Embracing Ignorance (and Other Parenting Thoughts)

If your child is a senior in high school you’re no doubt like us and finding dozens of mailers, catalogs, and letters in your mail box from colleges you’ve never even heard of. In our case my daughter is getting dozens of invitations from small private religious based colleges. Alright, I’ll come out and say it – she is getting a lot of invitations from private Christian colleges.

I’ve nothing against religion, and I am by no means an atheist. I do have problems with exclusive education where children and young adults learn only one view of the world.

Obviously, those who know me, know my view of the world can be a bit different. But my views on parenting, I feel, are based on raising a child to be an adult and see the “big picture” of the World they’ll go out into one day. I want my kids to go above and beyond my own experiences, and beyond what I can teach them.

I would NEVER send, or encourage my child to go to a college where everyone is the same, and encouraged to be the same.

I always like to think that my children were exposed to those with a variety of lifestyles, religions, and traditions – because from that they learned that not everyone is like them.  But more so they learned that we all have a lot more in common than we have differences.

Sure I could have sent my kids to school where everyone was like us. But why?

Another thing that worries me about a lot of faith-based education, or those who are yodeling about it on the news these days, is that the curriculum is anti-science. To me that is dangerous.

Considering the way Star Wars, and Star Trek are now so much part of American culture, and our own mythology, I don’t understand how anyone can be against science, discovery, or free thought. And the very lessons of these stories is about different people coming together and trying to understand each other. It is the fight between good and evil, and sometime the thin line between the two. But it is also about the promise of space and the existence of others out there in the universe we call home.

Science keeps people healthy. Science keeps our environment healthy. Science makes us comfortable. Science lets us know who we are. Science is knowledge about our world, and ourselves.

I will never understand the cult of ignorance which demonized science in the name of religion. If you love the Earth your God made, wouldn’t you want to protect it? Wouldn’t you want to protect God’s creatures rather than kill them and their habitats? Wouldn’t you want to use the brain that God gave you and discover the wonders of our Earth and universe? Wouldn’t you want all people to be able to spread the message of love, and to love each other? Seriously folks, I’m a Vampire and I have more compassion than (warning I’m going to get political) all of the so-called Christian bible beating bigoted, sexist, misogynistic, assholes who claim to be good people.  What bothers me the most is how willing so many are to embrace ignorance. Not only do they embrace ignorance, but they reject anyone who isn’t dumbing themselves down. Maybe being dumb might be safe, but it is morally wrong.

I’m always being asked if Vampires and Werewolves fight each other. Seriously? Who has time for that? We’re different. We might not get alone. We annoy each other. But we can also be friends, or at least friendly. And over the centuries we’ve learned a lot from each other.

One of the best things about college, or being young, is sitting up all night with others and solving the problems of the world, learning about each other, sharing personal stories, sharing hopes and dreams, building dreams for the future. Think of how much they would miss out on if they were all of the same background, same mind, and same heart. College isn’t just about classes. It is about growing up and discovering who you are – outside of your home, parents, and childhood. Part of the experience is learning from others.

I have to admit that a lot of the students at our school are just like my kids, but, well you know, a lot of them aren’t. That’s a beautiful thing.

Tell your kids that they can reach for the stars – and they won’t be alone.

 

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

 

Beware of Ignorance

 

Influences

Clara, my high school senior, has been telling me about disclaimers teachers make in class.

“We’re going to be studying existentialism. I don’t want to get calls from any of your parents saying that you’ve become an existentialist.”

“We’re going to study communism. I don’t want to get calls from any of your parents telling me that you’ve become a communist.”

“We’re going to study nihilism. I don’t want to get calls from any of your parents saying that your now a nihilist.”

“We’re going to study anarchy. Don’t go home and tell your parents you are now an anarchist. I don’t want to hear it.”

“We’re going to read Dracula. I don’t want to get a call from your parents telling me you want to become a Vampire.” If your child is already a Vampire this won’t apply to you, because your child won’t say anything. 

And this brings me to some thoughts on influence, school, teens, poetry, and beauty.

Many things out in the wide world influence our children. It is up to you to give your children the tools they need to evaluate these influences. And you know what I’m going to say now… If you over protect your children you’re going to screw them up for LIFE. That is why you need to talk to your kids about, well, everything. If they learn, maybe you can learn from then. No, I take that back. You WILL learn from them.

Last week Clara asked me if I’d read Dover Beach. I vaguely remembered. Then I looked it up. Yes, in a way, it too is about choices and belief.

