I am Jewish, so I’m very sensitive to Christian tropes that infiltrate our culture. Christmas is the biggest example of this, and I have written many times about how it is absolutely suffocating to be Jewish in December when almost everyone assumes that you celebrate Christmas. The assumption that all people are Christian permeates American existence to the point where Jewish parents are constantly having to explain to their kids why there is Christianity infiltrates so much of American culture. Read more

Last week I took the kids to Florida. My cousin had a wedding in Boca Raton, so we went for the wedding and stayed for a week.

We stayed at the Boca Beach Club, in Boca Raton, FL. It’s owned by Waldorf Astoria, and it was just totally over the top in terms of luxury hotels. It had all the usual stuff—like mints on our pillow at bedtime, an extravagant buffet at breakfast, and a mini-bar full of five-dollar Cokes. But it also had a clientele of people who live in gated communities and use the Waldorf as their country club.

The women had super-tight tummies, huge diamond rings, and perfectly coiffed kids, and I couldn’t stop thinking about how they were the prom queens who married the real estate moguls and insurance tycoons and now they are the in-club of adult life.

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Skateboarding used to be a counter-culture sport. In fact, towns across America ban skateboarders because they ruin public property, but also because who wants crowds of young boys at high speeds in an area where people are supposed to feel secure and happy and spending their money?

Bur today there are skateboarding overnight camps in middle America touting good old values like hard work and safe play.

The X Games have brought respectability to sports that are solo, not structured, and not sanctioned by schools. And as Generation X has gained control of city governments, skate parks have popped up in cities all over the US. As Gen X started controlling the spending for ski resorts, snowboarding became a standard offering, and some sports, like doubles-beach volleyball, has even edged it’s way into the Olympics. Read more

I’ve never been so conscious of what my kids looked like as I am when I walk around the world with them during school hours. Most of the time I think people assume the kid is sick, or we are tourists in a town of no tourist activiites so we are forced toward the banal, like, Barnes & Noble or Subway.

Sometimes, though, I wonder if we look homeless. I’m not great at choosing my clothes. It’s an Asperger thing, I think. Because lots of people with Asperger’s dress inappropriately, and in one of the millions of test I’ve taken, one of the questions was: Do you wear mismatched socks? And I remember thinking: really? this matters so much that people put it on a test? I thought it’s common knowledge that it’s impossible to match socks after doing the laundry. So i assumed everyone wears mismatched socks. Read more

The picture is the spot on my elementary school playground where I hid at recess, because I was craving alone time. Last month, I went back to the playground, thinking it would be heartbreaking or something. But really, the corner still felt cozy.

I am bad at making friends so I worry that I will not do enough to enable my sons to make friends. I shouldn’t worry because I know I could leave my son in a playground full of kids and he’d make a friend while I’m hiding in the corner.

But then I realized that kids don’t exchange phone numbers. And moms don’t just give out phone numbers to strangers who like how their children play together. So I started sitting with the moms, trying to charm them, but it’s a lot of work for me. I’d get the phone number but I couldn’t cope with follow-through. Being charming twice in one week is too much.

So now I don’t talk to the moms, but I try to figure out where they go. This is easier with homeschool parents because they put their path on a mailing list. I try to just show up so much that my son is familiar, and he is the charming type, so they like him, and eventually he scores a phone number. And I can still hide in a corner.

I think we all know it’s true that homeschooled kids are different. Before I was homeschooling, I used to read tons of blogs by kids when it was my job to glean trends for the younger set. And I could always tell when I landed on the blog of a homeschooled kid.

They are not distracted by stuff they don’t like. They tell you exactly what they’re doing because they are used to adults around them caring immensely about what they are doing. The kids have a lot of opinions because there is no one telling them The Only Correct Opinion.

Here’s an example: a blog where the girl is reading all the Newbery  winners. I can’t imagine doing this on the side with the amount of homework I had as a kid. And any kid in school, reading tons of books that are not assigned, is going against the grain so they would not want to communicate that with other people. Kids who go against the grain at school keep it to themselves.

