I am Jewish, so I’m very sensitive to Christian tropes that infiltrate our culture. Christmas is the biggest example of this, and I have written many times about how it is absolutely suffocating to be Jewish in December when almost everyone assumes that you celebrate Christmas. The assumption that all people are Christian permeates American existence to the point where Jewish parents are constantly having to explain to their kids why there is Christianity infiltrates so much of American culture.
It never occurred to me that I would have the same issues with homeschooling. But most books about kids refer, in some way, to school. As if every kid in the world goes to school. So just as Jewish kids are reminded constantly that they are outsiders, so, too, are homeschooled kids.
And, just like the question of Christmas, I am trying to decide what to throw out and what to keep. For example, we read Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, even though it has Christmas in it, but we don’t read How the Grinch Stole Christmas. I am not really sure where I draw the line. In this case, I try to avoid books where the whole story revolves around Christmas.
I have the same problem with books about school. I read Sideways Stories from Wayside School because the teachers are so incredibly terrible, in a very funny way, that the book reinforces the idea that kids are better off with homeschooling. But I got rid of Timothy Goes to School. Not that it matters. My kids are too old for Timothy. But the act of getting rid of the book made me feel like I’m taking the next step to being a homeschooler: managing the feeling of being an outsider in a culture that assumes kids are in school.
And, just as I finished going through our bookshelf, I realized that I had a Norman Rockwell painting hanging on the wall that depicts homework. It actually depicts that moment when the parent cannot do the lessons the kid is learning. It’s definitely a schooling trope. And it makes parents proud: Their kid will do better than they did. It’s the American dream, really, and it starts right here, at the math books.
We will not have that moment in my house. I am teaching the kids to find resources beyond just me. And I am not learning alongside my kids when I am not interested. There will be no difficult math problems for me. There will be Khan Academy. Or emailing my brother, who is a math whiz.
I took the painting down, and I replaced it with the one of the boy diving off the high dive.