Sunday, May 22, 2011

Finally Home!

My kids are in there somewhere...

So I'm baaaaack!

It took us 10 hours to drive back from Ohio on Friday - ain't nothing like hitting New York City at rush hour (5:40 pm) on a Friday night at the end of a long drive! Recall last week my family attended a homeschooling, er...UNSCHOOLING convention.

Unschooling is a subset of parentally-directed education where the parents, well, don't do much if anything at all. And this is particularly the case if these people self-identify, usually within a minute of meeting you(!), as radical unschoolers.

These lucky(?) kids are allowed to do whatever they please. WHATEVER.

They can and do watch color TV all day; they generally play video games to an excess; in fact many have never been told *no* in their entire lives - lest their self-esteem be irretrievably damaged - or something.

I met one proud unschooling mom who told me that her son, while almost 10, can't read yet. Though she comforts herself with the belief that he's really adept at some extraordinarily complex video games.

"He really wants to learn how to read too..."

Well, have you helped him at all?

"No. I want him to learn naturally, on his own."

Then, eager to mercifully change subjects I inquired if she ever had him tested for dyslexia and whatnot. To that she replied in the negative, and maintained, "I don't think that's the case....I really know my son well." I did point her toward that great book on illiteracy but I'd be shocked if she took action on my suggestion.

Another such unschooler unparent told my wife that she lets her kids eat junk food everyday, all day long if they want to.

It's all about allowing these precious kids to have a *carefree childhood*, or so I was told, over and over again.

Whatever. I maintain that they are just hippy kids of hippy parents. Tied-dye is pretty common among this set. Although I must say that I'll still take *parents* screwing up their broods over *institutions* any day of the week.

There were 300 families there and many of them, in hushed tones, admitted that they were more like myself and prone to utilizing workbooks and at least occasional reading instruction.

Overall I would say that our trip, once I stopped talking to people(!), was a tremendous success. What I've learned, now that I've been involved with homeschooling groups in Boston, on Long Island, and now that I've met a bunch more homeschooling families in Ohio....I've learned that homeschooling parents generally DO NOT want to discuss how they are educating their children EVEN WITH OTHER HOMESCHOOLING PARENTS. And why should they? After all, the manner in which parents raise their children really isn't, or should be, anyone else's business.

Last week we enjoyed some great and much-needed family time. The kids had a blast. After all the hotel sports *the largest indoor water park*. When the rain stopped we also made it to Cedar Point which is ranked, I think, the number one amusement park in the world(?). They have something crazy like ten rollercoasters.

Now we went there mostly for the kids and mostly to get out of the hotel for a day. But after spending $100 to get in I felt obligated to ride at least a few of these supposedly famous rollercoasters. I had previously asked my wife's cousins and they told me to ride the Millennium Force - that it was the best.

I had to wait 15 minutes in line (apparently it's usually an hour!) amongst a few hundred geeked-up kids from government junior and high schools. They were all scared to death and talking like, get the point.

I'm just about 37 years old and haven't been on a rollercoaster in exactly 20 years (Hershey Park). Guess what, by the time I got close to the front of the line I too was scared out of my wits. The initial descent is FREAKIN' 310 FEET HIGH. "Why the (bleep) am I doing this?", I wondered.

And in all seriousness, I told myself to constrict my anus once the ride started. I didn't need to be departing the ride with two-toned trousers. The last thing I wanted was to have 10 kids whip out their cordless cell phone cameras and make me a 7-digit hit YouTube sensation!

Here's the ride. Remember to squeeze:

Guess what - it wasn't that bad. I remember as a kid being more scared on regular rollercoasters like the behemoth at Riverside Park in Agawam, Massachusetts. There weren't even any loops on it but back in the day all these rides were wooden and you REALLY DID THINK they would break or you'd fly off the tracks.

But the Millennium Force is new and the ride was relatively smooth. In fact it felt like riding in a BMW and so I left the track with my scat contained...

I had to do at least one more rollercoaster and some guy, an employee there, recommended that I do the Maverick next. So I got in that 30 minute line.

(BTW, Cedar Point has no less than a jillion employees there staffing the rides and maintaining the grounds. It seems to me mostly college kids; they earn $7.40 an hour and live in dorm-like buildings for $20 a week.)

It doesn't look intimidating at all since it is so relatively low to the ground. And after conquering the Millennium Force I wasn't worried, or squeezing, at all.

