Monday Morning Open Thread

Good morning, MTs. I know I previously posted a bit about a homeschooling mother whose daughter dropped out to go to public school, and apologies for posting on the subject again, but I enjoyed this feature in Salon about another family’s experience with homeschooling.

At the risk of gross generalization, there’s a hierarchy of responses when you drop the home-school bomb in conversation. Childless men don’t much care; the question is too remote from their consciousness. Childless women are often curious and even intrigued; the question is hypothetical but possesses a certain allure as a thought experiment. As for men with children, they may or may not be sympathetic, but they don’t experience the subject as a personal affront. Let’s be honest: It’s almost always mothers who react defensively when the subject comes up, as if our personal decision not to send our kids to public school contained an implicit judgment of whatever different choices they may have made.

As I say, I understand this a little bit better than I did at first. For one thing, I’m not sure any man can really grasp the competing and largely incompatible demands faced these days by American women, who are expected to be providers, power brokers, nurturers and sex symbols, either all at the same time or in rapid succession. Whether they’re working-class or middle-class, most working mothers feel fundamentally torn between home and the workplace. They get shunted into mommy-track careers if they seem insufficiently devoted to their corporate overlords while getting grief from mothers-in-law for not spending enough time with the kids. They’re doing the best they can and it’s not that much fun, and the last thing they want to hear is somebody telling them, in effect, that they must have missed the latest memo on hip 21st-century motherhood: You’re supposed to quit your job and spend your days reading your kids “Oliver Twist”! Home schooling is the new black!

I like the fact that O’Hehir is careful to couch his family’s decision in “this works for us“ language and acknowledges that there are several financial, philosophical and professional reasons why the homeschooling choice works so well for himself and his wife. I’m glad homeschooling is working well for O’Hehir, his wife and their 5-year-old twins. For me, though, I’m still sticking with the public school and “afterschooling“ path that so many have discussed here before – supplementing Jess’s education with at home activities, just as we’ve done all along.


As the UK nears its next election cycle (in which PM Gordon Brown and his Labour Party are widely expected to lose badly, ending more than a decade of the party’s rule), rumors are making the circuit that Brown’s deteriorating eyesight my force (or appear to force) him from office. But the BBC is in hot water for taking health speculation a step further, asking PM Brown if he’s on anti-depressants.

LABOUR chiefs are furious with the BBC after Andrew Marr questioned Gordon Brown about his health in a television interview.

A senior Labour source accused the corporation of allowing itself to be used in a smear campaign, after suggestions that the Prime Minister was taking antidepressants were put to him on the Andrew Marr Show on BBC One.

Downing Street had denied the claims two weeks ago when they first appeared on political websites and Mr Brown appeared surprised when Mr Marr put them to him.

The Prime Minister rebuffed suggestions that he might use deteriorating eyesight as an excuse to leave Downing Street before the next election and said that a recent annual check-up had shown that his vision was good. Mr Brown lost the sight of his left eye after a rugby accident when he was 16.

Marr said that he wanted to ask “something everybody has been talking about in the Westminster village … A lot of people in this country use prescription painkillers and pills to help them get through. Are you one of them?”

The Prime Minister said: “No. I think this is the sort of questioning which is all too often entering the lexicon of British politics.” When Marr asked again, Mr Brown said that he had already answered the question.

I have a lot of reactions to this story: firstly, if it’s true, Brown certainly wouldn’t be the first PM to struggle with depression while in office – Winston Churchill famously struggled with what he called the “black dog“, and medicated himself with alcohol. So seeking to stigmatize Brown with the same disease that the hero Churchill had is insulting to both. Secondly, though, if it’s true, I’d hope that Brown would acknowledge it in some way, because mental illness still needs to be de-mystified and frankly, is it all that unthinkable that a man saddled with a.) failing eyesight; b.) pulling his country out of its massive financial and economic crisis; and c.) the prospect of losing his first election as PM and putting his party in opposition might not be in the best condition at the moment?

