Should I raise my child like a wolf like I was, or is that technically illegal?
Bye, July! This has been a wonderful month of actually FINISHING things. I got all the work done on my house that I’ve been in process on for almost two years. Setting aside the agony of living in renovation chaos over Covid quarantine, I have to say my new patio tiles look GREAT! I also got my acting reel edited and new headshots done so I can go out and attempt to do more acting. I posted one of the new pics on my Instagram, but here’s an exclusive look at the serious “I can be a badass but still have a little smile while I do it” shot:
Thank you photographer Violeta Meyners for making me look like I have a smidge of authority. This will convince the world I can be a coroner or crap on and hour TV show, right? Awesome! I’m hired!
I also just finished writing on an episode of the new season of Mystery Science Theatre 3000 (so fun!), got a bunch of tax crap done, called my dentist and made the appointment for three cavities to be filled (SOB) and FINALLY plotted out my in-person convention schedule for the fall. Here it is below, thanks to my mod Rocketsoup, whose photoshop skills DON’T look like a 12 year old’s like, ahem, some people’s. (aka mine.)
So my schedule has now been freed up, bandwidth is a bit wider, I can now fixate on something new that will distract me from my writing projects that need to be completed! Yay! What fresh joy will it be?!?!
When I get a deadline of ANY type, it’s like the Night King from “Game of Thrones” reaches out and grips my heart and fills my veins with ice. I can’t react calmly. I have “no chill”. So you can imagine my response last week when a woman at the preschool my kid said to me in a shocked tone, “You haven’t started touring elementary schools yet?!” I was instantly drenched in panic. DID I MISS A DEADLINE?! I NEVER MISS DEADLINES! DID I EVER MENTION TO YOU, RANDOM LADY, THAT I WAS THE VALEDICTORIAN OF MY COLLEGE MATH CLASS?! I tried to stay calm and called out, “Thanks for the tip. Lets get the kids together to do a playdate soon!” (I never will), then drove 5000 miles an hour home to start investigating this situation that CLEARLY I had screwed the hell up.
First, I looked at the calendar and realized, umm…it’s 2021? My 4 year old won’t be going to Kindergarten for over a year, why are we even talking about this?! But then I looked at the fine print…uh oh. Schools tours are in Sept. Applications are due in October. Admissions are issued in Feb-Mar…omg a whole year is flashing before my eyes. *reads fine print*…wait a minute. My kid has the potential to be REJECTED by schools?! *THE NIGHT KING GRIPS MY HEART HARDER AND LAUGHS*
Thus my dive into the world of schooling began.
I want to preface this essay with a quick grounding in my VERY strange perspective. Those of you who read my memoir might already know some of this, but, as far as school, I went to preschool, and half a year of kindergarten. That’s it, until I went to college right after I turned 16. Between that: Nothing. No alarms waking me up. No tests. No…other kids of any kind anywhere around me outside of group lessons where adults watched us like hawks every second. My brother and I like to say we were homeschooled…but really we were unschooled. There was no structure. No schedule. No benchmarks. We read books and watched TV and had lessons…sometimes. We never went to camp. We never played on the playground with other kids. I can’t overstate this: I NEVER HAD FRIENDS OR DID TESTS OR HAD DEADLINES EVER.
So the whole way I approach the idea of “schooling” for my daughter is warped by this very free-wheeling, anarchist, but socially stunting perspective. I mean, the idea of sitting at a desk…that’s a form of jail, to me. I KNOW! It’s not normal or functional! But I can’t help it! I currently send her to a preschool that is only 2 hours a day, otherwise she’s at home with me or a person who watches her while I work from home. In my heart, institutionalized learning is sooooo scary to even contemplate. I’ve tried to reframe my thinking to be more open minded for my kid, for her (hopefully) better adjusted social and emotional growth. But, in the face of this leap to elementary school, it seems totally overwhelming. Like ever parent, I want to do the best for my kid. No matter the cost, inconvenience or philosophical disconnect. So…what’s the move here?!
I started looking through school options in my area. Immediately, I was buried in terms I didn’t understand that made me panic more. “Traditional.” “Progressive.” “Magnet”. “Montessori.” “Immersion.” “SAS”! “Permitted applications!” “Independent Charters!” “Licensed Charter!” It goes on and on. LA has one of the biggest school districts in the nation. That doesn’t make the system EASIER by a long shot. I tried to start slow, I got in the car and just drove by the school that my kid automatically gets into for free with my tax dollars. There, I saw a concrete box surrounded by concrete with ten foot high fences around it. Basically, it looked like a place I’d loot in Fallout 3. It is not “highly rated”, whatever that means, and of course I panicked. “Damnit, 2006 Felicia! No wonder you managed to afford home ownership in Los Angeles way back when: Your school district SUCKS! WHY DIDN’T TEN YEAR AGO YOU THINK ABOUT POTENTIALLY REPRODUCING?! NOW WE’RE SCREWED!”
