Sunday, August 23, 2009

Hannah Montana, Lunch Box non Grata

I am a ridiculous pile of contradictions.

Between the ages of 5 and 10 I loved school. L.O.V.E.D it.  I was chipper every morning and looked forward to the END of summer.  School shopping was like going to Disney World.  I got to browse the aisles of Hill's Department Store, stroking the velour Garanimals separates as I walked past them.  My opinion was consulted on potential purchases, all of which were placed in a cardboard box at the back of the store.  I wanted nothing more than to follow our box on it's little conveyor belt to the stockroom and keep it company until we could afford to pay for all of it and take it home. The entire concept of "Back to School" was magical to me.  No doubt, television commercials and a spectacularly un-stimulating home life played a part in making this time of year so special to me.  I was trying to re-create the kind of family life I saw on tv. I wanted the kind of mother who indulged my irrational desire for folders decorated with kittens and pencils with my name on them.  I wanted the kind of mother who didn't look at the price tag and meet my gaze with a sharp, "No."

Despite my past love affair with school and school shopping and the imaginary path to happiness that it might provide, I am shielding my child from all of it. No back to school shopping.  No lay-away boxes. No mad rush to get a bunch of stuff that no one actually needs.  No totally useless fall weather clothes that won't be worn for months. Am I sending my child to school in tattered shorts and flip-flops, without pencils and a back pack? Nope.  I'm not sending her to school at all.

I am sometimes conflicted about homeschooling, but when I stop and really analyze what I am so nostalgic about, it has almost nothing to do with the traditional school education I received.  I worry that my child will somehow be warped by missing out on the experience of buying notebooks, and kitten folders and toxic, plastic lunch boxes bearing the face of Hannah Montana or some such totally age inappropriate tv idol.  I am worried about stuff, stupid unnecessary, "but so-n-so, has one" material garbage.  I was brainwashed as a child and the effects still linger.

My daughter has her wants.  She wants a pony and she wants to buy Princess gowns and wear them any time she doesn't feel like being naked, but she doesn't want a Hannah Montana book bag or High School Musical sneakers.  She only wants what she wants, not what other kids tell her she should want.  Her tastes change as quickly as the wind blows, but the wind is totally her creation.

Teaching my child at home allows me to control the various influences in her life.  It's hard enough to know your own mind, when it keeps changing and growing and expanding exponentially everyday.  When the kids at school and on the tv keep telling you something different, it can be hard to discern the difference between want and need.  That difference is really the first and most important lesson of home economics.  So, while we skip the trip to Wal-Mart for Tinkerbell t-shirts, in favor of browsing at the thrift store, we are really studying the value of a dollar, not to mention the environmental importance of not creating more stuff than is necessary.

I am hoping that one day, when Violet remembers "school",  she will recall the day that reading finally clicked and not the day she got her Trapper Keeper or whatever it is that kids think they need these days.  I have no memory of learning to read, but I can still see that Strawberry Shortcake safari outfit I wore on the first day of school and it makes me a little sad.

How does your family deal with the financial pressures of back-to-school time?  The Parent Bloggers Network and Capital One are teaming up to talk about family budgeting and finances. Check it out!

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