“That’s a quarter of a million.”
This is what Chris said when I told him that my TikTok video was coming close to 250,000 views. My husband is the numbers person in this relationship. I’m not sure why it hadn’t hit me that 250,000 equals a quarter of a million.
A quarter of a million. It makes me think of How Much is a Million?, a book my kids loved. If you wanted to count from one to one million…it would take you about 23 days. I guess a quarter of a million would take about six. Six days!
I don’t say this to brag. Well, maybe a little to brag, after years of writing rejections and frustrations that what I learned as a homeschooling mother was not a story the publishing gatekeepers wanted to hear. Maybe you hear the so there! rumbling beneath my honest question: what’s going on here?
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“I’m like lowkey crying over this. I have been thinking this for years subconsciously and finally having the words for this makes me realize how little freedom i had and I feel like its too late now.”
“This speaks to me so much. One word to describe how I felt growing up: trapped.”
“I suppose the popularity of Stranger Things shows us that we are nostalgic for more exploration, play and even failure.”
Three comments among almost 1,500 on this video.
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I posted it on November 15 on a lark. (You can watch it here, even if you aren’t on TikTok.) It’s not terribly polished. I’d recorded it at the end of the day and the lighting leaps all over the place since I added in clips I’d forgotten in my first take. I’d had my hair chopped off earlier that afternoon and hadn’t figured out what to do with it. I was just riffing on that Malcolm Harris article I’d seen in New York Magazine, thrilled that someone other than me was connecting the youth mental health crisis to loss of autonomy. It was longwinded and I didn’t expect TikTok to share it.
Somehow, two months later, TikTok is still showing it on viewers’ pages; the views keep going up. This isn’t happening with my other videos; there’s something going on with this one.
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“I have always wished to have been born in a pre-911 world. I wasn’t, and by the time I was born the world was no longer as “safe” as it was in the 70/80s when my parents grew up. The autonomy given to children at that time period is now looked on as irresponsible parenting— you’re not keeping your kid safe if you aren’t keeping a close eye on them.”
“I’m always on my phone because I literally feel like I can’t make my own decisions in life so funny little videos are the only thing keeping me sane.”
“I am so tired of people blaming media and technology for our problems. Sure they can exacerbate the issue, but they’re not the root.”
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In my mind I was making the video for fellow parents and educators. I’ve been utterly amazed by how many teenagers and young adults in their twenties left comments–though duh, this is TikTok’s primary audience. There have been two common themes. One, young people who are relieved that, yes, someone is finally talking about what they’ve been feeling. And two, young people who have never seen their lives in this context and are frustrated, sad, angry about it.
Some of the comments themselves have thousands of likes.
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“This makes so much sense to me as a 28 year old. My whole life was heavily academically driven and I was the oldest. I think I didn’t really get to be a kid, and it has absolutely affected the way I function as an adult now. In 2020, many of us reverted back to old interests and hobbies. The new term “kidult” has come out about adults who buy nostalgic things, many arguing that it’s to recoup that childhood loss.”
“‘Go outside.’ *goes outside* ‘Noo. It’s too dangerous, don’t go out there, you’ll get kidnapped.'”
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After watching the video, a friend reached out. Her son died by suicide at 17. She had concerns that my intro to the video left no nuance, no possibility that phones also might be part of why young people are struggling right now. I was grateful that she called me out, but felt terrible that she had to, terrible that in my attempt to make a “hook” that would make viewers keep watching, I’d made an inaccurate blanket statement. I also feel sad that my video made some young people feel even more hopeless about the lack of control they have in their lives. I made a couple of follow-up videos, offering an apology and more context, and some ideas for how young people might claim more autonomy in their lives.
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“It’s happening in college too. I’m spending more time cramming and doing busy work than I am problem solving or being creative.”
“Yes! Teachers have been grieving the loss of childhood for the last 10 years. There is so much structure!!!”
“Honestly I think this is why adults are sad too. We don’t get to be free and do what makes us happy.”