On a lighter note, one of my favourite actors, Cate Blanchett, is going from strength to strength in her tenure as co-artistic-director of the Sydney Theatre Company (her husband, Andrew Upton, is the other co-artistic-director). The STC have just had a sell-out run of “A Streetcar Named Desire“ and next year will put on Uncle Vanya, with La Cate starring along with John Bell, Richard Roxburgh and Hugo Weaving (oooooh, Huuuuuuugo), according to this article in The Australian.

“Good Chekhov is like being at an amazing dinner party, and I’d want to sit at a table with all of those men,” Blanchett said of her co-stars.

I honestly don’t know how she manages her career, the STC and three children, but congratulations to her! I’m seriously considering a weekend getaway to Sydney for this one, but I don’t know if DH will want to go along. Hmmmmm….

Of course, this is an open thread. What’s up with you?

64 thoughts on “Monday Morning Open Thread

  1. interesting article

    I think I would respond that the reason some parents (moms) get defensive about NOT homeschooling is quotes like this:

    Do we regret not exposing our kids to the intense cultural melting pot of New York’s school system? Sometimes, sure. But we’re also not exposing them to bullying, arbitrary systems of order and discipline, age-inappropriate standards of behavior, and the hegemony of corporatized kid culture.

    Maybe I AM defensive, but there seems to be a bit of judgment in that statement about people who send their kids to public schools — what kind of parent voluntarily exposes their kids to bullying, arbitary systems of order and discipline, and age-inappropriate standards of behavior?

    I think the issue is all of us (me included) have a hard time explaining our choices without seeming to attack those who choose differently.  So we all seem defensive, because we all want to assure others ( and ourselves) that we are doing what is best for our kids.

    • Great point

      I’m all for homeschooling, as long as it is done well. Same for regular school, I’m all for it as long as it is done well  :)

      But statements like that drive me crazy. Do people like him really think that we are subjecting our kids to some sort of mistreatment by sending them to public school?

      • this is where I get judgey

        I’m all for homeschooling, as long as it is done well

        I have a pretty high expectation for what homeschooling “done well”. My SiL doesn’t fit the bill.

        • You’d love our neighbors

          NOT. Their eighteen billion kids are “homeschooled” which means run around the neighborhood all day without supervision. Their parents never go outside, never play with their kids, and the older kids are expected to take care of the little ones. That’s “homeschooling” to them, I guess.

          • asdf

            Running around the neighborhood all day without supervision. Huh. It’s funny that should be a complaint, when I’ve seen lamentations about how today’s children have helicopter parents and never learn to do things for themselves. Maybe you don’t see what the parents are doing to watch out for their kids, but that doesn’t mean the parents are completely oblivious. And if lack of supervision is a problem for homeschooled children, what about the public school kids who come home after school and the parents don’t get home until after 5 or 6? What about the kids whose parents work several jobs and have to open their dinner out of a can? There aren’t half as many homeschoolers whose children get into trouble.

            Babysitting a sibling is not limited to homeschoolers, even when it happens on a regular basis. The typical high school health or life skills class involves carrying around an egg or a doll baby for a week as a parenting exercise. That doesn’t even come close to the real thing.

            • I was holding them out as a bad example

              The “homeschooling” is incidental to the fact they are borderline reportable for neglect (so says my social worker neighbor, and she would know, being as that is her profession and she is close to the family).

              The teenagers have to watch the 1 and 2 years olds constantly. I don’t think this is right. Pretty sure Super Nanny would agree. And their house is so messy, it’s looks like a total garbage heap inside.

              The other day two of the tweens were having an expletive-laced argument with another neighborhood kid in front of the house in front of the 5 year old and the 2 year old. No parents in sight. I told them to watch their language.

              I am not a total helicopter parent, but if your 4 year-old kid is walking around the streets without shoes or a coat, wearing a sundress, and it’s November in Minnesota and not quite 32 degrees, you need to watch your kid a bit closer, IMO. That’s not homeschooling. That’s neglect.

              I think they use “homeschooling” as an excuse not to take care of their kids at all. It’s more work for them to  keep up with a school’s requirements and activities.

              Not all homeschooling is like this (see my comment below, I’m not anti-homeschooling), but these guys SUCK.

