Dear Self-Righteous Civilians: Do Please Kindly Shut Up

October 17th, 2012

[Editor's note: Okay, it's just me. The Bitter One. I don't have an editor. Rather, I am the editor, which isn't always good news. But at least I always know where to find her. Usually, in the kitchen sobbing over an empty brownie pan. But I digress.

I'm not sure if I should have closed that bracket and then opened up a new one for this paragraph. I guess not, but it looks kind of weird like this. Just go ahead and assume this is all part of one big, long, bracketed message. Thank you.

No, this is looking too weird. Oh. Duh. I should put this whole thing in italics. Brb.

Much better.

Where was I?

Right. Okay. I'm used to people not liking what I write. I'm even used to having mixed feelings about some of my own writing. But I'm not used to feeling distinctly uneasy after posting something, and then having someone whose opinion I care about confirm my own belief that I did indeed mess up.

Specifically, I didn't make it clear enough that I was talking about (and to) people who hold misguided ideas about homeschoolers and homeschooling. Not all civilians do. Maybe not even most. The whole point of this posting is that we shouldn't  judge a group by a single characteristic. Insert irony music here.

Separate issue, and one that this person did not bring up but that's been bothering me -- some seriously harsh language, or as one reader put it, "Holy sentence enhancers!"

First things first.

When I got the message from this friend, my first impulse was to insist to myself that this person just must not have "gotten it." Because, you know, how could I possibly be wrong about anything ever?

Then I reread the posting, and oh, yeah. I blew it.

I was embarrassed and troubled enough by this to want to just take the posting down. But that would mean losing the comments people had posted -- some of which were very good, and at least one of which was better than my own posting -- or at least losing the context, if I just deleted my writing and put up a "Space For Rent" sign. Or if I completely rewrote the piece. Which I'm actually going to go ahead and do in another posting. I want to tackle this subject again from a different angle, because I just don't feel done with it. But I think that this particular perspective has its own value, with a little judicious editing.

I also could have just gone ahead and done a silent rewrite, but I really wanted to point out what I was doing and why. Not as a big fat ego trip, but because the whole point of blogging is the conversation with readers. And this is part of that conversation.

As for the language issue -- people really liked my use of "bollocks," which is a great word because it's almost swearing but not quite, plus it's hilariously British and they do everything better than us, at least language-wise. "Ass-clown" also went over well. I'm keeping that, because it is swearing but it's pretty mild as swearing goes and I stole it from Iron Man 2. Yes, I worship at the altar of Robert Downey, Junior. You needed to know that. [Editor's other note: Not really.]

The other “bad words”: I didn’t get any complaints about them, at least not in the comments here or in my personal email. And there weren’t a lot of said words. But I find it distasteful even when I blurt that kind of stuff out at idiots in traffic. (The window’s shut. I’m not that bad. Mostly.) So I don’t really feel like leaving that kind of Shinola in print. It’s not even a case of “I wouldn’t want my child talking like that, so I’m not going to.” If anything, it’s the other way around. My son hates it when I swear. He didn’t say anything when he read this, other than liking my comment about owing the cuss jar four thousand dollars, but he really wishes I’d cut it out. And he’s important to me. He’s going to have to live with “ass-clown,” but I’m cleaning up the rest of it. And if “bollocks” turns out to be actual profanity in England, well, nobody told me.

I think that’s it. I guess I can close that bracket now.

]

I was feeling kind of bad about some of the comments I’ve received on recent postings. About how if only I were nicer and calmer and more reasonable, I could give the homeschooling movement some much-needed positive PR.

And then I woke up.

The people who tell me that I should be a nice girl are people who are picking on my tone because they don’t want to deal with the content of my message. They’re mostly civilians, though there are some homeschoolers who have publicly taken me to task on their own blogs for being so darned bitter all the time. (Yeah. It’s not a persona or a writing style or anything. I’m like this every minute of the day. At breakfast and everything. “Pass me those homemade cinnamon-sugar doughnuts, dang nab it! I’m bitter and I’m going to say so!” Yes, we had homemade doughnuts for breakfast this morning. And now I bet you’re bitter.)

The people who criticize me in the comment section and refuse to answer the actual issues I bring up think they can score good citizen points for telling the out-of-control screamer to take it easy and play nice. Like all the other homeschoolers. We’re actually a pretty nice group. That’s why I stick out so sharply. I’m a shock.

