sexy party for a very homeschooled idea

First of all, please check out my piece over on The Forward! It’s about being a Jewish homeschooler. And, unrelatedly, I also have a piece on A Practical Wedding, which I’m pretty proud of.

So last night I went to this very chic invitation-only New York book party at an agent’s penthouse apartment in the East Village. The kitchen cabinets were lacquered and cherry red, and there didn’t seem to be much furniture, which gave me the sense that it might be uncool to have furniture.

All of the women were wearing stilettos and dramatic tops that bared significant amounts of skin. They were all very thin. Sort of like the women would be in a stereotype of a fashionable NYC book party.

I wasn’t personally invited, but my friend Daniel, who I met through this blog, was, and he brought me along. I wore a little black dress (of course?) with a big brown belt and my brown leather, clunky high-heeled boots, which I’d thought were very sexy up until seeing the other women’s shoes. I had a purple shawl thing over the little black dress, because I am weirdly, persistently too modest for this city, and I was just about the most conservatively dressed woman in the room, except for a much older woman, with elegant white hair, who came in on her husband’s arm. Even she was wearing sexy heels.

We were all there to celebrate the launch of a book called Little Bets, by Peter Sims.

The book is about, roughly, how people have to let themselves make mistakes in order to succeed. How all of these famous people who Peter has interviewed (the people behind Pixar, Chris Rock, Jeff Bezos, the guy who started Starbucks, etc) kept trying, and trying, much like Thomas Edison, until they figured out something that worked.

Continue reading sexy party for a very homeschooled idea

I’m not for it, I am it

In a recent comment on this blog, someone said that at first, they couldn’t tell if I was for homeschooling or not.

I’m not for homeschooling. I am it. I wrote a column to this effect in Home Education Magazine. It’s still one of my favorite things I’ve thought of. That sounded sort of egotistical. I’m sorry.

I love talking with education reformers and passionate homeschooling trailblazers and people who are changing the world. I like watching education documentaries and reading about education in the paper. But I am not an education reformer. I am not choosing education as my career.

Thinking differently from most people about school is just part of my identity. How could I not? I grew up without school. My reality is different.

And not so different. I like some of the same exact trashy TV and junky pizza as plenty of people who went to school.

And yet fundamentally different.

Sometimes I’m a little annoyed by how I can’t see the same things as fine or normal or good as most people.

People are always saying things like, “Well, you deal with high school. That’s the point. It’s good to learn how to deal with shitty stuff.”

And I think, “Sounds bad.”

Continue reading I’m not for it, I am it

Homeschoolers are not always motivated every second of their lives

I wrote this guest post for Peter, over at The Unschooler Experiment. But I wanted to share it here as well:

Question: What happens when a grown homeschooler doesn’t feel self-motivated?

Answer: She feels really guilty instead.


When I’m defending homeschooling, or just plain talking about how great it is, I almost always cite self-motivation. Sometimes people make comments like, “I couldn’t have been homeschooled. I was too lazy.” And I go, “Ah, how wrong you are!” And then I deliver this expertly crafted little speech about how the bifurcation of the concepts of work and play creates boredom and laziness. I say things about how you don’t feel bored when you’re doing what you’re interested in, and you learn from everything anyway, and you don’t put things off when you are passionate about them. And unschooled kids are passionate about things because they have time to be. And because they can follow their interests. And because they aren’t taught that learning is lame and separate from the rest of living.

It’s kind of a long speech, actually. And it might not be that expertly crafted after all. I wrote a post about these ideas here.

Self-motivation and homeschooling go hand-in-hand. As a kid, I always had a project of my own design that I couldn’t wait to get back to work on. In between all of the other things I was doing, I was always writing a book or working on a series of paintings or writing a choral piece or directing a play. This is not bragging. This is what kids do when they have freedom.

Continue reading Homeschoolers are not always motivated every second of their lives

innocence. it’s a good thing.

This is a post I wrote for my other blog, Eat the Damn Cake, but I wrote it with both blogs in mind. I want my kids to be able to be innocent. Which is why I don’t want them to go to school. Here:

You know what I don’t like? The “real world.”

People sound so mean when they talk about it. Once, an ex-boyfriend who was still hurt yelled at me, “You don’t know anything about the real world!”

