[Caveat to nonhomeschoolers – it’s just a joke, no offense meant! Anyone who’s been asked one too many questions about their lifestyle choices will understand.]
I met a nice mom at the park the other day. As we were talking, I noticed that a school-age girl came up to her. “No school today?” I asked. Imagine my surprise when I learned that she was homeschooled. The mom seemed so normal – I didn’t take her for one of those religious Libertarian nutjobs. I asked all the usual questions, and she answered politely enough, I suppose. As I drifted off to sleep that night, I must have been thinking about that mom and her kids when I started to dream . . .
I was sitting at the same park, watching a playground full of kids of all ages. I was alone – I’d dropped my kids at school and was taking a break from my daily constitutional, sitting on a bench with a bottle of water.
“Which ones are yours?” a friendly mom asked.
I replied, “Oh, mine are in school.”
“Oh, I see,” said the mom, with some hesitation in her voice. “So you . . . send your kids to school?”
“Yes,” I nodded, feeling a bit confused.
“Oh . . . well, more power to you! Boy, I could never do that myself. I just don’t have the right personality to send my kids away all day.”
I guess this was supposed to be some kind of compliment, but it didn’t sound like one.
Some other moms came over, and we chatted more about the nice weather. But eventually the talk came back to school. When another mom heard that I send my kids to school she said, “Oh, and what do you do for socialization?”
“Well . . .” I answered slowly, “I mean they are with other kids . . .”
A third mom interrupted: “But how do they learn to get along in the family? You know, build sibling relationships, spend time with aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents. What do you do to give them time with people who aren’t all their same age?”
I was starting to feel a bit defensive. I know the moms were just curious, but still . . .
The first mom piped up again. “And when do they get time to learn to enjoy their own company? You know, entertain themselves, pursue their own interests?”
“Well, there are evenings, weekends – the annual family reunion,” I said, getting a bit irritated. The moms looked at each other knowingly.
Hoping to bring the discussion to a close, I said, “It may not be for everybody, but it’s what works for our family.”
They looked unconvinced but nodded and began to look around the park. There was an awkward silence.
That pushy third mom started in again. “I would just worry that they aren’t learning. I mean, how do you really know if they’re learning what they need to?”
This seemed obvious enough: “There are tests, and the teachers give grades. A for excellent, B for good, C for average — we get report cards 4 times a year.”
“That’s all?” someone burst out, but before I could respond the first mom put in more gently, “I’m sure you hear a lot more when you talk to the teacher every day, though.”
Wow, these ladies were clueless! “The teacher has 23 students,” I said. “We’re lucky to get a wave at drop off or pick up!” Many moms’ mouths fell open. I recovered quickly. “But the conferences are always helpful – we get those, uh, twice a year, for uh, 20 minutes each . . .” my voice trailed off.
That awkward silence fell again, but I could tell they were going to start a new round of questions. I jumped up to start my walk again as they began shouting them out after me.
“What about family vacations?”
“What happens when your child is above or below grade level?”
“What about The Prom?!”
Just then my husband shook me awake. Phew!
“Honey, you OK?” He asked.
“Just a nightmare,” I said, blinking my eyes to confirm that I was back to reality. “Let’s go back to sleep.”