Friday, September 20, 2013

"Why aren't you in school?" - Thoughts on Homeschooling After Five Weeks

I am definitely a girl of absolutes. Words like "never" and "always" and "everyone says" frequently escape my lips much to the entertainment and chagrin of my husband. One would think, after 30+ years of having my absolutes thrown back at me and proven wrong, I would give the habit a rest.

I'm fairly certain that, even in this little space, I have made declarations along the lines of "I'll never homeschool." or "Homeschooling is not for me." or "If I ever homeschool my kids will be dumb because I won't actually teach them."  The thing is, these things are all true, until they aren't, and usually that moment when they aren't is five seconds after I have declared, yet again, the impossibility of the thing.

Take, for instance, oh, homeschooling. School uniforms were purchased, carpools arranged, teachers met with, plans made. The thing is, the closer we got to the start of school, the more generally uncomfortable I was with our plans for Lily. It wasn't until the moment I told Aaron about my unease and he casually said, "You are fully capable of homeschooling her you know," that the heavens opened up and trumpets blared and I went ahhhhhhhaaaaa, like one does when the heavens opens and trumpets blare. Suddenly, the notion of homeschooling wasn't as freakish as it was .5 second before.

I swear. That is exactly how it happened. Ok, fine, we were at Disneyland and a parade may have been starting, but the timing was nothing short of heaven sent, so there.

Now, we are five weeks in, so naturally that makes me an expert. I even saw a friend at a coffee shop and declared "Homeschooling is so great, everyone should HAVE to do it for at least a year to get perspective on the school system!" You know, because I know sooooo much about the school system and the joys of homeschooling after a matter of weeks. I immediately hated myself for saying it and wanted to suck all those stupid words back in. When one speaks in absolutes very often, one also gets used to wishing one had a mouth vacuum. Or a muzzle. (I could think before I speak, but do you know how often things sound better in my head than out loud? Pretty. Darn. Often.)

In the last five weeks I have learned a thing or two about this homeschooling thing, so naturally I feel compelled to share. (I feel a new blog series coming on, who's with me?)

As a newly minted homeschooling mom I have discovered that you will spend more time defending your choice to homeschool to complete strangers, that you ever thought possible. Seriously. I actually thought it would be a non-issue considering so many people in our city homeschool, our area has lots of year-round schools (where kids get breaks at odd times) and, dang, people, kids sometimes need mental health days (or actual health days) off of school, too, so there are, like, literally, three reasons why a kid would be out and about during school hours.

I have decided that asking a kid "Why aren't you in school?" is as bad as asking a woman how far along she is when she's just fat. I now get why some moms are militant/defensive/aggressive about their choice to homeschool. They have had to spend far too much time engaging in ridiculous conversations with strangers who demand that you justify your choices to them in an aisle at the craft store (where, incidentally, you are buying supplies for your homeschool history project).

Real conversation:

"Your girls are sooo cute!"

"Aww thanks!"

"Wait. Today is Wednesday. Why aren't you in school, cute little girls?"

The homeschooled daughter is giving me "the look" and walks away. She now has a "look" for these situations. Because in five weeks of homeschooling some version of this conversation has come up often enough to warrant one.

"Oh, the little one is sick today and the older one I homeschool."

Pause while nice lady's eyes roll back into her head and her mouth drops open and a barrage of questions spew out of her mouth. Maybe we are kindred spirits and can invent a word vomit vacuum together.

"You homeschool? How does she make friends? How is she socialized? Are you a teacher? You aren't? How do you teach her? Why do you think you can teach her? How will she be smart? Oh, do you go to church? She probably gets socialized at church, huh?"

Pause again while I decide if I am going to laugh, cry, or yell at the lady. For the record I laughed. But then, I felt compelled to actually answer her questions, to calm this poor lady who obviously loves and cares for the well being of my family so much that she deserves to have all her concerns about our schooling choices explained so she can sleep better at night.

"Well, I homeschool her because that was the best choice for her. We can take the time we need on the subjects she needs help with and move on when she needs to move on. She's in second grade and I have access to a calculator, so the fact that I don't know my times tables, either, is neither here nor there. We have an advisor who checks her progress often and she still goes to some classes a couple days a week, so she has plenty of friends. And we are only doing it for a year."

The lady is thrilled for us and even says something along the lines of maybe she should homeschool "Anthony" so he can actually get good grades in Algebra. My cute girls smile at her and we walk away, confident that we have informed another caring citizen about our personal choices and enabled her to sleep well at night.

Admittedly, not every conversation is quite as in depth as this one, usually it's a checker or guy in line at Starbucks making conversation. America, can I please challenge you to find better small talk questions? The weather is always a good standby, never lets you down, that one. A friend of mine said I should tell people she only has a week to live and we thought it would be silly to send her to school under the very sad circumstances.

I am considering using that.

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