Spring Sprang Sprung! Doctor JJ’s Kids Bustin’ Out All Over

29 05 2011

Our spring showed color early and has been full to bursting since then, with performance, celebration, commencement, remembrance and rites of passage.
And hats.

(This will surely sound like one of those insipid Christmas letters listing stuff about a family you never see IRL, so feel free to skip it or make snarky comments — in the privacy of your own home.) 😉

Maybe the garden metaphor is less fitting than fireworks, or rocket launches. But there have been plenty of flowers, on hats and in centerpieces, on stage and on campus and filling our home. I suppose the season started with Favorite Daughter’s acceptance to grad school and her 21st birthday, clinching a job at the campus music library, apartment hunting for that first momentous move out on her own (she’s lived at home through university) all while sustaining her unbroken streak on the president’s list to lock up her perfect career GPA with a Phi Beta Kappa key.

St. Patrick’s Day was a whole week for both FavD and Young Son, an Irish stepdance marathon of performances for schools indoors and out, for nursing homes and assisted living centers and at two different citywide festivals. Thanks to unschooling, on the actual day Young Son was able to start at nine in the morning and dance straight through until almost ten that night.

Young Son's St Patrick's Day meant dancing for two and then some

I know how much he danced and how much energy it must have taken because I went everywhere with him; I was worn out even though I got to sit the whole time. 🙂

Meanwhile, rehearsals for their latest community theatre musical “CURTAINS” took up most weeknights and Saturdays through March and April, for both kids. (Favorite Daughter was dance captain.)

Curtains Can Can-Can! Favorite Daughter on far left

Young Son front and center

This time the show rehearsed in a vacant mall storefront, filling the atrium far and wide with song and dance, delighting mall-crawlers from all directions — mostly from Barnes and Noble and the sports superstore but also the little kid ride-for-a-quarter machines — whose stopped-in-their-tracks surprise was good fun to watch from a bench nearby while waiting to chauffeur one or both Ross kids to whatever awaited their attention next.

Curtains rehearsing in mall storefront: FavD in blue skirt, Young Son's right half on far right

Young Son took up another wind instrument this spring, in addition to the great highland bagpipes, hornpipes, penny whistles and baritone vocals he enjoys so much: the alto saxophone. MY alto saxophone to be precise. We found yet another tailor-made mentor/private teacher, a world-traveled former US Army Band professional saxophonist who’s now A.B.D. (all but dissertation) at the local university and has his own studio and instrument workshop at home.

Oh, and FavD quite unexpectedly acquired a new costume de rigueur as of April 20, perfectly suited to her scholarly librarian life: her first pair of glasses, which like Young Son, she wears all the time and looks somehow more like herself with, than without. 🙂

On the heels of that bespectacling, their dad’s mother and sister (DiDi and Auntie) flew in from across the country to visit for two weeks, arriving late the night before Graduation and the Royal Wedding for lots of pictures and campus receptions.

Dodd Hall, the Religion building with an Unschooler's Mantra: "The half of knowledge is to know where to find knowledge"

We knew going in she was graduating summa cum laude, which at FSU is 3.9 or better and works out roughly to the top two percent. What surprised us was that as the formalities began, they called her name from the dais to stand, from wa-ay in back with the other R-surnames, to be fully introduced and individually recognized with applause, as one of less than a half-dozen 4.0 summas in a mortarboarded sea of more than two thousand graduates. (Doing THAT percentage in my head, wow!)

Favorite Daughter and Young Son with Hats!

By the time graduation ended and we could get everyone home, it was after 10 p.m. and we’d been up since dawn with the royal wedding. It was time for a melt-in-your-mouth post-graduation supper featuring barbeque brisket and custom garnet-and-gold FSU confections from Food Network-competing Lucy & Leo’s Cupcakery — red velvet insides, edible glitter on gold cream cheese frosting, big hit all around.

And at the party, I got the chance to meet several close friends FavD has made out in the world on her own, good young people and a good moment for the whole family and especially her mom, to see she really IS all grown up.

Graduation festivities segued into a week of late-night dress rehearsals running up to the show’s opening night the next weekend, followed by Derby Day mint juleps and Mother’s Day brunch.

So many hat-worthy events: MisEducation’s costume de rigueur!

The next week revolved around the show script FavD pens annually for their formative dance studio‘s spring concert, this year themed as Puttin’ on the Brits. She and Young Son were the vocal talent for professionally recorded narration by Crash ‘n’ Annie’s, particularly fun because Young Son got to use in full flower the over-the-top English accent he developed last winter doing “Scrooge: the Musical” in Quincy’s historic theatre. (I volunteered to help out as show staff for the weekend so I could enjoy their golden throats over and over.)

Spring is over here now and summer underway with languid 94-degree afternoons already, but the singing and dancing and partying won’t slow down apace until at least the end of June. Their current dance company’s annual shows are in rehearsals now, to be followed by two full weeks of musical theatre dance camp and performance for Young Son.



9 responses

29 05 2011

Love the picture of DD and DS on the bench with hats! You have the best family pics of anyone. 🙂

btw, 94-degree afternoons? I’m so jealous. I have grown tired of cool, drizzly days and covet your summertime temps.

29 05 2011

So young son chose dancing with cute young women all day over school? Those HSers really are weirdos 🙂

29 05 2011

In my mind I’ve clicked “like” for both comments! 😀

30 05 2011
Nance Confer

What a fun couple of “kids!” Beautiful and happy.

