It's very scary to take your kids out of school because if your kid grows up to be a lonely, unhappy adult, everyone will blame homeschooling. So I spend a lot of time worrying that I'm doing the wrong thing. At first I worried the kids wouldn't be socialized even though I had no idea what the word meant. And I worried the kids wouldn't be well-rounded, even though I didn't know what well-rounded meant.
I find that the more I homeschool, the more clear cut my worries are: now I have the worries of a homeschooler who has been at it a while.
Worry #1: It's too easy. So I must be doing something wrong.
I saw this video about men and women at work, and how the language we use to describe what we do depends so much on our gender. For example, a strong guy is a leader and a strong woman is a bitch. A well-dressed guy is pulled together and a well-dressed woman is image-obsessed. This is true for home life as well. A woman who cuts back her career to take care of kids is a good mom. A man who does it is labeled an underperformer.
Of course it's true for homeschool, too. Usually we practice instruments three times and day and do a little bar mitzvah preparation, but besides that, they don’t need me, except to be available to help them with whatever they need during the day—set up a Skype call with a friend, melt butter for baking, referee a ping-pong tournament in the garage.
In general I’m able to work most of the day. I just get interrupted a lot to help the kids. If you asked me how much I take care of the kids on a given day, I would say very little.
But there was a day when I couldn’t be available. I ran conference calls and webinars for most of the day. I blocked out time for practice and meals, but otherwise, I was working. Every time the kids needed something, they went to my husband.
At the end of the day he said, “I did childcare all day and I’m sick of it and I want you to put them to bed.”
And I thought to myself: If he is saying this, then I should feel a lot better about how much time I spend with the kids each day.
Worry #2 There's gotta be a school that's good out there. I should find it.
So what if schools are babysitting services? Maybe there are some good babysitting services. I mean, I have nothing bad to say about the idea of babysitting—it's fine for parents to take a break. And it seems fun to have a babysitting service that has a bunch of other kids in it that my kids would want to play with.
I worry that I'm not trying hard enough. I worry that I'm too wedded to being an iconoclast or something, and my love affair with contrarian views is getting in the way of raising my kids properly.
So I start looking at schools with an open mind. But it only takes a day for things to look absurd to me.
Chicago Public Schools sent a memo to teachers telling them to ration bathroom time so kids will be more prepared for common core testing. We wouldn't even know about this except that a teacher leaked the memo to Education Week. You have to figure that for each leaked memo there are 50 others you never hear about.
You might think, "Okay, fine, but we already knew Chicago public schools stink."
I also have my son's friend who is in school in one of the most highly ranked districts in the country. I wanted my son to go to school with him to see what school is like. So we tried to find a time. But between study hall, lunch and orchestra, this boy had no academic class from 10am to 2pm. It was unbelievable. (I know, maybe you are thinking: isn't orchestra a class? But not for this kid—he's much better than all the kids in the school. He just does it because it's fun to be so much better than everyone.) I'm not even sure his parents are aware of this. (Though maybe they will be after reading about it here.)
Face it: parents spend a lot of money to feel like they are getting their kid the best school possible. And then they tell everyone. But the schools aren't good. They can't be.
Worry #3 I am not going to the gym.
Here's why it's a homeschool worry. Because every smart person I know who sends their kids to school knows that school is stupid and a waste of time. But smart adults are honest enough to say they worry they will fall apart personally if they are home with their kids all day.
I want to be able to tell people, "Don't worry! Your life will be great! Be brave! Be true to your convictions! God bless family!"
But I got on the scale today and I am fatter than I've ever been in my life. You would not look at me and say I'm fat. Although if you were looking at me in Playboy you'd say I was fat. Well, actually you'd probably say I was old before you'd even get to fat. But honestly, they could airbrush the wrinkles in Playboy, but I'm starting to get fat in a way that they couldn't even airbrush away.
Is it true that the first sign of your life falling apart from homeschooling is that you do a critical analysis of how you'd look in Playboy? I'm not sure. But I'm pretty sure that you would not want to be as tenuously holding it together as I am. Certainly, no parent who is homeschooling is the pinnacle of pulled together. But I think a good benchmark is if the person goes to the gym. So, I don't think I can keep telling you that homeschooling is going to be great for you if I can't even get myself to the gym.
This would be a good time for a New Year's resolution, but forget it. I know those are only for losers who can't make a plan. I am determined. If I'm going to spend 2014 screaming about how everyone needs to homeschool then I have to show you that homeschooling will not ruin your life. Or your figure.