Mon 1 Mar 2010
a Sunday afternoon. after a morning spent almost entirely in motion and frequently in peril of minor injury, the wild Josephine has been bagged – sleeping-bagged – and corralled in her crib with an entire safari of stuffed animals. there is silence.
except for her brother.
Oscar no longer naps, a fact against which my time-jealous mind still rails. i am in the Denial stage of that particular grief. we moved past Anger, thank gawd, as fighting the inevitable in a loving yet despairing manner is a miserable experience that i firmly believe should be saved for one’s children’s teen years. we’ve also left Bargaining behind, when i realized that nothing short of tying the child to his bed was going to keep him in it. sigh. Acceptance is still a long way off.
i like the trappings of kids: PlayDoh and toy villages and Lego and fingerpaints and books and jumping on the couch like Spiderman. my problem with naplessness is that playing PlayDoh and Lego and Spiderman with children is an experience rather akin to being low-totem maggot in Basic Training: you do what they tell you, or ain’t nobody having any fun. and that damn Spiderman always ends up leaping on me. ouch. and oh, my exhausted, cluttered head. so the respite of naptime remains a bygone golden era that i hearken to, most longingly.
when they both napped, i had guaranteed kid-free time twice a weekend. kid-free time means i get to slip interruption-free into the pipe and slippers of twitter, and ease myself from there into the writing, reading and research that is my perverse notion of relaxation.
in words, i make myself. in crocheting my ass to the couch, i create the illusion of a room of my own inside my life.
my solution, since Oscar stopped napping, means even the couch is getting crowded. Dave sits on one side of the French doors between living room and our office-slash-playroom, at the desk, and i curl up, fetal and content, with my laptop. in the crook of my arm perches Oscar, with his laptop.
yep, we’re borg. looks on my works, ye mighty, and despair.
Oscar is the inheritor of Dave’s old 2005 iMac, the little white workhorse that could. it’s been dropped twenty times, easy. its cord is held together with duct tape, and it sometimes freezes while loading games from sesamestreet.org, but mostly it works well enough to operate as the household Mother’s Little Helper that engages Oscar while Posey sleeps and mommy and daddy work.
he plays memory on the KidsCBC site, and watches old Cookie Monster clips from my childhood. he’s mastered dragging the mouse around the screen and clicking, and he can work the volume controls and start a DVD by himself. increasingly, he’s able to sound out the first letter of commands and guess what his options are.
today, i heard him muttering a little sing-song ditty at his computer, one that was half-ABCs and half-admonishments. i asked him what he was saying. he looked at me as if i were unbearably slow. i’m having a compooooter probwem. it’s the ALPHAbet, mum. it’s a probwem.
he was putting his keyboard in Time Out for being all qwerty-like and out of order.
and i stared at my sworn enemy, the blank screen, and thought, it’s always the damn alphabet, son. if you’re ever gonna write, you may as well come to terms with that struggle early on.
see what leaps of cognition parental negligence can create? hell, i was in college before i realized the alphabet was at the root of all evil.
in my professional life, i am an educator. i teach. i research. i write strategic plans for academic programs. and i think about how social media are changing the world we’re raising our children to live in.
in other words, i tweet with my kid next to me on the couch.
and he sees me type, and laugh, and click on avatars of people he’s even – in some cases – met. he sees the pictures of your kids that you broadcast over twitter. he sees the articles and posts you share that i pore over and – with the articles – make notes on, even though he can’t read them. he understands that mommy and daddy’s work is based on a whole bunch of people – real people, with kids whose names he remembers – and that crazy alphabet. he knows all these things are somehow magically connected inside computers.
he is not yet four, and i’d venture he has a fair grasp on knowledge in the early 21st century.
he’ll start junior kindergarten in September.
and a lot of what he’s learning here on the couch – both in terms of skills and the modelling we do here in borg central – is likely to get drilled right out of him the minute he hits school.
schools are, by nature, antipathic to online networks and connections. it’s not just that our litiginous society suffers paranoid delusions about people being out to prey on our kids; it’s also that schools themselves have all the swift reinventive capacity of the dodo bird. plus pesky things like, y’know, limited budgets.
but it’s mostly that schools are structured to replicate a model of behaviour and authority where power is located in the central figure of the teacher, and students are valued for their compliance, not their knowledge.
lining up, listening quietly, waiting one’s turn…these CAN be useful skills in almost any life context. they are only inherently useful in an industrial society where the goal of schools is to turn out good nose-to-the-grindstone workers.
in our society, which rewards assertiveness, innovation, self-marketing, and an internal locus of authority for critical thinking, they can be detrimental to students if they end up being the main message kids take out of their schooling experience.
i’ve worked in and around schools now for fifteen years. i think most schools try hard, as do teachers and administrators. and i value a great deal that schools do. i can’t imagine a field more frigging fraught and complicated and interesting than education, this great sociological experiment.
but neither can i reconcile this couch and the classroom as i know it, even when i stretch my brain. possibly it’s just another form of Denial.
but as both a researcher and a parent of children slated to hit the system running in another year and a bit, i’m curious. what does Acceptance look like, in terms of 21st century education? what does having your kids in school – or not, as it were – mean to you? how do you reconcile the ways of knowing, learning, and connecting that we do out here with what happens in classrooms? does it matter to you? and are we doing our kids a disservice by not only ignoring crowdsourcing and connected learning during the schooling years, but calling them plagiarism?
liven me up, here, people. ’cause i’m not getting a nap.