Real Talk Q&A With A Homeschooling Mom

by Elizabeth Broadbent
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I homeschool my three kids. I always knew I was going to homeschool, partly because of my experience as a student — boredom, bullying — and partly because of my experience as a summer teacher. Our day mimicked the school day, and once, in total frustration, I counted up the getting ready and lining up and walking to one class and settling down and passing out papers and getting ready again and settling down again, over and over, and I realized I was only teaching for two hours out of six. Two hours of direct instruction in a six-hour school day. I was no way going to subject my kids to that.

But when I tell people that I homeschool, suddenly the asshole spills out of their mouths. The intrusive asshole. Because everyone has an opinion on my kids’ education, and everyone’s opinion is correct — except my own.

What grade are your kids in?

I don’t know.

What do you mean you don’t know? How can you not know what grade your kids are in?

Well, you just don’t keep count. You just figure out that your 7-year-old can read The BFG and Revolutionary War novels by Avi, and so you and your 7-year-old read The BFG and Revolutionary War novels by Avi. You know he gets basic addition facts, but he’s shaky on subtraction, except he can do a decent bit of multiplication. He can count coins and sort of tell time. He can also tell you that Lafayette was wounded in the Battle of the Brandywine and that Alexander Hamilton was there too. And that some Roman armies formed a testudo, which you can’t even define. So he’s in that grade, right there.

Aren’t you worried about socialization?

Yes, because schools are bastions of normal socialization where children are thrown into rooms with only children of the same age, with whom they are expected to conform socially and culturally. My kids spend time with children younger and older than they are. They take skating lessons. They go to what are called “co-ops,” which are basically once-a-week classes for homeschoolers. They have playdates and kayaking classes. Yes, some of their friends live farther away than I’d like, and we don’t see them as often as we should. But when we go see J (age 7) and A (age 11), A often plays with 7-year-old Blaise, while J hangs out with 5-year-old August. Three-year-old Sunny trails behind whomever he wants. No one tells him that he’s a baby and should go away. Instead, they do their best to include him. That’s socialization, dude. Not 30 kids yammering about fidget spinners and Pokémon.

Is this about religion? It must be about religion.

For many people, yes, it is. And I think it’s criminal to keep kids home so they don’t learn about the reality of evolution or recite the Bible all day. For us, however, while we are down with the Jesus, He doesn’t have anything to do with our reason for homeschooling. We homeschool catechism because it means we mostly weasel out of Catholic Sunday school. But that’s in addition to our regular stuff, not the raison d’être. And we are not alone here, secular homeschooling is a real thing, folks.

Don’t you realize you’re privileged?

Yes. I’m lucky to be able to homeschool my kids. Everyone doesn’t have that luxury. Doesn’t mean I have to adhere to traditional school standards for my kids.

Don’t you realize you’re dragging down public education by opting out of it instead of working to improve it?

These are my kids we’re talking about, asshole. My kids. I’m not sacrificing them on the altar of some liberal ideal just because I’d feel a showering rainbow of guilt if I didn’t. Sure, I work to improve public education, which I believe needs to be completely overhauled so children can learn to their full potential. I go to the rallies. I call senators to bitch about DeVos. No, I’m not running for school board, because I’m too busy educating my kids. Are you running for school board? Well, why the fuck not?

We also pay tax dollars that then get distributed among fewer kids. Math much?

Homeschooled kids are weird.

This isn’t a question, but I’ll take it. Yes, my 7-year-old knows every word to Hamilton and Princess Leia’s Stolen Death Star Plans. He also loves to play with his plastic Revolutionary War men. My 5-year-old would like to know if you’ve ever heard the gospel of Spinosaurus. He would also like to tell you that Alexander Hamilton was shot by Aaron Burr. But they both play Legos, and I relented on the TV thing, so they watch the same things their peers watch, all that NEXO Knights and Ninjago and Scooby-Doo. Wait, do other kids watch Scooby-Doo? I know they don’t watch Animaniacs or Rocko’s Modern Life or Aah! Real Monsters. Maybe my kids aren’t the same as other kids. They have never seen a fidget spinner, and they don’t know about Pokémon, or that Trolls movie, or those creature-things with the hats. But they love what they love, and they’re happy in those things. No inner censor tells them they’re weird or stupid. What more can we ask of life?

How can you think you’re qualified to teach?

Me, personally? I have most of a doctoral degree in composition and rhetoric, which is basically pedagogy, which means “teaching” for all of you out there in the cheap seats. I actually have a pedagogical philosophy. I’d explain it, but you’d get bored as fuck. Not as qualified as me? There are curricula and unit studies and online academies. So you can basically homeschool with minimal amount of guesswork and/or actual schooling on your part. Just FYI.

What do you do all day?

We do school, asshole. Like, we read part of the Aeneid because my son is doing Rome, and both kids read and do math, and Blaise does social studies and writes and science is generally communal. That’s two and a half hours. Then we have lunch and get dressed. That’s why you see my ass hauling three kids through Target at 1 p.m. or hitting up the splash pad at 2. Like I knew so long ago, school doesn’t take all that damn long. It leaves lots of room for other stuff, like frog hunting and skating lessons and painting then smearing paint all over my bathroom as they climb into the tub. We do school. Playing is learning for young kids, and critical for their growth and development, and I make sure they have plenty of time to express their individual creativity and interests. Plus, lots of time outside, for them and for me.

We do life, and we’re happy about that.