Emily goes to school, part 1

When I was nine or so, my best friend Emily (who had also been homeschooled until then) went to school. This is the story:

Emily was going to go to school. To the Waldorf school, which was definitely not as much school as public school. But still.

“Mom,” I said, “Maybe I can go to school too.” I was standing in the hall, talking through the bathroom door. Mom had just gotten out of the shower. I’d heard the water shut off.

There was a long pause and I could tell she’d stopped drying her hair. “Why do you want to do that?” Her tone was careful.

“Well, Christine says it won’t be that different from being at home,” I said. I wasn’t sure if Christine had actually said that, but she was Emily’s mom, and she was a big part of the reason I was homeschooled in the first place. Mom had met Christine when Emily and I were only two-years-old. Christine knew a lot about natural childbirth and breastfeeding and slings. When Emily and I were six and seven we carried our baby dolls around in miniature cloth slings. Hers was navy blue, dotted with bright red cherries.

Whatever Emily had, I wanted. Her stuff was always better. Even when it was dirty or broken. Her room was full of mixed up colors, everything ran together. There were rainbow silks spilling out of the dressup box. Her furniture was painted chipping blue and dotted with dried glue bubbles. . . . → Read More: Emily goes to school, part 1

Should homeschoolers have to take tests to get tax breaks?

This post is also on Huffpo now, at this link.

The New York Times online feature “Room for Debate” recently held a discussion about homeschoolers and taxes. Should homeschoolers get tax breaks?

Two of the respondents (Rob Reich and Chester Finn Jr) said yes, but only if they take regular standardized tests.

One of the problems with comparing school and everything that unschooling encompasses is that, well, they aren’t comparable. For a lot of unschoolers, not taking tests is part of the point. The main point. Learning shouldn’t be measured by generic standards. It’s individual, it’s differently-paced, it’s organic. That can all sound a little gooey. My husband, who went to conventional school and did extremely well on every test he ever took, thinks that tests are pretty great. They are useful for evaluating progress, they force kids to learn to perform under pressure, and they teach everyone…important things. OK, I forget the rest of his argument.

As I like to remind him in my brattier moments, both he and I graduated college summa cum laude. My GPA was a little higher.* I only took one test as a homeschooler, and it was the SAT. More than that, if I had been tested, randomly, during my childhood, there’s a good chance I would have appeared hopelessly, irredeemably behind on some subjects and almost improbably ahead on others.

I don’t think it’s important that everyone perform at a certain level at any point. I feel radical saying that. Lockstep learning . . . → Read More: Should homeschoolers have to take tests to get tax breaks?

Homeschool dating

I annoyed my family a lot as a thirteen-year-old. I was always talking about boys.

“You’re boy crazy,” said my dad. He thought it was funny.

But I was homeschooled, so I didn’t really know any boys. (That was a joke.)

I wrote long, detailed entries in my journal about the boys I know, rating and ranking them, assigning them numbers and symbols and giving them code names. My best friend and I played this game where we wrote down the names of the main boys in our lives and then a set of categories like “cute,” “funny,” “good smile,” and “potential to be a good father.” I’m not kidding, that was a real category. And then we rated the boys in each category on a scale of 1-10. When we ran out of real boys, we made them up.

Rafael was a tall, dark-skinned photographer who loved rollerblading. Patrick was blond and hilarious and liked comic books. There was also James and Swan and Jonathan.

(what? rollerblading is totally cool! source)

I had a crush on a boy for every group activity I participated in. Piano performance class. Hebrew school. Jewish homeschool group. Regular homeschool group. Summer camp. The science lectures at the Franklin Institute. Choir. Acting club.

They weren’t serious crushes. When one boy left the group, I’d promptly switch my attention to his friend, or the guy in the back with the glasses. It was fun to like someone.

But I was homeschooled. So I gave . . . → Read More: Homeschool dating


My mom thought she didn’t get to spend enough time with her siblings growing up. That was one of her big reasons for homeschooling us. (Read this post for another reason she homeschooled us.)

I got to spend a lot of time with my siblings. And honestly, it was great. Being with my brothers was one of the best parts of being homeschooled. I make plenty of carefully balanced arguments about the benefits and detriments of stuff like not having to do math all the time, sleeping late, focusing intensely on the arts, and wearing that skintight purple tee-shirt that said “Homeschoolers learn everywhere!” on it. But there can’t be any debate about this: being with my brothers all the time was awesome.

I have two younger brothers, Jake and Gabe. Jake is three years younger than me, and Gabe is six years younger than me. They are best friends with each other. They are also friends with just about everyone else, since they both turned out gregarious, cool, and unfairly good-looking. I am without a doubt the nerdy one. Which is why I am blogging, while they go to parties. Kidding. Sort of. OK, not at all.

(my brothers, doing the same thing)

My mom will hate that statement. She hated it when people said, “So Kate’s the artist?”

“We’re all artists,” she responded.

. . . → Read More: Siblings

The trouble with being exceptional

I read a post over at Life Without College that I identified with a lot. It was about epic adventures, and feeling like you need to have them all the time. I feel like that. I blame it on unschooling. And a mysterious genetic mutation that may eventually prove the existence of life on other planets.

As a kid, since I was already different (weird), I had to be weird for good reasons, rather than just for weird reasons. I wanted to be exceptional.

Being exceptional makes it OK to be different. You might be a little strange and not always know how to make small talk, but when you’re an international chess champion it sort of comes with the territory.

I was not an international chess champion. I couldn’t beat either one of my younger brothers (who went through a chess phase and played competitively on a homeschooled chess team). But I was in the paper for doing other stuff well. I was precocious.

Really, I was pretty normal for an unschooler. I was good at things because I had lots of time to get good at them. I competed at things because I liked to prove that I was good at them.

(Such a good game. But so very hard. source)

But when you grow up, it’s hard to stay exceptional. It’s easy to be better than other kids in your town at sketching portraits or playing scherzos. And then you meet the other kids who are . . . → Read More: The trouble with being exceptional


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