FREE DAILY CURRICULUM IDEAS!
Sign Up for Diane Flynn Keith's Rave-Reviewed Ezine
By Diane Flynn Keith,
Note: This article was originally published in January 2002, and was updated in 2008.
My sons are into extreme sports. One is an inline skater who jumps off rooftops and turns 900 degrees in the air before hitting the ground upright, intact and ready to roll. The other has abandoned skate boarding for BMX bike riding — he likes to jump his bike while attempting to spin it over dirt hills and whatever else happens to be in the road. You've seen kids like mine at skate parks — and probably being shooed-away from church parking lots and public places where they relentlessly wax stair hand-rails and curbs in order to perform a little maneuver called a "grind."
If you watch ESPN on TV, you've undoubtedly seen the X-Games. The X is for extreme. As in the Olympics, only the best athletes compete in these games designed to test the mettle of skaters, boarders, and bikers. Madison Avenue has caught on to these scruffy, back-street champions and major companies now sponsor them in competitions worldwide.
Twenty-five years ago no one had heard of a skating move called an "alley-oop mistrial" or the X-Games. Twenty-five years ago, the only sports you heard about for kids were those run by adults and offered through school sports programs or community leagues like Pop Warner football, Little League baseball or AYSO soccer. For most kids there were only adult-organized sports in cities and suburbs because all of the sand lots had been paved over — and the kid-initiated ball games that once sprouted there were buried right along with them.
A litigious society and sky-high insurance liability premiums conspired to snuff impromptu, kid-generated friendly games of baseball, football, and street hockey that took place on public or private property. The Safety Police with their insistence on helmets, pads, cups, tape, more pads, braces, shin guards, safety goggles, more pads, mouth guards, proper footwear, elbow pads, wrist guards, still more pads, and a proper uniform made sure that a spur-of-the-moment game would take too much time to scrap together, and for some kids, cost way too much to play.
The demise of space for kids to play meant that games could only be played at schools or in parks with groomed fields properly measured to assure rule-book adherence to adult-created game codes and parameters. The fields were fenced and locked so that in order for kids to play, an adult had to reserve or rent the facility. When the game was played, responsible adults were needed to supervise the kids, and make sure they behaved themselves.
Coaches were needed to train the kids in the proper methods for warming up before a game and cooling down afterwards. They taught the kids the right techniques for holding a ball, kicking a ball, hitting a ball, and throwing a ball. They taught the kids the rules and made sure they obeyed them. They even supplied the only sanctioned snack (as any soccer mom can tell you) — oranges, cut into quarters.
Parents, of course, came to the games to cheer their kids on. After investing so much in the gear and training, they naturally wanted to see how well their progeny did. From the sidelines they'd scream, yell, and shout their kids to victory. Kids on the losing team were often belittled and berated by parents and coaches who seemed to take the game loss as a personal failure. Grown-ups in the stands erupted into full-blown tantrums over close calls or bad calls by umpires and referees. For the adults, winning was everything, losing wasn't an option, and fun wasn't even a consideration.
Wins and losses quickly sorted out the star-athletes from the Joe-or-Jill average player. You can't have good athletes hanging out with normal or crummy players. The answer? Divisions. At the entry level of most sports organizations, everybody gets to play. If you're good, you play all the time. If you're not-so-hot the coach plays you the minimum number of times required by the rulebook — and you're benched the rest of the time. If you're really good, you get invited to try out for the upper division. Everyone is sorted according to their ability, and once you're ranked, it's hard to move out of your class.
Twenty-five years ago, kids' sports had finally been systematized. It had degenerated from the natural, spontaneous play of its roots to a compulsory, regulated physical activity. Gone were the kids of yesteryear who ran door-to-door looking for enough players to organize a game on a vacant lot. Gone were the opportunities for anyone to play no matter what their age or ability. Gone was the makeshift equipment and the imagination that turned a stick into a baseball bat. Gone were the play-by-the-seat-of-your-pants rules that kids made up and agreed upon to accommodate whatever limitations the landscape or the players themselves brought to the game. Gone were the quick-tempered scuffles, a few choice cuss words, and the inevitable pat-on-the-fanny or high-five resolutions that resulted when kids were given the opportunity to learn how to solve their own problems. Gone was the inherent risk of injury and the opportunity to proudly show off the scars. Gone was the opportunity to test your individual skill at hitting, kicking, and throwing without a whole lot of regard for the team or the outcome of the game. Gone was the fun.