In my wildest dreams if I could write so beautifully…

My child and I talked about the poem, the meaning, the use of words. It was a joy. I thank her English teacher for setting a fire in the souls of her students with the words and passions of so many different writers.

Please read, enjoy, ponder, and be inspired.

Dover Beach

by Matthew Arnold

The sea is calm tonight.
The tide is full, the moon lies fair
Upon the straits; on the French coast the light
Gleams and is gone; the cliffs of England stand,
Glimmering and vast, out in the tranquil bay.
Come to the window, sweet is the night-air!
Only, from the long line of spray
Where the sea meets the moon-blanched land,
Listen! you hear the grating roar
Of pebbles which the waves draw back, and fling,
At their return, up the high strand,
Begin, and cease, and then again begin,
With tremulous cadence slow, and bring
The eternal note of sadness in.

Sophocles long ago
Heard it on the Ægean, and it brought
Into his mind the turbid ebb and flow
Of human misery; we
Find also in the sound a thought,
Hearing it by this distant northern sea.

The Sea of Faith
Was once, too, at the full, and round earth’s shore
Lay like the folds of a bright girdle furled.
But now I only hear
Its melancholy, long, withdrawing roar,
Retreating, to the breath
Of the night-wind, down the vast edges drear
And naked shingles of the world.

Ah, love, let us be true
To one another! for the world, which seems
To lie before us like a land of dreams,
So various, so beautiful, so new,
Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light,
Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain;
And we are here as on a darkling plain
Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,
Where ignorant armies clash by night.


 

Have a good week everyone,

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

 

 

High School Horrors (Or Math is Eating My Parenting Brain)

As a parent I find it difficult not to ignore teachers my kids have problems with.

I’ve written about this before during my daughter’s utterly disastrous Freshman year in high school when she didn’t get the classes she should have had, one of her teachers was a total witch who hated her students (I wrote a post about it) and another had a mental health and drug problem and was never there. Those two classes were a total waste of time. I was so angry about it but I tried to keep out of it and let the child learn to take care of her own problems. Now I wish I would have gone up to school and showed my fangs.

This year, the Senior year, there is a mathematics teacher who punishes the ENTIRE class and every single class because one student cheated (among other things.) There was almost a mass exodus from the class – enough kids trying to get out that it caused the school principal to send a letter to all of the parents saying how the teachers want to help and she doesn’t know what the problem is.

Well, I’ll tell you what the problem is. In fact, I’ll tell you what the fuck the problem is.

  • The teacher has a bad attitude and assumes all kids want to cheat (according to the students.)
  • The teacher will not give tests back to the kids so they don’t know why they failed.
  • The teacher yells at the class because so many kids are failing. Maybe she should yell at herself. These are advanced students. They aren’t idiots. They are studying their 16-18 year old butts and brains off. But if they don’t know what they are or aren’t doing right or wrong they’re going to be in the dark. Being in the dark is great for a Vampire but not for a high school student.
  • The teacher seems flippant about her attitude about these students. For a lot of them this class could make or break what college they get into. But she doesn’t give a shit. Maybe she does give a shit – but she has to let the students know that. It will make a big difference if they know she really cares.
  • The teacher will give the students a little bit of credit for homework but they don’t know if they did their homework correctly because the answers aren’t checked. No shit. I kid you not.

So what is a parent to do?

I’ve asked the child to talk to the teacher. She says she is available at lunch. I keep telling the child to talk to her at lunch. I keep telling my child to step it up and see her teacher. Tell her what you need. Tell her you have a nice college student tutor. Tell her you don’t want to fail. Tell her you need her help. Tell her that you really don’t want to fail and need her help.

If that goes badly tomorrow then I will have to let DAD take care of it because I tend to use too many bad words.

At one time my dear old dad was a college professor. He said if his students were a success then he knew he was a success. He never understood teachers who didn’t care if their students failed. If your students fail then as a teacher you fail.

As you know, if you read this “parenting” blog, that I am not a helicopter parent. I’m not one of those women who is always up at the school driving the administration crazy with crazy requests. I tell my kids to fight their own battles. That is why they go to public school – to learn to fight battles of the brain and learn to play the game of life. But this time I can’t stand back.

Fangs out. I’m ready.

I’ll keep you posted.

I hate this.

Yes, when you’re a parent, sometimes it feels like it is always Halloween.

And to the rest of my child’s teachers – you are wonderful. I love you. You make me want to go back to school.

To the math teacher – chill, listen to your students, have faith in them, respect them, trust them, and be there for them. They’re great kids. They’re smart. They really are. They want to learn. Let them know that YOU want them to learn too.

