Hats and Apples

This blog started four years ago, with a co-authored letter about 32% fee hikes at the University of California, fee hikes accompanied by professor furloughs and drastic cuts. It started during a month when I thought that if I poured myself into activism–working from 6am-10pm organizing and writing and researching–I could stop the university I loved from falling apart. I pushed so hard for those few weeks that I was angry at friends for having brunch the morning of the 9/24/2009 walkout and rally, when I had instead jumped off a bus and passed out fliers to everyone in sight, students who didn’t believe a 32% fee hike could happen (it happened, and then happened again and again).

I had believed since I was maybe 8 or 9 years old that anyone in the country–but especially in California–could just do well in school and then be able to go to college. I believed in upward mobility even after studying racial disparities and generational poverty as an undergraduate. The fee hikes of 2009 shattered that belief. Then friends were arrested protesting. Then students were pepper sprayed at UC Davis.

Those days were the beginning of the end of my belief in the university, the beginning of the end of my commitment to pursuing a tenure-track faculty career, and the beginning of my interest in unschooling. I protested intensely, got burnt out, felt guilty for not showing up, went back to focusing on my dissertation, watched as politics and profit and marketability and ability and family obligations determined who succeeded and who failed in graduate school. Then sometime in 2010 I first encountered this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LwIyy1Fi-4Q

Now, four years later, I am returning to this blog because I’m done (emotionally) with graduate school (still have a bit of editing on that dissertation to do). I’ve spent years angry at the privatization of public education in California, but concurrently years reading and reading about unschooling. Now I have a toddler, and every day confirms my commitment to unschooling. I’m at the point where I need to stop being angry, stop feeling tossed around by the quirks of the graduate school system, and start making something about what I believe in.

I call this blog “hats and apples” because of an unschooling concept I’ve seen in multiple forums and blogs–try saying yes more. Just try, says Pam Larrichia and Sandra Dodd and various other gurus, just try thinking about why you’re saying no, what the options are, what happens if you say yes, and whether or not that’s necessarily all that bad. I’ve found that concept transformative, making parenting less about how I should be and what I should do and how my daughter should act, and more about watching her learn passionately.

But I also need some tools and some context for saying yes–I need hats and apples. I need to be able to go places my daughter will love. I need an apple in the stroller for when she wants to sit on the sidewalk and pile up rocks for 30 minutes on our way to the park. I need a hat so she can go hiking with us, something that makes our whole family relax and find joy in the world.

At the same time, I need the passions I’ve always had–primarily for books. I’ve been thinking a lot about why I went to grad school, and two beautiful descriptions of why can be found here and here. I’ve realized that I went to grad school because I wanted to find books that would save my best friend from all of her anguish–from love for emotionally abusive boyfriends, from being limited by family expectations, from never having enough money. I wanted to find those books and teach them so they would randomly hit home, find the right person and help them be true to themselves, while at the same time respecting and empathizing and generously loving others. Grad school did help with all of that by exposing me to more, but in the end the thousands of hours of work are spent on other things, things I don’t believe in anymore.

So I’ll try blogging.

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About Kaitlin

I am primarily a stay at home mom. I also have a Phd in Eglish. Everyday I’m learning about myself, my family, and my community. I write about parenting, childhood, education, autism, homeschooling, politics, anti-racism, and feminism. Critiquing coercive and damaging cultural norms like misogyny, racism, sexism, capitalist exploitation, ableism, and childism helps me seek out a life of peace, justice, and empathy.
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