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I wrote an op-ed piece on this very subject last year, sent it around, couldn’t get it published. Frustrating, because I know this is an important topic and it’s not getting media coverage. Who knew that TikTok of all forums would provide reassurance that I’m on to something, that people care about it, that they’re looking for solutions–and might want to read a book about it.
My video hasn’t hit a quarter of a million–as I push publish here I’m at 223,700. Can you see me smirking? Those numbers only matter for my book proposal prospects. The comments are what I’m grateful for, and the comments on this video have moved me deeply. (Just like your comments here; they’ve kept me blogging all these years.) Young people, I hear you. Many of you are struggling and you need older folks like me to rally, to help bring back the freedoms that kids used to have. I’m working at it! I’m more motivated than ever to get my book out there and keep this conversation going.
parents, caregivers & educators chat
This edition’s question: What could schools learn from homeschoolers?
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this, whether or not you currently homeschool. Maybe your kids attend school now but were home during the early pandemic and you have insights.
You can answer in the comments of this post or by responding via email. I’ll share a few responses in the next post.
- I made another TikTok leading with the line: I would love to talk about why I wish public schools and homeschoolers were not so at odds with each other. It was interesting to see what came up in the comments and also in this video response from a teacher at a hybrid public school/homeschool program.
writers & book lovers unite
A few things I’ve enjoyed lately:
- Nina Schyuler’s newsletter, Stunning Sentences. This one’s for writers who like to go deep into sentences and geek out. I looooove her stuff. For me, her two books on writing sentences are like meeting a fellow geek at age thirteen and saying, wait, you like that too?!
- Stray by Stephanie Danler, a memoir about growing up with two addicted parents. I shared more on Instagram and in another TikTok.
- Starting my 7th (!) Passion Planner. Made a little video about it.
misc. good stuff
- Here’s a great recipe for making veggie stock from The First Mess. (Though unlike Laura, I do throw in frozen veggie scraps. I just toss them in with the water so they don’t mess with the caramelization.)
- I’ve started exercising with Dawnelle at Age Defy, both in live and recorded workouts. I found her on TikTok (surprise, surprise) and love how her workouts feel so good, especially as someone with slight scoliosis. She says her workouts are for “aging and injured bodies”–they can be modified or be quite challenging. The classes that use the mobility stick are my favorites.
- Also from you-know-where–I mentioned this in my last post–I’ve been learning how to shuffle dance by following @fox13erry’s videos. It’s so hard and so fun and maybe I lied to my kids about not making videos of myself dancing. Remember, I was a pom-pom girl like Joan Didion. 😜
If you know someone who might appreciate this post, please consider sharing. ❤️
As always, I love reading anything you have written here. I love that mobility stick tic toc — been using one at the gym where I strive to go three times a week (remember me telling you I was going to go? well, I have been good at it for the most part, just not going when I must drive a kid somewhere or have a dr appointment)…. You inspire us in ways you may not even realize.
And now I am getting distracted by tic toc and instagram once again — try to stay off them for weeks or months and then BAM! I am back.
Take care and You GO with whatever you are doing!
Hi CathyT! So it sounds like I’ve been both a good influence and a bad one! Sorry–tiktok really is tempting if you like to learn. There’s actually a lot of good stuff there.
I’m delighted that you’ve kept up your workout routine!
Hello there, Patricia!
I am glad you are still writing on a blog like this because it’s the medium that most appeals to me. My nervous system gets ramped up by watching/listening to videos of people talking, and I can much better absorb and process written words.
You asked the question, “What could schools learn from homeschoolers?” That’s such a simple sounding question on the surface, but attempting to answer it reveals the myriad ways to approach it. What type(s) of schools? What genre (for lack of a better word) of homeschoolers? Are you asking about teachers or administrators or students? Are you inquiring about the homeschooling parents’ or the homeschooled kids’ perspectives? My point of view is that of a parent who has been (and continues to be) involved in homeschooling and public-schooling two twice-exceptional, neurodivergent children, each with a unique constellation of psychological and physical atypicalities. The single theme that comes out of my experiences thus far – and they are far from over – is that “one size does not fit all.” I have always wanted something different than a “standard” education for my children, where transient standards are set by an amorphous committee of sorts and I have little to no influence in addressing my children’s individual needs. I believe that learning is a joyful lifelong endeavor to be cherished and autonomously and enthusiastically engaged in; contrary to a restrictive, time-bound experience that must be endured, often with coercive methods for enforced participation without sufficient consideration for – or application of – accommodations for individual needs and circumstances. Unfortunately, schools as entities do not have the resources or support, in funding or in attitude, to cultivate the kind of environment that I am privileged enough to provide and maintain for my children.