Dear People Who Want Me To Tone It Down A Notch: Have you read the name of this blog? Does it say, “The Fair And Balanced Homeschooler Who Cares About How You Feel”? It does not. There’s a reason for that.

I’m not here to be good PR, for homeschoolers or anyone else. The homeschooling movement has plenty of terrific ambassadors in that respect.

Please note: You’re not reading them.

You’re not. You never do. Check your search engine history. How much time, Critical Comment Writer, do you spend on any of the rational, well written, earnest homeschooling blogs out there?

They’re out there. You don’t care.

“The Bitter Homeschooler’s Wish List” blazed across the Internet. It still gets posted, reposted, and talked about.

You wouldn’t have noticed if I’d written it in a sweet, low, adorable little voice.

Sorry. You like snark. You’re shallow. Join the club.

The critical comments come from non-homeschoolers who don’t approve of homeschooling and don’t like it when I call them out on how and why they’re wrong. As for my other readers: homeschoolers wouldn’t be reading my work if I were just too cute for words.

Remember how I said I’m not here to be good PR? I’m not. I’m here to vent, and to allow other homeschoolers to bask in the knowledge that they’re not alone in being annoyed by the specific stupidity homeschoolers have to deal with.

Speaking of which: The actual point of this posting!

In spite of all the really good blogs I just mentioned, some civilians are still being the same ass-clowns you’ve been for the past two decades. It’s not just that you’re still stupid. You’re still exactly the same flavor of stupid. And that’s boring and enraging in about equal parts.

For instance: A friend of mine was just told by her neighbor that the reason her kids fight so much is that they’re homeschooled.

I had three sisters. We all went to public school. Fighting was our main extracurricular activity. We spent way more time being evil to one another than we ever did on homework. And we were much nastier than my friend’s daughters ever are.

Doesn’t matter. When school kids do something, they’re just being kids. When homeschoolers do something — ANYTHING — they’re Representing Homeschooling.

What’s weird is that the stereotype I hear the most is that homeschoolers are creepily well-behaved because they’re little cult kids. But whatever. My friend’s kids bicker, so it must be because they homeschool.

Another fer instance: I know a homeschooled girl who’s perfectly outgoing among people she knows, and who regularly dances and sings for audiences. However, if you put her in a social setting with more than, say, four entirely new people, she contracts Locked-In Syndrome and can only communicate her terror via eye-blinking in Morse code.

She was taken to a fancy-schmancy charity league tea by a friend and, predictably, froze up. Heck, I freeze up just hearing about that kind of thing. I’d only go if it were one of the demands on a ransom letter from my son’s kidnapper. (If my husband’s kidnapper asks this, he’s on his own. I’ve already warned him.) Even then, I’d probably pack a cyanide pill. They said I had to go. They didn’t say I had to live through it.

This little girl became known immediately as The Homeschooled Kid. All the parents and a lot of the kids attending the event started whispering in pitying tones about how, you know, that’s what happens to kids when you homeschool them.

Oh, PUH-leeze. I went to public school with several paralyzingly shy kids. You know the type. It’s painful to be in the same room with them, because they go into visible agony if anyone does anything pushy or overbearing like look directly at them for four-fifths of a second. God forbid you try to start a conversation with one of them. You’ll both need a suicide hotline in under five minutes.

Shy kids who go to public school are shy kids. Shy homeschooled kids are Homeschooled Kids So Of Course They’re Shy.

I’m not in a forgiving mood here. If you’ve ever been guilty of this kind of behavior, you need to listen to me right now, and listen good.

If you’ve ever attended or even just seen a school, you know very well that it’s populated by kids who are shy, nerdy, restless, moody, goofy, obstreperous, whiny, teasing, and just plain weird. You KNOW this.

So where do you get off accusing us of screwing up our kids by homeschooling them every time they have the nerve to act like NORMAL HUMAN BEINGS?

If you do this: stop it. Right now. I’m NOT asking nicely. I’m telling you that you’re being a willful idiot, and I’m calling you on it.

And don’t pull that whole “If you’d just asked nicely, we coulda talked about this” routine. Bollocks. Every homeschooler I know shows admirable restraint when they’re the ones on the receiving end of this nonsense. They’re polite. They’re patient (even if they’re gritting their teeth). They try to explain.

And it ain’t working. A lot of people — and you know who you are — are still being idiots on a regular basis.

