We live across the street from Swarthmore college, which I thought would be amazing, but most things at the university are not open to the community. Still, I walk past the art gallery each week to see if there’s anything new, I always check fliers to find interesting things for the kids. Which the kids always do not want to go to.
I let the kids eat in the college cafeteria whenever we go to an event. The cafeteria is a teenage boy’s dream. We spend an hour there, where I relive my bulimic college days and stress over easy access while my sons pile up trays like they’re a two-man football team.
Last night we went to a dance performance.
My older son said, “What’s that?”
“Like a recital.”
“A dance recital? Who are you?”
“I’m your mom and I want you to get in the habit of seeing cool stuff that people are doing in your community.”
“Yeah. I do that. I check all my YouTube channels every day.”
“Well you don’t look at modern dance.”
“You’re right. You’re so right, Mom. I would really like to know a lot about modern dance. So let’s stay home and watch modern dance videos on YouTube.”
We left at intermission.
I came across a site advertising Ladakh tour packages. First I thought: what is Ladakh? When I saw it is in India I thought: my mom would like this. She likes big adventures, far from home, off the beaten track. I am haunted by all the three-week long trips my mom planned when we were kids.
I am a creature of habit. And I hated three weeks with no plan except to “see what happens.” As I got older I’d think of ways to stay in the hotel room all day. And then I got old enough to never have to go on a frenetic come-what-may sight-seeing trip ever again.
But my mom never slows down. She has gone to India twice. To Egypt. Brazil. No tour packages. My mom is her own package. She used to go with friends but no one can keep up with her. Thinking it was an age thing, she took my niece and nephew to Europe and they couldn’t keep up with her either.
I try hard to want to do what my kids want to do. I watch the shows they watch and they are fun (recommendation for anime-friendly families: Death Note). And play the games they play (I suck at League of Legends but I like hearing the kids talk strategy). But I think the most lonely thing about parenting is not doing stuff I want to do.
My mom’s idea of a great way to learn is to run around seeing new things. My idea of a great way to learn is to sit in a theater. Which is why I have a picture of my kids in great theaters all over the US asking if they can leave at intermission. Each of us knows our favorite way to learn and then we hope our kids like it too. I have to work hard to not recreate my own childhood where my mom assumed everyone wants to learn how she learns.
A key component of my own brand of homeschooling is to make sure my kids take time each day to check in with themselves to decide if they are doing what they want to do with their day. And what I’ve discovered is that homeschooling is letting your kids learn in a way that you can’t stand, because it’s their time to find out what works for them.