Thursday, November 12, 2009

Freedom and Music

11/16/09: I've been thinking a lot about this situation since it happened last week, realizing I was overly enthusiastic about the use of sarcasm as a tool for interacting with others. When I wrote the post, I was still steaming about the bullying, and as I've calmed down, I've realized that sarcasm, while it may make me feel better in the short term, is not a strategy for conflict resolution. It is also not what I want to teach my children about how to get along with their neighbors, and friends, and relations - nor is it really in my personality to use it in a fight. (As a friend said today, "I thought to myself when I read your post, 'this is not my gentle Karen!'" So, please take this post with a grain of salt and know that while I may use sarcasm once in a while, and mostly with people who know me well and know that it's in a joking sense, it can hurt - and I am not about hurting.

We play baseball every week on a field nearby - although, now that the weather is turning, we've been meeting for "baseball" which is more of an all-purpose park day, with perhaps a baseball-related game played at some point, by some people.

Even though now it's just "baseball," we've kept it at the same field instead of rotating around, partly out of habit but also because the kids want to check in on their fairy houses, there are open and clean bathrooms (yay!), and it's really just a great park.

Which made this week's experience all the more upsetting.

It is easy to forget, while our kids are out in the world absorbing life firsthand instead of stuck in school, worrying about test scores, tired from being hauled out of bed at ungodly hours, hungry for something better than standard cafeteria fare, and feeling trapped, that our kids are the exception. It is also easy to forget that the frustration of dealing with school pressures day after day produces children who tease, and bully, and do whatever they can to make themselves feel better than somebody.

Earlier this week, worlds collided when schoolchildren, granted early release for a day, came to "our" playground to play too. They came with parents who frowned at us for allowing our kids the freedom to range, and climb trees, and just have less supervision than they think kids should have. But their kids' behavior was really the kicker - lots of "ohhh, you're homeschooled!" and tinkering with the rules of kickball to favor only the schooled kids. Lots of teasing and mean-spiritedness, the kind of behavior that we fortunately don't see very much of, very often.

We lasted an hour or so before calling it quits. The vibe was upsetting, but it wasn't until we were in the car that I heard about the true extent of the teasing, which verged on bullying. And it left me marveling at the anger and vitriol that sits just beneath the surface of seemingly average-looking schoolchildren.

I also marveled at how different Luke is now, from when he was in school (we took him out two years ago, almost to the day). Although upset at how he and his friends were treated, he didn't take it personally as he used to. He spoke almost empirically about what was said and done. He viewed what was happening, even while it was happening, with an eye unclouded by the resentment and anger that he used to feel about being part of that system.

He was only irritated by one thing: that he "wasn't able to get a word in to defend myself!" We talked of how, throughout our lives, we will meet people who try to hurt us to make themselves feel better.

And I shared with Luke my secret weapon: sarcasm.

So help me, I coached him in using sarcasm to fight back when somebody teases him about being a homeschooler. Together we came up with snappy comebacks like "yeah, it is really awful, learning about what you want, when you want." Or, "I just hate still being in bed when your bus goes by." And, "I know you feel sorry for me, freedom stinks."

I don't really use sarcasm very often - out loud, anyway. And I do worry that he'll end up fist-fighting with a bully, or something worse, but I want Luke to be able to defend himself verbally. Owen too, when he is a bit older. Because it is true that in life, we do meet people who try to hurt us. It's good to not take it personally, and it is good to try to understand where that person is coming from, but it is also necessary to protect oneself from a bully.

Later, we comforted ourselves with our newly acquired They Might Be Giants album, Here Comes Science. Susan at In The Kitchen put me on to it, and it came along at just the right time for Luke, Owen, and me. Not only is the album wonderful, classic They Might Be Giants - great music combined with silly rhymes that make you stop and think - the topic of science is of great interest in our house.

And so it was that music about science took us away from feelings of sadness and brought us back into the world of fun -

we made a volcano! We used the easy directions in this great book, Science Wizardry for Kids.

And, since no volcano scene is complete without a comet, Owen provided one:

Here it is erupting:

They made it erupt repeatedly, squealing with joy every time and trying out different combinations of baking soda and vinegar. And, while they worked together, I noticed so much learning and socialization going on that it made me think about the difference between schooled and homeschooled kids once more.

Watching them at work made me so glad that we homeschool.


Melissa R said...

Ah! A new They Might Be album.... thanks for mentioning it... Christmas gift here I come :)

It is so sad that we homeschoolers are so leery of mixing with non-homeschooled kids. I wish it didn't need to be that way, but it does. The interactions of "muggles" are so different than our homeschooled kids. It's painful to watch and to read about. I'm sorry you had to experience it.

Ben Hammond said...

Good post. Luckily Arianna and Luka have not experienced bullying and I hope they will have the courage to stand up for themselves if it ever came to it.

