I look at last names differently now that we homeschool

We were registering my son’s pigs for the county fair. He has done it one year already (it’s one of my all-time favorite posts) and this year he was an ace at reporting the breed, class, weight, and ear notching. But when it came time to give his last name, he said, “Rodriguez.”

The woman said, “Can you spell it?”

He said, “Um. No. I don’t think so.”

I spelled it.

It’s my ex-husband’s name, and, to be honest, we never use it. There is not really a reason to. I fill out forms for signing up for things that are official (airline tickets). And he signs up for things that are unofficial (he is Chompcrackers on YouTube).

I have thought before of changing the kids’ names to my own last name. But really, my own last name is not really my last name. I mean, it is now, but at this point I’d have to say that for me, a name is ephemeral.

My ex and I actually get along very well, and we co-parent, with the Farmer, in a single home, so I would not want to do anything to jeopardize how well things are going. And leaving the kids’ name the same as his seems like a nice thing to do given how nice he has been since the divorce.

That’s the really sweet, good-will story behind the name. But there’s another thing: Latino men are the most underrepresented demographic in US colleges. If it’s extra hard for a white girl to get into college, it is extra easy for a Latino male to get into college. My kids are rightfully one quarter Latino, and I want them to be counted as Latino males in the system.

For a while, I was nervous. I know Latino kids face discrimination.

In Darlington, someone who was trying to help me acclimate to rural life told me, “You should change the kids’ last names when they enter school so there are no problems.”

I have learned a lot about discrimination, in fact, from having an (ex) husband and sons with Latino last names.

I think college is a stupid rip-off waste of time, and I can’t imagine how I’m going to convince my kids to study for the SAT when I am telling people, in front of my kids, that we don’t do standardized tests. But still, the kids are growing up on a farm, and I think that they might need college in order to acclimate to the non-farm world where they will need to earn a living.

So I’m not giving up that Latino advantage. And I’m going to work hard on making sure the kids use their last name more. I want them to know they are Latino. I think it’ll help them some day.



28 replies
  1. Carmen
    Carmen says:

    The only thing that propels people forward or holds them back is how they feel about themselves.

    If you predict obstacles because of a name, then you’ve set up your own inner obstacle.

    When I finished school I sent out about 30 resumes. Not one person responded. I thought to myself, “Well, they just haven’t met me yet.”

    I printed out more resumes, got dressed, and decided to hand-deliver my resumes. I never made it to the third location because the first 2 stops were already calling my cell phone to come back to their offices to start working.

    The key isn’t in the name…but the confidence and creativity to pave your own way. The only person we need to believe in is ourselves.

    Homeschooling cultivates this.

    • karelys
      karelys says:

      I wish this was true. But our experience interacting with people is made up of how we view ourselves, what we decide to do on our side, and then the part that isn’t up to us: how they respond to us, what they think of us.

      I think that the Latino last name will help the kids if they use it to their advantage. Also, it may be a nice way to play with people’s perceptions and break them, which always leaves a strong impression.

      Also, I think it could make their lives interesting; to be tied to another culture and then become more knowledgeable of its stereotypes and all the baggage that comes with it.

      • Carmen
        Carmen says:

        There’s lots of reasons why people don’t like each other, your name being the least of your worries.

        What would you say to someone who is fat or has a deformity. Being female alone could cause you problems if you let it.

        I was raised differently than most, which is probably why I view things the way I do, and my experience might be somewhat unique. So I do see your point.

  2. WiseLatina
    WiseLatina says:

    Latino is a culture.
    It’s not a race; nor an ethnic group; nor a last name.
    It’s nice they are using their Rodriguez’ last name, but if they know nothing about their rich latino heritage, they will be as latinos as Mariah Carey.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      It seems to me that it’s pretty controversial to start judging people based how much they know about their heritage. Your heritage is what you’re born with. You choose to know a lot or a little about it.

