Wednesday, December 2, 2009

I'm Amazing

This weekend one of my friends introduced me as “one of those amazing people who homeschools her children.”


I offered an uncomfortable smile.

I have been in this conversation before, and for some reason I always freeze at this point. I sense a trap. My instinct is to say, “It’s really not that big of a deal, anyone can do it,” which is what I truly believe.

The problem with that bit of humble honesty is that it disarms the flattery with a subtle accusation. “You could homeschool if you wanted to…

There is a strange tension between successful career women and educated women who choose to forgo employment to spend more time with their kids. It makes me uncomfortable because I think I could probably happily be either.

I admire women who are successful in their chosen careers. At times I envy them. But I don’t regret my life choices. I love my life. I’m happy. My kids are happy. My life is full.

But selfishly, I really want to be understood.

So this time, I ignored the undertones and responded with my best logic.
“Homeschooling is not that difficult.”

Some people think you have to be a certified teacher or something like it to homeschool, so I was not surprised that her defense was “Well, I just didn’t learn enough in college to homeschool.”

At this point in the conversation I should have perceived that she was convincing herself that she couldn’t homeschool because she didn’t want to homeschool. And I should have said something graceful about “it’s not for everyone,” which I do believe.

But instead I said something else that I believe.

“It doesn’t matter what you learned in college. I’ve learned more homeschooling than I did in college. I learn with the kids.”

Maybe I need people to understand that it is intellectually stimulating to be surrounded by children. It is not the same as being a 50s housewife, eternally ironing the man’s shirts.

But I guess it really doesn’t matter what people think. I should just accept the compliment.

I am constantly learning.

This afternoon I learned what it means to tessellate (Squares do. Circles don’t. Google it.) I also learned how Eli Whitney changed human history by more than just inventing the cotton gin. And incidentally, it only takes the space shuttle 90 minutes to orbit the Earth.

But more importantly, I got to be there when my daughter excitedly showed her brother a diagram in her science book of how “bees” see differently, specifically how they “see” flowers differently than humans. She asked me, “but how do scientists know what bees see?” My son looked the pictures over and said, “But who is right?”

They want to know the answers, of course, but the undertones of their questions amuse me too.

Her excitement doesn’t fully mask the skepticism that guides her learning style, “how do they know what bees see? Can they ask bees? Can they “see” inside bees heads?”

And his question, “who is right?” reflects his life stage. "Tell me what is right, Mom. Make it black and white and simple so I can know the rules and win this game of life."

On afternoons when we are home I like to read The Landmark History of the American People to the kids. It is a fascinating historical text. My daughter loves it when I read it to her, but it is just a little over my son's head.

Almost accidentally I discovered that my son remembers more of the story if he is playing while I'm reading. The Lincoln Logs seemed like a good tie in that day as I was reading about Western expansion, and it has somehow became a tradition. Today I read about how Eli Whitney set out to create a mechanized process for creating guns, to fortify America against the perceived threat of Napoleon, and incidentally created an entire system of mass production. It was exciting to see my kids understand how technology shapes history as much or more than wars. Why do we always teach history like it was a series of wars?

I'm not amazing. I just love having the time to enjoy learning with my kids.

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