That is one of the many reasons we decided to Homeschool, is the lack of supervision about bullying in schools, the kids will be kids mentality a lot of the teachers have.

Thanks for the post again it makes us parents feel good about our decision to go on this journey:)

Anonymous said...

Good ole beloved sarcasm. It's come to my rescue a time or two. And I definitely prefer it to fist fighting!! I've never had to teach the boys about it though...somehow it just came naturally to them. I simply can't imagine why...

Magic and Mayhem said...

Oh, what a bunch of twits! Sorry they had to deal with that. It just makes them look worse. The sarcasm training sounds perfect.

We loooooove the new science album! I bought it as soon as it was released and Jack often watches the video one as he goes to sleep. Anna is so tired of those songs! LOL They're even stuck in my head sometimes. :)

jugglingpaynes said...

What's really funny is I told my kids about your annoying playground day and Marina rolled her eyes and said "Jealous much?"

LOL! I guess I've taught her sarcasm!

Peace and Laughter,

Rana said...

It's to bad we have to put up with stuff like that. So far the twins have not had to deal with bullying, but it does help to teach them how to defend themselves.

I showed The boy your volcano and he wants to try and make one.

The Stone Age Techie said...

Melissa - Muggles! I love it.

Ben - You are so right about bullying, I hate when I hear things like 'well, kids will be kids.' Glad my two don't have to deal with it every day!

Topsy and Alicia - I think that, if I gave the kids free reign, they'd come up with some sarcastic gems all by themselves :-) And, it is a great weapon, but I also think (in retrospect, now that I am no longer shaking in anger) that I hope they use some of the other tools at their disposal more often, like walking away or using some of their many conflict resolution skills. Can you tell I am in 'reflective' mode? Life is a learning experience, even for us grown-ups...

Cristina - Marina is too funny! I love how they can let stuff like this roll right off their backs.

Rana - I hope they never do have to deal with bullies.
That volcano was SO fun! Let me know how it goes if you try it.


jugglingpaynes said...

Read your disclaimer. While I agree it probably would not be wise to use sarcasm in the situation you described, I have found it is a wonderful way to decompress after a stressful situation. I am glad Marina (and Chase) can use it to let things roll off. Even the gentlest among us need a way to release those angry feelings in a positive way!

Marina also knows that most people don't recognize sarcasm. She doesn't even use it among friends because they take her seriously. Maybe I should have her take up poker! (Kidding! I'm kidding!)

Peace and Laughter,

Susan said...

I somehow missed this post--and it linked to me! Thanks! And so glad you are enjoying Here Comes Science.

How sad! And it had such potential to be a nice community gathering. Ok, I admit that I, too, have coached my kids in sarcasm after ugly encounters.

I once coached them in "killing them with kindness" but that was a remarkable failure. The kids who were following them around calling them names reacted with short-lived bewilderment and silence after their taunts were met with kindnesses, and then went on taunting. I don't know what the answer is. There are times when gentleness does not work.

Clem went to a party with school girls and was called "weird" for liking fish (aquarium fish). She reported that one girl said, "Why don't you like something normal like horses or kittens or puppies?" Is there a non-sarcastic way to react to that? I'm not sure I could manage one.

The Stone Age Techie said...

Cristina - we use sarcasm in the same way that you do, to let off steam after something upsetting is over. Also, my husband is a jokey teaser-type-guy, and when they were very young, the kids didn't get him and would get upset. We knew we were going to be okay the day that Owen, at about 3, pouted at first and then stopped and said - "Daddy, you're joking!" and laughed the cutest little laugh. Sarcasm is definitely an art!

Susan - we are feeling much, much better after today's 'baseball' park visit, which was back to normal and hours of good fun!
I am trying to figure out what is not normal about aquarium fish! You are right, that kind of remark simply demands a sarcastic response.


November 17, 2009 4:10 PM

Magic and Mayhem said...

Just checking in after reading your added bit. I can see what you're saying, but also think kids need lots of tools to handle these situations and sarcasm can absolutely have a place.

Here's Victoria's experience with bullies from last summer.

Part one:

And part two (how it turned out):

I am so proud of her for how she handled everything (snarky comment and all). :)

Anonymous said...

Send this to the carnival right now! I love it. Reminds me of when we used to go to "Homeschool Ice Skating." Some days, school groups would come. Suddenly, the place would ge so loud and almost violent, and I realized those poor kids needed to feel the feeling of release so much! But, of course, we left after about an hour, too. Ice skating without them was much kinder and gentler, sad to say.

The Stone Age Techie said...

Alicia - I LOVED Victoria's snarky comment! It made me think of something that Anne of Green Gables might say to Gilbert Blythe. Good for her!
That is exactly how I hope my guys might someday use sarcasm - there is a place for it, especially after all Victoria put up with :-)

Susan - I will! Glad you liked it.