See what’s out by the garbage cans? It’s a lovely collection of books that would be useful for any serious home schooler. Latin, grammar, science, and Saxon math with answer guide! This is primo stuff. Or it would be, if these books weren’t thoroughly waterlogged, crushed, frozen, smeared with driveway grit and rock salt, and — oh, naturally — peed on by the dog.
Here’s how it happened. We home schooled for about six years, starting about twelve years ago. It was the right thing to do at the time, and I’m glad we did it, even though it was awfully hard. We have sweet memories from that time. We’re still our kids’ primary educators, and we’ve retained a lot of the nice habits from when we were their school teachers.
Once we decided to enroll some kids in traditional classroom schools, we still home schooled a few of them. I kept all our materials, for all the grades, because I figured we’d still be using them; and besides, maybe we’d be yanking everyone out of the classroom and bringing them home again! In fact, probably! Better hold onto it all.
Then, once we enrolled all the kids in various schools, I gathered up all the home schooling stuff and stored it together on one shelf. Naturally, we’d be supplementing their education with whatever the schools couldn’t manage to do, and anyway, our kids had learned to love knowledge so much, we’d be dipping into these books just for fun, surely. We still need them.
Then, one year, I gave the house a deep cleaning, and I had to admit that we hadn’t touched some of this stuff in years. So I threw out the most raggedy materials, passed some on to other moms, and kept only the things that seemed really useful — if not to us, then to someone, surely. Eventually. Some of it had been really hard to find, especially on our limited budget. I wasn’t going to just let them pass out of our hands, just like that.
A few years after that, I heard myself tell the kids they could find something — scissors, paperclips, I forget — on the “home school shelf.” And I says to myself, I says, “Crazy person, that is not a home school shelf. That is an Office Supplies and Stubborn Delusion Shelf. You are not a home schooler. You are not a home schooler.”
These books were just taking up space, in my house and in my heart. No matter how happy I was with our current schools, those books were crouching there like doomsday preppers, hoarding their knowledge, sheltering their little fantasy paradise of gathering in educational bliss around the hearth (which we don’t have), whispering to me that the life we were living now was some kind of temporary, alternate life, that it was something we were doing in the meantime, until we could get back to . . . something. Meanwhile, in Real Education Land, poeta puellae magnas rosas dat . . . o, poeta . . .
Never mind that, in the public school system, my kids were learning Mandarin. We were totally going to get back to Latin, someday. Spontaneously, in our spare time, because we’re home schoolers at heart, and home schoolers love learning.
It was like trying to watch a movie, but just off to the side, on a little inset of the screen, was a second movie, which was paused in the middle of the action. I could ignore it most of the time, but it still was there, and I couldn’t forget it. Every time I caught a glimpse of it, I felt like I was missing out on something, and I couldn’t focus on the story we were actually in the middle of.
So, about a month ago, I went on one more cleaning rampage. I grabbed a box from Aldi and crammed in as many books as I could fit. Whatever didn’t fit got tossed. Whew.
Then, I drove around town with those books in the van for maybe six months, meaning and meaning to drop them off at the Salvation Army or the thrift shop or the book bin at the supermarket. But I never got around to it.
Then my husband needed to bring some stuff to the dump, so he took the seats out of the van, and also some stray bags and boxes, including this box of books. I saw it, and meant to bring it inside.
But I didn’t.
And didn’t. And then it snowed, and froze, and rain, and snowed again.
And then the dog peed on it.
Well, I may be crazy, but I’m not that crazy. I threw the pee books out. We’re done homeschooling, for real, six years after the day when we officially had no more kids in home school.
I’m telling you this because sending our kids to a classroom was the scariest thing I have ever done — but it didn’t have to be. Part of the reason it was so hard to get rid of those books was because I had been thoroughly persuaded that home school was always and everywhere and for everyone the best possible choice, and that all other choices were the choices of losers, lazies, compromisers, sell-outs, and the tragically mediocre. I surrounded myself with people who told me that happiness, peace, virtue, and academic brilliance were the realm of home school (although a few public schoolers might accidentally catch a crumb), and that misery, drudgery, degeneracy and folly were the fate of public school kids (although a few might accidentally turn out okay).
I wish I had spent more time reading about all the good things that home school had to offer, and about how it’s normal to struggle sometimes when you’re doing something important; but that it’s also important to look sincerely at your family, and ask yourself what your real reason is for doing what you do. Is it because you’re afraid? Are you sure you know what you’re afraid of? Who are you listening to, actually, and why? Is there anyone you’re avoiding listening to? Why? What part of your psyche does it feed, to keep on the way you’re keeping on?
These are questions I never asked myself. And it was a little to easy to find other home schoolers like me, who could only make it through each day by telling themselves believe that the alternative to home schooling was death.
No wonder I didn’t want to throw away those Saxon answer books. Part of me thought we would die without them.
Well, my friends, we do not home school, and we did not die. We’ve used other schools for as many years as we home schooled. There are good things and bad things about our local public and charter schools, just like there were good things and bad things about our home school.
Learning how to think more clearly about schooling choices has made it easier for me to think more clearly about all sorts of things. Fear is never an honest motivator, and “maybe someday” is not a good theme for decorating your house. Think of all the room you’ll regain, if you can get yourself to clear that space.
I try to keep things in our house that are useful to our family now, and pass along things that would be useful if we were different people. We constantly reassess how well our kids are doing, and ask around for advice when we think we could be doing better. We try to spend time with all different kinds of people. We accept the fact that every choice we make in life has drawbacks. We are still our kids’ primary educators.
And now . . . I have a little extra space on my shelf.