I'm pretty sure the reason more people don't homeschool is because it's so, so hard. And my situation is no exception. I am the primary breadwinner, we live 90 minutes from a city, and I am much better suited for the relatively predictable world of business than taking care of children.
I started this blog to simply explore the idea of homeschooling. But it took only a few weeks of reading and writing on the topic to see that research and analysis point overwhelmingly to the idea that homseschooling is more effective than even the "best" public schools. I do homeschooling because it's so clearly the right thing to do. Now, I just have to get good at it.
7:00 am Chores. We are going to kill one of the goats today. It is the luckiest goat in the world. He was going to freeze to death (with all the other baby boy goats) but I took him as my own project instead. And then I told my son he could raise the goat and sell it for meat. Then we fell in love with the goat. So he lived way past when he was big enough to eat. Goats follow kids like dogs. This goat’s hooves grew so long he couldn’t walk. We had to either start grooming him or kill him. So it’s back to business with the goat. This is the last morning of feeding Snowflake, so we all go out together.
While kids do chores I send emails. Anything that I need to get done today must get done now. In this half-hour. I have a list of emails I have to write. One to a venture capitalist looking at my next business to maybe fund it. One to my perspective business partner to tell her I don’t want to be partners. One to my friend Melissa, to tell her I think I will die trying to do a new business and maintain the life I have now. I cook breakfast while I do emails. I burn stuff. Every time.
7:20 am I worry I won't have the photos I need for my blog. I run outside to take pictures of my brussel sprouts. Then I see the fall light on our house, and I take a photo (above).
7:30 am Breakfast. Eggs. We have the kind of eggs that sell for $2 each in Chicago. Deep yellow yolk from chickens who spend their days in heaven, pecking the grass and going wherever they want and eating whatever they want. The boys don’t like eggs. I have tried to force feed them in many different ways, including earning DSi games. Nothing works. So I eat eggs and the kids eat pancakes and the Farmer eats eggs and pancakes.
7:45 am Cello practice. My son had to audition to get his cello teacher. We drive four hours each way for his weekly lessons. That really puts pressure on the practices. I eat the leftover pancakes to cope with the stress of having to make sure the fourth finger on the D string is right even though I know nothing about music.
8:15 am Violin practice for my other son. It’s hard to get my son to stop playing with his Bionicles. He asks for extra time. I say no. I tell myself I am training him to be good at transitions. I feel guilt that I do not put as much intensity into his practices. Am I playing favorites? But truthfully, the cello-son is a prodigy and the violin-son hates violin. Okay. He doesn’t hate it. I mean, he hates everything and I have to look past that to understand how he feels. He is good. He’s been playing since he was three. How can he not be good? Good is relative. I remind him of this, and I kiss him to remind him that violin is a good thing in our lives. Or to remind me.
8:45 am Check email. I divide emails that must be answered into those that I can answer during the day, furtively, on my iPhone, and those that are too long and will make me want to kill myself if I have to use the iPhone keypad. I answer about 20 emails while the kids are fighting. I tell them they cannot fight because I can’t stand listening to it. They say the only way they can stop fighting is if I let them play their DSi’s. I say no. Then I see that CNN is asking for extensive edits on a piece that needs to run today. I say okay. Fine for electronics. I say only a half hour so I can feel like I still have authority.
9:00 am Get in the car. I feel like we live in the car. I pack things that are uncommon, like food without artificial color and flavors, but also sort of aspirational things, like a children’s dictionary because I have this idea that we’ll play a game in the car where we find a word that has more than one meaning and we have to guess the multiple meanings. Just as I pull away from the house, the perfect fall day is full of snow. I have packed no snow clothes.
9:50 am Pull over. I panic that I can't do phone calls while we drive. The weather is terrible. Even truckers are going 30 miles under the speed limit. At the side of the highway I check the list of phone calls I had planned to make during the trip. I feel particularly bad about the friend who asked me to read his business plan. I email him that I have to talk later. His business idea sucked, but still, I have to have friends.
9:55 am Drive. The boys think maybe since I pulled over that it’s a new day. They ask if they can do their DS’s. I say no. They try stealing books from each other. Not for the book, but for the pushing and shoving. I say please stop. Then I yell, STOP. They stop.
We drive. The six-year-old looks up from his book and asks, “What does this mean, ‘I won’t be able to sit for a week’?”
"What? What is the context? Who is saying it?"
"Tuffy. In the Berenstain Bears."
The phone rings. I can’t stand not answering it. It’s someone who wanted me to do a speaking gig, and because it’s in a terrible location, I told him it would cost him $15,000 to have me there. I know he’s calling to negotiate.
I answer. I swerve. I get scared. I tell them him I have to call back in an hour.
He says okay.
I can’t even remember where I am going to be in an hour. I hope I remember to call. Then I think. Oh. Duh. I’ll probably be right here in the car in an hour. Crap.
"What does it mean to not be able to sit for a week?"
"What? Oh yeah. Show it to me."
"You can’t read while you drive."
"Yes I can. Open to the page."