Enter extreme sports, the antithesis of organized sports. Anyone with a pair of skates, a skateboard, or a bike could play. The streets, sidewalks, and parking lots were the new fields. Age was irrelevant. Some 8-year-olds could hold their own with teenagers. Backyard kid-mechanics made adjustments to their equipment and invented add-on parts to improve their own performance. Kids made up their own moves and created a new language to define them like "royale to truespin fishbrain," "a backside bluntside," and "makio to fakie."
Road-rash and broken bones were worn like merit badges. Accidents and messing up were viewed as experience, nothing more and nothing less. Those who completed complicated moves were acknowledged as "skilled," and there was always room for improvement for every player. There were no rules. Kids coached each other. Parents didn't control the play, they only facilitated it by providing equipment and encouragement.
A culture emerged from this grassroots movement that allowed individuals to be responsible for their own involvement in sports. A sense of freedom, liberty and joy in physical activity prevailed for those who dared to strap on a pair of skates, or hop on a bike. There was an almost in-your-face irreverence in pushing the sports to the extreme in physical endurance. The moves are difficult and require strength, flexibility, intense cardio-vascular stamina, perseverance, and sheer will power to perform with any skill at all. The adrenaline rush that accompanied mastery of a move was worth the price in pain. The gauntlet had been thrown down and it reverberated in other sports like skiing, rock climbing, and snowboarding.
Skateboarder Magazine and Daily Bread Magazine reported the worldwide action. New materials and technology spawned state-of-the-art equipment with sky-high pricetags. Clothing lines copied the stylized wear of skaters who wore baggy pants for ease of movement. Extreme sports began to receive media attention. Advertisers sought to sponsor skaters. Competitions with rules pitting the most highly skilled against one another became more commonplace.
Safety became a concern with helmets, knee pads, and wrist guards required. Skate boarding and blading were banned on public and private property due to liability concerns. City (government) regulated skate parks opened with rules on clothing, equipment, and behavior.
And now, BMX bike riding is an Olympic event! Can highschool BMX teams be far behind? What about skate-boarding scholarships to colleges and universities? Will there be an AYXSO -- the American Youth Xtreme Sports Organization? Will we take all that free will and individual spirit and energy, along with the fun and joy, and process it until it conforms to a standard that can be measured, categorized, and predicted?
At this point, I'm hoping I don't have to draw the analogy for you. I'm hoping that you know that twenty-five years ago no one knew about homeschooling. Education, it was claimed, could only take place in public and private schools. A few free-thinking pioneers challenged that assumption and taught their kids at home. They risked legal action, public disapproval, and estrangement from relatives and friends to protect their kids from enforced compliance and passivity, from mind-numbing and controlling curriculum, and from being age-segregated, tested, quantified, classified, and graded.
They had to be resourceful and creative in finding materials and equipment to teach their kids at home. They didn't whine and complain and they didn't take "no" for an answer. They used the world as a classroom and exposed their kids to the bounty of life, trusting that their children's natural curiosity would lead them to discover the skills they needed to lead productive and happy lives. They made mistakes and learned from experience.
Lo and behold, in spite of the admonishments to the contrary, homeschooling worked. Kids not only learned at home — they were accepted to the most prestigious universities. Academics, it was proved, could be learned in really unusual settings, without the benefit of credentialed teachers and state-sanctioned curriculum and textbooks. Homeschooled kids even learned how to behave themselves, interact in a cooperative way with others, and socialize using parents and not peer-groups as role models.
Kids were happy and families bonded in the act of independently learning at home together. A culture emerged from this grassroots educational movement that allowed individuals to be responsible for their own learning. Freedom, liberty and joy prevailed for those who dared to teach their children at home. In spite of the hardships and sacrifices, determination and ingenuity produced well-educated, capable, competent, happy kids. The satisfaction of success coupled with an in-your-face irreverence toward forced schooling reverberated hope to those whose children were miserably institutionalized in public and private schools.