      Being Jewish is something you are born with, like being Latino– it’s where you come from. You can be a little or a lot. But I don’t think anyone would want to be in the position of judging how much is enough.


      • MoniqueWS
        MoniqueWS says:

        Interesting … I disagree too some point. We were raised Catholic. My sister married into a Jewish family. It was VERY important to her in-laws that she (and her children) be Jewish. She went to classes through the local synagogue to become Jewish. Someone else’s mother suggested loudly that you are born Jewish or you are not Jewish at all. The Rabbi said this idea was very wrong and someone who chooses to convert is a special blessing.

        I know folks who move to different places in the world and completely adopt their new culture/language/society. These people are no longer *who they were born/where they come from* but rather who they choose to be.

        • Carmen
          Carmen says:

          We are all being judged by other people for myriad of reasons, especially by people who share our background. Accept that fact, then accept the fact that we are all perfect as we are.

          It’s not about a name. The name will reveal to you other people’s insecurities about themselves and their baseless fears. Your own insecurities breed a whole different set of problems.

          This may seem off-topic, but bear with me. This isn’t religious either, btw:
          “Faith in god is actually faith in yourself.”

          What you believe about yourself is what you will become. You can simply walk over or around any obstacle. That’s the most important part…the journey and how you deal with the obstacles, and letting other people see it so they can learn or just feel better about themselves too.

      • Stanley
        Stanley says:

        Penelope, you are not Jewish, get over it. Judaism is a religion like the Hassidic Jews of NYC practice. They are overwhelmingly pro life, pro children, and vote Republican. They follow all the traditions of the RELIGION.

        You are none of these, you are a white atheist who loves Obama because he thinks like you, no sense of accountability or personal responsibility for ones actions.

        • toastedtofu
          toastedtofu says:

          Do not engage the troll, do not engage the troll,

          oh fine

          Hassids are a type of Haredi Jews, and the Haredi are so ultra-conservative they make the Duggars look like slutty little devil worshipers.

          The Haredi don’t consider Modern Orthodox Jews to be real Jews, Israel doesn’t acknowledge you are a Jew unless you and your mother are at least Modern-Orthodox, so all of the people who follow Conservative and Reform Judaism (which are real, legally recognized, and widely practiced forms of Judaism) aren’t considered to be “real Jews”.

          The ultra-orthodox in Israel also don’t recognize Ethiopians or Yemenites to be “real Jews” and there are Ashkenazi Jews that won’t allow Sephardic Jews into their Yeshivas because they don’t think the Sephardics are “real Jews”.

          I would suggest, before you decide who a real Jew is, to actually learn a bit more about one or any of the things that I mentioned above, or even do some reading by jewish people discussing what their religion and cultural heritage means to them. It might be a surprise to you that it will mean a whole bunch of different things to a whole bunch of different people.

  3. LB
    LB says:

    It’s ironic how affirmative action has a way of exacerbating discrimination. Some states have cheaper college tuition for illegal immigrants than out of state students. Why wouldn’t that cause resentment? That’s not even to say that the resentment is ok, it just shows how policies can have the opposite of the intended effects.

    • toastedtofu
      toastedtofu says:

      Unless you can prove residency of ANY country you WILL be a foreign student and WILL have to pay (much higher) tuition accordingly. If someone is a US resident (but not yet a US citizen) and a resident of the state they are going to university/college in, then they would likely qualify for any funding any other resident of the state would qualify for.

      Either way, I doubt you can attend any legitimate educational institution without a visa, so regardless of US residency status no full time student would be “AN ILLEGAL”.

      There MAY be situations where the children of illegal immigrants qualify for more independent scholarships and bursaries. I don’t know for sure either way, but it is a possibility.

      You know who REALLY gets unfairly admitted to prestigious universities? The children of graduates of those universities.

      And you know what REALLY causes resentment in society? Income inequality.

  4. WiseLatina
    WiseLatina says:

    @ LB,
    If the ‘illegal immigrants’ are residents of the state, why would that cause resentment.