I read. The car ahead of me skids. I scream. The kids scream. I tell the kids don’t worry. No one freezes. The police help everyone. I tell them things to make them feel safe. I say “Do you feel safe?” and then, of course, they realize they should not feel safe.
We keep driving. I ask if they want a juice box so that I can feel like I’m taking good care of them.
11:00 am Swimming. Both boys have lessons and then they do free swim. They are very happy in lessons. They each have a private lesson because I love having private lessons myself, for anything. The lifeguard mediates any fights because it falls under the might-lead-to-drowning category. I like being off the hook. And there is wireless. I answer eight emails as they come in – I like to answer a few emails right away so people feel like I’m working all day and really on top of things. I write a blog post for a stupid site that I will not mention, but they pay me $2500. I do not finish writing the post before my son tells me that I forgot to pack towels. We have to take them out of the lost and found. I pray for no lice.
12:30 pm Pragmatics therapy. Both boys go for two hours even though only the older son has Asperger’s Syndrome. The younger one goes because you can’t learn pragmatics without another kid. Pragmatics is about learning how to read nonverbal language and respond with appropriate language. The son with Asperger’s complains about having to go with his brother. He says his brother ruins everything. I say, “That’s the point.” We all laugh. They get it.
After we laugh, he continues throwing his fit. I tell him I’ll bring bread for a snack. I feel like a crack dealer bribing him with bread. I think he is one of those kids on the autism spectrum who should be gluten-free. I am, too, one of those kids. But instead we both self-soothe with bread. He agrees.
1:00 pm Couples therapy. Usually I work during this three-hour span with no kids. I go to Starbucks. But today I go to couples therapy. I need a therapist just to deal with the fact that the Farmer is alone all day and I’m with the kids all day and then I spend my only alone time with him, in therapy. I hate this. I cannot focus on being a partner who is trying to communicate clearly. I only feel anger and resentment. Therapy is terrible. I think I should get an apartment in Madison because I’m driving four hours a day just so we can live on the farm, with the Farmer. I do not kiss him when I leave. This is not good. I answer four emails to feel like I have control over some part of my life. I increase my productivity by deleting emails asking to guest post on my blog.
2:10 pm Starbucks. I feel ripped off from spending my alone time in therapy. I want my time alone at Starbucks. I order a soy Chai. I am doing Talls instead of Grandes because I’m getting fat because I’m not going to the gym because I am spending my days doing my job and homeschooling and (sort of ) my marriage and I am out of time. I decide that I’ll start writing a post for tomorrow so that I don’t have to be stressed tonight trying to get a post written between the kids going to bed and me going to bed. I start writing a post and I see a piece in the New Yorker that is what God would write if God had a blog. I get distracted. And then I just want a break. I don’t want to have to write. Or think. I google celebrities because it is important to focus on other people’s lives when your own life sucks. Before I can finish looking at a slideshow of Kate Middleton, which I’ve already seen, it’s time to pick up the kids.
3:00 pm Homeschooler meetup. At an indoor playground. All unschoolers. I meet a mom who makes exceptions for math workbooks. So do I. We exchange emails.
3:30 pm The kids are hungry. I realize that I messed up the day because I didn’t really feed them lunch. We ruin dinner by going to Pizza Hut, which I hope is clear of artificial flavors if we avoid the salad bar. The wait is too long. I tell the boys they can read. My son says, “What does ‘Ask a team member’ mean?”
"What? Oh. It’s the people who work here. They are a group of people like a team."
"Oh — I get it — like SpongeBob and the workers at the Krusty Krab."
4:30 pm Dance Class. I just want to go home but my son loves dance class. On the way there, a British magazine calls. I have ignored the call twice today, but now I know they’re serious because it’s the middle of the night there. I feel bad for making the reporter work so hard to find me. I pick up. She wants to talk about Twitter and activism and when I tweeted about my miscarriage. So I start talking about my miscarriage, and abortions in Wisconsin (they are nearly impossible to get here) and then I think, what are my kids hearing? The kids are fascinated with the information that I lost a baby in between them. They want to know if I am happy because I had my son next or sad because a baby died. This could be a homeschool lesson in dualism, except the Twitter angle is absurd. We reach dance class. One son dances, one son plays his DS, and I stare at the wall for 45 minutes.
5:30 pm Drive home. Should we eat in Madison? No. The kids won’t be hungry. I let the kids watch Angry Beavers. I sort of like listening to it. It’s funny. But I have a coaching call. I earn a lot of money from career coaching and I do almost all of it on my drives to and from Madison. That makes me feel, sometimes, like the drive isn’t so bad. The kids do not fight. The person I coach is smart and interesting. It’s a good ride home.
7:00 pm My son gets out of the car to open the gate to the farm. The phone rings. It’s the guy for the speech. I think to myself that if he’s going to say yes to the rate, he’ll say yes in voicemail. I don’t pick up the phone. I take a deep breath and remind myself that I’ve spent my whole life wishing I could arrive home to my own farm. I should be happy.