I never really realized what a massive heap of disturbing cultural conditioning it all was, until I became a parent. My eldest began at a private school- but unfortunately, even at a very early age, he was treated to ridicule for being different. You might not think that kind of thing still happens, but for the little blonde boy from a “broken home”, that school was a special kind of hell. I won’t go into that experience, but my eldest- now 14, was treated to cruelty that blew my mind. His father has custody of him and didn’t want to homeschool, so, Steven went to public school and lo and behold, his “behavioral problems” went away and he was fairly quickly put into the gifted program. I’m always a little bit perplexed when people assume I’m knocking their kid’s public schooling or their kid’s intelligence by asserting that my middle child, Aidan (Or Sprog 2), who is 7 will never be in public school. That’s obviously not it at all- my eldest is doing really well with it. His father and I both have a strong policy of parental involvement, as does his step-mother, and in that, his experience has been a positive one.
However, early on, Aidan was a bit different. Fidgety, never wanting to sit still, an almost seemingly endless font of energy. He is in almost constant motion, wildly inquisitive, but darts from subject to subject. When he speaks, it’s often so fast and with so many words crammed together, people find it hard to understand. Aidan, slow down is an almost constant refrain, as is Aidan, look at me. Over the years, I’ve seen wonderful looks of disapproval, I’ve dealt with the truly patronizing looks of pity (For what? Having a bright, energetic kid?), I’ve heard the stupidly unsubtle whispers. People often speculate that something is wrong with my child, that he is somehow broken.
I knew exactly what would happen if he went to public school. I know exactly what happens often when a child with the above mannerisms goes to public school.
When Aidan turned one, I sat in a doctor’s office, listening to quite possibly one of the most gut wrenching, terrifying things I’d ever heard. Holding my funny little chunky breast-fed baby, his doctor explained elevated lead levels to me. I can’t get into the insane amounts of guilt, terror and sorrow I felt. I have replayed that over in my mind I don’t know how many times. One of the reasons I did end up in college and eventually obtain a nutrition degree was food based chelation. Food that could help him get rid of the poison. The house we’d bought was built in 1920- and had not had appropriate lead abatement.
The doctor gravely told us what might happen. The behavior issues, the problems- but in all honesty, we were very fortunate that most of that has not come to pass. I don’t really believe that his extremely energetic way of being has anything to do with that, I think it means…he’s seven. Nonetheless, I’ve had friends, relatives and acquaintances deal with more administrative pressure to drug the crap out of their children from schools- to the point that some have had the state called on them, and it’s just not a risk I’m willing to take. Because I’m not doing it, and I’m not even considering it. This is the point where people want to tell me how well their kid’s doing for it- that’s fine. That’s your kid. Not mine. You know what you dealt with, what levels of research you engaged in, and made your decision. What I do with mine has nothing to do with yours, and vice versa. Nor should it. I have done a great deal of research and I have made some controversial choices in respect to him. Some of those choices, I choose not to discuss publicly- because everyone believes themselves to be some sort of expert and quite honestly, no one’s entitled to that information, any reasons behind it, or expressing any opinions on it to me. Many people seem to believe that they are entitled to all those things, with anyone’s children or choices therein- but the truth is, you aren’t. I promise you, for all the nasty judgment calls you (Collective- not necessarily you reading this.) level at people: they’re more than likely not sweating it, questioning their ways or even giving it much thought apart from: what an asshole. I know that’s generally my line of thinking as I do my therapeutic mmmhmmms, and frantically grasp for the first opportunity to get away from people who do it in the politest way I can manage while stifling a few choice words. People always do this sort of weird, “Oh my god, I didn’t know!” whenever they do find out about his lead poisoning. As if that makes it okay to speculate on things they are vastly under-educated and quite honestly, not welcome to speculating on. It does not. I don’t talk about it, honestly, because it hasn’t limited him and it’s really no one’s business- even when they are rudely second guessing his behaviors.
I promise you, not one of you has done as much research into these things, as it pertains to my child, as I have. You haven’t, because he isn’t your child. You didn’t sit there listening to a doctor tell you how he might be mentally retarded and suffer severe behavioral issues. You didn’t hear about how he probably had brain injuries. You don’t attempt to teach him. In the cases of people who suggest there is something wrong with him- you never will. As a matter of fact, I’d sooner jab a fork into my hand repeatedly than allow that sort of person to be much more than a passing anecdote or a lesson in inappropriate social behavior for him. As in, “Aidan, that’s an example of an extremely rude person with no respect for personal boundaries and an overblown sense of self importance. Pay them no mind, but rather, pity them for their lack of self control and move on.”
There is no way under heaven my son would be able to sit still, in a desk, in a classroom for hours on end. Getting him to sit still through dinner is often a chore. (He does and can, though.) That’s something we’ve known for a while now and why I use a mixture of the Montessori method, unschooling, and a mess of resources from all over the internet and at my disposal to teach him.
I decided to write more on this because tonight was rough. It was really rough. I noticed Aidan was starting to lapse in learning, and that he had been sort of giving it a pass. We’re not full unschooling, that’s not something I wanted to do, so, I decided that he and I would sit and read a chapter from a book together each night.
The first thing he did was run back and forth across the room, three times.
Then he squealed angrily. No, seriously, he sounded like a small piglet sped up ten times.
I CAN’T READ ALL OF THOSE BOOKS! He shrieked at us.
“Slow down a minute and you’d realize, I was just asking you to choose one.”
He fidgeted wildly. He mumbled. He slurred.
I’M SO THIIIIIIIIRSTY.
“Well, have a drink.”
“We’ll get a snack in a minute.”
I CAN’T BELIEVE YOU ARE FOOOOORCING ME TO DO THIS!
“Well, goodness, wait til we get this down, what I do next will REALLY bake yer noodle.”
And on and on it went. Bouncing around, pacing, messing with the hair. It’s too hot, it’s too cold, I can’t sit here like this, I need another drink, I’m staaaaaarving, can I write down notes? Do I HAAAAAAAAVE Toooooo?! He’s starting to loosely resemble one of those high-bounce balls you get in a gumball machine, when tossed hard against a hospital wall. Don’t ask me how I know what that’s like for comparison, but you can imagine nurses are generally less than thrilled when you do that.
Kurt took the time to explain what a Bolshevik was. What Communism meant, briefly. What is patriotism?
We began discussing word use, he googled a couple of definitions as we read. We talked about what certain phrases meant, what certain statements meant. Little by crawling little, he grew more and more interested. Still a bit fidgety, still complaining, but it became less and less.
Of course, it was right around that time, The Fish, who is 9 months old, started to get a bit crabby, wanted to go to sleep. However, Aidan thought it’d be neat to sit next to him and read, since he enjoys having books read to him. The Fish misunderstood and thought they were having a conversation and began babbling baby talk at really high volumes. It was really funny, actually, and cute- but derailed the interest a bit until we got him to sleep. I tried to get Aidan to look over KidCoder VB for a bit while I nursed the baby down, but by this point- his brain was doing ninety to nothing.
All in all I think it took us about 3 hours to read 6 pages about Jane Addams. It was, however, really worth it. The more he engaged, the more we interacted, the more we discussed the things, the more interesting it became.
Though, by the time we were done, he practically flew up off of the floor where we’d been sitting and promptly began bouncing around the room, but still. Progress. He wanted to watch Three Stooges with Kurt, so that’s where it ended for the night.