Home Education Magazine and Growing Without Schooling reported the achievements of homeschoolers throughout the world. The movement grew and was identified by marketing analysts as having real potential for providers of educational supplies and equipment. School-in-the-box resources for home educators glutted the market place. Advertisers began to sponsor homeschool conferences. Homeschoolers were invited to participate in national competitions like spelling bees — and won! Homeschooling received media attention.
Public schools noticed the increased interest of families in homeschooling. They began to offer Home Study Programs through school districts and charter schools. They enticed families with money, resources, and assistance to join their programs. Although relaxed and open-ended at first, cries for accountability of public money to private hands brought regulation in the form of curriculum requirements, collecting samples of student's work, and testing. Homeschoolers in many of these programs are now monitored, quantified, classified, tested, and graded.
In my opinion, extreme sports were a repercussion to organized sports, just as surely as homeschooling was the backlash to compulsory government education. Every great conqueror knows that by incorporating some of the traditions and customs of the people you are trying to take over you can gain their trust and cooperation. Someone stands to gain from taking extreme sports out of the realm of the street-kids and turning it into a quantifiable, standardized version that can be calculated for profit down to the last penny.
Someone also stands to gain from doing the same thing to homeschoolers. By seemingly embracing the homeschool movement and by offering programs and enticements the profiteers gain control and the individual freedom of intellectual expression erodes away as we find ourselves sitting silently at our desks, hands folded, feet flat on the floor, backs straight, trying to steal a glimpse of the outside world under the teacher's harsh glare.
Twenty-five years has passed since those brave pioneers declared their independence from government schooling. While homeschooling is growing, it is seeing its most rapid growth in the public school home study programs. Make no mistake, this isn't a happy coincidence, but a calculated maneuver to bring the sheep back to the fold where they can be managed, groomed, and fleeced.
It's time for another counter movement — it's time for some Xtreme Homeschooling. I'm talking about taking back homeschooling and reclaiming it as our own. I'm looking for a few good men and women. No whiners allowed. I want people who stare fear right in the eye and don't back down. I want people who won't take "no" for an answer. I want risk takers — all of you who could conceive of yourself doing a "true top torque soul" even if you don't know what it is. Because that is exactly what Xtreme Homeschooling is all about — people who have a vision of the end result, and are flexible enough to learn the moves like a "backside grab to fakie" along the way.
Extreme homeschooling is about people who are willing to be independently inventive in order to create the best possible environment for their family to learn and grow. I want anyone who understands that the freedom to homeschool comes with personal responsibility — to step up to the plate.
You don't need anyone's permission to Xtreme Homeschool. You don't need a teaching credential. You don't need government home school programs. You don't need a "facilitator" to collect your attendance records, or samples of your kids work, or to make suggestions for curriculum, or to test your kid, or to hold your hand and tell you everything is going to be okay. You also don't need the money or "educational credits" or any other consumable resources these programs offer. Homeschool pioneers did it without this stuff and their kids turned out fine. Yours will too.
You don't need packaged curriculum products. You don't need textbooks and workbooks. You don't need to know the national curriculum standards for each and every grade, and you don't have to teach your kids to read at 6, multiply at 8, or write a 5-page report on the Industrial Revolution - ever. You don't need to test your children or grade them — unless you live in a restrictive state that mandates it — and if you do, I'd suggest you move or work to change the law. You also don't need to take my advice or anybody else's. All that you really need is some guts. That, a library card, accurate information, and maybe the free museum days will take you a long way.
Xtreme Homeschooling is all about learning in the way that suits your family best. There are no rules. You decide what works and what doesn't because Xtreme Homeschool parents know that they are the ultimate experts on what's right for their own kids. Xtreme Homeschooling involves some difficult moves and maneuvers. Don't worry, you can learn them, it just takes patience, practice and perseverance. Master each one and you too can be a skilled Xtreme Homeschooler. I've listed a glossary of Xtreme Homeschool moves below. Learn them, and perhaps we can thwart the liberty stealers for another 25 years.
Have I left any out? If you're an Xtreme Homeschooler with some sick (extreme talk for "cool") moves that will help others to understand how to go about reclaiming homeschooling, please send them to me by email: Editor@Homefires.com. I'll add them to this list.