Thursday, May 21, 2009

6 Going on 16: Yet Another Reason to Homeschool

The other day I was walking through the park on our way home from the library with the kids when we passed two little girls who appeared to be practicing a cheerleading routine. They had bunches of flowers in their hands that they were waving around like pom-poms and they were doing high kicks, dance moves, and other cheerleader-type stuff. The two girls looked a bit younger than Miss Scarlet, who's 6 1/2. I would guess that they were 5ish. No parent/guardian was in the immediate vicinity.

What really bothered me about these two little girls was their provocative clothes and dance routine. I'm not a huge fan of midriff-baring spaghetti strap tanks and miniskirts even on teens but these were prepubescent children! And the sexualized routine just struck me as icky. Just because the Laker Girls dance like that does not mean kindergarten-age cheerleaders should, KWIM?

Miss Scarlet was fascinated, however. It struck me that if she were enrolled in a traditional school, this is what she might be learning at recess from her classmates.

I was reminded of this incident when I read a depressing article in the Rethinking Schools journal entitled "Six, Going on Sixteen". It was written by a veteran elementary schoolteacher who currently teaches a combined K/1 class. Here is what she describes happening in her classroom:

"I had 5-year-old girls vying for the attention of the 'coolest' 1st-grade boy. They would push to be near him at the sand table, and groan audibly if I didn't place them in his book group. Students in the class thought of each other as 'boyfriend' and 'girlfriend.' Freeze dance and soul train, which are usually a big hit and lots of fun, had a new dimension as students danced out the social scenarios they had seen in music videos. Performer Chris Brown was the ultimate favorite, though 50 Cent and others were also on the scene. My 5-, 6-, and 7-year-olds played out and talked about 'being in the club' and 'drinking Heineken.' They wrote about the music world in their journals and turned the block area into a radio station. Sometimes they used the hollow blocks to build a stage to perform on. Small cylindrical blocks were their microphones. This type of play was OK with me, except who was 'in' and who was 'out' was a constant social battle.

There was another aspect of this that negatively impacted our classroom community, and that was the idea of certain kids wearing the 'right' sneakers. This was among a group of boys, but the rest of the class was affected. It was something we had class meetings about, and tried to minimize the negative effects of, but it was a continuous struggle. One morning, as they walked up the stairs to our second-floor classroom, a kindergarten boy and a 1st-grade boy got in a pushing and hitting fight because the younger boy said he was wearing 'Carmelo Anthonys' and the older boy said, 'No, those are Jordans.' Another boy, whose mom refused to buy expensive sneakers, had repeated meltdowns (crying, throwing things, yelling) when other boys arrived at school with new sneakers, stylish shirts or outfits, or big plastic gold rings."

These types of narratives just reinforce our decision to homeschool. The homeschooled kids of my acquaintance don't exhibit this type of pseudosophistication. The little girls dress their age rather than looking like mini-streetwalkers. If there's dancing, it's typically something like the Hokey Pokey or ballet.


Barbara Frank said...

Great article link! I agree with you completely, and I do think homeschooling helped my girls to avoid that scenario and grow up to become the lovely young women they are today at 18 and 25.

Re: "looking like mini-street walkers," I did have a terrible time finding appropriate clothes, shoes and especially swimsuits for my girls. They were always tall for their age, and it was really hard finding something for them at age 11 or 12 when they fit in the Juniors' dept., which I still call the Junior Hookers dept. I did sew a lot, but it was still tough. Good luck out there!

Henry Cate said...

One of the things that bothers me is so many parents seem to think it is cute to dress their daughters like tramps.

adversarian said...

I'm 16-years-old myself, and only recently began my own homeschool journey ( would've started sooner, but Finnish laws are pretty strict and the local school didn't want to cooperate - technically we could sue them! ). When I was in the 4th grade I remember looking over at a pair of girls a grade lower than me, who were wearing provocative clothing, platform shoes, and fake jewelry that would've been scary even on a 13-year-old, nevermind a little girl.

Good thing that homeschooling helps kids the other way around- their mentalities grow past their age, as well as their academic ability, giving them time to mature before they have to worry about those parts of life. :)

Geralyn Bywater McLaughlin said...

As the author of the article you mentioned, I am interested in your reactions. The topic can be depressing, but I was hoping the article also spoke to the power we have to change the current trends. I'm not sure it is a homeschool/public school debate we need here, but parents united in the fight against corprate takeover of childhood. After the article was published I started my own blog to inform, engage and energize those of us who are fighting the good fight on behalf of all children
Thanks again for your thoughts.