So hear it from me: I’m onto you. I’m not going to be cute and I’m not going to be nice. And that’s why what I say is going to stick in your head, no matter how much you wish it would leave.

Deal with it. And behave. Homeschoolers have enough to deal with without getting this kind of grief.

 

Homeschool Field Trips: A Translation Guide for the New and/or Desperate

August 31st, 2012

Yes, I’m about to trash my own group. You’re allowed to trash your group, just like you’re allowed to criticize your family but axe-murder anyone else who breathes a word against them. Civilians who take this blog post to mean that it’s open season on homeschoolers should be prepared to learn otherwise, by which I mean they should enter their local witness protection program and dedicate the remainder of their lives to charity. Just because I’m ticked off at homeschoolers doesn’t mean I feel like taking any guff from the people who honestly think they’re normal. Like that’s a good thing.

Anyway: I had a recent, bitter reminder of why I’ve slacked way off on organizing activities for our local homeschooling support group. The next time I decide to host a gathering that actually costs time, money, and energy that could be better spent ANYwhere else — an event that required, in this case, the purchase of perishable, non-returnable food items and the moving of furniture in the anticipation of a crowd that didn’t show up — I’m going to do something more sensible instead. I’m thinking crystal meth, or maybe naked public belly dancing. Heck, that sounds like two great tastes that taste great together compared to hearing AN HOUR BEFORE THE PARTY STARTED that five of the expected eight guests would not in fact be attending.

I’d say I’m not bitter, but I think you’d know I was lying.

I’ve talked to a lot of people about the fact that homeschoolers as a group seem congenitally incapable of following through on commitments when it comes to field trips and other organized get-togethers, and honoring the terms of those trips when they do. Most of the people I talked to are the ones who try to organize said field trips.

Some say that homeschoolers are homeschoolers exactly because we’re so independent-minded. We’re used to doing what we want to when we want to, and find the idea of agreeing to be at a certain place at a certain time and then actually being there alien. And following someone else’s rules? Fuhgeddaboudit.

One charitable soul pointed out that when school kids go on a field trip, they’re gathered at one place by one school bus, and unless that bus breaks down, they’ll all get to the right place at the same time. In this setting, younger siblings have their own class and their own trips to go on, so there’s no worry that they’ll be brought to places they’re too young and/or bored to cope constructively with. Which is true, but doesn’t exactly excuse acting like a total douche. Especially since you’re setting an example of douchiness to your impressionable child, and you’re his or her primary teacher.

And several people who make The Bitter Homeschooler sound like June Cleaver on Xanax said that the reason homeschoolers are complete and total inconsiderate scum when it comes to responding in a timely manner to announcements of events, coughing up the dough, honoring our commitments, showing up on time, and realizing we’re responsible for the behavior of our children isn’t because we’re homeschoolers; it’s because human beings ought to do the whole damned universe a favor and seek early extinction. I used to think I could medal in the Bitter Olympics. Now I’m not even sure I’d be allowed to compete.

For those still young and strong and idealistic enough to want to host a gathering or organize a trip for your fellow homeschoolers, here’s a handy guide to some common terms. Homeschoolese sounds a lot like English, so it’s easy to be confused by some of the most frequently used words and phrases.

No, I can’t attend: I probably won’t attend, but I might if I’m in the neighborhood with several children along with my own.

Yes, I will attend: I’ll come if I feel like it, if all my children feel like it, if the weather is absolutely perfect, and if I’m in the neighborhood anyway, preferably with several children along with my own or else with only one child when I responded affirmatively for three and this particular trip has a required minimum in order to qualify for a group rate and/or tour guide.

Does this trip start at 10:00?: You know I won’t show up until 10:23 at the earliest, right? And I’ll throw a hissy fit if things started without us.

I’m calling from my cell phone! We’re on our way! We’ll be there very soon!: We’re not coming.

I understand that this trip is for kids age 10 and up: But my four-year-old is very gifted, so I know you don’t mean him.

I see you’ve posted about this trip on Facebook or an email loop: I will learn your phone number and call you 17 times before the trip, asking you questions you already posted the answers to or spending twenty minutes explaining why we can’t make it.

Can I pay at the door?: I RSVP’d in the affirmative, and don’t want to shell out the money unless I actually feel like showing up.

My child’s really looking forward to this field trip!: I’m really looking forward to dropping my child off on a trip that was specifically described as requiring parental attendance!