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

Movies + History = a lot of Daniel Day Louis

the-last-of-the-mohicans-slice-1

It is the end of the school year and my daughter and her classmates have already taken the AP History Test, so they’re watching historic movies in class. By the way, they’re juniors in high school. (AP stands for Advanced Placement, which is curriculum approved by an organization that makes a lot of money off of giving tests to kids who want to get into college.)

Movies + History = a lot of Daniel Day Louis.

My daughter is watching Last of the Mohicans at home, and hour at a time. She’ll write about it and compare the movie/story with historical events for accuracy. She already pointed out a few points that are not accurate but she could have asked James Fenimore Cooper about that. That said, she did point out several accurate points, and also pointed out how smoking hot Daniel Day Lewis was as Hawkeye. Actually, I was the one who pointed out how smoking hot he was. She just said how much she liked his long hair and how attractive he looked.

In my opinion some of the most romantic movie moments EVER were between Hawkeye and Cora in this movie. Sigh.

Yesterday Clara (my daughter) told me that they (the history students) started to watch Gangs of New York in class. She said, “I don’t get it at all. Daniel Day Lewis comes out in some crazy wild colored clothes, and I thought this was supposed to be in the 1950’s. I can’t keep track of anything. I didn’t know Leonardo DiCaprio was in it too. That isn’t a bad thing at all.”

I gave my usual small lecture on costume history, etc etc etc, but as my kids get older the less they listen to my little history lessons. Sometimes I wonder if they ever listened at all. They’re like boyfriends on the first three weeks of dating. They listen politely, then they just turn up the radio and block it out. But as a wonderful mom I listen to everything they say. I listen to what my husband says too but he’ll tell you I don’t.

This time I told Cora that in the 1860’s, the same period of Gangs of New York, Werewolves had taken up loud garish clothing. They always had the brightest of everything, the tallest hats, and the most extreme hair. They delighted in their get ups. This is an odd contrast to their current subdued nature, including their clothing. Back then they didn’t care as much because nobody knew what they were. Now, with all of the popular culture about paranormal creatures, not to mention modern forensics, they have to be more careful. But that is just another one of Mom’s (me) silly tales and it is time to change the subject.

 

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Gangs of New York

School is almost out and Clara will be a senior. Then in a year or two there will be no children in my house, only a husband, a dogs, and two cats. Dad is in sad panic mode. I am just in sad mode.

A the same time I am happy that the young people in my life are so excited about their futures.

I’m also glad they have come to appreciate history. If you don’t know where you’ve been you can’t see where you’re going. Unfortunately most people don’t know jack about history and they aren’t interested in learning it.

I’ve always thought the aversion to history by most people is due to several things. The first is just a general lack of curiosity. The second is the way history is taught in so many schools – it is all about dry facts and people in funny clothing. History has to be relatable. That is why I LOVE my daughter’s history teacher. They guy makes it relatable. The third reason is the fact that people don’t value what others have done. They don’t value lives spent to give THEM the right to vote, or speak freely, or pray to whatever they want to pray to, or do anything they want to do.

But I’m off subject again, as if I really had a subject…

If you don’t like history give it a try…see a movie, even if it isn’t accurate, then read a book about it. Sometimes fiction is easier to digest, if you know what I mean. But don’t forget that truth is always stranger than fiction. And if all else fails see a movie with Daniel Day Louis in it. Yes, the kids also saw him in Lincoln, The Crucible, and There Will Be Blood. This summer I’ll make sure Clara sees  Age of Innocence and of course Room With A View. Yes, history can be fun.

So have fun.

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

 

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Hey teacher – my kid is listening to every single word you say.

Pretty much the title here says it all. My daughter is a Junior at Bella Vista High School in Fair Oaks, California. The reason I’m blowing my cover and giving out a location is because I want to give credit where credit is due.

One of the mantras on this blog is to talk with your kids. That said, my kids talks to me about everything that goes on at school. I’m not saying that there aren’t frustrations and difficult issues. The workload is insane. The pressure of AP classes is insane. I’m sure there are also social issues I don’t know about that wear on a young mind and heart.

A lot of what I do hear is about the teachers. Even if the work is hard, the teachers are good. They’re great.

