To understand why art is art, you need to be open to seeing things in different ways. A lot of people respond to art with “I don’t get it” but that’s just because someone doesn’t want to spend the time to get it. It takes time to see things differently.

Victor Nunes has a series of illustrations that make us see everyday objects differently. It’s like an exercise on how to do the work of seeing art.

So here’s an exercise. Pretend you are one of those parents who thinks homeschooling is terrible. There are a million ways to pretend to judge homeschoolers—they are unethical, uncaring, ignorant, selfish, elitist, or lazy.

It’s difficult to think like that if you already homeschool, or aspire to homeschool. But one way to understand how it feels to object to homeschooling is to compare to how you think about money. Because the only thing people are more judgy about than education is money.

So, to help you, here are a bunch of things I really believe in, that I have recommended to people out loud. And everyone thought I was totally crazy:

Go bankrupt instead of killing yourself over medical bills. (Bankruptcy is so common among rich people and so shameful among poor people—the exact opposite of how it should be.)

Get out of student debt. (Forbearance, forgiveness, these are escape routes you should explore. Or just don’t pay it for ten years. We don’t have debtor’s prison.)

Be a stripper to pay your college tuition (Seriously: What other job pays enough money to get through college and leaves enough time to study?)

Use debt consolidation. (Financial security is not reaching a particular number. It’s an emotional choice. Having only one thing to pay feels better.)

Live in a terrible location (Did you know there are places in the US where you can get land for free? Really. Click that link.)

Have a basketball player’s baby. Okay. This might be the most controversial piece of advice here, but first of all, it’s great writing, so click the link. But also, with a basketball player’s baby, you are seriously set for life. You could spend your time raising your tall, probably good-looking kid, and doing whatever your dreams say, because you will never need to earn money again.

Pick the most distasteful piece of advice on the list. And do the mental work of trying to understand the other side of the coin. Why would someone think this is a good idea? What are the alternatives to solve the problem this solves? What are the risks? What are the cultural assumptions that make you think this solution is distasteful? Are they cultural assumptions you really buy into?

These are the questions anyone needs to ask themselves when they come around to thinking homeschooling is okay. It’s a big intellectual leap, but it’s one that I have found so fulfilling myself that I try to force myself to take those leaps more often.

I like the exercise of learning to understand something that my first instinct tells me is terrible. For art. For money. For education.

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22 replies
  1. Sarah M
    Sarah M says:

    I had to laugh at that free land link….I did not think my home state would be on there, but not only is it nearby to my hometown, there are many, many others within a day’s drive to my family. Now I’m in a different country, where the housing market is the highest in all of North America. Screwed that one up. (But love seeing the mountains and the ocean…)
    I love the lettuce!

  2. Caitlin Timothy
    Caitlin Timothy says:

    I think I tell myself, “If everyone did this (bankruptcy, not paying student loans, have a basketball player’s baby), the system/country/culture would collapse, so therefore it’s not a good idea.” But in fact I don’t know that it would really collapse, and even if it did, does that automatically make it a wrong choice for me in particular? I don’t know how to decide about that, but this post is a good challenge.

    • Christina
      Christina says:

      The article about medical bills is particularly horrible, reading this in Canada on how in America, people’s life’s are basically ruined because they get sick, its unfathomable, so Penelope’s advice is dead on in that instance though its unfortunate. Why on earth should you put yourself in debt for ridiculous medical bills & pricey prescriptions that your expensive insurance is worthless for? in the same vein a lot of young people are planning on leaving the US forever to escape their student loan debt that’s a brilliant idea, and a double loss.

      That’s right Caitylin, if regular Americans acted like corporations and the moneyed class, the country would collapse in a week from systemic theft, corruption and greed. The government rescues every bank and business out there even the damn insurance companies, while ignoring everyone else. When the system stops working or more accurately when it stops working for those up top who benefit then maybe it will change.

  3. Blandy
    Blandy says:

    Agreed, agreed, agreed! Money is not a moral litmus test, it’s a tool. The system will not implode if too many people use these maneuvers, it will adjust. If you haven’t watched The Big Short (or read the book), do so. It does a good job of pointing out how the system is stacked against individuals. Thinking of one’s self as a business, and using money the way businesses do, is the way to go.

  4. Starrie
    Starrie says:

    We filed Chapter 13 so we could homeschool and filing Bankruptcy is helping us refinance our mortgage. It was a wonderful decision!

  5. Starrie
    Starrie says:

    Oh and I am scheming to get out of my student loans so thanks for the links. :) I don’t feel guilty about any of this at all. Big banks and corporations screw us all the time. I am just defending my freedom. That is why the founding fathers wrote the bankruptcy laws.

  6. Frederick
    Frederick says:

    Great post. Didn’t Victor’s folks ever tell him,” don’t play with your food?” All your suggestion about college loans are all after the fact. Join the Navy and be a deck ape when your done your time they will give you money for school. It worked for me? Full discloser I get $ 50.00 bucks for each person I get to join. I’m retired now and have tried stripping to make a few extra buck and this rate I’ll be able to get a really nice used car in 2020. We’ll talk about house sitting or house watching in the future. It’s do able at the Jersey shore.

  7. Anna
    Anna says:

    This is a great post. I love the flexible thinking it shows. Along with so much in this whole site. Love it, love it, love it.

    The conceptual value of an idea is not necessarily the idea itself.

  8. Elizabeth
    Elizabeth says:

    “Pick the most distasteful piece of advice on the list. And do the mental work of trying to understand the other side of the coin. Why would someone think this is a good idea? What are the alternatives to solve the problem this solves? What are the risks? What are the cultural assumptions that make you think this solution is distasteful? Are they cultural assumptions you really buy into?”


    Every time my Beijing taxi driver rolls down his window to noisily hack pollution from his lungs, whenever kids use the sidewalk as a toilet though there are public squats nearby, I wade through revulsion by trying to understand them instead. It helps sometimes.

  9. Joyce
    Joyce says:

    The solutions in a developing country are simpler:
    Do not go to college if you cannot afford it.
    Ask help from your family to pay your debt.
    Work overseas and send money home.
    Marry a rich man and send money home.

  10. Crystal
    Crystal says:

    As an old stripper, it’d be more accurate to advise strippers to use the money to fund a start up, invest, or move to a cheaper country while living off savings and a small web based business. The #1 piece of advice is for strippers is to marry someone with money. Get a financially sound older guy. Seriously. I’ve been a stripper for over a decade and I’ve seen so few actually get degrees its laughable. Not all strippers are horrible, I know many who are incredibly kind, smart, have degrees, are married, etc.

    But if we want to talk about the majority, most need to just use our looks and what we’ve already self taught ourselves about submission to men and marry up.

    The risks of women getting addicted to drugs and alcohol is big as well. I’m addicted to the ease of money as well as the insanely easy schedule. I can ‘work’ when I want, for as long as I want. I have the time to homeschool my children. I hate that stripping affects my self worth. My relationships. Its opened doors for me that wouldn’t be here if I had lead the “traditional” life. But it takes a broken sort of woman to grind naked on stranger’s erections for money. I can’t imagine my life differently, but is sure is hell can’t be one of the best ways to pay off debt.

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