My husband physically assaulted me last week. For the second time. The first time, my six-year-old saw it. Here’s the post about it.

I’ve been talking about it all week. On my blog (there are 400 comments) in my family (calls from two of three brothers that I should leave) and among my friends (I’m blown away by how many invitations I’ve received to come visit.)

I haven’t said anything here because I know people think you have to have a stable home to homeschool.

But I think that’s crap. I mean, I think you need a stable home for 5000 reasons. But there is no evidence that public school is effective for kids from unstable homes. In fact, based on graduation rates at high-risk schools, it appears that public school is really terrible for kids from messed up homes.

So it’s been hard to hear from people who tell me to put the kids in school while I figure out what I’m doing. Because deep down I know that sending a kid to school doesn’t shield the kid from anything.

I know. I know because I went to public grade school. I came in late, bruised, dirty clothes and bloody noses. And no one said a thing. They just took my note from my dad that said I was sick the day before and school went on and on.

This is a guest post from Kate Fridkis, whose family did homeschooling when she was growing up. She blogs about body image at Eat the Damn Cake and she blogs about homeschooling at Skipping School.

As a fourteen and fifteen-year-old homeschooler, the last thing I wanted to do was sit around the house with my mom all day. What kid wants to do that?

And people always whispered to me, “I could never do what your mom is doing.” They said, “So she has a degree in education?” No, not exactly.

The idea that being a homeschooling parent means being an expert on every school subject and walking your kids, day by day, year by year, though everything they would otherwise have learned in a classroom is a huge misunderstanding of the way homeschooling works.

When they’re very young, kids need a lot of attention and support. They need to be watched, in case they try to jump off the top of the stairs, to see if they can fly. But education doesn’t really need to be nearly as structured and guided as people imagine it does. Kids learn from being alive. And once kids develop interests, they can pursue them doggedly, on their own, for weeks at a time. For years.

But most adults don’t trust kids, even their own, to have the “right” interests. Adults worry that kids are always wasting their time. Or doing things wrong. But adults don’t seem that good at picking subjects for kids to learn. Sir Ken Robinson has a lot to say about how science and math get picked over, well, everything else. But even people like me, who haven’t been knighted by the Queen, can see that even the people who get A’s in science and math haven’t necessarily learned why science and math are important. So who are we, as adults, to tell kids what they should be learning and when they should learn it?

The boys were cutting words out of magazines while I was sneaking in reading time.

I landed on a piece in Harper’s magazine called Juvenile Injustice – photos of the juvenile prisons. They made me ill. There is no way you can look at those photos and not feel sick. I think the sickness comes from knowing I know and knowing I’m doing nothing.

Later I was reading about  slavery to my six year old. We read If You Lived When There Was Slavery in America. And I realized that slavery was, in some ways, better for black kids than juvenile prison is today. Because as slaves, the boys had monetary value, so someone had an interest in them. Right now no one has an interest in those boys in the juvenile prison. Also, slaves had to work every day, which, in almost all cases is better than solitary confinement every day.

These thoughts have stayed with me for a week. I think this is what people mean when they talk about the joys of learning with your kids. Real learning shakes you up. It scrapes your skin and makes you want to look. Makes you want to take action. And I think, in this moment, homeschooling did that for me.

I didn’t realize this until we started homeschooling, but adults begin child-oriented conversation with a question about school. It’s like the weather. It’s safe and universal.

When we were at the grocery store, buying junk food, the cashier said to me, “Your sons must be so excited to get out of school today!”

I said, “They don’t go to school.”

She looked horrified.

I made a note to myself to just say, “Uh huh.” It’s like when someone asks you “How are you?” The proper answer to all school-related questions is some version of “Fine”.

Then, two days later, I saw my six-year-old playing with a group of kids who live outside of Chicago. I always watch him play because he’s the only one in the family without Asperger’s and his play instincts look like magic to me.

A kid said, “Hey, you look familiar. What school do you go to?”

My son said, “I go to a school far away from here in the country.”

And everyone continued playing.

I am fascinated by the book Looks: Why They Matter More Than You Ever Imagined, by Gordon Patzer. He presents a compendium of research that shows that people do better in life if they are better looking. The research has some predictable stuff, like you get a wider selection of mates, and taller people earn more money than shorter people.

