What I’m not saying

Sometimes when I write about homeschooling, people think what I’m saying is “School is terrible in every way. All school buildings should be burned down!”

Sometimes they think I’m saying, “Homeschoolers will take over the world! We are the chosen ones!”

Sometimes it comes across as, “Every moment of my life as a homeschooler has been perfect.”

(I don’t want this to happen to all of them. Even though they’re creepy. Source.)

I am not saying any of these things. I don’t want to burn anything down. Even having lit decorative candles around the house makes me kind of nervous. Which is unfortunate, because I have somehow ended up with a lot of decorative candles.

I think it’s like breastfeeding, a little. You know, when a woman is breastfeeding, people often think it’s this big political statement. And there are all these articles in which women are yelling at other women, saying stuff about how all women who breastfeed are out-of-control hippie liberal harpies, or all women who formula feed are ignorant, tragic lost souls. So that after a while, a woman can’t just give her baby a bottle or a nipple without it being this giant declaration of allegiance to one of two bristling, battle-ready camps.

In other words, the action is already political, whether or not the individual’s motivations are.

“I wanted you to be able to spend time with your brothers,” my mother told me recently, explaining why she made the decision to homeschool in the first place. “I didn’t get to see my siblings enough. I missed out on something important.”

The funny thing is, I’d never really known that. I made up explanations to recite to people when they asked the gaping, constant question, “But why?” My favorite was this: “After studying child psychology extensively, my mother realized that she didn’t want to expose her children to the things that were hurting so many kids: peer pressure and academic testing. She wanted us to be able to learn at our own paces, and rather than learning horizontally, from people exactly the same age as us, she wanted us to be able to have a lot of different educational experiences, with many different mentors and teachers.” I liked to say this because people always assumed that being homeschooled meant spending a lot of time in your room, with textbooks. Saying, “many different mentors” made people think. Or at least confused them. And it wasn’t totally untrue. That was part of it, too.

“I wanted to be with you,” said Mom. “I liked being with you, and I didn’t want to stop.”

So there it is. The reason at the heart of this radical educational decision that shaped my entire life.

And of course I have plenty of thoughts about the school system. And of course they aren’t all positive. A lot of them aren’t. But then, plenty of people seem to agree with me, even when they didn’t grow up without school. Every American President tries his hand at some kind of education reform. D.C. public schools’ chancellors appear, ephemeral, and vanish again—like moths frantically pumping around a flame before finally hurling themselves into it. Clearly, there’s a lot of work to do. And clearly, we’re not sure how to do it.

But I’m not here to say that homeschooling is the perfect solution. There is no perfect solution. There are only suggestions—some better than others.

When I talk about homeschooling, I’m talking about my personal story. My life. And how this story fits into a larger tale about education and America. It’s a relevant story, and not just because I’m—well– me and therefore think everything about my life is relevant. It’s relevant because more people are choosing to homeschool for secular reasons, and there aren’t too many examples of what that might look like, at the end of the process. When college pops up. And after college, when the rest of your life explodes on you, out of nowhere.

It’s really important to emphasize that homeschooling is never the diametric opposite of going to school. It’s too variable. People and families are too different. But the experience of not going to school in a world where the huge majority of people have either gone or are going is one that can’t help but make us at least a little alike. And the experience of feeling weird, unusual, and misunderstood is universally human. So when I talk about that, I’m pretty sure everyone can understand.

So there you have it. I’m not talking about founding a back-to-the-earth movement in the Amazonian basin. I grew up in central Jersey. I am talking about being a pioneer, though (Pioneer Woman, you might want to get in on this blog). I’m not talking about how I’m perfect, I’m just talking about how I am. I’m not talking about why things should be a certain way, I’m just talking about how things are already complicated, and the life already has more options than people tend to expect. And some of the most basic things in our society are things that some of us have done without, which is definitely worth a conversation.

(Or we could all go here. source)

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Wild fun list: Potluck. Invite like three people over, and ask them each to bring their favorite food. I don’t like having more than three or four people over at a time. I start to feel like I’m in a big group, and my homeschooler instincts kick in. That was a joke. Sort of.

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