    • arbitrary systems of order and discipline

      I was just thinking about this. I guess he figures his system of order and discipline isn’t arbitrary.

      In New York City of all places, one should recognize that a modicum of order and discipline are key to maintaining a safe and pleasant society in some respects.

    • I see your point

      but in that statement he captured all the reasons I’m uneasy about my decision to send my kids to school.  I’m not at all convinced I’m doing what’s best for my kids; I’ve just chosen what I consider to be the less risky path.  Not that I don’t see positives in it (and my husband feels very, very strongly that public school is the way to go), and I do believe that she’s meeting more of a variety of people in school than she would if I were homeschooling her.  Students as well as teachers.  I’m just not sure I have the discipline to homeschool.

  2. Morning!

    Hullo, Rachel and friends. It’s Yom Kippur, the kids are still in bed after too many late nights.

    I posted that Salon piece on my facebook page this morning also. At times, I think I’m ready to yank the kids from school and go it alone, but then they really seem to enjoy it these days, and the school we found for them is great, so right now I’m not in that mode. Miles and Eli have teachers who trained for their role and seem to really enjoy facilitating education and discovery in their classrooms. The kids are learning the good and bad lessons of interacting with kids from all walks of life. They’ve matured so much in the past month, riding the bus, walking home alone when the bus arrived early.

    And although he says “this works for us,” he also seems pretty Judgy McJudgerson about traditional school and by extension those who choose to send their children there. He makes it sound like a living hell, so how can someone who sends their child there NOT feel like they are being judged and found guilty of not doing the best for their kids?

    • I think a lot of it

      depends on your own personal experiences in schools and if you dwell on them.  

      If school was a hellish nightmare for that guy then he’s going to think it’s the same everywhere.  

      • definitely

        this is 100% why my SiL is homeschooling. She HATED school. I remember once she started bawling about how she was going to protect her child from the horrors she went through. Projection much?

      • Yeah, and

        also, how much you value the kinds of things that are taught in school … such as everybody sitting on the carpet quietly listening to a lesson at the time the teacher decides it’s time to listen.

        Maybe with homeschooling you have more flexibility to figure they aren’t ready to settle down right now at 10:35 so we’ll try it again at 11:15.  Or whatever.

        Some people care more than others about the value of kids learning those kinds of things (or at least at one particular age).

        I also noticed in the article someone saying, “It’s not like public school; we don’t have desks and hour-long lessons,” etc.  My older son who is in a public Montessori program doesn’t have those things, either.  But I recognize that not every district offers alternative programs like that if that’s what you want for your kid.

        • Reading that

          I did feel better about our public Montessori program; they don’t sit in desks and they have some control over their schedules.  I’m glad of it.

          Our neighbors across the street homeschool, and I do think that, among other things, one advantage it has over public school is that the kids are learning to manage their own time.  They have to put in 4-5 hours a day, but they get to decide if it’s 7-12 or 3-8.  It’s very valuable.

    • asdf

      Well it feels awfully like everyone else is still so judgmental about the return to homeschooling. There’s a long history of it. Famous people homeschooled successfully, and all throughout the past people have taught their own children if there weren’t alternatives that suited. Public school has only been mandatory in the U.S. for about the last hundred years.

      Hippie and fundamentalist homeschooling “pioneers” had to do it underground, and at risk of persecution from Child Protective Services and truant officers, even if they were teaching all the subjects perfectly, had a degree in education, and ensured proper socialization. That’s guaranteed to set up a significant amount of defensiveness.

      How can people who have made this non-traditional choice for their families, at strong risk of disapproval from family and society, not come up with as many reasons as humanly possible to justify going against the grain? And if those reasons make people who are going with the flow feel uncomfortable, how is it the fault of that minority? It’s like insisting that gay marriages really threaten straight ones.

      My kid went to school for the first time this year, grade 8. The other kids are talking about how they’re getting laid, what they’d tip the girls in class if the girls were strippers, and accusing the less popular kids of being gay (as if there’s a problem with that). How could someone possibly judge me for not wanting my kids to experience that?

