About That School Family

Written at the beginning of, as we say, “our homeschool journey.”

Sorry.

My paternal grandmother was a schoolteacher in Texas from forever. She taught before my dad and his sister were born and after, until normal retirement age. My paternal grandfather was a high school teacher at first, then, as was not uncommon in the day, taking a couple of decades to work his way to both a Ph.D. and teaching and administering at the community college level.

They raised two educators: My Aunt Karen was an elementary school teacher who married a high school teacher and coach. They lived in New Mexico. My dad was a professor of political science at public universities from Texas up to Illinois and back to Tennessee.

That photograph? Well, “David” is my dad. The photograph is dated 1945. So he would have been 11, my aunt was 8, and the picture was probably taken in Paris, Texas. Schoolteachers, all, in the end, photographer and subjects.

My mother, after getting her BFA from the University of Arizona, taught English in Ajo, Arizona for a couple of years, and then worked towards her MS in library science at the U. of Texas (she didn’t finish) and worked as a librarian in DC for a bit after they got married.

I taught, too — in 2 different schools, teaching theology to Catholic high school students.

So, yeah, I’ve been to school.

Now.

“School” is just a word, really. It can describe countless settings in which individuals learn from other individuals. School can be great, it can be horrendous. School can be a place of revelation and truth, it can be a place of deceptive ideologies. School can be the doorway to freedom, it can be a prison.

Usually, it’s something in between.

I don’t need to go into any of my crazy pedagogical ravings here. I’ll just offer some bullet points (again! lazy!) that get to why for now I want to try to educate these two boys outside of an institutional school.

  • Wasted time and inefficiency.
  • Busy work
  • The way that these first two items cramp a family’s style. Even if we never left northern Alabama for the next year, we could fill up our days with interesting, educational activities that we just don’t have time to do during the school year because they’re in school 8 hours a day doing work that could be accomplished in 3. Every week, I get the various alternative weeklies from around here and pour over the events calendars and see so much…and then seven days later, we’ve done none of it because…we don’t have time.
  • (Let me add, though, that their present school is not a homework-heavy school, thank goodness. None of this is really about a specific school. I think that these are common problems and issues.)
  • There’s a part of me that has started to really rebel against government educational rules and regulations. Even if you’ve never considered homeschooling, do an experiment. Take a look at your state’s and locality’s laws related to education — all of it from attendance to curricula. I swear that I was only idly thinking about this when I started looking at what the laws were and the paternalistic, Big Brother-ish tone awakened some kind of Screw You! gremlin inside of me.
  • I have two little boys who have done fine — even excelled — in school. I just look at what they have been doing — which has been good! — and I think, we can do more.
  • There are some gaps, and they’re gaps I’m able to fill. What I mean is (for example) that their math education has been great, and they both love math. Check. But grammar has been haphazard, and I can do that. That sort of thing.
  • And here’s where it gets personal and probably kind of odd. Quirky. But you know, these things are factors, too. Time to move away from the bullet points.

Do you know how old I am?

In about a month, I’ll be 52. My oldest son will be 30 in September.

THIRTY YEARS OLD. MY SON.

I will explain to you what this means. This means that I have been dealing with institutional schools for twenty-five years.

Are you the parent of a, say, seven year old in school? A rising second grader?

I want you to imagine yourself in eighteen years. There you are.

Still the parent of a second grader. Still signing the f***ing planner.

Yup. That’s me.

I don’t mind the basic existential reality, at all. I love it. I highly recommend having babies in your mid-forties. Being the parent of a second grader when you’re 52 is an awesome way, not only of working with @God to make more @humanbeings (always fantastic), but also of tricking yourself into thinking you are pretty much the same as the hot little 28-year olds driving their Rav4’s and XC90’s to carpool and that you are not actually, you know, so freakin’ old.

But, that wasn’t my point.

My point was that I have been doing the — (deep breath) — school supplies — does your uniform fit? — your teacher wants what? we just bought all the school supplies — book covers? Why do we have to do bookcovers? — welcome to our SCHOOL FAMILY — parent/teacher meeting — beginning of the year orientation — parent/teacher conferences — giftwrap sales — please return these papers signed on Tuesdays — please return THESE papers signed on Mondays — I have to find an article for music class — but I get extra credit if you go to the PTO meeting! — make an adobe model out of sugar cubes — is your field trip shirt the green one or the blue one? — yes, I signed your planner — wait,don’t throw that away, we need the box tops — SCHOOL FAMILY — you need a check for what? — do you have hot lunch today or not? — candygrams — wait, is it a jeans day today — boosterthon? Try not to run too many laps, okay? — please send cupcakes/cookies/goldfish but NO PEANUTS — POSTERBOARD — SCHOOL FAMILY.

– thing for twenty-five (25) years.

God bless ’em, the teachers and administrators. They do so much in a hostile culture and for so little compensation. It’s criminal, really. It’s not about them.

But me? This chick, who comes from a school family? I need a break.

From the SCHOOL FAMILY.


Originally published at amywelborn.wordpress.com on June 21, 2012.