    Btw, I don’t know in what states you are referring to. At least that doesn’t apply in In Florida. Here, children of illegal alies born in the state have to pay as if they are foreign.

    • Redrock
      Redrock says:

      I am just curious: if an illegal immigrant gives birth to a child in the US , isn’t that child then a US citizen like children born to legal aliens without a US passport but resident status?

    • Stef
      Stef says:

      I don’t know why the phrase, “illegal immigrant” was put in quotes in your comment (as if illegal immigrants are not illegal immigrants), but I think you answered yourself within your question. Illegal residents would cause resentment getting special breaks (a cheaper discount rate than actual US citizens from other states) because they are criminals (arriving in the USA illegally is a crime) who are not only going unpunished, but are receiving what are perceived to be perks.

      • Dolores
        Dolores says:

        @ Stef – Almost 50% arrive here legally; and people that arrive without propers papers are breaking a civil law, not a criminal law.
        In summary, resentment for illegal aliens paying in-state tuition, it’s the same as resentment for people with unpaid parking tickets receiving the same treatment.

        PS “Illegal immigrant” is in quotes, because that’s not a valid term according the US law. The government recognizes only aliens and immigrants.

        • Stef
          Stef says:

          @Dolores OK, maybe I’m being all colloquial here, thinking that the word crime applies to a situation where a law was broken. We could call it an infraction or an offence if that is more precise. But the fact remains that there are many people residing in this country who did not respect the legal process for either arriving or staying. There must be some way to describe these people to reflect this trait. We can’t just keep hiding behind semantics. And while I do appreciate you trying to draw parallels between having an unpaid parking ticket and breaking the U.S.’s laws to take up residence here, I think it is a poor comparison, because of the context we are talking about. Residing in a certain state is what is allowing the in-state tuition benefit to be received. The act of living here is directly related to the benefit of receiving cheaper tuition (parking tickets are sort of irrelevant to college tuition costs, I think). And some people are complying with the requirement to live in certain places in order to receive the benefit in a fraudulent way (arriving or remaining in the U.S. illegally). It isn’t so hard to understand why many people take issue with those who scheme to take advantage of the system by breaking the rules, when rule followers cannot get the same benefit. Not only are law-breakers going unpunished, they are receiving discounts! It creates an atmosphere of lawlessness.

  5. Colleen
    Colleen says:

    I clicked on the link about the “Latino men are the most underrepresented demographic in US colleges” and it seems the article is more comparing Latino men with Latino women. I don’t doubt that your statement is true, but do you know of a source that more closely supports it? It’s an interesting topic for me…my sons also have a Latino last name.

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      Yeah. You’re right. It’s not a good link. Here’s what’s actually true. Black men are the most underrepresented demographic in US colleges. Latino men are second most underrepresented. But people think the barriers to getting black men to college are enormous, so over the next 15 – 20 years, people predict that the colleges will work very hard to get Latino men into schools — for diversity.


      • Stef
        Stef says:

        Yay, I guess? My husband is black with paternal grandparents from Venezuela, so we have a Spanish surname–I guess my kids will be able to check all sorts of boxes and be wooed by universities everywhere!!

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      No. He didn’t move in. But he comes to our house to see the kids. Often my current husband and I leave so that my ex can parent the kids alone. And then we all have dinner together.

      It’s really really important to me that the kids don’t have to live in two houses, so this works out well for the kids, and the three adults just sort of do what we need to do so the kids have a single home.