      Nobody would argue that schools are perfect. The minor problems for some people are major ones for others. For some people who can manage to work it out financially and with the childcare and so forth, there is an alternative that works.

  3. asdf…

    The thing you blurbed from the Salon article reminded me of a conversation I had with a friend from Mexico. She said in some ways women there have not been liberated. At one time, they were expected to look pretty and do domestic chores to catch a man. Now they are expected to look pretty, do domestic chores AND have a college degree to catch a man.

    It’s true that the pressures on the modern woman — especially mothers — are intense!

  4. Milo turned 2 yesterday!

    We had a great party with family and a few friends.  Jeremy and I gave him a train set that he hasn’t walked away from (he didn’t even really want to open any other gifts).  He loves it so much that he who only says no actually nodded his head when I asked if he liked it!

  5. Homeschooling

    Like they say, kids change everything. I used to think homeschooling was, across the board, weird. I thought this generally until my own child started kindergarten last year. Now I can see the point. DS has so many talents and interests that will never be tapped in institutional education. Nonetheless, because I am the worst possible teacher (of anything really, I suck at teaching), hi ho hi ho, it’s off to school he goes! I like his teacher a lot better this year, and his school really is quite awesome– all the resources and facilities and opportunities you’d expect from a well-funded suburban school, which is why we moved here–plus a racially and economically diverse student body. So that makes it easier.

    Still, hypothetically I’d homeschool because of my kid’s special interests and personality, not because I think regular schools are bad. I think homeschoolers who sound judgey (like the Salon writer) are doing it because they think regular schools are bad. There’s a big difference there.

    • Yeah…

      He committed a crime.  The fact that he had the audacity and the means to flee shouldn’t mean he gets off easier than others.  I think this case should be handled as if it happened yesterday.

    • He’s vile

      Check this out…he’s “refusing” to be extradited:

      “Every one realises that his arrest makes no sense, coming 32 years late and considering that the victim gave up all action against him a long time ago, and has even called for the prosecution to be dropped,” Temime said.

      It came 32 years too late BECAUSE YOU FLED, Polanski.

      • exactly

        I just heard someone who sounded French interviewed on TV and he said, “he made a mistake 32 years ago.” Um…..I don’t think drugging a 13 year old with part of a qualude and champagne and having sex with her against her will really qualifies as a “mistake.”

        • Maybe this guy?

          French Culture Minister Frederick Mitterrand:

          “Without wanting to interfere in a very old judicial process … (I) regret in the strongest way that a new ordeal has been inflicted on someone who has gone through so many,” Mitterrand says.

          Inflicted upon?  Very interesting world view!

          As for his hardships, of course they have been unspeakable.  But, as I assumed this refers in part to Sharon Tate, I’ve heard stories that he was quite abusive toward her, too.

        • I’d call it outright rape

          It’s infuriating that every media outlet is describing it as “sex with an underage girl.” He plea bargained down to “unlawful sex with a  minor,” so at the VERY least it is statutory rape.

          When you consider that he gave a 13-year-old girl alcohol and drugs, and then forced himself on her despite the fact she said “No” and repeatedly asked to be taken home…yup, sounds like rape to me, no matter what stupid drivel Whoopi is dishing out.

          • “A gray area

            if mom is in the building?”  WTF?  That doesn’t take any responsibility off of him; it just means the girl’s mom is a criminal, too.  If I hire a hit man to kill my child, does that person have clean hands just because I’m a murder, too?  The fact that this girl had a pimp for a mother means she needed other adults to be more responsible, not less.  

            • ITA.

              The way some people are talking about this case, twisting themselves into knots to absolve Polanski, makes me stabby.

              It was a long time ago? The victim wants to move on? She was a slutty teen who looked way older than her years?

              Not. Good. Enough. Not by a long shot.

            • Spot on.

              The point is not to keep 76-year-old Polanski off the streets or help his victim feel safe. The point is that drugging and raping a child, then leaving the country before you can be sentenced for it, is behavior our society should not — and at least in theory, does not — tolerate, no matter how famous, wealthy or well-connected you are, no matter how old you were when you finally got caught, no matter what your victim says about it now, no matter how mature she looked at 13, no matter how pushy her mother was, and no matter how many really swell movies you’ve made.

