Scene at the Grocery Store:

Neighbor: I hear you’re not in school anymore!

Nine-year-old: Yah. My mom’s teaching me.

Neighbor: Oh really! That’s nice.

Nine-year-old: Not really. She’s not really teaching me anything.

[Everyone disperses into frozen-food aisles.]

Me: What do you think you should be learning that I’m not teaching you?

Nine-year-old: Everything! The kids at school are learning all the time!

Me: You can learn whatever you want. Do you want to learn decimals? That’s what they are learning. We could do an hour of decimals. We could read out of that social studies textbook you had last year. There’s plenty left for fourth graders to cover.

Nine-year-old: Oh no! Forget it! And anyway, remember how we learned about Albert Einstein at Lego Land?

You’d be surprised to learn that I wrote this post two years ago. And then I filed it away for later, because writers know that bad writing isn’t for throwing out. It’s for coming back to when you have more knowledge.

The key to turning bad writing into good writing is knowledge, which is why graduate writing programs don’t work, by the way. You can’t teach self-knowledge. You can only inspire it.

Which is what this conversation in the grocery store did. It made my son realize that he should choose what is important to learn, instead of letting the grocery store yentas get hold of him.

Two years ago I thought this was a post about being scared. But it’s really a post about gaining confidence in our own agenda for learning. Because that’s what happens in homeschooling—kids do it, but parents gain confidence to do it as well.