Homeschool by any other name…



Teaching a child to write is like nailing jelly to tree. It’s one of the first lessons of home schooling that I’m learning.

Hot on the heels of that, is the realisation that this is going to be as big a growth exercise for me as for them. Maybe even more so. It’s exasperating to teach somebody something that you know so well but they can’t grasp at all—because once you understand something, you can’t easily imagine not understanding it. (There’s a psychological term for this dilemma. It’s called, ‘hindsight bias.’ It’s hard to adjust our current knowledge to reflect what we previously knew, and we tend to think that other people know and understand roughly the same things that we do.)

Teaching is a patience exercise like nothing else I’ve encountered. So far.

I’m glad Timmy’s school-ready and eager to learn well before the age of actually being required to start school. That gives me the opportunity to discover if this homeschooling idea is actually viable, for us. Before formally having to apply for an exemption.

I had no illusions of it being an easy task, to start with. Whatever cost-saving advantages it has would be well overcompensated by losses in my personal time and mental stamina. I’m not wondering if it’s easy. I’m wondering if it’s possible. Possible for me, who, in the wake of a 15-year-old head injury, is still having to nap most afternoons.

In the years before I had children, I’d feel aggravated at my homeschooling friends—we could never have grownup time, just chatting over a coffee, or enjoying something as simple as an uninterrupted conversation. They would always come with attachments. Short, loud ones.

Now I’m going to be like that. I’m going to annoy my other friends with my short, loud attachments. The friends whose children go to school, where they’re someplace else’s noise. Still, that can’t be a factor in my deciding whether or not to homeschool, can it? I’ll just have to reconcile myself to the fact I’m going to aggravate some grownups who’d been seeking a relaxing catchup, and leave it at that.

That’s not the only peer concern I have, though.

I want to homeschool my boys, but what can I call it? Not ‘homeschooling.’ Because there’s a stigma that comes with that. A sticky stink. A cloak of misconceptions and preconceptions that have people believe it’s tantamount to locking a child in the garage and throwing it an outdated newspaper once in a while.

The objection I’ve run into most often, by far, is about student socialisation. How will my boys develop social skills, being taught at home? Aren’t I worried about that?

No, quite frankly. For the same reason I’m not worried about knuckle-cracking causing arthritis, vaccines causing autism, or any other malodorous notion that has been thoroughly debunked but still sticks around like an urban legend that never showered.

So if don’t want to start on the back foot by calling it ‘homeschooling,’ then what? ‘Home education’ isn’t much better. Or anything with the word ‘home’ in it, I think. It’s the ‘home’ part that makes people recoil. As if any place that makes biscuits with branded flour can’t be a multi-purpose venue.

I trialled a new label, once.

“Where are they going to go to school?” Smiley Lady had asked.

My brain raced. What should I say? ‘Not homeschooling,’ my brain unhelpfully supplied. ‘Don’t say homeschooling.’

“They’ll be enrolled in independent education,” I said. I smiled, showing confidence I didn’t have. What would happen now? Will she twig onto what it means? Or could I piggy-back on the glamour of private school institutions?

Her face brightened. “Oh, wow, really?”

Phew. Apparent success. The question seemed rhetorical, so I just left it. Elaboration was unnecessary risk.

After a few long seconds, her smile faltered. So did my pulse.

“So…what is that, exactly?” Her brow started to furrow. “Like…homeschooling?”


“Yes, sort of like that,” I said, trying to maintain my confident smile, like I wasn’t mentally sprinting across a minefield and screaming like a pterodactyl. “Actually, exactly like that. Except, without all the stigma.”

Smiley Lady was less smiley now. But because I’d been non-specific in my renouncements, she couldn’t easily protest it without seeming to pick a fight for the fun of it.

The conversation fizzled after that, and I’d like to think it was because the loud and busy environment wasn’t conducive to any long conversation. Not that one of my mental mines had exploded.

‘Independent education’ has promise, I think. I just have to work on the followup.

But that’s for another time.

Today, I have enough to be getting on with, trying to get Timmy to stop levitating his letters three quarters of a mile above the line they’re meant to sit on.


[photo credit: little boy writing with pencil via photopin (license)]


1 Comment

  • Deborah Makarios
    09 Jul 2016

    How about ‘privately educated’? Unless you’re planning on conducting lessons in the front yard, that’s an accurate description of what will be happening.

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