OMG! The feeling that flowed through me when this question was asked of my eldest child today.
I am very comfortable with our homeschooling decision. I believe that if anyone spends a little bit of time with us, they’ll see that our children are loved, intelligent and not at all neglected (physically or educationally). But what about the adult who crosses our path but once? Will they see that there is no need for alarm that my child is not in school? Will they decide that its best to just ‘make sure’ that everything is ok? Will they call someone or say something?
Silly questions, perhaps. We live in a state where homeschooling is just a right. Nothing to ask for, no approval to get. Homeschools are viewed as all other private schools in this state. There’s no requirement that we register, or keep track of content or time. Just the statement that we should keep to an attendance consistent with the public schools — 180 days a year.
So, even if someone called ‘somebody’ what would come of it? Questions? possibly. Self-doubt? maybe.
It was just so unexpected. The man was here to service the air conditioning system. It never occurred to me to do anything different. It’s not like I’m gonna hide my school-age child in another room. Or sit him down at the table with workbooks. Or really do anything that seemed more ‘schoolish.’
So, this man said to my eldest, who was outside testing stomach designs (more on that later), “Why aren’t you in school, or do you homeschool?” Nic said, “Yep, homeschool,” and then stayed right next to the man to see what he was doing. Nic’s always on the alert for people who might take apart ANYTHING so that he can see what the machine looks like inside. In the end, I think Nic had a good effect on the man.
He and I discussed homeschooling a little bit when he was back in the house. He said, “I’m not judging homeschooling, but I wonder if kids might be better off being socialized at school. I know that school was no fun for me, but it made me who I am. They need to take their hard knocks and find their resilience and perserverence.” As always, I really think that what people say about homeschooling says alot about who they are and how they see themselves. It was obvious to me after only a few moments that homeschooling had been on this man’s mind and we just happened to be a homeschooling family.
Most of the time when I talk with someone about homeschooling, there’s a conversation. I don’t try to promote homeschooling. Like many things, like becoming a parent, it has to be your own decision and it’s not for everyone. But even then, it’s a discussion. Today was more of a therapy session. I nodded and muttered and listened as this man sort of purged something from within himself. It had something to do with his own school experience. It had something to do with his own ADHD-ness, which he also talked about. It had something to do with a shadow that seemed to be over his face as he talked.
In the end, even within the space of only 10 minutes, I learned far more about him than I could have imagined. I don’t know that he learned much about us, or homeschooling. But he was here in our home. The five of us were just being ourselves. Nic and Theo were chatting away and curious, but not intrusive. Whingari was being a happy baby. Chris and I were working on various cleaning and organization projects.
Maybe he just needed to see a family that just lived fairly harmoniously. Maybe he’ll remember us as a homeschooling family that didn’t quite fit his assumptions — but in a good way.
Just before the technician arrived, I gave Nic a gallon milk jug that he’d asked for. Normally these go into recycling, but he had a project for this one.
After several minutes in his workshop — with much cutting and taping — he showed up at the door asking for water. The milk jug had been modified and now had some tubing in some areas and was looking rather sci-fi-ish. When I asked him why he needed water he said, “because it will take the place of stomach acid in my experiment.” Well, of course, why didn’t I guess. So off he went to the backyard to put ‘acid’ into his prototype stomach. As he’s constantly building robots, I’m sure this was the reason behind stomach designing and testing.
Chris is off work this week. This is the first extended vacation time he’s had off since we really started unschooling with a passion. It’s interesting in that previously we took ‘time off’ from school when Chris took vacation days. But now we don’t compartmentalize into learning vs. non-learning days. And since we didn’t say anything to Nic about having to learn, he didn’t realize he didn’t need to learn anymore on vacation days.
Good thing too, or else I wouldn’t now know how to make a robot stomach out of extra parts and recycling…