Author of the New York Times Bestselling Memoir CARRY ON, WARRIOR
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Many of you have asked if I’ll continue homeschooling Chase in the fall.
In short: Hell No.
Let me explain.
Craig and I became curious about the public elementary school as soon as we arrived in our new town. Everywhere we went (ice cream parlor, farmers market, church…that’s about it) folks excitedly asked us if Chase would attend the neighborhood grade school. Their eyes lit up as they spoke of the school’s excellent teachers, notable awards, and special spirit. It seemed the elementary school was thought of as a local treasure. Chase and I decided to check it out.
We made an appointment, took a tour, and liked what we saw. There are small classes, loving teachers, an exciting atmosphere, a diverse student body…and as Chase noted…a cool playground and tator tots. We were both impressed. Not that it would have taken much to impress us, based on the school to which we were comparing it . . . The Melton Homeschool. Which, as it turns out, is certainly on the top ten list of Worst Schools Ever In the History Of the World.
The Homeschooling part of this Dropping Out / Dropping In experiment did not go as planned.
Here is how I envisioned our Homeschool Experience:
The kids and I would wake at eight-ish, kiss each other good morning, and mosey downstairs for pancakes and organic, freshly squeezed orange juice. During breakfast, we would preview our Daily Schedule, which would be neatly recorded on our official Homeschooling Dry Erase Board. Then the children would scurry off to get dressed for the day while I did the dishes and prepared the materials for our first projects, whistling while I worked, obviously. In my vision I was showered, wearing a little white apron, and done up real pretty.
When the kids came back downstairs – shiny, matching, smiling and holding hands – I would set up Tish and Amma with the creative and brain-expanding art project I had prepared for them the night before. Then Chase and I would get to work on our investigative report about how to Save the Bay from pollution. After that, we would finish up his first poetry anthology and get it ready to send off to the publisher. Then I’d introduced calculus. While he started to work independently on his Mandela biography, the girls would present their artwork to me, articulately discussing their use of color and shadowing and such.
Then we would break for lunch, which the children would prepare using elements from each of the food groups. Immediately following lunch we would treasure hunt through the neighborhood…looking for specific plants and flowers, labeling their parts and then hand delivering to them to elderly neighbors. Then we would write up a review of our day, highlighting new discoveries and inquiries and plans for the next day, and the kids would wait excitedly at the front door together, shaking with the anticipation of reporting our educational adventures to Craig. I would retreat to the powder room to freshen up and then quickly retrieve Craig’s robe and pipe and scotch. I don’t really know what to say about that last part. We’ve been watching a lot of Mad Men.
**Please note that none of this is an exaggeration. This is really what I thought would happen. My hopefulness is what makes my life extremely exciting and also, consistently disappointing. It’s like what Homer Simpson said about alcohol: “Hope: the cause of – and solution to – all of life’s problems.” **
Kay. Real Life Version:
Chase would actually stumble downstairs at nine thirtyish. By then, the girls and I had been up for approximately one million hours. I’d already refereed thirty fights, cleaned up six broken glasses, watched nine cartoons, changed twelve diapers, and cried while whimpering I just can’t do this anymore three times. And so it would be high time to take a long break for breakfast. However, I don’t know how to make pancakes. And I don’t have an apron. Also I always forget to shower. Which made those parts of my vision impossible. So we’d just have some cereal and then rest for a quick six hours.
We’d end up starting homeschooling around two o’clock. Only I wouldn’t have prepared any schedule or art projects for the girls the night before because of those damn Kardashians and Audrina and Justin. So I’d throw some play-doh at the girls and then turn to Chase and ask him what he thought he should learn that day. And he’d always look at me blankly and say something like, I don’t know. Maybe math or something? But that wasn’t very specific. So much for child-led learning. By then Tish would be screaming because Amma was eating all the pink play-doh and I would have tell Amma to stop please, that play-doh is not organic. But then with nothing else to eat, she’d bite Tish instead. More screaming.
So I’d stare at my girls and wish really hard that I could send them to the principal’s office, or call their parents to suggest therapy or at least some parenting classes, or better yet, suspend them from school indefinitely. But there were obvious problems with each of those solutions. So instead I’d just tell Amma to go ahead and eat the play-doh after all. And Tish would scream that it wasn’t fair that Amma got to eat play-doh when she couldn’t. So I’d give Tish the green play-doh to feast upon. Then I’d finally turn back to Chase, but he’d have escaped off to the corner to read, wisely deciding that it might be his only chance to learn something. And I’d be grateful, because it had been a very long six minutes of homeschooling and I was completely exhausted again.
And as if these circumstances weren’t difficult enough . . . all of a sudden, through absolutely no fault of my own, we would accidentally go to the beach every day. Right in the middle of Homeschool Time. We would call it P.E. But after three hours of PE in the bay, I would start feeling guilty and make Chase answer some multiplication problems in the sand. And then every half hour or so, I’d think of a smart fact I knew, and I’d yell it to him while he was boogie –boarding. Like…for example, I’d sit up real quick from sun bathing and yell…Hey Chase, so there’s this TOWER in PISA and it LEANS. And he’d yell back, COOL MOM. Where’s Pisa? And I’d yell back, Ummm….. I can’t hear you. And then I’d lay back down, pleased with myself. How many teachers can weave Architecture lessons so seamlessly into Physical Education?
Somewhere along the way, Bubba and Tisha started noticing that each time they stopped by during our “school day,” we were asleep, at the beach, or flossing play-doh out of our teeth. So Bubba planned a research unit for Chase about the local economy. He took Chase to interview a local boat builder, fisherman, and farmer. The two of them created the questions together, went for the interviews, and Chase wrote up reports. In this report, he was working on transition sentences, which you’ll note at the end of paragraph two.
The end result of this research unit was that Chase gained some new friends and knowledge about how Small Town USA operates. Thanks to Bubba, Chase has learned some valuable lessons during our Homeschooling Time, in addition to this one: a human being can eat pounds of play-doh and survive.
And I’ve learned something too, which is this: one can consider herself a decent teacher, and still totally blow at homeschooling. It’s hard. And some hard things I just don’t want to do. God bless you ladies who do it. Truly and really, I am awed. And also done. Quite done.
So excited to see that yellow bus. C’moooooooon Sweet Yellow Bus.
I love you, public school system. Always have, always will. Forever and ever and ever.