Friday, May 1, 2009
Funky Alternative Life
I went to the zoo yesterday. I had been so touched that my 12 and 14-year-old kids wanted to go to the zoo with me on a group field trip with our homeschool-school. That is until one of the 8th graders pointed out that they'd be missing classes at school! Hunh. I'm a little slow, sometimes.
But it wasn't really only about missing classes. It was about being outside, and spending a day with friends. And checking in with the animals.
I spent the day walking the longest "thank you" prayer I've ever known. Our school is a K-12 parent partnership program with about 100 kids total enrollment. We're homeschoolers. We have no idea how to walk in a line, we walk in small clumps heads bowed together to chat, or giggle wildly or push and shove, depending on our stage in life. Many of us have known each other for years and years. We trust each other, we lean on each other. The kids know that even though that little five-year-old isn't their brother, he's a friend's brother and he might need a boost to really see the hippos. The boys and girls talk and laugh together. The older kids hold doors for the younger kids and no toddler ever tires a mom's arms becuse there are a dozen middle school boys and girls who are happy to carry her, too.
Lunches are shared. Water is shared. Hand sanitizer is shared. Someone starts talking like Jack Sparrow and soon the whole crew of kids have cheezy english accents.
Yesterday was the last day school groups could buy the group tickets for the zoo. There were dozens and dozens of busses lined up outside the zoo. And for me it was a stark contrast. I watched our kids and I watched those groups. Our adults had the same orange "Chaperone" stickers and our kids had the same drive to see everything. We had a bigger age range of course, from our newest little brother who is probably about six-weeks-old to a group of eigth graders who will be 15 in the fall. But the difference in the groups was stark. Yes, our moms and dads were frustrated with the kids who climbed up on the rocks again after being told to please get down, it wasn't safe. And yes our kids sometimes ordered each other around. But the redirection was gentle, our patience supported by the group of parents we happened to be walking with just then. We were there with our community.
I've always felt lucky to have been able to homeschool. But frankly, it's been a commitment that I take seriously enough to make it work. I want my kids to have just this. And if it meant I had to work full time swing shift, well then I did. If it means working 20 hours a week and taking no vacations and driving 12-year-old cars, that's fine. It's so worth it to have days like our day at the zoo.
The icing on the cake happened in the primate area. I was hanging back, watching six kids watch the animals and I noticed--no white kids. All our kids were mixed race. I was with two good women friends who are both white, but our kids were white and Asian and black and native because we're all in mixed marriages. I smiled.
I am happy to live this funky alternative life with it's funky alternative church and our funky alternative school and our funky alternative days. I'm still smiling.