My favorite day of homeschooling

Have I written here yet about my favorite day of homeschooling? Because if I have, delete that post from memory, because today is my new favorite day.

My son is taking the AP chemistry test in Germantown, PA. It’s 45 minutes from where we live because public schools won’t let my son participate in their AP testing. (Because, in case anyone needs to be reminded, public schools do not have to serve their communitythey only have to do what the law says they have to do.)

So even though my local school is administering the AP chemistry test to tons of kids, they won’t let my son join. Which means we signed up at Germantown Friends.  And I was going to make this post about how much I like that school. First of all, you know I’m impressed if I’m even mentioning a school that I like. It’s a beautiful school in old buildings and the day we signed up for AP tests there were posters all over reminding kids to walk out of school to support stricter gun laws. I love a school that encourages social protest, and it reminded me that part of the education I’m trying to give my kids is that sometimes protesting absurd gun laws is more important than keeping to our schedule.

Not that I live like that. I can barely even stop sending emails on Yom Kippur, so how am I going to be a role model for social protest? I think that’s a big reason parents send kids to private school — to give the kids strengths and values that the parents wish they held themselves.

But then I found coffee shop/bookshop a few blocks down the street: Uncle Bobbie’s. And now I’m thinking, if only the test could last all day, because I’m so happy in this cafe.

There are book pages hanging from the ceiling. I need them in my apartment. The books are a three-room library of the black experience. I wanted to read everything. I picked up Locking Up Our Own: Crime and Punishment in Black America, because if my kids are going to go somewhere to protest they will need a supervising adult.

Then I picked up You Can’t Touch My Hair, because I know I’m not supposed to ask black people if I can touch their hair, but I want to see a list of other things I would probably want to do and need to be told not to do. I open up to the chapter titled “How to avoid being the black friend.” Fuck. Of course I always want a black friend.

I find a perfect sized room in the back of the cafe with a long, comfy sofa and a tall picture window, and I just breathe. I spent the last week thinking the test is too comprehensive and I was going to die watching paying for the preparation. I had insane nightmares last night and I woke up with dark circles under my eyes which I have never had before. I don’t know what causes dark circles, besides AP chemistry, but I’m sure I’ll learn over the next week, leading up to AP biology.

That’s my problem. I see no break. I don’t know when I will not feel pressure to learn as fast as I can so that I don’t make mistakes. Last year my son studied so hard for AP biology and then he couldn’t take the test because I didn’t know public schools don’t let homeschoolers take AP tests. And this year I didn’t really understand how he needed to study for AP tests.

(Wait. Did you know that some kids just glance through a test prep book the night before and walk into the test cold to see if they can get a good grade? I guess it’s extreme test taking. Or like couchsurfing for great test takers. I don’t know. But I’m fascinated.)

The only reason I’m able to sit and breathe is that one kid is in a test that’ll last hours and it’s too far away from where we live for me to go back home and practice cello with the other kid. It’s the first time in so long that I am giving myself permission to not worry about the kids for a moment.

But still, I can’t help noticing the book on the shelf near the espresso bar: Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America. The book is thick, and I start worrying about next year’s AP US history test. If I want to make sure he also gets a chance to read about Thomas Jefferson’s slaves and Angela Davis’s Black Panthers and also he’s prepared to score a 5, then we will have to get an early start and keep a careful schedule and I’m already thinking I don’t really have time to breathe. But I guess that’s how I like it.

13 replies
  1. Bos
    Bos says:

    So you’re saying your favorite day of homeschooling is the one where you don’t have to be near your kids? I get it.

    You’ve been pulling back the bow for a long time. Letting loose the arrow must be exquisite.

  2. Christy
    Christy says:

    Germantown Friends school is awesome partly because of its Quaker heritage … with Quakers often being very socially active. They also tend toward providing freedom to explore, learn, and become a well-rounded person. If I still lived there AND had the money, it’s one of the only schools I’d consider over homeschooling.

    Since we’ve moved to Connecticut, we’re finding that the state is now wanting to start regulating homeschooling. It comes from a child (who was never homeschooled) who was starved to death by his (known to DCF to be) abusive mother a few years ago. So basically DCF goofed up in looking after an at risk kid, and now the state legislators want to come after homeschoolers to keep kids safe.

