Friday, February 18, 2011

hey kid, why aren’t you in school?

When I find myself wondering ‘what have we done?’ what makes us think we can educate this kid? and where did I leave my coffee? A thousand beautiful images flash through my mind, images of little blonde Beach, naked, streaking past the window chasing butterflies through the yard in the middle of a school day.    

But since I understand what isn’t better than what is I remember this: her tiny pink cheeks and brown eyes wedged between the slats and her fists clenched like a prisoner on the black bars of the kindergarten play yard fence.
Yep, a little prisoner in a school uniform; the kid who never let me pick her clothes, whose first words after ‘mom’ and ‘dad’ were ‘by myself’.  The kid who at 5 can scale the highest rock wall at the climbing gym, swim the length of the community pool in all strokes, who can hike unassisted any mountain trail I can. 

The kid who when some unsuspecting parent on the playground innocently says encouragingly to their child “look at that sweet little girl she’s not scared she is doing it” will evoke yelps of “oh don’t let your kid do what she’s doing it will get your kid killed!” from those parents who know that Beach is really an 84 year old woman housed in a young body of a super star athlete with nine lives!  

So, it is that kid, Beach the Brave, sentenced to the baby playground for her ‘own safety’ that screams institutionalized mayhem at my soul.  The devil on my shoulder is an NPR program about a father, who was a movie critic, whose son dropped out of high school and was home schooled by watching old movies together, heaven in my heartSee film home schooling.         

In defense of NPR & the devil, & my sick idea of heaven, none of SCHOOL was making sense, not really.  The standing in line, the waiting to stand in line, the practicing standing in line, followed by practicing your lunch number to stand in the lunch line, hand washing in the hand washing line, testing in the test talking line, and lining up to line up.      

Don’t worry academics matter to me.  I am a scientist. And Vocabulary lessons were the straw that broke the camel’s back.  Three months in to the school year, I was standing in the doorway waiting for the lunch bell to ring to walk Beach home from school.  She was the only ½ kindergarten out of 60+ kids.  I watched the teacher hold up a photo card of a typewriter, then of a ‘corded’ telephone.  The kids not responding other than a few nose pickers twitching with jack pot green bugger joy as she named the objects for them.  Beach’s hand slowly moving up until officially raising of the hand occurred & begrudgingly called on, “I know that those are a typewriter & a telephone but couldn’t you also categorize them relicts?”  

The teacher sighs, this battle between her & Beach is now 2 ½ hours old, “I suppose they could, but Beach we are working on our vocabulary not grouping.” 

“Why? Grouping them together would make it more fun, the chairs with the table and rug and all the animal cards together.  Then we could write a story with them”. 

While my ADD mind is thinking you were showing my child baby flash cards when I could be teaching her chemistry and yeah, let’s write a story sounds fun, the straw drops, falls, plummets, “But Beach that is something kids do much later in school right now we need to all learn our words.” 

Beach corrects her, “But those aren’t words they are pictures and photographs.” 

The teacher smiles, “I know you can read already but none of the other kids can.  If I was holding up words no one else would be learning.” 

Beach in action her internal sense of justice kicking in, “Yeah-but I already know all this.”

And kicking the dead camel just incase I, Doubting Thomas, had any doubts about what I was going to have to do, “Then Beach, please just sit quietly so the other kids can learn them too.”


“Beach would it break your heart to not go to school anymore?” I asked on the 15 minute walk home past wild chickens, polygamist communes, and abandoned crumbling houses. 

“No mom,” she said gathering up pieces of fallen nature, a stick, a stone, a dead flower. “It would set my heart free.”

Her last day of state schooling was the Friday before her sixth birthday when her teacher wished her happy birthday and jokingly cautioned her not to lose all her money on her b-day trip to Las Vegas.  Beach’s response, “Don’t worry I won’t my dad taught me to count cards.”  The teacher smiled uncomfortably at me maybe realizing for the first time that I had allowed her, to protect my finagling of the ½ kindergarten experience, the faulty assumption that we were polygamist because I am an ‘involved’ mother in a skirt, Colby in his Quaker-ness sporting old style Van-Dike goatee, & we are white in this neighborhood.  “She’s good too.”  I offered.  Needless to say we didn’t return to kindergarten instead I sent a letter which the teacher said she had expected.    

So what have we done? The right thing for the right kid, who calls public school ‘do this do that school’ and thriving at home with me. 

What is home schooling like for me? Like being atheist in tap-shoes trying to tip-toe out of a church in the middle of a prayer.  I really don’t wish to offend others by my choice or view but sometimes just our existence is offensive; I’m used to this.  “What grade are you in?” joins the question “Are you a member?” in this very small innocent & presumptuous valley. 

What advice would you give a new home schooling parent? None, everything you need to know is already staring you in the face.   

Oh yeah, why do we home school?  Because there isn’t enough science (& for that matter sex) taught in school, because her education belongs to her & this is what she has chosen, because she is a self-directed learner who could be educated by a deaf & blind Howler Monkey, & because while I was writing this Beach dumped the play mobile box out lined up and dressed ten people, called me over to pick my two favorite and gave me their bio’s then asked, “Can we write a story about each of them?” Yes, of course we can.  Now where did I put my coffee? 


  1. Love this:)

    If someone had told me, before I had kids, that I would be a stay at home mom and a homeschooler I would have said "yea right". I almost gave up in the beginning after joining the main yahoo group here thinking "I have nothing in common with these people, i.e. all the religious stuff that apparently is the main motivator for homeschooling in this state. My thoughts were the exact opposite, instead of narrowing and closing off my child's world, I would be keeping them out of school in order to open up their world in every way possible. Meeting them where they are and helping them pursue their passions whatever they may be (who am I to judge).

    Who knew that homeschooling and being a stay at home mom could be considered a radical act.

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  3. I don’t know why home schooling invites assumptions. I have been asked if I am Evangelical Christian which I can assure you I am not. Like you Julie, I found the home school community unwelcoming (sorry guys)& not really the 'support' we were looking for, instead we move among the CNNS, The SLC Open Class Room,& Sego Lily communities.

  4. Misty,

    I've definitely found the people in the aforementioned communities to be very welcoming (even though we don't attend). The last two would definitely be at the top of my list if school ever is an option for us.