A reader asked if I blogged about my art today, and I realized I hadn’t really talked about it. Or the book. I feel like I should put that in italics: “the BOOK.” My book. Saying that makes me feel all warm and happy inside. Woohoo! Anyway, since my art and “the book” are all linked together these days, might as well write about it.
“What book?” you might ask. The children’s book I’ve been working on – explaining overexcitabilities to gifted littles. It’s a picture book, so as you might expect, someone had to do the pictures. That someone was me. No point in being an artist if you can’t do your own art, right? So even though I had no idea what it takes to be an illustrator, I jumped right in and started trying anyway.
Please note: I am not an expert. Most of the time I have no idea what I’m doing! In fact, I’ve never really worked with watercolors until this past year. Despite that, I decided that I wanted to do the illustrations in watercolor and ink because I love how it looks.
Today was a harrowing, scary kind of day for a parent. Not all of it, just a few heart-stopping minutes.
We had a homeschool field trip across town, and ended up at a local playground for a little while because 80° temperatures in February should be celebrated and enjoyed. This playground happens to be the only one in town with one of the old-fashioned merry-go-rounds. You know – the metal spinning disks with handlebars. The kids hold the handlebars, run like mad, and jump onto the merry-go-round while everyone screams and pretends to fall off.
My kid wasn’t pretending.
We’re something of a mix between structured and unschooling homeschoolers. The structured part is when I make kiddo practice his handwriting and we work on math stuff. The unstructured – it’s a lot of playing. Seriously, a LOT of playing. I know – in my head – that there’s a lot of learning happening while they’re playing, but it’s hard to snuff out that nagging voice saying things like “kids in public school are doing worksheets!” or “we’re not doing enough school, he’s going to fall behind!”
Ugh. Hate that voice. It’s the one thing keeping me from rejoicing in homeschooling and just letting go. It’s what worries me – that I’m failing my kid. It tells me that my unschooling approach resembles educational neglect more than anything else. While I know intellectually that we do a lot of learning through play, and a lot of stealth learning, sometimes my insecurities grab me by the neck and shake the snot out of me.
The news is depressing. A school shooting. Another #MeToo. A horrible story about abusers hiding behind the label of homeschooling – it’s all just awful. We all want to do something to fix it – do something – anything – to make it better. You know what? We can.
It’s the worst feeling in the world to feel helpless. I’m too familiar with this feeling. From being a mom watching my kid in pain, to dealing with my own health issues. Feeling helpless is traumatizing. It’s just bad. We humans search for ways to fix things, to control things. Let’s be blunt and honest here – we can’t fix anything but ourselves.
Even though that sounds like it won’t do anything at all, don’t discount it. If we all try to fix ourselves – if even some of us try to fix ourselves – then we’re off to a good start. Social norms can change, and societal expectations can improve. We don’t have to be selfish and rude – we can choose to be different.
Someone I highly respect and value her opinion told me this once about race relations: “Be a decent person” to fix our society’s problems. I’m white. She’s black. She’s one of the wisest people I know, and her advice is deceptively simple. And effective. If we went at every problem with the intent to be decent rather than be right, we could move mountains.
There’s a subtle, sometimes unconscious sigh of relief as a homeschooler when you hear the news. The horrible, awful, heart-breaking news of yet another school shooting. For some of us, this is a very real reason that we homeschool. For others it’s just another reason on the vast list of “why we homeschool.” We homeschoolers sometimes let ourselves feel safe because our kids don’t generally attend public school. That’s a false sense of safety. The gunman at the local mall, the madman driving a truck into a crowd – nowhere is safe. Nowhere.