On Monday this week Ryan, Andrew and a friend of theirs participated in a SLAMMed Poetry Seminar at the State Library of Queensland in Brisbane. We got them in as a special home school group. (And the more I home school, the more I realise that they learn all they need at home. Traditional school is just an adjuvant and a place to have fun if you like going there. This is why traditional schools fail, and will continue to fail, children from disadvantaged homes. Schools can't replace family. They also can't cater to the gifted and talented when they are trying to help the poor and underprivileged. No hard feelings there. I don't need a traditional school. I can teach my kids at home. The boys just go to school because they like it! But I have no qualms about taking Andrew - or any of them - out for opportunities that I am able to better provide them on my own. Lucky for me this is one country that agrees with me!)
I am beginning to feel more and more often that I am home schooling the wrong child. My four boys light up the world with their energy and enthusiasm. Ryan barely tolerates it.
Since she was going to a poetry seminar the following week, and since we really haven't found anything at all else to interest her even remotely - I decided to do poetry on Friday. Street poetry. Cool poetry.
She wasn't interested in Shel Silverstein or Jack Prelutsky or Ts Elliot. (Relax, it was 'Cats!') No to Dr. Seuss.
So okay, maybe she is too old for this stuff.
No to Australian Bush Poets I have on CD.
I went to my fall-back. Miley Cyrus. The Climb. High School Musical. Status Quo. Vanessa Hudgens. Good God, no more Vanessa Hudgens please! Plus, there still wasn't that much interest.
Black-Eyed Peas. Where is the Love? Classic. Lady Lumps. It's got rhythm, it's got rhyme.
Does it have a message?
I decide for myself that good poetry needs rhythm of words, needs skilled usage of words AND preferably a message.
(Oh my God! Where do you come up with all this stuff, other mothers ask me. Listen, this is what I'm good at. Although I would have liked to take it up from a grade two level eventually.)
Ryan said, huh.
Justin Bieber and Will I Am. Brilliant work.
Justin and Jaden Smith. (Sorry Will Smith, I love your work but I couldn't find a message.)
And then we went from rap to actual street poetry via You Tube. We learned what would happen to Jesus if he was born again as a refugee to Australia. We learned about talking to the sky. We learned why not to let a test result determine your fate.
We spent an hour and forty-five minutes on words and rhythm and message.
Then Ryan asked to share her favourite poem with me. And I knew where it would end.
One of the "My Little Pony" ponies sang some song about friendship or about trying your hardest or about rainbow clouds and cotton candy moons. I don't know. I wasn't listening.
Ryan spent the next hour and a half listening to "My Little Pony" songs on her tablet. I have rarely seen her happier. She sang along at the top of her lungs, bouncing Ian on her knee, a huge smile on her face. She knows all the words because this is what she does alone in her room. This is what makes her happy, what is meaningful and important to her, what she prefers over all else.
This is Ryan's World.
It is a world of magical ponies created for four year olds.
And while she tolerates ours for bits at a time, this is where she would rather spend her time.
This is where she is happiest.
How hard must it be for her to listen to maths and biology and civil rights and poetry? How hard must it be to go through your life with no interest in what's around you? Can you live like that?
How hard is it for me to hide the fact that I am screaming inside at the sound of one more bloody "My Little Pony" song from my thirteen year old?
Not hard at all, as it turns out.
She's too happy singing at the top of her lungs in her world to notice the tears falling down my face in mine.