This past January, Em started in a great program offered here in Historic Northeast Kansas City, Harmony Project. It is a program designed for inner-city at-risk youth and is free. Free as in…
Free music instruction
Free training in vocals and choir
Free instruments, including the use of a child-size cello this fall
And free is very, very nice. Each Tuesday and Thursday afternoon, from 4-5:30 and on Saturdays from 10am – noon, Em learns how to read music, how to sing in a choir, and more.
Despite Em not being an at-risk youth or within their income requirements, she was welcomed by the organizers of this program and they seem to truly like her.
There is one drawback…
The other day she finally came to us and told us she is having trouble with some of the other children. They found out she is homeschooled and have told her that she…
- Has to go to school
- Isn’t learning if she is not in school
They have also begun to tease her…”You don’t know anything, you don’t go to school.” And on and on.
She came to her dad first, and he told me, so I talked with her today.
I tried to make her understand why these kids would say these things. All she wants is for them to be her friends and she is sad that they are acting like this. I explained that, when a child is surrounded by age-mates, when they are told each day to do a certain number of things without deviation, when they are treated the same, expected to do, learn and regurgitate the same things…this is conformity. They learn conformity.
And they learn to praise conformity in others.
“If your nose was purple, that’s all they would see or want to talk about. That purple nose of yours.” I explained to her. “If you had six fingers on one hand, that would be all they would talk about. Because that would make you different from them. And in their world, different is not good, different is BAD.”
I didn’t know how to advise her. How could I help her resolve this? Was there any resolution to be had?
I gave her some suggestions. And I have no idea if they would work. Afterwards we read about Emperor Justinian and his wife the Empress Theodora. “Before they start in, tell them about the Emperor Justinian and his wife, the Empress Theodora,” I said, “Make sure they know it is history – a history they will probably never learn in public school because too much time is spent on reviewing, without end, the same basic histories instead of some of the more interesting pieces of it. And if they don’t believe you, I will be there to pick you up and you can ask me to tell them the story and I will.”
She smiled then. She knows she is learning, that she is growing each day and practicing/retaining more and more.
This was never more evident than in our trip to the Overland Park Arboretum yesterday for a KC-CIRCLE class.
As we walked through the grounds with the docent, Em talked confidently, pointing out different plants that she knew and impressing our guide. Herbs, knowing obscure facts like that lamb’s ear (the larger varieties) were used for toilet paper by native Americans, or that dandelions have medicinal qualities, and much more.
There is conformity…
And then there is letting the world be your teacher…
I’m happy we have chosen the latter.