Know how I can tell?
1. Parents in the line at Starbucks wringing their hands & moaning about the trials of keeping their kids “occupied” during the week or so they’ll spend at home before heading off to six weeks of sleep away summer camp.
2. Parents leading a group of at least 4 kids on the way to an activity, looking nervous and harried and constantly interrupting the kids’ fun by explaining to them how they are going to have fun.
The last official day of school in NYC was Wednesday. (Although for some reason most schools were out on Monday and Tuesday and then required the kids to come in for a half day on Wednesday. Don’t ask. I have no idea.) This morning when I entered Starbucks, less than 48 hours after the final bell rang, impatience levels had risen to unmanageable levels, causing adults to sound like several of my middle school teachers as they took their turn herding a group of kids to whatever planned activity had been chosen to stave off boredom.
Relevant Aside: One of my favorite stories from 8th Grade? While sitting in 1st Period Grammar class with our classroom door open, the teacher in a neighboring room led her students into the hall on their way to the auditorium. As the kids filed into the hallway the teacher yelled at the top of her lungs, “NO TALKING IN THE HALLS!!” Oh irony – you are lost on so many.
Today’s version of that aside? As I walked back home, morning coffee in my hand, a mother and nanny (I’m guessing) were walking with four very happily chatting, laughing kids who looked to be 8 or 9 years old. Suddenly the mother stopped them all with , “Listen! Listen to me! I want you all to have FUN! ” And then proceeded to list a bunch of things the kids were forbidden to do at wherever they were headed. Happy chatter effectively silenced and smiles gone, the kids nodded and fidgeted, looking like this whole “fun” thing might not be as good as they originally thought.
None of this is surprising, however. It’s all about rhythm.
For 9 months out of the year, most parents get into a rhythm in their lives that does not include their kids. The kids are peripheral to “real life”. Then BAM! Summer break comes along and screws mightily with that rhythm. Suddenly there are these extra small people around, expecting things. And the kids, being used to entire days where they are told what to do and where to go every second, are not used to “down time” as people like to call it. So the rhythm of the kids and the rhythm of the parents come hurtling at each other and because they are different, it causes tension.
Learning, education and all that other stuff aside, one of my favorite things about unschooling is its’ easy rhythm. It’s not perfect of course, but it’s a family thing, and none of us are slaves to the whims of the other; rather we form a ring of complimentary circles, sometimes intersecting and sometimes going our own way, but always more or less in sync.
Happy summer everyone!