I’m having an epiphany. It’s about homeschooling.
You know how everyone always responds with the same line when they hear that you homeschool your kids? Oh, you homeschool? Wow, I could never do that!
Maybe it gets said to you, or maybe you’ve said it to other people. (Or maybe you just think it.) It’s okay if you do. Really, it is. We all get twinges of I could never do that when other people do things differently from us. (Or maybe it’s just a polite way of saying, You’re crazy! That’s always a good possibility.)
In any case, it’s been dawning on me that maybe people say I could never do that because they think homeschooling parents talk to their kids like school teachers talk to their students—patiently, clearly, kindly, and in complete sentences. (If you’re a homeschooling parent and you talk to your child that way, good for you. And you may go now.)
This weekend, I had a conversation about homeschooling. These homeschooling conversations pop up occasionally, and they almost always catch me off-guard. I usually botch them something fierce, because in my efforts to downplay the uniqueness of the homeschooling situation, I end up making it sound like some half-assed affair. Which, if you came to my house, you might think it is, but I promise you, it’s a half-assed affair I’ve put a lot of thought into!
Best I can figure, I do this downplaying thing because I’m super-sensitive to the undercurrent of comparison feelings that lap at the edges of any conversation between mamas who have made different lifestyle choices. No matter how respectfully and carefully and graciously the speakers speak (and listen), it’s like there’s an evil undertow just waiting to suck both struggling mamas down into the cold wet and kill them. (Oh, the drama!) So when I feel that I might be threatening someone just because I homeschool my kids, I get tense, and my tongue tangles.
However, this time around the questioner was a grandmother so we were not in parallel situations, thus greatly reducing the threat element. Plus, she was sincerely interested. So when she asked me what our schedule was like, I told her straight up—no embellishing, and no sweeping it under the rug, either.
And then she gave the little I don’t think I could’ve done that response, and the little epiphany I’ve been puzzling over popped into my noggin and I decided to try it out on her.
“You know, I think lots of people think homeschooling is beyond them because they’d have to act like a real teacher. All professional and mannerly, or something. But really, teaching your kids to do math is not much different from getting them to clean their rooms.”
She raised her eyebrows at me.
“It’s true! I yell, I threaten, I do all the stuff that teachers aren’t allowed to do. You ought-a see me give a reading lesson, oh boy!”
I stood up straighter, jabbed my finger at an imaginary child, and bellowed, “This is ridiculous! I am NOT in the mood to waste my time while you bounce around in your chair like a freakin’ kangaroo. SIT BACK DOWN RIGHT NOW OR I’LL PUT YOU ON TIMEOUT.”
“No, that is NOT an fff. You KNOW it is not an fff. I don’t want to HEAR you make that sound again, do you understand?”
“CONCENTRATE! Look at the PAGE, not my face! THE WORDS ARE NOT ON MY FACE!”
“So see,” I said, bringing my voice back to normal levels. “It doesn’t take any special skills to teach your kids. Just look at me.”
My friend wiped the tears from her eyes and took a couple deep, steadying breaths. “Yes,” she gasped. “I can see that.”
Please note: I am not suggesting that kids learn best when they are yelled at. (In fact, the opposite is true, or so I’ve been told.) I mostly try to not yell, and I succeed about 70 percent of the time. But I am an emoter, and when I get frustrated, everyone knows it.
My point is, I act the same whether I’m supervising a math lesson or checking a just-cleaned bathroom, correcting table manners or giving a piano lesson (my knitting needles poised to stab, I mean, knit), overseeing a laundry-folding party or drilling the multiplication tables.
And when you look at homeschooling thataway, well, anyone can do that. (Now wanting to, well, that’s an altogether different matter.)