Continuing to Learn about America’s Racist History

We don’t often have access to a television because we don’t have one ourselves. We usually watch shows online and don’t need another appliance taking up space in our small home, but occasionally we have access to one and, more occasionally still, the results can be absolutely lovely.

Flipping through the television channels tonight at a hotel, the third channel we hit had a movie (42) about Jackie Robinson. It was towards the beginning of the movie when we found it and the first scene we saw showed segregated entrances to the baseball field.

Immediately, my girls decided that was what they wanted to watch. They have never cared one tiny bit about baseball, but they are fascinated and baffled by the history of racism/segregation in America. They watched that entire movie and erupted in outrage every time they saw blatant racism portrayed. *Edited to add on the evening of 4/30/15: We’ve had a great many amazing discussions since that night about the challenges and hatred Jackie Robinson (and his family and teammates) faced and how it really wasn’t that long ago when he lived*

I hadn’t really known the story of Jackie Robinson before tonight — at least not to where I remembered much of it. I’m sure it was touched on in Ken Burns’ Baseball series, but it’s been so long since I watched it that I must’ve forgotten.

I love (re)discovering history with my children ❤

Breaking the silence surrounding America’s racial history was very difficult at first — I can’t even tell you how difficult it was. Starting to talk about these issues with my children was terrifying to me when I began because I grew up in the “color blind” era when we didn’t ever mention race if we could at all manage it. Despite my initial discomfort, I believe that our discussions have paid off 100% based on the compassion and caring I have seen in them and their interest in learning more whenever the opportunity presents itself.

There’s a secret to talking and learning about racism: The more you talk about it, the easier it gets. The more you want to learn about it, the more your children will  almost certainly want to learn about it.

If you become (com)passionate about this topic then your children will have a good chance of mirroring your (com)passion.

I can’t go out and peacefully protest in solidarity at this point in my life because I have four small children (one extremely small), but I can make sure that they grow up to understand systemic racism, white privilege, and the history that got us to where we are now. I can also teach them the importance of sticking up for downtrodden and marginalized people whenever the opportunity arises.

#dowhatyoucan

#breakthesilence

#fromthemouthsofbabes

#BlackLivesMatter

#WhiteRacialResponsibility

Homeschooling, Responsibility, and Educational “Gaps”

An excellent post, “What If,” showed up in my Facebook news feed today. It’s about the “what if” questions that “interest led” homeschoolers typically get asked and it reminded me of a discussion I had many years ago – almost a decade now, actually – when my oldest was a baby.

I happened to tell a woman at the local La Leche League meeting that we were planning to homeschool because I had been homeschooled myself and had loved it. In response she told me that she didn’t think she would be able to handle shouldering ALL the responsibility for her children’s education and that she would be too worried about ensuring that there weren’t any “gaps” in their education since she, being only one person, couldn’t possibly know everything that her children might potentially need to know.

She asked me how I thought I could handle that immense amount of pressure.

I thought for a few moments before responding because these weren’t issues I had considered before. In the spirit of the other article and before giving you my responses, I’ll put her statements into the “what if” format.

*What if you fail to teach them everything they need to learn? <- which is also assuming that all the educational responsibility is on the homeschooling parent.

I told her that, first of all, my children’s education wouldn’t all be on me…. because homeschoolers, in my experience, are often encouraged to go out and find mentors or classes in the community to help them pursue their specific interests if the parents cannot teach them adequately or to a more advanced level in that area.

In my own homeschooling life, by middle school I was primarily interested in music and music education so I took piano lessons and was allowed to attend band classes at the local public middle and high schools. By high school, I was well on my way to learning multiple band instruments. By my sophomore year I was attending five separate band classes as well as assisting the high school band director in multiple ways – sorting sheet music, cataloging the music library, tutoring other students, and generally trying to be helpful.

All of that extra music focus was in addition to the usual school subjects that I continued doing through high school. Attending the music classes was also my own idea to start with, helped along by the ample encouragement I received from my parents. I had attended a piano teacher training course and was teaching my own young piano students by the time I was 16 years old.

My parents, on their own, could not have helped me advance as far in instrumental music and music education as I eventually advanced, and yet I managed to advance that far by finding an adult mentor (my band director, whom I still see fairly often on Facebook) and well over a hundred peer mentors and mentees (fellow band geeks, unite!) as well as eventually choosing to major in Music Education at an excellent college.

In my children’s lives right now, finding mentors/classes involves them attending ballet classes and roller skating lessons – which are interests that are also beyond the scope of most public/private schools. We’ve been involved in co-ops in the past for subjects as diverse as art and science. As they find more and different interests that I don’t know enough about to assist them in learning, we will help and/or encourage them to find classes or mentors for those interests as well. Naturally, their musical interests have been well covered by my own knowledge and experiences so far 🙂

*What if your children have significant gaps in their educations because you yourself can’t possibly know everything they need to know?

In response to that part, I simply asked that person I was talking to if she thought her (public school) education had been without gaps and she seemed to suddenly understand. Oh, NO education is without gaps. Right. In fact, she told me that the gaps in her education were part of the reason she was concerned about having the responsibility for her children’s potential educational gaps, which is completely understandable.

We talked a bit more about how there really isn’t any way of ensuring that there won’t be educational “gaps” because even if someone is taught everything in the world in the most effective way possible, they aren’t going to be able to remember every single thing. There will still be gaps no matter how rigorous the curriculum is or how well-trained the teacher is.

I explained so many years ago that the most important thing to me then, as well as now, is that I help to set my children up for a life full of learning. I will do everything in my power to help them learn the basics so that they have a good foundation. I will facilitate and encourage them in everything they want or need to learn. Ultimately, though, I will consider their early learning to be a success if they retain and build upon their innate love for learning and knowledge of how to learn because then they will be able to fill in those inevitable “gaps” as they want or need to do.

My parents, especially my father, modeled a love of learning to me throughout my life that has carried me through numerous interests and jobs. They cultivated my love of learning and I cannot think of a single day when I haven’t learned something new and enjoyed the process. I have easily been able to fill my educational gaps every time it has become clear that there was a gap that needed to be filled. That ability has been priceless to me.

That is what I want for my children.

Disclaimer: I do not speak for all homeschoolers, only for myself. There are many different reasons out there for homeschooling and many other types of homeschoolers that may or may not fit within the scope of this post.

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