Stay off the Road

I am starting to feel a bit self conscious about having Rhino in my class.  First, there’s the weirdness of having her watch me do my job in a way that actually affects her. Then she’s been complaining that the homework assignment for the class is hard.  Mr. A suggested she ask for an extension, to which I reflexively said “no” in my matter-of-factly firm but pleasant teacher voice. 

But that was when the self consciousness set in.  What if my other students also think it’s hard?  They are all college sophomores, juniors and seniors, and Rhino is 16, but still, Rhino is a smart cookie.  After my last class, Rhino informed me that the woman sitting in front of her spent the entire class on Facebook.  Apparently she was not even productively Facebooking.  She spent much of the time (according to Rhino) randomly clicking around and stalking.  Then Rhino comforted me by saying she couldn’t imagine why as the class was very interesting.  So was it?  Or is Rhino a suck up?

Rhino thinks the article assigned for this week was difficult and rather boring. Sociological research articles are not known for being particularly scintillating to anyone other than sociologists, and sometimes not even to them.  I didn’t write the article, so why should I care?  But I assigned it, so I do.

And now tomorrow I have to deal with the Facebook woman, either by pretending I somehow noticed myself that she was Facebooking throughout the last class or by catching her in the act.  No, I do not pretend that my students are adult enough to Facebook through the whole damn semester if they want to.  Instead, I prohibit Facebook addicts’ use of a laptop in class.  They are paying for my class (or someone is), and they are going to at least pretend to pay attention whether they want to or not.  Plus the class only has 11 people in it, and not fully participating is rude.  But whatever, I do, I do infront of Rhino.  There’s nothing quite like feeling completely impotent in front of your own teen.

Rhino got her learner’s permit today.  You can go read the title of the post again now.


So I did it.  I went to the IB school and signed the papers saying that I was officially withdrawing Rhino from the urban public school system, social justice, and life as we know it.  And now I would like to withdraw from something else, but I’m not sure exactly what it is.

Rhino is in the slightly eviscerated greenish recliner next to me crying that she needs a schedule.  When I pointed out that it is hard to develop a schedule when one poisons oneself with mangoes, babysits in the middle of the day, and reschedules one’s volunteer work, she did her inimitable Rhino wail, “I don’t want to fail!” to which I replied, “Fail what?”  Rhino had to think about that, and then concluded, “Life.” After which she said she was gong to bed, which apparently is code for texting on her cell phone in the kitchen.

On the up side, she did show up for my class yesterday.  And she started her environmental science lab.  She is about a third of the way through Cold Mountain (I think I’ll finish the war unit by having her read WWI era poet Wilfred Owen’s “The Parable of the Old Man and the Young,” which for your edification, is pasted in its entirety at the end of this post).  And she said that the biology class is “challenging” but that’s good becuase she feel like she’s learning something.  On the other hand, she said that the rumor that AP Environmental Science is easier than the other AP sciences is “LIES!”

Just to let you know, I’m not planning on slaying anybody, nor am I hearing angel voices, and there are no rams in my thicket.  But here’s the poem:

The Parable of the Old Man and the Young

So Abram rose, and clave the wood, and went

And took the fire with him, and a knife

And as they sojourned both of them together,

Isaac the first-born spake and said, my Father

Behold the preparations, fire and iron,

But where the lamb for this burt offering?

Then Abram bound the youth with belts and straps,

And builded parapets and trenches there,

And stretched forth the knife to slay his son.

When lo! an angel called him out of heaven,

Saying, lay not thy hand upon the lad,

Neither do anything to him.  Behold,

A ram, caught in a thicket by its horns;

Offer the Ram of Pride instead of him

But the old man would not so, but slew his son,

And half the seed of Europe, one by one.

Great Ideas, Willy Nilly

When I googled the term “bad homeschooler” today, this blog was the first hit—before I had to include the term Rhino, and we still wound up #10 after “rhino coloring page.” 

Aside: There’s a cartoon I love in which a woman calls her girlfriend and asks what she’s doing.  The girlfriend says, “I was just googling myself,” and the woman says, “Oh, is that what they call it these days.”  I suppose it is a good comparison of the mental sort.

