Mayor Bloomberg started his Spring cleaning by firing School Chancellor Cathleen Black, only three months after appointing her to the position. To say that she was unpopular would be an understatement. To say that I understand what she was expected to do (magically cure all of the NYC Public School ills in 90 days?) or why exactly she was so unpopular would be a gross overstatement. It seems to me that being appointed School Chancellor of New York City is kind of like being appointed Admiral of the Death Star by Darth Vader. You may think you’re doing everything you can, and that the problems are not entirely your fault, but before you can even explain, Boom! You’re dead on the floor from asphyxiation and a new guy is appointed in your place. (At least Chancellor Black is still breathing). Enter Dennis Walcott, the new Chancellor. Welcome aboard, Admiral.
We’ve been doing some spring cleaning here at home as well, of the more traditional sort. Ben is making some extra money by helping me drag things out of closets, sort through the junk and get rid of all the stuff we had either forgotten we had or haven’t touched in so long we might as well have forgotten it. One of my favorite things about this apartment is that the closets are enormous. But of course that means they are filled with stuff – it’s amazing how much stuff. Tonight we started on the closet that is in our hallway, and holds mostly craft/holiday/cleaning stuff. There is a cabinet inside the closet and I thought I knew what was in it, but when we emptied it out I found almost an entire shelf full of books on Homeschooling, and one titled, “The Unschooling Handbook” which is kind of an oxymoron when you think about it. The homeschooling books, which were filled with advice on curricula and adamant about keeping your children away from the internet lest they be ruined for life (oops, too late!) immediately went to the recycling. Maya kept saying, “Geez Mama, when did you buy all these?!” Oh, you know, when you were about 2 years old. And I never read them. The Unschooling Handbook I set aside to look at this evening out of curiosity. I’ve never read it either (guess I thought I’d just absorb it all through osmosis). The back cover states, “Successful unschooling parents know how to stimulate and direct their children’s learning impulse. Once you read this book, so will you!” Two interesting things here. First, that I purchased a book on unschooling way back when (because I didn’t really consider life learning/unschooling until Ben came along) and second, that I immediately felt my palms begin to sweat when I read that sentence and my thoughts ran along the lines of, “Oh no. I am probably going to open this book and find out that I am pathetically lame at ‘stimulating and directing my children’s learning impulses.'”
So it was with a sense of trepidation that I turned to the chapter titled, “Resources: How to Find What you Need”. 13 pages and basically what it says is that you don’t need anything because kids will learn and have fun with whatever they find around them, and from the people they meet. It does mention that having a lot of books available is a good thing, particularly books on a subject the kids are interested in. They are talking about strewing, but go on for so long about it that it begins to sound like providing a child-chosen curriculum…
Huh. So I’m feeling better.
The next chapter is on TV or not TV (and other technology, too). This chapter goes on for 12 pages but basically says, “some people are for it, others against it. Use your own judgment.”
Skimming the other chapters, “How can you tell when your child is learning”, “Reading and Writing”, “Science”….it’s all kind of the same answer. Let your kid live in the world. He or she or they will learn. Make notes about it so that if you need to report to a Dept. of Ed you have something to tell them.
I could have written this book in one page. Two, tops. And so, off to the recycling it goes.
I love Spring Cleaning!