I am the mama for whom the drama was saved. It’s about day 17 of straight rain. I’ve been daydreaming about sending my children to public school so I’ll get six whole hours of quiet to myself and no worksheets to grade, and did I mention quiet? Homeschooling is like that old joke: America has SO MANY PROBLEMS. It’s the worst country in the world to live in, except all the others. Homeschooling is probably the worst. So I’m contemplating our schooling options.
Since I homeschool, I have the freedom to come and go when I like. I might get hung up in the omnipresent construction traffic, but if it slows us down, I don’t stress about accruing tardies at school. I would not be allowed to be late for public school. Since we don’t have to get on the yellow bus, I don’t stand around and wait for it in all weathers. I can run errands whenever I like, and come to think of it, I like ten in the morning on a weekday.
We have the freedom, in Virginia at least, to prioritize our own subjects and to learn for knowledge instead for a test. (Homeschooled kids do get tested yearly on math and reading, but there are options to choose from, and it’s not a big deal.) It’s SOL testing season in the schools around here – Standards of Learning, for those of you fortunate enough not to have them in your state – and they’re so fraught with political fallout and so totally useless as far as actual education happening. I don’t have to put my students back together emotionally after politically motivated testing, because all I have to do is successfully teach them math. In my experience, a budget and 70% off clearance are going to teach percentages way better than a fill-in-the-blank test. Hmmm…cabin fever, SOLs. Cabin fever, SOLs.
We have the freedom to dress however we like. One of my grown-up friends still feels rebellious wearing jeans because her Christian school demanded girls wear skirts all the time. Oh look, an issue my girls won’t have to deal with! We wear jeans. We wear sparkly tutus. We wear geeky t-shirts. We raid the dress-up box. We are the cool girls. Hardly anybody ostracizes us for our fashion choices, and I don’t mind if Meg does handwriting practice in the red martial arts costume which used to belong to her daddy, so we’re all happy.
We have the freedom to read for fun. Meg can read just fine and doesn’t need perpetual phonics. She doesn’t need to read a certain number of minutes per day to check off a box. She already…reads. If she were in a class, she would have to travel at the pace of her classmates, and she would probably cause chaos and destruction out of sheer boredom. As it is, I can let her run far ahead out of love of reading.
I have the freedom to teach the science Meg is ready to learn. Meg does have a science workbook, but she also wonders why flowers wilt. I was standing there in the store trying to type my debit PIN while explaining how cells in the stems have water vacuoles, and that when the vacuoles lose their water and get empty, they go limp like an empty balloon and can’t hold the stem up anymore. The cashier looked at us in amazement and said, “I just learned about that and I’m in college!” Meg has an aptitude for words, so maybe you won’t use “vacuole” when explaining wilty flowers to your kindergartener, but then again maybe you will. I guarantee “vacuoles” are not part of any standard kindergarten curriculum anywhere, and if they are, we need to have a chat.
I have the freedom to start things in May. I don’t have to wait till next August to begin Latin. There comes a time in the semester – you may be familiar with it – when everyone wilts like a flower with empty water vacuoles and everyone just wants to go outside already, but it’s been raining for 17 days. Your choices are either to “kill time” for the next three weeks, as a public school friend of mine matter-of-factly explained, or to start something new to wake up the brain cells. I honestly hadn’t intended to do Latin this year at all, but Meg and I both needed it.
All right, fine. I won’t send my girls to public school. Yet. If the price of freedom of education is staying home to get it, that’s probably worth it. We have things to do, and anyway, summer is coming.
 Maybe I should tell you how I really feel about them.
Photo Credit: First image graphic design by Charity Klicka, all other images by Carolyn Bales.