I see that my kids already are a little more outspoken than their in-school peers. They are a little more comfortable with adults. They’re the kids with sand on their feet during school. And it’s been only two months. I see they are going to be weird because they are not going to be conditioned to conform. That’s what weird is–free of common conditioning.

To be honest, I’m not sure if they would choose to be weird. I am making the choice for them by homeschooling them.

I have a six-year-old boy who absolutely loves being around people. He wants to run and play and be goofy. He needs other kids. And kids love him. Actually, everyone loves him, which has lead my ex-husband, for a time, to question his own paternity. (Reasonable, really. What are the odds of two parents with Aspergers creating a child who is always the most popular kid in the room?)

Okay. So I absolutely have to find my son kids to play with. And I don’t know where to find them. I have tried hard, though, and here is what I have discovered:

1.     The classes and clubs that are high quality are after school. Of course. Because that’s when most kids are free. And those kids have friends in school, so they are hard to get to be my kids’ friends.

2.     The families who homeschool seem to do everything as a family. It is very expensive to separate the kids each day. It requires money for a nanny or two parents homeschooling simultaneously. So families make friends as families, rather than a six-year-old making friends with another six-year-old. This is really hard for me because I have no interest in making friends of my own.

3.     Should we make friends in our neighborhood or in activities? We go into the city three times a week to get stuff we can’t get where we live (like violin, speech therapy, soccer teams). This leaves us only two weekdays to play with the rural kids who live near us. Maybe I’m imagining things, but it feels limiting.

4.     Homeschool groups are cliques. The moms have been homeschooling for ten years. They don’t need a newbie interloper. They are set in their routine. No one is mean to me, for sure, but there’s a wide gap between mean and available.

5.     There is a time gap. We have a lot of time and we would fit well with some families that have kids in school, but kids in school are always crunched for time because everything is scheduled after school.

Do people have suggestions? Am I not seeing things clearly?

I am fascinated by the book Looks: Why They Matter More Than You Ever Imagined, by Gordon Patzer. He presents a compendium of research that shows that people do better in life if they are better looking. The research has some predictable stuff, like you get a wider selection of mates, and taller people earn more money than shorter people.

But it’s the research about children that shocked me. Mothers give more affection to better looking children. Not on purpose – it just happens. And teachers expect more from better looking children and therefore give more to them.

You can’t really change what you were born with – aside from plastic surgery – but you can improve the odds by dressing well.

I want to think I’m above that, but just in case, I splurged for kiddie clothes from Mini Boden.

I want people to think I’m making a good decision. I know I shouldn’t care. I know I should just do what I think is right. But I want to be accepted into some sort of community. I’m not sure what kind.

So I need to look into the homeschooling community where we live. I know there are families. Lands End is here and there is no private school. What do the executives do with their kids? I need to find out.

I don’t want to become a genius about teaching materials. I don’t want to engage other homeschooling parents in discussions about what worked for those kids.

I want to buy Rosetta Stone and learn languages with my kids. And then go to the country where we can speak it.

I want to hire everyone at My Learning Springboard to have things like customized tours of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and long-distance learning for bar mitzvah tutoring.

I want to have a fellowship program where I get amazing teachers in a wide range of areas to come teach my kids for weeks at a time. And I want to build a cabin next door to us so the teaching fellows feel so lucky they get to live on a farm.

I want the zillionaire version of homeschooling.

Check this out: I am in a Title I school district, but the parents I have spoken to have no idea what Title I means, let alone whether or not they are part of that.

Title I means that my district — the Darlington, WI district – is estimated to be performing in the lowest 20% of the country. Why is there no serious discussion of this in the community? Why aren’t parents scared? How can we send kids into the world to compete with the other 80% for jobs?

There is no way that people in my community are going to accept me because I am not going to be able to shut up about this. The best way to make a community better is to talk about what needs improving. What are people talking about improving in Darlington? I’m not really sure.