I’m really looking forward to this field trip!: I’m really looking forward to going along on a trip that already has the maximum allowed chaperones! I’m going to ask the tour guide lots and lots of questions, and answer all the questions she asks the kids!

Yes, that’s my child: You mean the one climbing the tree? The indigenous, endangered-species tree? In the courtyard? Specifically, the courtyard outside the guided museum tour we’re taking? The courtyard I have my back to? Yes, that’s my child. Why do you ask?

My child has so much imagination: My child is going to talk through the entire tour, and when the guide asks if she can please get a word in edgewise, I’m going to glare at that soul-killing monster as if I’m hoping to set her on fire by the sheer force of my hatred.

Oh, are those the rules of conduct?: We follow our own rules. They’re in this book, which I got from the evil parallel Star Trek universe.

So we’re supposed to pack lunches for this field trip?: I’m either not going to bring any food at all, or I’m going to bring plenty and give it to my child whenever he asks, even if we’re surrounded by fragile, priceless art.

I know outside food isn’t allowed on this trip: I’m bringing food.

I understand that this is a nut-free event: Peanuts aren’t nuts, are they?

I’m so glad you organized this trip!: And if you ever organize another one, I’m going to do all this again, and more!

Can’t we all just shut up, already?

August 1st, 2012

I go to my local homeschooling group gatherings so I can talk about something other than homeschooling.

I mean, yes, sure, we talk about homeschooling. I’m often hit up for tips on teaching various subjects, not because I’m an expert but because my kid is one of the oldest in the group so I’ve racked up some experience points. And I’m fine with that. It’s actually hard to shut me up about this one particular Latin book.

And often there are new people at the park days, and they want to hear about how the heck do we do this, already. Is it legal? Am I going to die? Will my kids be able to go to college? Or even learn to read?

The thing is, though, these are people who already have homeschooling as a basic premise, even if they haven’t started yet. They’re figuring out details, is all.

Which means, oddly enough, that when we all get together as a group, we have the luxury of not talking about homeschooling. We talk about books. Movies. Our careers. (Yes, many of us have outside-the-home jobs, or inside-the-home careers that actually pay money.) We can talk about all of these things knowing that if homeschooling comes up as a topic, it won’t be a big deal. We all get it. Moving on now.

I have plenty of friends who don’t homeschool, and we talk about stuff that isn’t homeschooling, too. Talking to civilian parents about homeschooling is always a wonderful experience, if the new definition of “wonderful” includes things like “awkward” and “guilt-inducing.” Because every single last one of them seems to feel the need to explain why they’re not homeschooling.

Dear Civilians: WE DON’T CARE. And if we do, WE’RE BAD.

The only homeschoolers I know who might take a civilian to task for not homeschooling are the homeschoolers who run around talking about how schools are prisons. These are the ones who bring up the statistics about how public schools were started by big-business owners in order to teach people how to be stupid so they’ll be happy to work in mindless, soul-killing jobs.

If you’re a civilian and you’ve run into one of these party-people — guess what? I don’t enjoy talking to them, either. We’re on different planets. My fantasy is locking them all in a big room with the “Homeschoolers just want to indoctrinate their children” types and starting a reality TV show from hell. No, we wouldn’t let them starve to death. But slapping would be allowed.

I wandered into a room like that the other day. Accidentally. It was a conversation among a mixed group. And by mixed, I mean it included representatives from the following major food groups:

Parents who insist they would do actual damage to their children if they homeschooled;

Parents who think that you’re doing actual damage to any child just by letting him walk by a school, let alone into one;

Parents who call themselves homeschoolers because they teach their kids stuff after school and on weekends;

Parents who were desperately looking for the nearest exit and/or a stiff drink.

Maybe that last one was just me. But the other three were out in force.

Slaps all around.

In order –

Dear People Who Feel They Have Explain How Bloodily They’d Kill Their Children If They Homeschooled For Even Half An Hour: You scare me. Are you saying that if you had to go into hiding, your kids would remain illiterate because otherwise you’d kill them before the Nazis did? Or are you just saying that temperamentally, you don’t see yourself as a homeschooler?

If it’s the last one — look, I’m not trying to convert you. You’ve convinced me that the last thing I want is your attendance at this particular party. But just for the record: Lots of us didn’t see ourselves as the homeschooling type. Lots of us still don’t. We’re not even sure what “the type” is. We just frickin’ homeschool.