              Bottom line: he raped a child.

              • Hollywood’s Response

                Even more disturbing to me is the number of people in the entertainment industry who are “outraged” by this arrest. Harvey Weinstein is calling on filmmakers to pull out all the stops to get Polanski released! It’s just completely appalling.

              • yup

                Every goddamn defender of Polanski should start by saying “Yes, I acknowledge that Roman Polanski drugged and raped a child” and then continue with their defense of him.

                I’ve read the coverage of the documentary about the Polanski case, and yes, there are grounds to challenge the judge’s impartiality. But people with respect for the law don’t go on the lam. They launch an appeal.

                I don’t know how this should get resolved – jail time? Retrial? New plea agreement? But Polanski needs to return to the US and face the judical system.

                • or go on the lam

                  as a last resort, like a mom who is protecting her child from a dad who is a sexual abuser. If the legal system fails you, then as a mom, protect your kid at all costs.

                  But this just seems like someone who didn’t want to face the music for what he admits he did.

    • I was pretty surprised

      that they caught him after all these years!  I agree though, he should be extradited and face charges.

        • Hmm

          That seems like a weird comment.  True, they are short on $ (and in fact are letting people out of jail early, although Cal Dept of Corrections is a different budget than the LA County DA) but I’m not sure what the relevance is.  I guess the point is why are they wasting money on this.  I suppose if one doesn’t care about adult men assaulting 13 year old girls, then one would think it was a waste of money to prosecute it.

          • I don’t really care about Polanski

            one way or another. The value is solely in precedent, because I don’t see him as a current or future risk to 13 year old girls. I’d rather spend our money on people who are a current risk.

            • True

              I can see that argument.  I felt conflicted over the woman in Minnesota who had tried unsuccessfully to bomb a police car back in the ’60s in CA, maybe she was part of the Weathermen or something like that?  But had fled and devoted her life to good works since then.  It is sort of similar.  I think the issue for me is whether it’s a good idea to, in effect, encourage people to flee from prosecution.

              • That’s my thing, I guess

                I don’t think he’s a danger to society, but I can’t feel alright about him getting off easy not despite, but because of the fact that he fled.  And I’m kind of ignorant on the subject of Roman Polanski, but has he devoted his life to good works?  I’m not saying he hasn’t; just that I hadn’t heard about it.

        • Stupid governator

          has in his “cost savings” racked up huge extra costs for the state, by doing things like closing courts one day a month. Thing is, that means the accused stays in jail an extra 3 days, wiping out any savings you might get by not paying the court staff for those days.

          He furloughed the Franchise tax board, too. Savings: $40m. Lost revenue due to that lost time: $300 m.

          Yes, the “savings” keep racking up.

  6. I’m intrigued by homeschooling,

    however, I’ve never been one who would be able to do it.  I really lack the temperament.  Then, there were my health problems, so, it just wasn’t something that we considered.

    You know, I don’t really feel “judged” by those who do it.  Sure, I’ve had people tell me, “sure you could…you should give it a try”, but you know, that’s largely because it’s something they enjoy and it’s working for them.  Ofcourse they think they’re right, but don’t we all believe we are “right”?  I know I do.  I guess we can only be bothered by feeling that we are being “judged” and viewed negatively if we let ourselves feel as if we deserve to be judged.  Guess I’m egotistical enough that I just don’t give a lot of consideration to those kind of messages coming my way.

    • guess that’s my take

      Above posters make a good point that O’Hehir is actually pretty judgey and makes a lot of sweeping remarks about public school education, but because I don’t think it’s feasible for us, I don’t feel judged.

      I also discount a lot of what he says about “institutionalization” based on his comment that his wife is a left/anarchist by political philosophy. Sounds like he’s in harmony with at least some of her thinking, which naturally colors his view of the process.

