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.





5 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!


Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *