Friday, June 3, 2011

What to expect when you're live with homeschoolers

Please welcome guest blogger, my husband, who makes home schooling the way we do it in our house possible!

Switching to homeschooling is a big deal. It's a life change on par
with moving to another state or starting a new job, but most of us
have some similar experiences to draw on for those milestones. Nothing
prepared me for what homeschooling would be like. Yet as I look back
over the transition our family has made, I realize that the event in
my life that most closely matches it was the process of expecting and
having our first child with my wife. Indeed, I see now that I should
have expected...

...TO DISCOVER A HIDDEN WORLD. Like many dads, I stumbled about in
shock most of the time in the months leading to my first son's birth.
I had been blissfully clueless about the distinction between a
bassinet and a crib, the sectarian splits formed around brands of baby
bottles, and, yes, even Elmo. As revelations about coneheads and
bilirubin counts and night terrors and LeapPads continued to spool out
over the months and years, I came to adopt a near-Zen state of
humility towards the major matters of this world which I know nothing

When it comes to homeschooling, you soon learn that there are multiple
curricula, support groups, message boards, state officials, classes at
local institutions, and many, many items for sale, all revolving
around this world which previously you never noticed. You find out
about religious fervor regarding, well, religion, but also less sacred
items like math textbooks--all of which to me resembles nothing so
much as the constant controversy that seems to swirl around

The cool part is that once you break through the hoopla and actually
begin the experience, you feel a bit as though you've been inducted
into an elite society. I mean, lots of other people have done this
before you, and people who don't go through this experience aren't
really any poorer for it...aww hell, it's hard not to feel smug pity
once in a while for the saps who continue to lead their little,
unenlightened lives.

...TO BE POORER. Oh, yes, did I mention all those items for sale? You
may naively think that God, or His prophet the Internet, will shower
down upon your family everything it needs for a first-class education.
Then you will remember that in the US of A, value is measured in
dollars. There will be books, software programs, and chemistry sets to
buy and store. Plus, maps, posters, private lessons, and more books.
As in the case of having a child, I remain skeptical that all of this
stuff is really necessary, and, as then, I try to keep my own counsel
as my wife wears out the credit card.

...TO BE A ROLE PLAYER. Keeping your own counsel is a big part of the
pregnancy gig, as veteran dads know. You have a role on this team, and
it is not the star. (This rule is not so relevant to actual
childrearing, except on TV.) When there are 7 seconds left and your
team needs to sink a 3-pointer to win, the ball is not coming your
way. You are Robin, not Batman: in theory, you are needed, but they
could make the movie without you.

As a (college) teacher myself, I know that insecurity comes with the
job, because so much is hard to measure and out of your control
anyway. So, my newly homeschooling wife wants to talk a lot about what
she's learning and teaching and planning for our kids. She seeks my
opinion on many things, but I think what she's really looking for is
reassurance. I know she's smart and thorough and a natural teacher, so
I'm not often inclined to weigh in, but she may need to have a
conversation anyhow. That's my job. But I can't get insistent about my
way of looking at things, because I am not the one delivering the

...TO PINCH-HIT. Everyone who's been partner to a pregnancy knows that
there are meltdown days. True, to some extent these are
physiologically driven. But daily exposure to whining, inquiring,
resisting, lollygagging, interrupting, clarifying, complaining,
daydreaming, and general wall-bouncing takes a physical as well as a
psychological toll. You won't believe it unless you try it, but
teaching is exhausting.

No doubt your job is hard too, but at the end of the day your clients
aren't still expecting you to make them dinner and play War with them.
(Unless you are a Michelin-rated arms dealer, I guess.) You need to
step up your game on some days and take one for the team. It's not
about what's fair, it's about long-range sanity.

...TO SEE THE WORLD DIFFERENTLY. Bringing a child into the world
changes your perspective. Long-term problems like wars and economic
collapses and environmental degradation take on new personal
importance. At the same time, you gain a renewed sense of wonder at
how even the most mundane things are often miraculous.

As a product of public schools and a public university, I have always
wanted to disregard the perennial Chicken Little cries about the
American educational system. They've been going on since I was in
school myself. Those cries are often still exaggerated. But I finally
had to concede that our local public elementary school wasn't working
for us.

Now I have watched my formerly bored sons become passionate learners
of history, chemistry, and languages. They devour books for pleasure.
We conduct dinner table conversations in which I can't consult
Wikipedia fast enough to answer all of the questions. Their old school
starts to sound more like a prison every day. (Seriously. Our state's
schools became infamous for trying to send a first grader to reform
school for using a Cub Scout pocket tool to eat his pudding.)

I'm glad we didn't wait to make things better for our kids and our
family. Really, I'm envious of the education they're getting. As it
was with bringing them into the world in the first place, my concern
for our ability to care for them properly has evaporated. Instead--and
this was completely unexpected--my worries are for the world and
country we're bringing them into.

I have come to believe that it's time to rethink the school model at a
deep level. The system was shaped by and for the industrial
revolution, when a high school diploma meant a decent job that could
support a family. Those days are never coming back. Schools are not
producing the citizens we need, as you can tell from the rampant
irrationality and magical thinking that surrounds all public
discourse. We need a new model for the Information Age. I cheerfully
admit that I don't know what that model should be--after all,
homeschooling won't scale up to national size. But I'm sure it's going
to take creative, critical, and informed leaders to make this happen,
and I feel like we're doing our part. From our kids, I expect great

--Thanks for reading!


  1. Awesome. I actually read it twice it was so insightful.

  2. Great post! The world needs more fathers like you!