A Black, homeschooling mom's reflections and commentary
Thursday, May 12, 2011
The Demise of the DS
I have a secret. Well, it kind of feels like a secret. Let me explain.
A few weeks ago, Z1's Nintendo DS, the one we bought just 3 months ago, got really wet. He accidently left his water bottle open in his bag and the water spilled all over it. We tried to dry it out and even replaced the battery but it won't power on. The DS is over. I had mixed feelings about getting the DS in the first place so I was also feeling ambivalent about it's destruction. Maybe “good riddens” but also “what a waste of money!”
What surprised me most about the whole situation was that Z1 was totally nonplussed. When he first got the DS, all he wanted to do was play it. I was placing all kinds of time limits and working out all kinds of deals with him about how and when he played it. But true to his dabbler nature, he moved on after a while finding intense pleasure in dot-to-dot puzzles (which he has since abandoned).
On the one hand, I was happy that he wasn't broken up about the destroyed DS but on the other, I was annoyed that he couldn't care less that it was ruined. I blamed it on the fact that it's his nature but my good friend pointed out to me that the DS is a very social kind of video game system. It's made to play with others. I mean, that's what I've noticed these days about video games: it's not one guy holed up in a room with his games. It's a community of gamers. I used to hear my nephew talking to my other nephew, who lives all the way on the other side of the country, strategizing about a certain video game they were playing.
So once again, I found myself really having to take a look at our homeschooling and assessing it. The one thing that lacks is a community. A real homeschooling community that we can count on for support and that we belong to.
Now homeschoolers are quick to point out that there are plenty of opportunities for real socialization for a homeschooled child. If you understand what socialization is, you realize that traditional schools do not really offer children opportunities to really socialize. The interaction is forced (based on age) and controlled (based on the need to teach and/or manage large groups of people at one time) but at least, at the very least, it's interaction. So while I started to think that the solution to our lack of community might be school, I know it's most likely not. But then what is? I don't know.
My secret is that I don't have the unflagging confidence that other homeschoolers have, that Z1 is socializing enough and getting all he needs in that respect. (Even writing that feels like I'm breaking with the ranks).) I don't think Z1 gets enough consistent time with other children. He's fast outgrowing story times and most of his friends are in school all day. With one income, we cannot afford to do 32,000 different classes in hopes of forging connections or interacting, either. There are tons (and I mean tons) of things to sign kids up for in the city. Some are geared towards homeschoolers (homeschooling "schools) an learning centers and some are just general but we have to come out of pocket. And for me, living right outside of the city, I have to consider the cost of getting into the city (both economically and physically). We've joined the YMCA, which is great because he gets to do all kinds of things with different teachers and the cost is low. Often, however, the other children know each other from school or (this is really the one that makes it difficult) the groups/classes are never consistent. What that means is that he might do Pike 1 Swimming with one group of kids and do Pike 2 Swimming with a totally different set. He doesn't get to know the kids and I don't get to know the parents. We go, take the class, mind our own business and go home. There is little to no connection. At least if we were a traditionally schooling family, we'd have that connection. The fact that we all belong to the same school community connects us. No matter what homeschoolers say, school is a community, forced or not.
Don't get me wrong: I have tried and am trying doggedly to make strong connections with other homeschoolers, build a community based on homeschooling. If folks can build even a temporary community based on traditional schooling, certainly I can find or build a community based on non-traditional schooling. But honestly, everyone seems too busy. If it's not forced, it seems like it won't happen because given the option, folks will opt out of making real connections. And I have to be honest: my pride gets in the way. I push and really try to have playdates and get-togethers. If one suggestion doesn't work, I'll try another. But I hate to feel like I'm begging folks to hang out, pleading with folks to build community with me, imploring folks to see the importance of it all. I start to wonder what is it that everyone else is so busy doing that I'm not. Why do I feel such a void and others don't? Doesn't this lack of community and connection bother anyone else? What's wrong with me?
Let me be honest again and say that I had felt this way for a long time in my own personal life. A real inability to form close connections that stick. I had decided that I would stop trying and the closest thing I had to a girlfriend (you know what I mean by this—a real soul sister) was my blood sister. Only recently has this started to change and so it gives me hope that it will change for homeschooling too if I just keep going and accept the situation as it is right now knowing it won't always be this way. I mean, I'm really holding on here. It seems like I'm making headway, meeting homeschooling folks, getting somewhere, and just as I start to get excited about it, something happens (kids get enrolled in school, folks move away or just stop communicating) and I'm back at square one.
A part of me knows that this struggle to really connect is something that society at large is dealing with especially with all the social media available now. People are just too busy to meet and visit. Even a phone call seems to be too much for people to muster. I get that I have made the conscious decision to live counter to our prevailing culture and any time you do that, you find yourself isolated until you find folks who've made similar decision. And I know they exist—just not where I live. I know that this would probably not even have been an issue if we lived in another place. But we are not in a position to move (and how do you figure out something like "is there a real, cohesive group of homeschoolers here" before you move anyway) and so I'm just focused on attracting like-minded folks to me.
Well, it seems that perhaps if Z1 had some friends to play DS with, he might have been more upset about it's demise. Before we bought the DS, I didn't even know how I'd feel about him and a bunch of his friends sitting around playing DS instead of running and jumping and playing physically. But what I have learned from the DS experience is that eventually, I can trust that Z1 will go do something else. I actually know that most kids, given ample space and time, will only use the DS as one way to spend their time.
The DS has also reminded me about this darn socialization issue. When I tell others that I'm homeschooling and they respond that they couldn't “do that” to their kid because their kid is too social, I don't even know what to say. I just nod and say, “It's not for everyone”. I'd like to put on a brave face and stand in defense of homeschooling, bold and emphatic like other homeschoolers (many homeschooling bloggers and message board posters) but yeah, it gets isolating and it's one damned good reason to think long and hard before anyone decides for or against it. You've got to do your research and figure out what you can deal with and what you cannot. Because to say that it gets really intense around here sometimes is an understatement because Z1 relies on me to play with and do things with him a lot. We get a lot of face time. And sometimes, just because I'm a human being, I want to be left alone and I wish he'd go find someone else to play with. But there's isn't any one.
Anyway, I'm looking to sell all the accessories we bought for the Nintendo DS Lite so if you need a case for yours, chargers, extra battery, etc., etc., I have it for you. ;)