And the glasses as definitely a good fit for FavD. 🙂

30 05 2011

I was looking for French Open tennis this holiday morning, and came across AMC showing the last hour of Ron Howard’s movie from the 80s, Parenthood. So I’m freshly reminded that:

1) There’s no end to parenthood, no goal line to cross, no point you stop worrying and caring about and enjoying “your kids” because they always will be your kids to you — even though Nance is right about mine not being objectively kids anymore in any other sense. 🙂

2) There are no perfect parents or kids or relationships.

3) I’m much more the Steve Martin dad than the Mary Steenbergen mom character; unschooling has been my main salvation from all those perceived pressures and anxieties and borrowed troubles. Along with cultivating a sense of humor. 😉

FavD asked us for a Kindle e-reader as her graduation present, and then used a few small cash gifts she received from distant friends and family to buy e-books for it, including Tina Fey’s new memoir. The other day in the car together, my own childhood conviction came up, that I would surely die in a fiery car crash (my dad’s driving was well-intended but dramatically inattentive, so I endured it in a constant state of high-alert fatalistic agony) and she exclaimed she’d been meaning to read me a great line from Fey I would relate to:

‎”It’s a burden, being able to control situations with my hyper-vigilance, but it’s my lot in life.”


All of which is to say that I do think my kids really ARE beautiful and happy. Honestly, they are even more beautiful and happier in their own lives than I ever was in my very lucky, happy family growing up, less high-strung neurotic in the Steve Martin sense about both good and bad whether remembered, perceived or projected in past, present or future. And unschooling deserves the credit . . .

3 06 2011

I am so happy for you, and your family. They look like great kids who will accomplish many interesting and fabulous things in life. We are kind of just startingout , so seeing all these wonderful things you and your progeny are doing gives me great hopes for our own futures.

3 06 2011
Nance Confer

Enjoy the starting out and the times to come. They go too quickly. Really!

I am just starting to begin to come to grips with the idea that my kids are not actually of school age although I guess we will always “unschool” our way through life. Things just continue on as they always have when you are unschooling but there are reminders that my little ones are full grown now. . . very odd. 🙂 Anyway, enjoy the little ones while you can.

(And, otoh, I am done with the full-time babysitting of Dear Nephew who is a dear child but damn he’s tiring and I’m ready to be the Mom of full-grown people not the Mom of an almost-5-year-old. . . physically and in every other way.)

3 06 2011

The other thing I meant to mention here, for anyone later who might read this as a traditional academic “success” story or whatever — Lynn and COD, Daryl, Nance et al will remember what Beep and my IRL young mom friends can’t know unless we remember to explain for their own parental and public policy benefit — Favorite Daughter is no cookie cutter scholar. Her brain is hardwired with a specific learning disorder in coding simple numeric operations (arithmetic) that prevents her from moving through even the most basic math courses.

We didn’t realize this, not even FavD herself, until she began trying to take community college coursework and needed to demonstrate math skills through standardized high school. Our unschooling is radical and whole-life so we never “taught” what she wasn’t asking to learn. If at school or at home, we had worried about arithmetic and algebra and standardized test scores and getting into (much less out of) high school, it beyond a doubt would have detracted from, delayed and finally damaged her meteoric blazing through the liberal arts that she loves so much and masters so easily — well, I shudder to think.

I was able not to let it, because of unschooling, and to find ways within the system each step along the way, to assure that she’d be able not to let it, either. (So far the state of Florida has humane enough policies to allow that, although extreme corporatism is crushing that out of everything at present, which makes me despair for other families.)

One thing I did very early on, that turned out to be really helpful: I paid for an independent Stanford-Binet IQ test for her when she was three and again at five, to go through the hoops of getting her qualified for gifted (exceptional) education in the public schools. The results bought me a pass in my own mind first and later in the system’s collective view of her. I was careful to remind myself and explain to others that we were not “doing curriculum” or grading, teaching, studying in any traditional sense (unless one wished to hearken back to the Oxford University model of “reading” in your passion and then every so often meeting privately with a great mind in that field who could have a challenging conversation with you about it all!)

The state-required evaluations I prepared annually would reflect this. Our “subject areas” came from the gifted program here, things like “Creative critical thinker” and “Responsible self-directed learner” lol. Hell yes! I included “Numeric problem solver” each year and honestly gave it the same assessment I gave every other standard/outcome/characteristic, using the precise language required in statute: “Progress Commensurate with Ability” — it turned out I was more right about that than I imagined, when it turned out to be literally, clinically true as documented by the two full days of testing by the best clinical psychologist in this field our university town had to offer.

Even so, we had to stay alert and creative and committed to clearing the decks for her according to the rules. The most recent obstacle we needed to find a way around given her physical lack of ability in numeric problem-solving was the GRE, required for grad school application and with a strict “no accommodations” policy. So she just took it. Once. We knew beforehand, almost exactly, what the result would be. Her score on the math half was literally minimal; her score on the verbal half was exceptionally high. Put the halves together and she achieved an “average” score among all grad school aspirants. 🙂

And I’m pretty sure that was the last time any of us will ever need to give it a thought. 😀

Traditional School therefore would have destroyed her and the above pictures would be very different. Not beautiful, not happy. Certainly without academic acclaim and a bright future in what she is best at and loves most.

11 06 2011
Crimson Wife


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