  7. Weelllll

    After Miss Snotty Pants school secretary had to get a little dig in today when I called to see if there would be a fire drill because my son who is terrified of loud noises lost his earplugs, home schooling is looking good.  Oh and it’s my fault his earplugs are missing of course even though it happened on his DAD’s watch.  Pisses me off.  Why do I have to be the one who keeps track of everything and the one who is considered the parenting FAIL when he’s the one who doesn’t have enough common sense to confiscate the darned things because he’ll need them later when I’m out WORKING?  If I have to be in charge of EVERYTHING then I should be a SAHM all of the time instead of except when I’m working my three part time jobs.  OK I think I’ve ranted enough.

    • I hear ya.

      Why do I have to be the one who keeps track of everything and the one who is considered the parenting FAIL when he’s the one who doesn’t have enough common sense to confiscate the darned things because he’ll need them later when I’m out WORKING?  If I have to be in charge of EVERYTHING then I should be a SAHM all of the time instead of except when I’m working my three part time jobs.

      This is my frequent lament: Why do I have to do EVERYTHING??!! I work too, even if it is only 3 days a week.

      • ITA

        It sounds small, but even one of my BILs will call for some sort of administrative reason (telling us about a family event, wanting pictures e-mailed, etc…), and if his brother answers the phone, he’ll still ask for me!  Of course he can tell me/ask me for these things if he needs to, but I resent the fact that he goes out of his way to ask me vs. dh.  I already deal with red tape for school, doctor’s appointments, haircuts, extracurricular activities, gifts….which is fine.  As a SAHM, I’m going to do most of the heavy lifting (although I suspect that most of it gets laid on the laps of working moms, too).  

        However, DH deals with the dentist, as he insists the kids see a particular dentist 45 minutes away.  I can see a children’s dentist office 2 minutes away.

      • And why is it not valued?!?

        I’m in the same boat – I have to keep track of everything and manage it all.  Mind you DH does the cooking, most of the shopping, and most of the dog walks.  But the way he talks, he carries the burden of the house on his shoulders and what I do (baths, laundry, dressing, bedtime, bills, appointments, etc.) just isn’t much.  I guess he gives me credit for baths, laundry, and bedtime but poo poos the “management” part of it as if it takes no time or energy…  AUGH!!  Sorry to hear that many of us are in a similar boat…  

    • Oh I love those

      We’ve got a Miss Snotty Pants school secretary too. I actually kind of enjoy irritating her now….it’s just sooo easy.

      I hear you on having to be the one keeping track of everything. Drives me nuts.

  8. 2 years of one subject homeschooling

    My DS needed more challenging math.  His teacher knew it and his we knew it and his test scores showed it.  Because he was in 5th grade and needed to go up two levels, the only choice was to use the district’s virtual school and homeschool him for 5th and 6th grade in Math.

    It was tough on him and tough on me.  But we did it.  This year he is back in the public school math at the jr. high where they offer the right class.  We are both a whole lot happier.

    I think that like everything with parenting, YMMV.  Really, so much depends on the kids, the schools available, the parent’s interest, etc…  

  9. I don’t think homeschooling

    makes me defensive. It would not have been a good choice for my highly social kid, and our relationship would not have been well-served by me teaching him.  DS learns a LOT from working with  peers in class. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t work out beautifully for others.

    For our family, we found a good alternative in a private school. Like the Salon example, I didn’t want my kid to spend a lot of time lining up. Compliance / obedience is not high up on our list of preferred outcomes, but I could tell from touring my local public school that a lot of emphasis was placed on it. I also didn’t want him doing lots of worksheets, etc.

    We were fortunate to live reasonably near, and be able to afford, a school that closely resembled our ideas of what is important in elementary education.  And we’re lucky that DS got in to a good public high school with really motivated students. (One of the dept. chairs told us that out of 610 kids, the ADA is 595 — pretty remarkable.)  Any student can be kicked back to his home district for behavior or academic problems, which I’m sure contributes to the disciplined, peaceful vibe.  

    I’m still disappointed that the local elementary and high school weren’t the best choice for us. There are a lot of cool kids around here that DS doesn’t know. He still needs a ride to his friends’ houses, unless he takes the bus with them after school. Either way, transportation is involved. Blergh.

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