How can I follow my passion if I am homeschooling my kids?

Today I was walking in the park with Z and I said, “I could  plant broccoli here. With brussel sprouts alternating.”

Z said, “I have an idea. How about you parent me instead?”

Blah. That was the first thing I thought. Then I thought, is he being a jerk? Then I thought, there is no way that I can be defensive about how much time I spend gardening. I spend an insane amount of time gardening. And I keep making gardens at places that people won’t let me come back to. Which is like, probably the most autistic thing that has ever been said about gardening.

I spent most of Covid restoring a community garden in Roxbury.

Also, as long as I’m confessing how much my gardening takes away from parenting, I also spend way too much money on gardening. I bought 75 different species of  bulbs which I mapped out for ten different flower beds, which I built on the streets of Boston without permission.

I keep hoping Z. thinks that because everything looks like dirt and sticks he doesn’t process how fiscally insane it all is.

When people tell me they don’t want to homeschool because they’ll never have time for their passions, the first thing I want to say is that if you have a passion you will do it no matter what. But also, there are two types of passion that drive us, neurotic passion and harmonious passion.

Harmonious passion is an interest that, by definition, enhances ones participation in other parts of one’s life. Neurotic passion swallows other parts of one’s life. This passion is hyper-focused, driven more typically male. It’s what makes a person super competitive and obsessed with getting to a single goal.

When someone says they are worried that family won’t leave time for their passion, they are saying they are worried they won’t express a neurotic passion. The truth is that most women find neurotic passions unappealing, because they mess up your life. The women who have neurotic passions are already expressing that way before kids. Not contemplating it but living that life.

So you don’t need to worry that kids will ruin your neurotic passion because believe me, they won’t. Your neurotic passion will ruin your kids. That’s the definition of a neurotic passion.

Here’s another way to think about if homeschooling will smother your passionate life. Each family looks at who is getting what out of life and adjusts to give everyone the best benefits possible. No family can do everything. Every family makes compromises. Homeschooling is making a choice to be more conscious about this instead of having it dictated by school.

The thing that really stands out to me about putting kids in school so parents can explore passions is that school squashes kids passions. School is simply not at all about kids expressing individual passions. This puts the kids passions at odds with the parents passions. But I don’t think it has to be that way. Most people are able to balance their passion and their relationships.

Think of people you know who sacrificed their relationships for their passion: Steve Jobs, Marie Curie, Mother Theresa, Erik Satie. These people are such extreme outliers there is 0% chance you are like them. It’s more likely you can express your harmonious passion and homeschool your kid.

Or you can be like me, and homeschool your kid and let your neurotic passions run free, and when your kids grow up they will criticize you for it. My solution: I told Z that he should plant broccoli with me, because his brain injury is so limiting and getting outside is good for him.

I’m pretty sure that just made things worse.





10 replies
  1. Tqp
    Tqp says:

    Neurotic passion… very correlated to autistic, but not completely?

    So that may also run in a family. I see entire families that have different but very focused areas of interest.

  2. Mark W.
    Mark W. says:

    I recognize a very clear conservative and libertarian side of you when I read – “The thing that really stands out to me about putting kids in school so parents can explore passions is that school squashes kids’ passions. School is simply not at all about kids expressing individual passions.” I say that because the rights of the individual are put front and center on many issues that our society has to deal with. That’s not to say the community is not important because it is. I guess it comes down to the issue at hand and the people involved which entity gets top billing – the individual or the community.
    I can’t say I ever thought about passion as being either neurotic or harmonious but now I am. It makes sense to me.
    Also, thanks for the photos. They add a nice touch to this post.

  3. Abby Hall
    Abby Hall says:

    Penelope, are you doing all your own brick borders, too?

    I just moved into a rental house that has a garden that hasn’t been tended to in 10 years (I pushed over a dead apple tree with one hand) and it’s amazing how therapeutic gardening is…. There’s something about the combo of having hands in the soil, the singular focus and seeing the progress real-time that’s magical. My mother is an avid gardener, too… I remember thinking it was stupid as a child, but now I realize part of why she may have been out there was because it was pretty certain that none of us kids would bother her… lest she make us help pull weeds!

    • Penelope
      Penelope says:

      I have planted gardens in so many rental homes… I made a rose garden in Los Angeles. There was a place in Madison where I not only planted a garden but I laid grass and installed a playhouse/slide/swing set. I think I spent more on the yard than one year of rent.

      I wish I had one inch of pragmatism in my brain that told me don’t do that in a rental. But each time it made me so happy and I learned so much. I hope you have a good time making a garden, too!


  4. Abby Ha
    Abby Ha says:

    P.S. Those street beds are SPECTACULAR! It is very difficult to get things to grow in that sort of set-up… let alone flourish! You’ve got a green thumb for sure!

  5. A
    A says:

    We were talking about this.Although I couldn’t think of the word outlier at the time.Do all ‘Great’ people do this? Like your friend and Halloween. They get accolades from the outside and are impossible to live with.
    I was sad for about two seconds when you said I couldn’t do my gift right now.I had the delusion you would tell me what I am good at and say go do that.As in in you would ‘fix’ me.
    Then you explained it ruin lives so I think I can wait.I know I could get hit by a bus but generally women in my family live long.I can get obsessive when my kids want me less.I’m not actually married but that’s splitting hairs.Weirdly when we have had issues I had your advice in my head about not divorcing.Basically not throwing it all away because of something temporary.It definitely is easier with another parent in the same house.I get annoyed because I’m so much worse than the average woman and he’s better than the average man ( in ways)The bar is set so low for them
    I do get a do- over.The first time I was the do-over for my eldest’s Father.He broke up with his Ex when his firstborn was too and let contact fade out.We lasted about the same length of time and I didn’t know where he was for 15 years.He was a Business Analyst.I never really understood what he did.
    Now I have a farmer who wants to leave his house and farm to my son and his money to my daughter. He said it would have probably all go to her if there was no other babies.
    I have a house I will be able to purchase in the next few years.If the children say they hate farming or piss him off some other way I can still help them.It’s not only about inheritance. My eldest did say if we moved out or problems would go with us.He annoys her but she likes living in his house.A mindset coach recently said to that I get to decide what is abusive .So basically I get to decide what I will put up with.It works the other way round too so he could be sick of some things I do.
    She got me to send voice notes.If I hadn’t done that I’m not sure I would have called you.Plus you told me you would talk so if I left gaps to think it was fine,not akward at all.Usually I am akward unless it’s a scripted call for an appointment or something for work.Minset coach did say to get a diagnosis though.That course has finished so I won’t hear from her again.I’m glad you invoiced me.I don’t expect you to work for fee but it did feel nice that you had intended to.
    I love that you make everywhere home by gardening even if it’s disruptive to your boys and illogical. I don’t make anywhere home.I always think I’m there due to someone else’s tolerance.
    And you asked how do I do anything?.The answer is I generally don’t.I stay small and try placate everyone around me.
    Thank you for bothering with me.It felt good when I was well aware I was being nuts.I’m putting down to mid life crisis

    • Penelope
      Penelope says:

      It got caught by my spam filter because you didn’t have spaces after your periods. It looked like spam. I generally do not delete comments. I like them too much :)


      • Ann
        Ann says:

        I didn’t think you deleted it.I presumed I did as I was getting interrupted.And it’s your blog- if you really don’t like the comment it can go


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