I thought of this:

(A street fight. That’s what it sounds like. source)

Or maybe it looks like this:

Whenever people say “the real world,” they mean that there’s another world, a fake one, that someone is trying to live in. And that is always bad.

But I especially dislike it when people talk this way about kids. “They need to learn about the real world.” When people say this about kids, they mean that they’re too sheltered, or too spoiled, or too safe, or too innocent.

Sometimes people defend things as awful as bullying by saying, “Well, it’ll teach them to deal with the real world.”

As though this place called the real world is full of cruel people, just waiting to torment you. What a terrible place! I don’t want to live there!

Click here to read the rest of this post at Eat the Damn Cake!

What does it mean to “act like a kid”?

I recently got interviewed by a reporter from PBS about homeschooling and socialization. She was kind of apologetic, introducing her questions.

“I’ve been talking to a bunch of homeschoolers,” she said. She’d started thinking that homeschooling was really cool.

Well, y’know, we’re a pretty great bunch.

Anyway, she asked me if I’d been unusually self-possessed and confident as a kid. I’ve been asked this in almost every interview I’ve done about homeschooling. It’s kind of an awkward question. I mean, should I be like, “Why, as a matter of fact, yes! I was also brilliant, strikingly lovely, and almost shockingly talented”?

Or should I be like, “I mean, not any more than any other kid…”?

Here’s the thing: I was very self-assured as a kid. I know, because I felt that way, and because grownups were always telling me, “You’re so mature!” And sometimes they confided in me about the divorce they were going through. Or how they felt about finding out their kid was gay.

But it’s been a long time since I thought I was innately special.

I used to think that, when I was fourteen or so, and really cocky, and sure both that every boy in the world was just waiting to fall in love with me and that I was incredibly smart. In retrospect, that might have come off as a little insufferable. A little.

(it was around this time that I went through a phase where I took many “artistic” blurred photos of myself)

Continue reading What does it mean to “act like a kid”?

Whose homeschooling is it, anyway?

My mom has really been pretty cool about me writing about my life online. Sometimes she makes a comment like, “One day you’ll have kids and they’ll grow up and complain about you on the internet. Then you’ll understand.” But mostly it’s fine.

I mean, let’s get real. That’s not going to happen. By the time my eventual kids grow up, it definitely won’t be called the internet.

And I try not to complain. Even though, honestly, sometimes I get the urge.

(I mean, really, who lets their daughter go around wearing silk scarves as an entire outfit? I’m kidding, that was a great outfit.)

One of the things that’s confusing about homeschooling is that it is personal and educational at the same time. This shouldn’t be confusing. It should, in my not-so-humble opinion, be way education obviously works. But because education and relationships, especially familial relationships, have been constructed as surprisingly separate concepts in this society, the thought of mixing the two can feel convoluted and weird.

Continue reading Whose homeschooling is it, anyway?

A Teacher Talks

This is a guest post by Kelli Karanovich. When Kelli told me that she used to teach school and is now deeply involved in the world of homeschooling, I was immediately interested in hearing her story. I mean, when I was growing up, people were constantly asking me if my mom had been a school teacher before she decided to be a homeschooling parent. My mom doesn’t even have a degree in education. I know. It’s a little shocking. But let’s hear what someone who does has to say about education, both inside and outside of school. This is Kelli:

I’ve worked in the public school system and the private school system as both a teacher and an adviser. I’ve worked in classrooms built of brick and mortar and in a 100% online environment. Today I’m self-employed as a homeschool consultant. My varied experience has provided me with several insights about education in America, from a teacher’s perspective, and I feel drawn to add these to the remarkable conversation taking place on Kate’s blog.

1. Public school is a great idea which rarely works as planned–A) because attendance is compulsory and B) because its driving principle of one-size-fits-all, standards-based learning will always leave some children behind.

2. There are some extraordinarily progressive teachers working within the public school system who manage to transform classrooms by meeting and then exuberantly transcending the limitations normally placed on this environment.  However, these teachers usually only hang around for 2-5 years.  After that, they leave to start private learning centers or to teach at the college level.  Many reasons are given to explain these changes, but the most compelling is that no one has the energy available to give so much to a typical public school classroom without severely jeopardizing their family life and personal health.

Continue reading A Teacher Talks

Letter to a reader (who suggests that homeschooling is not the real world)

Yesterday, a reader called jensketch left a comment on my latest post that I really want to respond to. Here’s the comment:

I didn’t know you wrote about this stuff – saw it tagged from your other recent post (which was a good one) but really – you sound a little defensive about being homeschooled where I don’t think you need to be.