But it’s the research about children that shocked me. Mothers give more affection to better looking children. Not on purpose – it just happens. And teachers expect more from better looking children and therefore give more to them.

You can’t really change what you were born with – aside from plastic surgery – but you can improve the odds by dressing well.

I want to think I’m above that, but just in case, I splurged for kiddie clothes from Mini Boden.

This guy emailed me. He said his in-laws live near our farm. He’s CEO of a homeschooling startup. So I took a chance on him and invited him and his family over for lunch.

He hung out with me in the kitchen and told me his company helps schools do project-based learning and “experiential” learning.

I said, “That sounds like homeschooling to me.”

He said, “It is. But not every family can do that.”

I went nuts. I told him that every family that is in a school rich enough to indulge in his software package has the means to homeschool. And, I said, “Why is a family that believes in project-based, experiential learning sending a kid to school anyway?”

He said, “Not every parent can afford homeschooling.”

I said, “That’s total BS. Every family with two college grads for parents can have one parent work and one homeschool. They can make enough money. If they choose.”

He was silent.

So I said, “This reminds me of the families that say they don’t have enough money for the mom to take maternity leave. It’s messed up values.”

He said, “My wife didn’t take maternity leave.”

Here’s an article about how the lack of recess, art and music in school is making schools mind-numbing for kids.

I love this article. I read it twice. I need positive reinforcement that school is so bad that there’s no way that homeschooling the kids could be worse.

Then I let the kids rip off their clothes in the cold autumn waves of Lake Michigan.

The recent New York Times magazine features an article about what New York City private schools are teaching kids. They are teaching optimism, resilience and grit – three traits found to be most important to adult success.

I left New York City in 2006, just as I had paid $10,000 to a consultant to get us into private nursery school for my oldest son. I am not kidding when I tell you that I cashed out my 401K to pay the fee. Don’t tell me it was stupid, okay? I know. But I’m telling you to show you how scared I was that my kid would not get into a good nursery school.

The New York Times reports that it’s tougher to gain admission to these NYC nursery schools than it is to get into Harvard. I believe it. These schools are places I would feel safe sending my kid. But it’s $40,000 a year. For eighteen years. What was I thinking?

Martin Seligman is the guy who’s directing these expensive public schools from his academic perch at Penn. He says grit involves vision, persistence and self-discipline  –  setting a goal and working to it til you get it.

I have no grand plan for how to teach grit. At least not yet. But each day I force myself to get out of bed and face that I have no idea what to do with the kids. I hope for a lot of things each time I do that, and one thing I hope is that I’m modeling grit.

There will be days when I will forget how bad things were. It’s like how people think their psychiatric meds are doing nothing, so they go off them. And then it’s bad.

I can already tell there’s gonna be a time like that for homeschooling.

The manic-depressives have to have a scrapbook of what went wrong — like all the sex partners they had during the last manic episode so they remember that mania is not going to feel as good as they think it might feel.

This post is my scrapbook.

It’s the math sheets my son did on his first days of school.

I called the school and said these are not appropriate for a kid who, according to their own tests, is doing math at a second or third grade level.

The school thought it was fine to give him these worksheets.

I want to remember how hard it must have been for my son to do math so far below him. I want to remember that he was so tuned out in this class that on the question that asked how many triangles are on the line, he colored in two and then wrote one.

Since we don’t have school anymore, and I can earn a living from anywhere, we went to Mall of America.

I gave a speech at the University of Minnesota’s Business School, and I ended up bringing the kids and spending three days enjoying the fact that the amusement parks are empty during the school day.

My sons went on each ride three hundred times while I answered emails near guard rails and contemplated the expense of homeschooing when you buy two, thirty-dollar wrist bands three days in a row.

Our favorite part of the park was this rope contraption that simulates climbing up the masts of a pirate ship. The kids had safety lines, but they seemed to serve mainly as psychological assurance. There was a park employee whose job was to rescue stuck kids. Since mine were the only ones there, they got private instruction on how to climb all the different types of rope ladders. The boys were so excited to learn something new. And I was so excited to watch someone else teach them.