THAT little trip made me rebound to investigate the fanciest private school I could find, which was equally disheartening in it’s own way, and not just because of the price. (I mean, that too. But there was more.) On the website the school’s alumni touted internationally famous singers who performed at their fundraising events and other celebrity alumni who donated $$ for whole “wings” for the campus. They also boasted an “in-house archaeologist” on staff (FOR 6-12 year olds?!) which made me hurl with the insane decadence of it. The screening process also involved submitting ESSAYS from the parents and a “we’ll call YOU!” attitude that made me terrified to be rejected. (Thanks to Hollywood, it’s kind of a trigger for me.) To top it off, after asking around about these kinds of jaw-dropping educational institutions, I learned that, in order to actually be admitted into the schools, you mostly likely have to hire a consultant to TRAIN YOU, THE PARENT, FOR THE INTERVIEW. AND, SEPARATELY, YOUR KID, TOO! OMG. No thank you! Frankly, I don’t want to be a part of the diamond encrusted red carpet crowd, I can’t hang with that. And I definitely don’t want my kid feeling poor if she doesn’t fly in private jets or have a screening room at home or own a private island for “summer-timing”. ALSO I heard at 13, the kids at these fancy LA schools are doing the kinds of drugs Sherlock Holmes would shy away from. Soooooo, aside from moving to the woods and homeschooling her myself….what to do?!
You might be thinking, “Just homeschool her, Felicia! You turned out okay!” Well, maybe…with decades of therapy, yes. And I definitely have thought about it. But…in the end, I hate to admit…I’m selfish? Because if I did that, it would and SHOULD be my full-time job to give her the best education I could. I would certainly need hours in each day, and put more thought into it than just throwing books on the counter and saying “try some math today!” like my own mom did for me. (God bless her hippie self, lol). At the end of the day, I guess I don’t want to give up my career (whatever this is, lol). So…at least for now, it’s not an option.
So I sat down and thought about it from all angles. Calmly. Logically. I ate a whole bag of popcorn while doing it. Really weighed me down in the moment. And then I realized:
GIRL, STOP WHINING! THIS IS NOT ABOUT YOU!
It was a real tough love talk I had with myself, let me tell you. “FELICIA! Your weird background should not be deciding the education your kid gets! Your personal preferences about class size and if the building is pretty should not be determining this. You need to figure out what your kid, OUTSIDE YOURSELF needs! Also stop eating popcorn, you’re gonna get a stomach ache!”
I took it all in and decided that I had some good points.
So, after my stomach ache, I wrote down the basic things that I think Calliope HERSELF would benefit from in life, other than being taught facts:
-Empathy and kindness for others
-Exposure to things she wouldn’t encounter at home
And then I happened to read an incredible essay here on Substack that summarizes what I would love to cultivate in my kid, at home and at her school: Agency. I urge you to read the whole essay because it is AWESOME, but a quote stuck out at me:
We should be thinking much harder about making sure children can make meaningful contributions to the world.
One thing I took away from the essay is that the point is not the schooling, but making sure the skills she learns are going to add meaningfully toward things she can DO in her life. Even WHILE she’s a kid. I mean, she’s only 4 now, but I vividly remember being in a political campaign with my mom around that age, stuffing envelopes for some candidate, and feeling so good to be DOING something REAL. I want that feeling of meaning for her, too! And I know there has to be a school out there that can help give her that. Or maybe I’ll just start making her farm stuff in WOW for me as a side job. (JUST KIDDING!)
So, with all that non-me stuff in mind, I’ve decided to take the whole schooling thing one step at a time. I’m going to go in, with my list and my questions, and I’m going to tour every option I can, public/private/and everything in between. I know that, whatever I pick, she might become a different person along the way as she grows, and we might need to switch streams at a certain point, and yes, maybe she might stay home for some part of her education, but the big question is WHAT DOES SHE NEED? I can only try something and figure it out one step at a time, together with her.
Sigh. Parenting is hard, ya’ll.
Weekly Recipe: I have made this Apple Cake recipe three times in the last month. It’s so good! Works with gluten-free flour too. Pick up the whole Snacking Cakes book for lots of other great cake recipes!
I’m fascinated by all these tunnels that were dug out by extinct gigantic ground sloth in South America.
Drooling for this modular home that’s set up in one day?! I really want to get one and put it in the woods and become a hermit. (Must have good wifi though.)
Cool study about how princess culture, in the long-term, might not be as bad as people portray it? Def made me think differently about Elsa and Anna!
PERSONAL LINKS (Also Interesting):
I will continue doing my podcast LIVE on twitch.tv/feliciaday Tuesday nights at 7pm PST in August (barring a week off for vacation)! I’ll have random guests on every week, like Mark Sheppard (8/3) and a guy who will train me in using credit card points (8/17). Tune in to check it out!
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See you in two weeks, and on my Discord channel in between for chatting and friendship! <3