    Yup. Makes perfect sense.

    Now trying to figure out how to stop this insanity. Be grateful that you’re just dealing with AP tests. :)

    • Penelope Trunk
      Penelope Trunk says:

      Oh, we are dealing with totally intrusive regulation as well. In fact, not only did someone call CPS, but also two school administrators came to our house, unannounced. I invited them in and they talked to my kids about how great school is and how the kids are missing so much of the fun stuff at school.

      My kids especially love the part about how the administrators told my son who has been taking violin lessons for 12 years that he could take lessons for free from the school orchestra director: “He teaches every instrument! He’s amazing!”


      • Bos
        Bos says:

        Oh, surely Z would love to ostinato for hours as his classmates squawk, squeak, and tootle around him?

        I remember when I left school at 15 one of the administrators tried to convince me to stay by saying I’d be _missing_prom_.

    • Mark W.
      Mark W. says:

      Christy, I remember reading your comment and not being aware of the state of Connecticut looking into regulating homeschooling because of the child who was starved to death. I just read an article ( ) published today that details the background and current status. In my estimation, it is government attempting to overreach which can be traced back to their own ineptitude in the first place. I hope the homeschooling parents are able to argue their case well.

  3. Mark W.
    Mark W. says:

    I went to both the Germantown Friends and Uncle Bobbies websites and was impressed with both places. It’s easy for me to see why you enjoyed both and had a great day. Both emphasize community and support for individuals in a very caring and kind fashion.
    I was especially impressed with the video at Uncle Bobbies where the owner (Marc Lamont Hill) describes his business, its origins, and why he wanted to establish it. I thought there’s more to this guy than books and coffee. So I looked around the website and found a link in the photos and press section to an article written about him and his business. I was right. He is a professor of media studies and urban education at Temple University, a noted author, and social commentator. He has a very deep connection to literature. So for all the reasons above and more, his bookstore is and will continue to remain a success. Also, he is a great example of learning taking place outside the classroom and beyond graduation. As if we every graduate …

  4. Mr. Butter Passing Robot
    Mr. Butter Passing Robot says:

    Why do you think you worry about your sons performances in high stakes situations? I ask with genuine curiosity. I am homeschooling my three children, but my oldest just turned 8. None have yet established a goal (or had one established for them) where they really want to succeed yet the path is uncertain and arduous.

    Do you worry because you participate vicariously in the experience? Do you worry because you fear they will blame you if they fail? Do you worry because you fear that there will be no future opportunities for success or that their prospects will be greatly diminished?

    Right now the biggest obstacle we’ve faced is navigating the Combine in Half Life 2 (which precipitated a fair amount of tears), but I’m wondering what might be in store down the road.

  5. Caitlyn
    Caitlyn says:

    I’m actually taking the AP World test next week and I have yet to really look at a prep book or anything, and probably won’t until the night before. I guess I just want to see if I can pass it, and if I don’t I have the excuse of only studying the night before.

  6. YesMyKidsAreSocialized
    YesMyKidsAreSocialized says:

    There is a PA homeschool group that offers dozens of AP classes online- Way more economical than hiring 10 tutoring sessions, I think I read $725 – $750.

    You could sign him up for the class now- since registration just opened – and only hire the tutor for 1 or 2 sessions closer to the testing window next May.

  7. Fatcat
    Fatcat says:

    Now that he’s got all that studying done, why don’t you have him take the CLEP test and get actual college credit?

    I’m glad you enjoyed your day.

    • Fatcat
      Fatcat says:

      I just re-read my comment and thought it sounded critical, it wasn’t meant that way. I just meant, why don’t you look into CLEP. You may have a college plan that includes scholarships that won’t want him to already have credit, or you may be planning to pay for school yourself, and so save money with CLEP. Just a thought.

  8. Jenn
    Jenn says:

    I hope you told Strath Haven to kiss ur @ss when they denied ur son to take AP tests. They are pretenscious and hippocrates

  9. stacy
    stacy says:

    I went to a Quaker (Society of Friends) college. We have a saying there that I think you might enjoy: “Some of my best Friends are Jews.” Of course, it also works the other way (since there are a lot of Jewish students at this Quaker college, my husband and I were two of many past and present). “Some of my best Jews are Friends.”

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