This is the time of year when all THOSE back to school posts start cropping up. You know the ones, the ones where the parents are gleeful, jumping around, almost hysterical with joy that their beloved offspring will now be carted off to industrialized education for 8-10 hours per day, leaving them free to live their lives? Those posts. And, as a proper homeschooling mom with my requisite three wild, un-civilized, and completely un-schooled children, I have to kind of hate those posts. What, you hate your own babies that much? You’re that uncomfortable in their company? But, you know, there is an up-side to those posts, albeit sort of a small one. The secret is this:
All those little darlings will now be off locked in their industrialized educational establishments, leaving the rest of the wide world open and uncluttered for me and my feral offspring to wander around and pillage as we wish.
I am not sure that the world is getting a better bargain this way. The world would be better off with lots more industrious wild children, starting small businesses and getting into mischief, learning things in the real world and becoming useful citizens long before the System has decided that they are allowed to do so. But, hey, I didn’t make the system.
We are decidedly out of place in the real world, and as August turns to September, people begin to Get Suspicious. At first, we may just be charter school people, starting a bit later than everyone else. They’re willing to cut us a little slack when we suddenly appear at all the local attractions, brand-new season passes in hand, looking a little shady in our ratty t-shirts and shorts combos. But past Labor Day, all bets are off– we are immediately on the watch list. People begin to Ask Questions.
The first one, as they dubiously eye my very robust pack of blonde sons, is “Are you all home sick today?” My sons, being of a sardonic turn of mind, just give them dubious looks in return. They may ask each other, with an excess of glee, whether or not their brother is sick, and if it’s just “in the head.” Sometimes, when the inevitable winter sniffles are in play, we can get a pass just on this question, as the 3 year old turns a green-boogered nose their way and they draw away in horror. It’s a terrific defense mechanism, if somewhat disgusting. I don’t let him do it on purpose, I’ve just never found the secret of staying ahead of a toddler’s runny nose. It always drips faster than any Kleenex can stem.
If initial countermeasures are ignored, the people may begin to notice other Disturbing Signs of Nonconformity. Wait, that kid with the blonde hair all the way down their back? Is that a . . . boy? It doesn’t look very girlish. I’ve never seen a girl in a Minecraft t-shirt with knees that skinned-up. It may be a boy. Wait, are boys allowed to have hair that long? Not in Texas, they’re not! Something is definitely wrong. And that muscular one, the one with the defiant glint in his eye, his attitude is not beaten-down in the least. He definitely has never had to stand in a line or ask permission to go to the bathroom. These are not children enrolled in school! I saw them here at the grocery store just the other day, hanging on the edge of the grocery cart and buying suspicious vegetables and herbs. They may even be hippies.
But, no, the mom isn’t much of a hippie. Too scary looking, tall, and with too much eyeliner. Some kind of Satanists, no doubt.
But we merrily go on our way, haunting the aisles of Target and Hobby Lobby, shuffling through Home Depot for supplies for yet another project, grocery shopping in an unending loop, making trips to the parks and zoo and restaurants and wherever else we find ourselves wandering. And talking, talking, talking the whole time. That’s the secret of learning– conversation. No, not just the fierce “You’re a (insert mild cuss word)” that you hear from the backseat when you’re driving and they don’t think you’re paying attention because Rage Against the Machine is playing too loudly. Real conversations, about the vegetables you’re buying, the meals we’ll be cooking, the history of the area, the machines and inventions we are passing, idle thoughts that have developed into pressing questions, and arguments about the virtues of video games. (Let’s be honest here, it’s 2017 and video gaming is king of all attractions. We limit it but it’s always THERE in their heads.)
This year, I am really looking forward to it. The baby is, well, not very much of a baby anymore. He’s 3, and filled with questions of his own, besides being the same physical size of your average kindergartner. He’s easier to transport, can get himself into his car seat, and can walk for longer stretches of time now. The other two are capable of doing many things for themselves, and can help out with many tasks, too.
As soon as the weather breaks . . . that’s my mantra right now. As soon as the daytime highs are in the low-90s and the nights drop down below 70, into that dreamy 60 degree territory that gives us at least a couple of hours of coolness in the morning before the heat really sets in– then, ahh, the havoc we will wreak. The places we will go, the things we shall do– hiking, biking, bird-watching, fishing, taming the Hellhound, gardening, exploring, drawing everything we see, learning to paint watercolors, and having grand adventures in state and national parks. Plus cooking a bunch of brand-new recipes to replace all the boring ones we’ve been stuck with for so long. And baking! Once the heat isn’t so awful, we can actually use our oven again! And afternoon teas, served with homemade treats. Sucking down Darjeeling with the boys, yeah, that’s my idea of a good time.
And so many books, books all the time. Books about history and art and music and philosophy and religion and literature of all sorts. Books on tape and books read curled-up next to the sofa, snug on the cowhide rug (which has become something of a pet for them, weirdly.) Books for the baby, with glorious pictures of real things, and books for the boys with big glorious ideas and stories that break your heart.
Gosh, I feel so sorry for those parents who are shuffling their kids off to “real” schools. You don’t know what you’re missing. Sure, there’s some bickering and the occasional day where everyone is vomiting and miserable, but everyone has those. We also get the glory of tramping around in the snow, whatever brief time it may appear, without worrying about missing the school bus. Or reading “Alice in Wonderland” while we bounce on the trampoline– a more appropriate place cannot be found. Baking muffins at noon because we want to have some at teatime, getting in the truck and going off to wander through the Halloween costume aisles of different stores because we really love that crap, spending a morning with some questionable science experiment that is a complete disaster but they had great fun anyway making a huge mess (although not as much in cleaning it up.)
And maybe, because I don’t have a “real” career anymore, we can’t afford all the things we’d like to have, like new cars and lots of fancy clothes and a skiing trip to Vail, but I do have these brief precious years with my children. And, I will tell you, as a woman whose body has already thrown up cancer in her face once, that’s infinitely more valuable than any new car could ever be. So I drive a 14 year old Suburban that has seen better days, and my wardrobe is becoming more and more homemade as I learn to sew, but . . . I have this, this amazing journey to go on. I wish more of you would make it with your children. It’s not perfectly easy, and you have to think for yourself, but just imagine . . . imagine the possibilities.