My kids are all in public school where they learn to line up and raise their hand just like everyone else however, it’s far more difficult to resist the indoctrination than be clueless about it. It’s far more difficult to live through the social groupings than be secluded and shielded from it like someone who is homeschooled is. I regard public school another lesson in life. The real world. With its foibles and its difficulties and it’s, yes, social groupings. Learning to navigate them and still retain your own individuality is where the real challenge lies. It’s not easy.. but the worthwhile things rarely are.

It’s really hard to write about homeschooling without starting a competition. I’m totally guilty of doing this. It’s really hard not to, sometimes, because homeschooling always stands in obvious contrast with its alternative: school. Sometimes it seems like school and unschool are wrapped around each other like a yin and a yang. But that isn’t right.

Jen leans on several popular stereotypes about homeschooling to make her points:

1. School is the real world. Homeschooling is not.

2. Homeschooling is “easy,” which makes it less valuable than school, which is challenging

3. Homeschoolers are isolated (“shielded”)

These are some of my favorite myths about homeschooling, and I’m glad that Jen pointed them out on my blog, because she is expressing things that most people seem to think about homeschooling. She is posing questions that I still get asked with some regularity, when people find out that I didn’t go to school.

So, Jen, this is a response to your comment:

Continue reading Letter to a reader (who suggests that homeschooling is not the real world)

Things homeschoolers don’t know how to do

1. Line up

2. Raise their hands

3. Identify the “cool” kids

My mom was in the city with her friend yesterday, so the three of us were hanging out, and we started talking about lines, because we were walking by Grimaldi’s Pizza in Dumbo, Brooklyn, and there is ALWAYS a ridiculous line. People wait for three hours to get in and get some pizza. I wonder what that pizza tastes like. I’d probably wait that long for the best pizza in the world.

A few days before, my friend from Australia said that “we would never queue like the Americans.” I hadn’t known that Americans liked to queue. Would you look at that. Maybe it has something to do with our obsession with what other people like? We are always pretty concerned with popularity.

Anyway, my mom laughed and said she remembered going with a bunch of other homeschooling families to some event, possibly at a museum, where the guide told all the kids to line up. And all of the little homeschooled kids looked at each other and their parents and moved obligingly in several directions and couldn’t seem to arrange themselves into a line.

(we were good at this sort of thing, though!)

Continue reading Things homeschoolers don’t know how to do

Fighting with my mom

On Sunday, I went home for Father’s Day. (I’m still at that transitional phase of life where I have two homes. When does that end?) And Bear couldn’t come because he had to work. It was the first time in a long time that I’d gone home without him. It felt kind of nice, if I’m being perfectly honest. Not because it’s better without him, but because it felt like being a kid again. Unpartnered, with my family, sitting around the long wooden table like any other evening over the course of the last twelve or so years.

Within five minutes of sitting down at the long wooden table, I was fighting with Mom. It was a stupid, unnecessary fight. As most of them are. She was passionately warning me to be careful with my thinking, to hold my tongue. I was arguing vehemently for my right to speak honestly with my own family. MY OWN FAMILY. I MEAN, REALLY. As usual, my brother Gabe was laughing and refereeing gleefully, and Dad was alternating between serious interjections and a helpless smile at the absurdity of the exchange.  I was cracking up with Gabe and then getting offended by Mom, and Mom was dead, dead serious.

At one point she glared across the table at me and said coldly, “You don’t know anything.”

“Anything?” I said.

Gabe howled with laughter. “BURNED! You’re the dumbest kid she has, and that’s saying something! How’s it feel, MRS COLUMBIA?!” (He likes to point out the Ivy League bit of my education whenever I do something stupid or, apparently, am accused of being hopelessly ignorant.)

“Gabe…” warned Dad, smiling.

“OK,” Mom conceded, “I mean, you don’t know anything about this.”

Gabe is eighteen and a force of nature. He is dangerously quick-witted (much more so than I can capture in writing, because I’m not even close to as clever as him), and stubborn, and is always laughing at the world.

He left to pick Jake up from the train.

“Can I speak with you alone?” Mom asked me in the stiff, weary tone of one whose own authority has become a burden.

Continue reading Fighting with my mom


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