When I moved to the farm with my children, it never occurred to me that I would be raising farm kids. But it happened quickly that my kids did things I would never have dreamed of doing in my own childhood. They spend the day with no shirts. They chop wood with axes. They pee in the yard.
There was a moment, with each of these things, where I put my foot down. “Put on a shirt to sit at the table,” I said. But then sometime in the middle of this summer, I got tired of saying it. It seemed stupid. It seemed like a city rule, because in the city you wear a shirt most of the day anyway.
A city rule is a rule like “kids don’t use an ax”. It’s something that makes total sense, but in the country it’s not practical. We heat the house with wood. My husband chops wood all summer. So of course the kids want to chop wood. And probably using an ax is like using a gun: if you have a culture where it’s common, everyone is better at it.
We don’t have this discussion, though. My husband thinks it’s patently ridiculous to say no guns, no axes. So I capitulate. Not that the kids shoot guns. But it’s coming. I can tell. And before you criticize it, consider that the only way to keep the raccoons from eating the animals on the farm—because the raccoons are too smart about traps—is to shoot them. Or hit them with a bat over the head. Which is what my husband did when I moved here because I went nuts over the idea of a gun.
If we did not homeschool, my kids would have one culture. They would be in school in the country, maybe, and we would not be free to travel to NYC, or Vegas, or LA. We would not be able to drive each week to Chicago for cello lessons. We would not go to Madison for violin.
If we went to school in the city, the kids would have city friends. I would have a job where I support us in the city, and leaving the city to be on the farm for extended periods of time would be too hard.
Over the past few months, my kids have started saying ain’t on a regular basis. The first time I heard it, I was shocked. I identify with the demographic of overeducated ex-European Jews. We simply don’t say ain’t. And next, my youngest son is using double negatives, as in “She didn’t mean no harm.” At first I was stunned but then I waited and listened.
I noticed that the kids understand to use that language on the farm. In the city, they never use it. And I see the language of rural life and the language of city life as verbal evidence that homeschooling has allowed my kids to easily and regularly move between two different cultures.
So, what I’m saying is that to raise kids who can learn to move in and cope with dual cultures, really, you need to homeschool. Traditional school is the melting pot of all the cultures the kids have at home and school becomes the lowest common denominator of these cultures, so that the days can be orderly and systematic. It’s cultural agnosticism.