Looking For a Secular Florida Umbrella School?

Thursday, July 01, 2004

Had to take a drive up to Tampa to pick up a trailer axle and fender, and then deliver it to Hollywood for my nephews' boat. I'm such a nice auntie. My nephews are expert, professional fishermen and won another big tournament just the other day. One night I'm hoping to go out with one of them and document a typical swordfishing expedition. These boys will go out solo and come home with at least one fish nearly as big as the boat and weighing several hundred pounds. One nephew's Christmas card always includes a photo of him, his wife and kids, and at least one enormous, dead fish. My sentiments exactly.


I finished Queen Bees & Wannabes, and as I suspected, most of this doesn't directly apply to us as homeschoolers. Just having your daughters out of the traditional school setting certainly limits most of the potential for harm. I feel sorry for the other mothers who are dealing with these problems and need to read this book for help. The author, Rosalind Wiseman, while helpful and encouraging, delivers a mostly pessimistic message that pressure to conform in a clique destroys girls' individuality, leaves them susceptible to abusive relationships later on, vulnerable to alcohol and drug abuse, and is almost completely inevitable. Wiseman constantly warns that "[n]o matter how good a parent you are, how popular your daughter is, or how great her friends are, she'll run into problems with popularity and cliques. For better or worse, it's the experiences she has in the clique that will teach her volumes about friendship, support, understanding, power, and privilege. On a daily basis she'll learn what kind of girl she has to be in order to be accepted by the group, and this will influence everything from her choice of boyfriends to the classes she takes, her after-school activities, her clothes, her hairstyles, the people she talks to, the people she doesn't talk to, her beliefs and values, and her overall sense of self."

Aren't you glad we have options?

The first thought that struck me was that avoiding the situation in the first place, i.e. homeschooling, would eliminate a large part of the problem, and not because we isolate our children, but because we are with them to model our, hopefully, good behavior and offer support, encouragement, and information on a continual basis, rather than trying to undo the day-long influence of peers for a few minutes at a time, but since this is not a real option for most people, for whatever reason, it was not mentioned as a possibility. Wiseman points out that the worst of this behavior begins in middle school, when the parental involvement typical of elementary school years drops off. So, in a nutshell: Parental involvement makes all the difference.

Some of her other assertions, that if your daughter is over twelve, she has almost certainly been called a slut and/or bitch by other girls and that she has almost certainly said the same of other girls, and that you not actually hearing these words is immaterial, you are just in denial, were offensive. My oldest is two months shy of twelve, so I'll have to evaluate that when we get there, but I have a feeling I'll still be considered "in denial."

The section on defining your parenting style was interesting. Loving Hard-Ass Parent is the obvious preferred style, and one that probably describes many, if not most, of us. Best Friend Parent, Hip Parent, and No-Excuses Parent are pretty close seconds, but each has its major drawback: Best Friend Parent forces a girl to take extreme measures to separate from parents later on, or the other option, she never grows up; Hip Parent lacks authority and along with Best Friend Parent can be easily manipulated; and No-Excuses Parent can make an independent, otherwise successful daughter ashamed and reluctant to ask for help, becoming self-destructive or disconnected.

Apparently some parents of these effected, affected girls carry plenty of baggage from their own school days, mentioning wanting to kill the mean girl who hurt their daughters' feelings, and the mentality that "...you feel reassured when your daughter gets invited to parties and sleepovers regularly, pals around with her best friend, and dashes to the phone because once again it's for her..." exposes some low priorities and immaturity on the part of these parents.

Lots of tips on dealing with broken hearts, icky boyfriends, and fighting over boys led me to wonder why these girls are dating in middle school anyway. High school I can understand, but sixth, seventh, and eighth grade? Isn't dating a precursor to marriage? What's the point?

The most disheartening part of this book, because it is one area I have no control over, or expertise with, dealt with the way boys are raised. The pressure to conform to the image of their gender that bars any behaviors perceived as sensitive or weak is damaging, encouraging violence, and everything boys do is then in part or in whole a performance to prove their masculinity. "Boy World," as she calls it, is also guided by the invisible hand of homophobia and assigns boys roles of perpetrator, bystander, or target. In the extreme, this fear of being labeled a "fag" is where you find cases of gang rapes. "The irony of the prevailing cultural definition of masculinity is that it represses courage -- not the kind where a boy will fight someone if challenged, but the moral courage to raise his voice and stand up for what's right." Great, just what you want to hear when you have three daughters. I remain hopeful though, because just as I know I am raising girls unlike those characterized in this book, some of you are raising boys who do not fit this disturbing description.

What was useful for me was gaining insight into how girls can become trapped in abusive relationships as a result of submerging their own personalities in a clique. I was involved for several years in a physically abusive relationship that began in high school, and looking back, could never understand how it happened. There were also good tips on discussing areas of concern with your daughter, many highlighted "LANDMINE!" to avoid words or phrases particularly irritating to pre/teens.

Basically, this book was just another affirmation that we are on the right track.


I picked up a few more books this week. A local gift shop was having a clearance sale and I picked up five books on various Florida themes for G and Loving Che for me, because I vaguely remember reading a favorable review somewhere. Total for two hardcover and four paperbacks, all brand new, $8.00.

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