Dear Teachers,

  • My teenager likes you. All of you.
  • Mu teenager respects you.
  • Even when you’re assigning difficult and completely confusing projects she likes you.
  • Why? Because you treat your teenage students with respect.
  • Because you make an attempt at humor.
  • You never make any of the kids feel stupid in front of other kids.
  • You call out kids who are being jerks and deal with it.
  • You don’t treat your students like babies.
  • You make the subjects interesting.
  • You know the kids are all going to be desperately trying to get into college soon and respect that panic. You know the difference a grade can make.
  • You encourage parents to talk to their kids before they call you.
  • You encourage your students to think and have original thoughts.
  • You challenge your students to think for themselves.
  • You answer your students questions.
  • You respect the teenagers and acknowledge that they are valued as future human beings.
  • I know my child is in good hands.
  • I wish all teachers were like you.
  • This is for the AP History, AP English, Chemistry, Algebra 2, Ceramics teachers (you know who you are, I hope. I’ll let you know personally later.)

Thanks,

Juliette aka Vampire Maman

Keep Calm We're Teens

“Everything Was Easy For You” or “High School Sucks” – Musings from the Parenting Frontline

“Everything was easy for you.” I could hear Clara yelling at her brother.

He blew through AP classes with a smile. It was all fun and easy. His only problem in high school was the fact that he was always in love. Or he wasn’t watching where he was going (because he was looking at a girl.)

Clara said, “I’ve learned NOTHING since fifth grade.”

I look back and see that her Middle School was a bust. History was from the Age of Aquarius. Only a hand full (yes, about five) of kids were allowed to take algebra. That was sooooo wrong.

The school administrators listened to “Montessori experts” and reorganized the 8th grade like 6th grade. There was more or less no science, no useful math, a bit of English that was worth something, and not much else. By the time the 30 graduation kids graduated they were so sick of each other they could hardly stand it.

Yes, I loved the smaller K-8 Montessori Charter School, but in hindsight it sucked. No I would not have home schooled (I’m the parent, my child needs real trained teachers who are experts), and I would not have sent my kid to the local Middle School (mixed reviews.) Had I known I would have sent her to one of the expensive private schools – maybe.

But I sent her to a school that was safe, but the last two years the administrators were assholes and wouldn’t let the kids grow. Yes, I’m pissed off but there is NOTHING I can do about it now.

That said, life is like that. My child is brilliant so it is time to suck it up.

She gets pissed so pissed off with the feeling that half the kids in the AP classes are ahead of her. But half are below her – a fact that doesn’t matter.

The idea that people are smart in different ways came out of our conversations. The students who memorize without original thought are like the butter that comes to the top. The rest of the kids are just fed to the tigers.

But no, I say. You have to take the challenge, buck it up, deal with it, study hard, talk to your teachers after school, LET YOUR PARENTS HELP, and just do it.

By LET YOUR PARENTS HELP I mean letting them look over work and make suggestions. That is make suggestions without any eye rolling, sarcastic remarks, horrified looks, or invitations to go away. And never tell your parents that they don’t understand. They understand all too well.

By helping that means that you don’t do the work for your kid. You help, like a teacher or a study partner.

I asked Clara about forming a study with two other friends who are in one of her AP classes. She said, “I’d be studying with two kids who are as clueless as I am. We wouldn’t learn anything.”

This too shall pass. Last year she complained like this and ended up with a 3.8 GPA.

There is so much stress on teens due to the looming COLLEGE ACCEPTANCE rates. They fill up on statistics about acceptance rates and the spaces being purchased by wealthy foreign students. They are stressed to the max. Yes, they are learning valuable lessons, such as life isn’t fair no matter how hard you work, but that isn’t what I think they should be learning.

They should be learning to have passion for knowledge. They should be learning how to think. They should be learning how to have discussions. They should be discovering. Yes DISCOVERING.

This is only the first week of school so it will get better. Maybe not better, but at least more comfortable. Maybe not comfortable, but it will be fine.

The child got ALL of the classes she wanted with ALL of the teachers she wanted. They are damn good teachers too. They are the kind of teachers every high school student should have.

So what can a parent do? Just listen. Listen to the rants and raves. Don’t discount feelings that your teens have. Give them hugs. Know what is going on. Help them. If they turn away, gently turn them back. Talk to them and with them (not AT them.)

Yes, it is hard being a parent sometimes. And don’t beat yourself up. If you have a smart frustrated kid that is ok. You know you have done your best. At least your kid cares.

And not all kids have that three million word vocabulary, or can do Algebra in pre-school, or are accepted into every Ivy League College and UC.

Anyway, the sun is up and the cats want to go outside so I’m done.

Like Scarlett said, “tomorrow is another day.”

 

 

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman (who will have more Vampire and cat and other amusing stuff later – but this IS a parenting blog.)