Sunday, January 2, 2011

In a - VERY Large - Nutshell

“Oh, so you only work part-time?”

Subsequently, I feel the need to say, “Well, I homeschool,” as if by working part-time I am somehow not pulling my weight in society. This answer, in turn, opens up a whole new can of worms…

“You homeschool?” then, accompanied by the pinched, puzzled look and the painful wail, “Why?”

Depending on the situation I usually pick what I think to be a concise, relevant answer that will not only end the conversation, but take less than the twelve seconds or so the inquirer is willing to listen before they begin to write me off as some sort of religious freak, or masochist, or anti-establishment beatnik. (Note that as I write this, I went from thirty seconds, down to eighteen and settled on twelve; although I am being optimistic I believe)

It’s not that I am bitter, but I know the drill…

“Oh, really. How exactly does one go about that?” or “Now, what sort of degree do you need for that?” or the brutally forward, “Is that legal?” To which I am dying to reply, “Nope, my children and I are wanted in six states. Shh, don’t tell.”

Then, reconsidering their approach, they usually try to wrap things up with, “Oh you must be a saint. I would never have the patience to do that.” To this comment, I’d like to answer, “Well, I hear those other children I practiced on healed pretty well and are coming along nicely.” (I hate face-to-face, one-on-one attention, and I have a vindictive streak)

In all fairness, it’s a good question, and I have spent some time answering it with a few truly interested people. The problem is, it is an answer that is ever evolving.

For instance, I began sixteen years ago – Steven had spent a frightful year in Kindergarten. Notes about his behavior took up daily residence in his book bag, night work made it almost impossible to get more than three hours of sleep most days, and notices were going out with final report cards about the next tuition increase. My self-esteem was at an all-time low, as I wrestled daily with doubts about my parenting skills and my finances; one more reference to ADD and current medications that were “proving to work well in cases like his,” and I thought I would lose it. A neighbor suggested homeschooling “temporarily” and the rest, as they say, is history.

By the time Christine was born, I had fallen deeply in love with the flexibility homechooling offered. You can’t really appreciate that until you walk into a pediatrician’s office during cold and flu season and realize there’s no wait, and your child is only there for a regular check-up! (Kinda hard to pick up the measles from a school water fountain when you’re sitting at your kitchen table having fresh squeezed OJ you and your kids just made for science class!) Plus, I had fallen in love with my children! We were the three musketeers – movies for history, science classes at the park on beautiful days, karate for gym – curriculum was limited only by imagination. We spent almost an entire year travelling – calculating mileage, sales tax, and elevation for our math lessons.

In Steven’s case, the fun was great, but the personal touch was invaluable. Sitting on my lap while we read America’s story or discussed how words covered pages like paint in pictures, kept him focused and involved in the reading process – a personal touch like that just can’t be had, even in the best of schools. His lessons could be customized to fit his needs and complement his strengths. We played games to reinforce concepts which gave him trouble, and skipped items whose simplicity bored him.

Best of all for Mom, no aggravation! Really. Sure teaching requires patience, but no more patience than being a mom demands. We teach our children how to tie shoes, dress, or ride a bicycle – we can’t teach “if Johnny has 4 apples, and he gives you 2, how many apples does he have left?” I never had to deal with a teacher who gave unreasonable amounts of homework or didn’t understand that family comes before irrational numbers. I didn’t have to worry about bullying on a grand scale, or peer pressure by the minute. Substandard schools or union employees more worried about their pensions than their students were never an issue for me.

Lastly, somewhere along the line I discovered or developed an obligation. I’m not one of those homeschooling moms who started out feeling as if this was my responsibility. Traditional schools had never done my friends or I any wrong. Besides, what could I possibly give my children that “professionals” could not?

Well, I wish the answer could be boiled down into something concise and relevant to those who ask, but – and this is if you’re still with me – it is so much more than that.
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