That aside: Could you please tone it down a bit? I know that you’re actually trying to tell me that you don’t disapprove of my choice even though you’d never emulate it. But how would you feel if you met someone who was childless by choice and, as soon as she found out that you have children, she told you that she could never have kids because it just wouldn’t be safe. Seriously. Best-case scenario, severe emotional scarring. Possibly actual blood.

You’d be ready to call the cops, right? Especially if she ever got near your kid? Well, that’s how I feel when you assure me that your kids might not survive the experience if you homeschooled. If you had to homeschool, you’d homeschool. You don’t, so you don’t. ‘Nuff said.

Next up –

Dear Scary Radicals: Enough. Okay? Just — enough. Yes, there are problems with the public school system. Yes, some of those problems might be argued to be inherent in said system. Yes, you’re purer than everybody else. But I’m declaring Markus’ Homeschooling Corollary to Godwin’s Law, which reads as follows: As soon as you use the word “prison” or the phrase “conformity mill” when describing public schools, you’ve officially lost the argument. If this forces you to work a little harder and be a little more creative when discussing homeschooling, that’s good for everybody.

And now, just in case there’s anyone I haven’t yet offended:

Dear People Who Say They Homeschool When They Don’t Actually Homeschool: I’m the moderator for my local homeschooling support group. Occasionally, we’ll get a membership request from someone who intends to send her child to school, but wants to “homeschool preschool.” I always let them in, and I always roll my eyes. Because taking care of a three-year-old isn’t homeschooling. It’s parenting.

When I was a nanny, I lived with two children. I spent more time with them than their parents did. I saw to their physical needs, including preparing most of their food and seeing that it got eaten. I washed their clothes and cleaned their home. I read to them, tickled them, nagged them, worried about them, took them to the park, bathed them, soothed them when they had bad dreams, and loved them.

I really thought all this made me pretty much a parent. I was offended when parents who didn’t understand my special status said that you never knew what being a parent was like until you became one. “Well, I do,” I always thought.

Well, I didn’t, it turns out. My work with those children was important, fulfilling, and worthwhile. It just wasn’t parenting.

A lot of the same activities and emotions are involved in full-time nannying and parenting. They’re great preparation for parenting. They taught me a lot more about parenting than some parents knew. But they’re not the same thing as parenting.

I was arrogant to think that I knew what it was like to be a mother when I was still a teenager and still getting paid for the work I did with “my” kids. And saying that isn’t denigrating to childless nannies. Saying that something is different from something else doesn’t mean that one of those things is automatically better or worse than the other — it’s just saying they’re different.

I can say from experience that the goals, focus, and pressures of parenting are comPLETEly different from those of nannying. They’re not less. But they’re different.

Helping your child with his homework, taking your child on terrific field trips and vacations, reading together, answering his questions, and helping him pursue his interests are significant, laudable, needful things. But in and of itself — by which I mean, “If your kid also spends six to eight hours a day on a campus” — THAT’S NOT HOMESCHOOLING. That’s parenting.

If what you do is a significant educational supplement to your child’s schooling, that’s great. Your child is very lucky. You’re still not homeschooling.

Homeschooling parents and schooling parents have a lot of the same panic attacks. But we have different ones, too. We all worry about whether or not our children are getting everything they need to have a good education. You’re not worried that your educational choice may become illegal, or may be perceived by the neighbors or the local educational authorities as illegal. We all worry about what and how much our children are learning. You’re not worried about whether and how you’ll be able to prove to the local authorities that what your child spends all day doing constitutes learning.

This is not a case of “I’m a better parent because I homeschool.” If I act like it is, I’m a dick and you should kick me out of your life. Because homeschooling does not impart superiority. I know we’re not supposed to think along those lines, but I can’t help it. I know some school parents who spend just as much time and work on the parenting front as I do, and they do a better job at it. And I know some homeschooling parents whose kids would be better off if they wandered away and were adopted by a nice pack of wolves.

But saying that you know what it’s like to homeschool because you take parenting seriously and have taught your child a great many things puts you right up there with people who say they have children who are less than a year apart in age, so they know what it’s like to have twins. There are people who actually say that. I learned about them a couple of months ago, from a mother of multiples. I practically fell over.

