of the week turn out to be clinkers, the Royal Diaries aren’t bad for a quick read after the kids go to bed. I’ve just finished Kazunomiya, Prisoner of Heaven, Japan 1858 so Daughter will be reading it today. I wonder what public place we’ll be in when she asks me what concubines are.

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A Clique of Clicks

If, like me, you were dying to know the difference between a marsh, a swamp and a bog, here’s a link that will sort it all out for you before your next nature walk. I warn you though that it’s not as simple as it seems and fens enter into it also. And don’t even get me going on shrub swamps and forested swamps.

If, on the other hand, you’re sound on wetlands, but somewhat confused about our winged insect buddies’ private lives, this site will explain why that old Don Ameche movie was called “Cocoon” rather than “Chrysalis”. However, after defining the terms, it goes on to say that there’s some confusion about which is which or even whether they’re both the same thing, so maybe not. It also insists that the bag of protein and mucus that earthworms excrete to protect their eggs are cocoons. Now, really!

And finally, if to your chagrin, you find one day that your almost-adult son doesn’t know the fifty states and their capitals, or, worse yet, that you don’t, take heart. Most Americans don’t know how many states there are, never mind their names and major cities. You can learn everything you need to know about the 50 states at any of the websites on this page. My favorite part of the page is this puzzle where one has to fit the state onto the US map.  I have to confess that the rousing music distracted me, which may be why I had such a hard time with the first state which happened to be Maine. It was worth the effort though, because when I finally caught on to the fact that it was my home state that I was trying to fit into every other state, I got a little lobster icon to top it off.

I’m easily amused. But then, it is winter in Maine, where the state crustacean is the lobster. It bothers me that every time anyone uses the danged thing as a Maine icon, the lobster is red, which means that it’s dead. So, I guess you could say that Maine is the only state that has a dead crustacean for their official crustacean. We even have it on our license plates, which aren’t really license plates because our cars are registered, not licensed. And don’t get me going on that. It doesn’t take much to get a Mainer irritated this time of year. It’s even easier in Blackfly Season, so I’d appreciate it if you wouldn’t bring it up then either.

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