In any case, before we wound up as the #1 hit, the term brought up many sites that mentioned “bad homeschoolers.”  According to most of these sites, bad homeschoolers are those who use homeschooling as a veil for truancy and an excuse for laziness, letting their children run amok, having no established curriculum, and perhaps not being quite godly enough in the bargain.  It is also possible not to be a full scale bad homeschooler and still have a bad homeschool day, which might be due to

Not being organized

Children not being compliant

Mom’s negative state of mind

Too much planned for one day

Being premenstrual

Comparing yourself to others

Feeling the need to play “catch-up”


Outside interruptions – repair men or friends.

I hereby order Rhino to be universally compliant.  And to stop menstruating (or maybe I’m the one who is supposed to stop?).  And I ban all repair men.  Let the basement fill up with water!  We don’t want to have a bad homeschool day!

I told you I was a bad homeschooler.

In any case, before we enrolled in the online AP classes, we were heading toward being the very epitome of everything that gives homeschooling a bad name  according to those who like to toss the term “bad homeschooler” around.  And when it comes to Rhino’s English curriculum, I am still headed down that sorry path.

When I taught, I planned cohesive units as part of a team.  They were supposed to conform to a year-long theme, and build horizontally and vertically (teacher-speak for building throughout the year, but also building from year to year).  But now I find myself pulling together sources around a single idea with no clue as to where I am heading.

For instance, Rhino’s IB school assigned rising juniors to read Walzer’s  Just and Unjust Wars over the summer to prepare for their Comparative Government class.  Rhino decided she should read it in case we were able to send her back to the IB school and because she figured that even if she didn’t go back, reading it would make her smarter.  I can vouch for the fact that this a very boring book as I did not read it myself when it was assigned in my college ethics class.  I did, however, haul the book around with me for the next 20 years in case I ever didn’t want to read it again.  So I have to give Rhino a lot of credit for actually reading it.

Then I thought she could do a unit on war.  I did attend the ethics class and remember the professor specifically referencing Walzer’s antipathy for the Vietnam War.  I assigned Rhino to read In Country by Bobbie Ann Mason, as I remembered that the character was wrestling with the repercussions of the Vietnam War in her life and that she visits the Vietnam War Memorial at the end of the book.  We live in a city within reasonable distance of Washington, D.C.—Rhino could visit the memorial!  Then I remembered a short story about soldiers in the Vietnam war by Tim O’Brien called “The Things they Carried.”  Rhino read this and liked it so much that she began reading other stories in the book.  

Then I remembered that Walzer does not think all wars to be unjust, and that I seemed to remember my professor using World War II as Walzer’s example of a just war.  Philip Roth’s story “Defender of the Faith” takes place during World War II, so Rhino read that.  And then I thought that Cold Mountain is a good book and has a strong female character (as does In Country), thus showing the impact of war for those others than the soldiers themselves.  The Civil War also seems like a good one to test our family’s pacifist tendencies.  That seemed important, so now Rhino is reading Cold Mountain.  

Then I had an inspiration that after finishing Cold Mountain and visiting the memorial (and perhaps visiting all of the war memorials!  and the Lincoln memorial! and the Star Spangled Banner at the newly re-opened American History Museum!) Rhino could write a paper.  It could be about applying the concept of just and unjust wars to the repercussions of war for society and for individual people, including those who stayed home.  She could use the characters from the novels and stories as examples and incorporate information she learned from visiting the memorials.

I actually think I managed to put together a thought-provoking and well-rounded unit.  But I have no idea where we’re going from here.  I don’t have another book in mind that I didn’t read.  Rhino has thought about following along with the IB English class with her friends who are still in school.  And I thought perhaps I might try to pull something together on multicultural literature, as this is a requirement for the Nebraska ISHS.  

Or maybe we’ll do something else.  Like Shakespeare plays—Rhino could incorporate seeing live productions.  And there are a lot of great Shakespeare play movies—she could compare interpretations.  And she could read King Lear and Jane Smiley’s A Thousand Acres.  Or we could read some of the history plays and compare the values espoused by the characters to what she is learning in her AP Government class.  Or we could explore the theme of “Lord what fools these mortals be.”  

You see what I mean about the willy nilly.  I am obviously on a path to godlessness.  Or maybe I’m just premenstrual with too much planned for one day and a negative state of mind.  Or I’m playing catch-up and have too many friends.  And we’ve been having problems with dishes not getting clean in the top rack of the dishwasher.  

I think I’ll call a repair man.