I work hard parenting my child. I homeschool without much income or much in the way of modern conveniences (no dishwasher, no washing machine or dryer of my own, no house, no yard, and for several years no car). So if I work hard, and parenting twins is hard work…I guess I know what it’s like to have twins?

Please.

Last but by no means least –

Dear Everybody Else: So, how about that drink? I’ve got white wine, red wine, Long Island Iced Tea…

Just enough food not to starve.

July 26th, 2012

A librarian I haven’t seen for a while greeted me the other day. I like him, so I tried not to wince too visibly when he asked my least favorite question: “So, are you guys still homeschooling?”

Librarians are important. Children’s librarians especially are potential ambassadors for the homeschooling cause. So I had to cultivate.

Yes, we were still homeschooling.

I could see him settling in for a nice, thorough round of questioning. Did we have to register with the state? Did we belong to official homeschool groups? What about testing?

I answered as reassuringly as possible. No, we didn’t have to test, but many homeschoolers choose to. Yes, we belong to lots and lots of groups. (Didn’t pursue the “official” aspect of that.) Yes, the state knew we existed.

All the rest of that day, our conversation bothered us. I thought it must just be a minor case of burnout. The same questions over and over get old.

It is that. But it isn’t just that.

Most homeschoolers I know do exactly what I did when civilians haul out the grill. We do everything we can to put their fears at rest. Deep down, we feel a little irritated, and then we feel a little guilty. These are fair questions, aren’t they?

No.

They’re not.

They’re incredibly insulting. Worse than insulting.

Here’s why.

Imagine the conversation going a little differently. Same questions, different answers. Something like this:

“So — are you still homeschooling?”

[Long pause. Long stare.] “Yeees. Yes, I still have a child and I’m still looking after his education. I’m still feeding him, too. Every day.”

[Looks startled, but quickly rallies.] “Oh. So, you have to register with the state, right?”

“We have to fill in about ten minutes of electronic ‘paperwork’ a year. It probably took longer to fill in my son’s birth certificate. The birth certificate took a lot more thought.”

“But you have to take standardized tests, right?”

“No.”

“Don’t you have to follow an official curriculum or something?”

“Absolutely not.”

“But then how does the state know you’re teaching your child?”

“The state doesn’t know any such thing.”

“But — well, how is that even legal? You say you’re homeschooling, but you could be doing anything! Or nothing at all!”

“I suppose that’s true. And what about you?”

“What about me? I don’t homeschool!”

“That’s right. Your daughter goes to school, doesn’t she? I guess that means she’s checking in with the government every day, in a way. But she hasn’t been going to school her whole life. She was at home for years. And you registered with the state, in a manner of speaking, when she was born — for her birth certificate, and then for her Social Security number. How did the state know you were feeding her every day before she started going to school?”

“That’s a ridiculous question!”

“It isn’t. It’s exactly what you’re asking me. You’re assuming that if the government isn’t after me every minute, I won’t take care of my child. Apparently, just having a kid doesn’t give me any incentive for doing more than the absolute bare-bones legal minimum of whatever I can get away with. Speaking of which — doesn’t your daughter go to private school?”

“Yes, she’s an honors student at Trust Me You Can’t Afford This.”

“But why would you send her there? Isn’t it expensive? And a long drive? There’s a public school right down the street from you, right?”

“Sure, but it’s not very good. This way she’ll have a much better chance at getting into a good college.”

“So? She’d probably get into college somewhere, if she really wanted to. You’re not legally required to pay all that money and send her to private school. Why do it?”

“Because I want to offer her the best education she can get. I want her to have job opportunities.”

“Oh — you want her to get a good job so she can support you.”

“No, of course not! I just want her to be happy and have a good life!”

“But you don’t think I want that for my child. You think that to me, being a parent means doing only what I absolutely have to — what I’m legally required to do, and nothing more. Is that what you think about the rest of my child’s life? Do you think I use a calorie counter and just give him the minimum daily sustenance I can get away with? Or do you think it’s possible that maybe, just maybe, I’m exactly like you? Maybe I take care of my kid because I love him and I want him to be happy? No, of course not. That’s crazy talk. I mean, why would I homeschool my kid if I loved him that much?”

Of course I’ll never have that conversation. But a lot of it will be going through my head now every time I get that particular batch of questions — which, since I’m a bit of a local ambassador for homeschooling, happens often.

