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.