Benny has a rich, full life for a five-year old. He hangs out in bars. He attends grown-up movies like Juno with his parents (kid flicks like Finding Nemo scare him silly). And then there’s that way cool play group in Brooklyn. While other kids are off at kindergarten, Benny plays in the mud with his buddies. “His two friends are completely naked. Benny has on his underpants and a pair of socks,” author Joanne Rendell relates approvingly. ”The whole scene could be a performance art piece or perhaps an excerpt from a very twisted movie about child killers.”
Rendell is describing her decision to ”un-kindergarten,” a word she says she made up. “Decision,” in this instance, is a word I made up. Indeed, judging by her piece on babble.com Rendell doesn’t seem to expend much decision-making energy on things like routines, schedules and ”the whole school thing.”
Un-kindergarten for us means Benny can sleep late so I can write. It means we don’t have to worry about bedtimes and can go out on the town with friends any night of the week. We can go to Europe and visit my family when the flights are cheap. Un-kindergarten also means we can pick and choose how we spend our days and who we spend them with. Benny can go to free classes at the Metropolitan Museum in the week when it’s less crowded. He can read a book on sharks when he feels like it. He can experiment with bungee cords while eating his breakfast at noon.
Commenters on babble.com aren’t having it. But they’re letting Rendell have it–with both barrels. Says one, “I’ll coin a new tern to go with hers: un-parenting. When you really, you know, can’t be bothered, because you’re got bars to hit and a vapid chicklit novel to write and friends in Europe to visit. Let the kid play in mud and pat yourself on the back for what a fabulous job you’re doing because he can always, you know, read a book about sharks or something to get himself educated.”