Dawn, you ask so many good questions! A little more background on my question: I’ve been thinking a lot about how many students and teachers are struggling right now. Many people in the system and outside of it understand that schools need to change, need to radically shift to keep up with a world in which young people can teach themselves so much. I loved being able to homeschool with my own family, but I understand that homeschooling is a privilege that many can’t or don’t want to choose. Most kids in this country attend schools; I want schools to thrive. So I want to connect with people who are making change in schools and I’d love to bring the experiences of homeschoolers into that conversation.
Your point that “one size does not fit all” is straightforward and so vital. Yes. In my mind, schools need to start accommodating individual needs and interests. It’s what homeschoolers thrive at! It’s not impossible–I’ve seen really cool things happening at the internship-based public high school where I volunteer. And precisely what’s working at that school, in my mind, is its ability to offer an education in which there’s space for different interests and abilities.
Thanks so much for taking the time to share your experience.
This question gives me the chance to share a personal connection of two families (yours and ours) and your homeschooling journey, our family’s life in schools, and our shared interest in talking about schools and what they offer in all forms. Yay! If only all schools could strive for what your family offered at home and with your homeschooling community and our children’s K-8 school, Arbor School of Arts and Sciences offered. Full disclaimer I was an educator, then Admissions Director with a fulfilling career there for 22 years. That said, the comments from your readers, reflected the philosophies of Arbor based on Intellect, Character, and Creativity. I have learned that philosophies do not make schools, yet people- families, children and educators- make schools whole. People are not fixed objects. Accepting common goals, and then knowing that agency and purpose are at the center of meaningful work—this reality ties together thoughtful days, be they as a homeschooling family or within the walls (or outside spaces) of schools.
For any educational modality I have learned families should know that students days are going to be spent not perfectly, but with goals, and ways to seek answers to big important questions. Students should be recognized for the ways they think and struggle. They should be allowed many paths to understanding how the world works from math facts to complex systems of human existence. Through many conversations Patricia and I marveled at, and seriously respected our families paths. How to spread these good practices? My opinion is through the education of future teachers. Give teachers the opportunity to experience a spectrum of educational experiences. Begin with knowing families and center knowledge about understanding all kinds of children. Give them a broad view that studies are vehicles for learning, not just ways to click off hours of a day. Yes, content, but content as a home for understanding why to write, read, quantify. And to end my tiny soapbox moment 😉 I would say that schools can learn much from homeschooling families. The follow up question is what ways/opportunities can bring them together?
Janet! I’m back from my writing conference and finally able to respond to this. It made me feel like we were sitting at one of our houses, drinking too much coffee and having one of our amped up conversations! One thing that’s been hard for me as former teacher and homeschooling parent is that many homeschooling parents have negative impressions of schools. And I get that, and understand that many families choose to homeschool after being let down or ill-served in some way by schools. Still, most kids in this country do attend schools–I want schools to work for them! I wish all kids could have school experiences like what Arbor offers. It’s a very special place.
I’ve always loved that you and I were able to talk about possibilities for both schools and homeschooling with an open respect for what the other was doing. Schools could learn a lot, I think, about individualizing education from homeschoolers, and I think homeschoolers could learn about resources and community-building from schools. Some of the coolest opportunities for kids are hybrid programs that offer a bit of both. I think bringing schools and homeschoolers together can be tricky because there’s often such distrust between them. So maybe it has to start with people like us, people who already have respect for the “other way.” Traditional schools–I’m not talking about schools like Arbor–have so much growing to do to meet the needs of today’s students and our rapidly changing world. We need to hear from voices of people who have done things differently so we can make something new and relevant.