Here's what I wrote (for a homeschool magazine) my first day of retirement: (forgive if I've posted elsewhere before - my memory was going before
This is my first day in retirement. Whoopee!
I get up exactly the same time I always do. Take my vitamins, feed the canary, throw the dog a toy. All as usual. Check my e-mail. Watch a little too much of what passes for news on cable, enough to raise the blood pressure just a little. All as is customary thus far.
Linger a little bit longer over a cup of coffee. I could like this! Say goodbye to my wife Ellen as she girds up her loins to go take care of her dying patients, and comfort their families, at which she is very adept. (No, she isn’t an “angel”, she’s a human, which is even better!) Go out and look at the farmlet (seven raised beds and a greenhouse). Admire the newly painted house.
I pinch myself.
The reality is that I really had to retire, as I have far too much work to do. My daily e-mail is full of messages from Kenya, Burundi, India, Ethiopia, Afghanistan, Madagascar, Zimbabwe, all crying out for my attention, as we seek to help people ensure their own safe drinking water, even as I endeavor to build global community. Then I’ve got mail from homeschoolers – from Edmonton to Madrid. And sometimes these overlap, as I work to train homeschooling families to help out with our global mission. And then I have to find money, hint, hint. (Home
All of that is going to wait. Today I’m going downtown. In the daytime! I’m going to reacquaint myself with my town – where I’ve lived for more than 20 years – in the daytime! I’m not looking to purchase anything, or go to the bank, or visit a coffeeshop, or meet up with someone and have lunch (might happen though!) Just go for a long walk.
In my town, in the daytime, probably not too different from your town, there are lawyers lawyering, carpenters carpentering, accountants doing the books, vets caring for sick animals and doctors for sick people. Music stores are selling drumsticks and harmonicas, bakers are baking, and bookstores (those that still exist) are still attempting to sell books (I wonder if they’ll have mine.) The auto mechanics are under the cars (though in the auto mall, they’re called “technicians”), painters are up on ladders, architects and engineers and builders are pouring over the blueprints for a new building. Welders welding. Maybe I’ll get a haircut. Bankers, well they do what bankers do. Plumbers are fixing drains, electricians the wiring, and ecologists are restoring streams. Real estate and insurance agents are trying to drum up business. Pawn shops are a-pawning. Gemologists and haberdashers are hawking their wares. Local farmers are setting up their stalls at the farmers’ market. I can buy fishing tackle or a bouquet of flowers, take my computer in to get fixed (heaven forbid!), or see if I can get someone to come over and take a look at my leaky refrigerator, if I had one. Municipal court is in session.
It’s great world out there, one that I rarely saw during my 20 years in the office. Oh, I occasionally took a day off, or ran an errand to have my dumbphone repaired, or to get some paint chips so we could choose colors for one of the kids’ rooms. But I never got to see my town in any intentional way, or to go out of my way to meet the people who spent their days therein. Except Saturdays – when they do sell stuff.
Of course, this is also true of the kids in the dayjail, those occupying the land of the Lilliputian chairs and desks, and those sentenced and confined to hormonal hell with their fellow cellmates. After school, it will be homework or soccer practice. Some day they’ll be asked to choose an occupation or profession from among those practiced by the people I see in the daytime, with the vast majority having no real sense of what most of them do or how people get to do them, or that there really is much in the way of choices.
Occasionally, though rarely, I used to walk downtown at night. Sometime between 6 and 8 p.m., they roll up the sidewalks, and, except for a movie theater and a couple of restaurants mostly more than half empty, my town becomes one big tavern. It’s the same in most towns in America, from what I can tell. Not a tavern in the sense of a medieval tavern, in which business was conducted. Tavern as in locus for drunkenness, or near so, or a search for cheap (or not so cheap) sex, or just something in the way of human companionship. Isn’t that what the kids locked up in the dayjail get to see as well, though lacking the adult card, they are forbidden entry inside? Is it in any way surprising then that many 14 and 15 year olds see the activity of the tavern in their town as the quintessential adult activity, and seek to emulate it? Short of that, since the only the time they get to see the town during the daytime is on weekends, is it any wonder that many are simply obsessed with buying stuff?
Perhaps the biggest advantage that homeschoolers have over the kids in the box is that we own the daytime. The world is our oyster. The town is ours, and the country, too. The world is full of wonderful people doing wonderful things – most of them in the daytime. Find ways to turn your community into an adventure. If you are part of a homeschooling group, help your kids construct a treasure hunt in town – with the treasures being not just in particular places, but in the possession of specific people. (People are the real treasures in our town…and in every town.) Teach your kids how to do community interviewing (Doug Lipman’s essay in my book The Healing Heart~Communities will show you how to do it – here’s another great article from Doug - Teaching Interviewing Skills Through Story Games
), practice at the local senior center or at a nursing home, and then take it out into your town. Make a community scrapbook with the stories of the people who make your town a great place to live. Seek out mentoring relationships, and apprenticeships (and share notes with other homeschooling families). Have your children take interesting people out to lunch! (and you can come along).
Almost needless to say, once you and your children start to do this, the tavern and what it stands for is going to lose most of whatever allure it might have had. And the kids may begin to have some inkling of where their learning might lead them, with the time, energy, and effort to get them where they want to go.
Best of all? I’ll meet you all there! I’m free! (if I’m not in Ethiopia).
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P.S. In the nighttime, make sure the kids get enough sleep.
(P.P.S. Dstark - I've got work for you - when can you start?)