Weekend Wanderer: Home Is Where the School Is

Wendi Rank
By

I have shared a few controversial positions, writing for this publication.

I don’t like the shore. I don’t find Disney World magical. The outdoors are just the worst.

You probably don’t like me. You don’t find me magical. You maybe even think I’m the worst.

Well let me throw another log onto that fire.

I’m homeschooling one of my kids.

You’re painting a picture in your head, aren’t you? I wear skirts whose length only rivals my hair, which is parted in the middle, straight, and a shade that’s not quite blonde, not quite brown because I shun chemical hair color.

This might be why I hate Disney and the shore, right? But you’re wondering what kind of homeschooler I am if I hate the outdoors. Don’t I forage for mushrooms or something with my kids?

You’re thinking all my food is organic and made from scratch. We don’t have Fruit Roll-Ups because we make our own fruit leather. I compost. I have a vegetable garden.

Am I close?

According to a September report in The Atlantic, this is the stereotype homeschooling families conjure. Homeschoolers are either very religious or free-love throwbacks. They think the school system is bureaucratic and broken.

I can’t speak for other homeschooling families. But I do know this is not me.

The last skirt I wore was three years ago, when I toured Fort Macon in North Carolina. I only wore it because North Carolina in August is too hot for jeans and I look really bad in shorts.

And take a quick scan of my headshot, up next to my byline. You’ll see it takes a lot of chemicals to be that blonde.

Fruit leather doesn’t exist as an item or even a phrase in my house. I have enough trouble getting fruit into my kids without calling it leather.

I do compost, but it’s pretty haphazard. Knowing I’m in close proximity to so many worms is unnerving. We also have a vegetable garden, which grows tomatoes we never planted and enough blackberries to feed every bird in Pennsylvania.

As a homeschooling parent, I should probably look at the birds eating my blackberries and think it’s a wonderful teaching opportunity for my kids. But I don’t. I think I’m never eating those blackberries because they’re probably covered in bird poop and bird poop is almost as bad as the worms in the compost bin.

I’ve also seen Hitchcock’s The Birds enough times to know birds eating your blackberries is just the beginning.

I’m not religious or bohemian, and I so much believe in school I went to college for a decade and work in my kids’ school district.

So why am I homeschooling?

Our school district was entirely virtual when classes started in September. While my high schooler embraced this format, my middle schooler, well, not so much.

By the end of the second week of classes, he was failing everything. I’m not sure how one fails gym. Had I not been so frustrated, I would have been impressed.

Homeschooling had never been part of our child-rearing blueprints. But the pandemic eroded that metric. Last week, Forbes shared polling by EdChoice indicating the pandemic has forced a change in other parents’ attitude towards homeschooling, too – not just ours.

For now anyway. As soon as his school is five days a week, that kid will be dropped on its doorstep at 7:30 sharp.

Homeschooling is grueling, which I don’t say for sympathy but as a warning. Do you remember anions and cations? Who fought whom in World War I? Symbolism in Call of the Wild? Can you come to my house if you do?

And what in the name of Dante’s Inferno is a slope-intercept formula? Did I ever know?

The only upside of homeschooling I can see is that I’m killing it at Jeopardy. Not Ken Jennings killing it. But enough I could be a single-day returning champ. Which would be great because homeschooling costs money.

Establishing a curriculum is daunting. He needs to learn everything, right? Chemistry and algebra. Writing essays, but reading them too. United States history but also, you know, the history of every country in the world.

If he doesn’t learn phyla aren’t dough, will it be because of that year I homeschooled him? What if he never learns a Golgi body isn’t a Pokémon? Will it be my fault?

The stress is overwhelming. I’ve been watching a lot of the old 21 Jump Street for support. It’s like an old friend, and your friends will be there when your back’s against the wall.

Last month, USA Today said pandemic homeschooling might lack the foundations that make traditional homeschool successful. This is troublesome, considering the number of homeschoolers has jumped from 3 percent to 9 percent.

The old 21 Jump Street is not indicated by USA Today as vital to homeschooling success. But watching a late-80’s Johnny Depp definitely makes drafting that agriculture test easier.

So if you hate me, The Atlantic says you’re not alone. And I get it. But if you understand how y=mx +b, please come teach it to my kid.

I’m willing to barter. Care for some tomatoes?

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