  6. Mark W.
    Mark W. says:

    I also think colleges and universities could be doing a much better job at preparing their students for life after school. I don’t pretend to know the answers but the current results are astounding to me. The economy is in the toilet, a bachelor’s degree is now the minimum standard, and students are graduating with insurmountable debt. A lot of questions are being asked and yet the herd is going off to college.
    So students are required to figure out this dilemma for themselves. Somehow they need to be “remarkable” and set themselves apart from the rest of the candidates. They need to accomplish this feat to get into college and then again to get a job in their chosen field of study.
    So I read the following passage in an article ( http://www.usnews.com/education/best-colleges/articles/2011/09/29/start-your-own-business-in-college ) – “All of the students think empire-building is worth the lower grades. Says Rose, whose business tripled this year while she took fewer credits: “I won’t need to move back in with my parents, and I will be self-sufficient.” And if anything were to happen to her business, she says, she would be more attractive to prospective employers for having tried it: “People always want to hire someone who can handle running their own company.” Hmm … so does this mean colleges are now communities for start-ups? Is this what they have morphed into?
    Start-ups are now cool in colleges according to an Inc. article. Here’s an example – “Running a business on campus has been surprisingly easy. “People would think it would be difficult to balance class and a business, but I’m learning more now than I ever have in the classroom,” says Workman, a finance and entrepreneurship major. “Because now, I’m sitting in class learning business strategies meant to be applied in the professional world, but I actually get to do that when I go home.”
    Colleges and universities have changed greatly since I graduated. Make plans for college or more accurately save money for college. However I think the college and university landscape for many of these institutions will operate much differently than they do now in the next 10 to 20 years. And if you don’t like what you see, then set up your sons in their own business. My two cents.

    • redrock
      redrock says:

      Maybe we are overdefining entrepreneurship – is a lemonade stand already the sign of being an entrepreneur? Do we all have to be entrepreneurs? Are there not some of us at least who have to make the stuff? For example, having a website which fulfills some need or provides a service still has to be “coded” by someone… usually the much maligned nerds. Although in my experience the lines between nerds and the presumably high EQ people and entrepreneurs is blurry at best. IQ and EQ are not mutually exclusive…

      And maybe another piece of info on college admissions (albeit my main source is graduate school admission): if one has 10 applications with near perfect GRE scores, and such, everything else becomes much more important. Did you do some research? Were you able to do something unusual? An undergraduate from MIT who did tons of research is fine, but having done research if you come from a small institution impresses more – it is much more difficult to come by. So, admissions is not one dimensional but a complex dance where many different facets are taken into account.

      • Mark W.
        Mark W. says:

        Maybe we are overemphasizing the need for college. More specifically a four year degree or a graduate degree. There’s a skills gap in this country that has been discussed in numerous publications including Forbes. Unemployed individuals and jobs that go begging because the two don’t match up. What is needed by teens today is an education in financial literacy and career guidance. Financial literacy to determine how much it will cost for them to learn skills for a career they’re interested in. The ROI over their projected career lifetime. And many people will change their career two or three times over their lifetime for various reasons. Colleges and universities will need to adapt and they are adapting. If they don’t, they will become extinct. There’s an article here ( http://www.onlineuniversities.com/blog/2012/04/15-creative-ways-colleges-can-close-the-skills-gap/ ) about the skills gap and ways colleges may proceed to close it. I believe college should be an option and not a requirement for many careers (exceptions may include engineering, medical, law, etc.). That’s how I frame the argument.

  7. Rachel
    Rachel says:

    As usual, I love how you live your life. I think you make good decisions for your family based on reasoning, adult discernment, and with a lot of love woven in between.

  8. d-day
    d-day says:

    My half-sister is part Latina, and I think she has had occasion to use it from time to time. Any affirmative benefit she could receive from her mother’s heritage seemed absurdly distant from the reality of our lives–we grew up together in the same house, we have the same Anglo name–but I’m all for her using it every chance she can. Our family is a stronger tribe than her “heritage.”

  9. Sarah B
    Sarah B says:

    No worries. Some of the best liberal arts colleges (and many other kinds of schools) in this country don’t even require standardized tests anymore. The number of great schools not requiring these tests grows every year. By the time your kids apply to college this list will be enormous. The website where you can find these schools is called fairtest.org. I am an Assistant Director of Admission at a U.S. News and World Report top 50 liberal arts college and I am confident that this trend is on the rise.

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