But I should have!

This one made me sick - not all the way sick, but sick enough to delay lunch for another hour and sick enough to keep me off ANY MORE rides the rest of the day.

I do have a bit of a weak stomach for these things. The zero-gravity spinning rides killed me years ago a few times. BUT I've never been whipped like this from a non-rotational ride before.

It just goes so damn fast - like there's a rocket booster on the back of the coaster. I couldn't walk when I de-trained and my hands,...are still numb!

Since I was *done*....I didn't get to brave this one - the 420 foot high Top-Thrill Dragster:

Apparently there have been some issues with this one. It occasionally stalls out at the top or something. And get this...just before one group of Morons were launched, they paused the ride while a technician went under the train with a wrench in full view. I started taunted the kids on the ride; I told them I could see brackets dangling off; etc. They didn't laugh. And they didn't laugh either when the mechanic guy left and hollered, "IT SHOULD BE OKAY".   Should?  Seriously.

BTW, less than an hour after I rode the Maverick it malfunctioned - stalling out with people on the track.

Y'all go ahead there and have fun now!

Getting back to the unschooling event...

I'm going to have my kids blog this on some of the activities.

The real highlights for me were that I got 20 minutes of one-on-one time at the bar with James Marcus Bach - a very successful (Apple product tester) school dropout...

AND I also got 20 minutes of quality time with author and blog-buddy Laura Grace Weldon!

She didn't recognize me at first....because I had a shirt on.

Of the countless people CaptiousNut has become acquainted with online over the past 6+ years....Laura is the first I've had the pleasure to meet. So she knows I'm real and she knows I'm even more hilarious in person! Who's next?

Taylor stood me up once in NYC. WestCoastTom has threatened to come visit but apparently doesn't leave California, EVER...

For more on unschooling see - Sudbury Valley Empiricism.


Anne Galivan said...

Just had to comment on a few things:

First of all, as a kid I was a huge coaster fan. Rode tons of them because my family, and my aunt and uncle and cousins spent every summer either at their home in Virginia Beach (and there were two amusement parks not too far away at the time) or we would travel parts of the country and camp and inevitably if there was an amusement park nearby we'd go. So I've ridden tons of different types of coasters and loved them all.

However, like you I had a coaster hiatus for at least 20 years before I went on one at Wild Adventures in Valdosta, GA a few years back. Scared the begeezus out of me. It is a wooden coaster that went super-fast and had only one of the bars in front of you to supposedly hold you in. I totally thought I was going to come flying out of that thing the whole time. Rode a much tamer coaster later and loved it. I personally will take a lot more of the huge dips and even the upside-down coasters because they have those bars that lock you in tight.

As far as the unschooling thing goes. I talk about this on my website but my biggest issue is that if you read the well-known home-schoolers they all say that home-schoolers such as you and I, because we DON'T let our kids do whatever they want, are not really home-schooling at all. They say we are EXACTLY THE SAME as the school down the street. To say that offends me is an understatement. From what you're telling me those "unschoolers" are just the type that give homeschoolers in general a bad name.

As far as meeting you I would love to and hope to do so in this life if at all possible.

Glad you all got safely home!

Anne Galivan said... that last comment I should have said "well-known UNschoolers." Ah well, that's what I get for reveiwing my comment a little too quickly.

Laura said...

Meeting you, my dear, was the highlight of the few hours I spent at the conference. Never did catch that name tag....

Lucy said...

The word "unparenting" just coins itself, doesn't it? More power too them though, better than educated fools.

Anne Galivan said...

I did want to come back and say that your "unparenting" description is accurate. Parents are SUPPOSED TO: protect their kids, train their kids, teach their kids, prepare their kids and so on. That is a parent's job!

These people have abdicated parenthood in favor of being their child's "friend" - one of the relationships we're NOT supposed to have with our kids, at least not until they're adults. And there is the rub...if you raise your kids right, i.e. via home-schooling, when they are grown you actually can be friends with them! My daughter and I are very close friends. Actually, she's really my only friend since, due to my health challenges I don't get out much and my "friends" have apparently forgotten I exist. (This relates to a more recent post of yours.)

In any case, raise your kids right and they are a delight to be with when they are grown. I may be wrong but I suspect that the kids you met at that conference may have a lot of angst towards their parents when they are adults and find they aren't prepared for anything - not relationships, not a career, not a thing.