If you’re one of the people doing this kind of asking, and you notice that the person you’re talking to is clenching her teeth just a bit, think about the kind of self-control she’s showing. You’re accusing her right to her face of being someone who only takes good care of her child because she’s afraid she’ll be sent to prison otherwise. And not only is she not screaming, or storming off, or telling you you’ve got some nerve — she’s answering your questions. Politely.

Which is probably more than you’d do if she turned the tables and asked you why the hospital let you take your newborn baby home without attaching some kind of monitor to it to make sure you weren’t starving it or beating it or something. You probably wouldn’t be too worried about allaying her fears and setting her mind at rest and assuring her that, no, you’re not abusive at all, really. You’d probably have some choice words to say to someone who accused you of being that sort of parent.

Think about that.

The kind of stuff that almost happens to me.

July 14th, 2012

So my son’s been sick for a week. Not in that “this cold just won’t go away” way we all know and hate. No, he’s had a creepy week-long fever. You know how you’re not supposed to be able to run a fever early in the morning? He was starting out every day at over 100 degrees. And he’s one of those people who tends toward cool — his normal temp is in the low 97s. And he’s 14 years old, as opposed to, say, 14 months. So this was bad.

Plus he’s one of those people who never get sick. Frankly, I was kind of relieved when he finally got the flu at the age of four. I was starting to wonder if we were going to have to get him Damien-tested or something.

Not only is he making up for lost time now — he’s making up for it during a whole week where he was supposed to be acting as junior counselor at a Lego day camp. (Of course there are Lego camps.)

The first week of this job, which sonny was in perfect health for, was from eight in the morning until one in the afternoon, and it’s about an hour’s drive away. So not a huge break for me.

But this week? He was going to be there all day. Like, from eight until five.

And he loves it. So I wouldn’t have to feel guilty at having some huge unprecedented time to myself.

I’m a homeschooler, and we don’t run around talking about how much we hate being anywhere near our kids. I’ve never understood that attitude — “Oh, no! My kids are home from school today! DEAR GOD IN HEAVEN, SAVE ME FROM THIS MISERY!” I mean, I understand not wanting to spend every minute with your children. But when that turns into not wanting to spend any minute with them? That’s when I have to wonder who you were expecting to marry and what went wrong. Because clearly you think of children as something you produce in order to provide an heir to the throne or an extra target for those pesky paparazzi.

But, homeschooler or not, I am a loner. And a big old introvert. I crave time to myself — not for the sake of being away from my child, but for the sake of being away from everyone.

And even if I hated the idea of my son being gone for so long every day — and part of me does, it’s weird, we’ve never been apart so long for so many days in a row — I’d have to feel sad for his sake that he was missing out on something he really enjoys. Not to mention his first job. And missing out because he’s sick and feverish every day and just not getting any better.

So it’s been a shite week.

Several days into it, I realized that I hadn’t been outside at all except to go downstairs to our apartment complex’s laundry room. Which so does not count.

I do love being at home. But there’s a difference between deciding not to go out and not being allowed to go out.

So this morning, my husband took sonny to the doctor. My husband has an outside job, so having him take time off work to run this errand may sound weird. It sounds less weird when I explain that my husband insisted I needed some sanity time, and this was the only way I could get it. And it sounds way less weird when I explain that one of us hates our insurance plan with the dark fury of a thousand burnt-out stars (oh, just go with it) and tends to glare at representatives of that HMO. So in the interest of peace, he took our son in to get an X-ray and what turned out to be a diagnosis of pneumonia.

I went for a guilt-ridden run while they were gone. I jogged all the way down to the ocean and added a few pieces to my drift-glass collection. One of them was orange and had interesting marks on it, and I realized that it must have come from one of those reflective triangles they put on bicycles to lull their riders into a fatally false sense of security at night. I was waiting for somebody to yell, “YOU SHOULDN’T TAKE SHELLS! THEY’RE PART OF THE ECOSYSTEM!” And then I could wave my pieces of sea-smoothed glass and yell back, “GOSH, I WONDER WHAT LIVED IN THIS SHELL!” and then maybe add something clever about not throwing stones around all this glass, except I couldn’t think of how to phrase it. But nobody said anything. So I brought my glass home and watched about four minutes of “True Blood” — something else I’ve been deprived of now that my son’s in full-time residence — until the guys got home and told me all the gory details of the doctor visit.

By now it was so late that my husband decided not to bother even trying to go to work. So he ran a bunch of errands, because we were out of pretty much everything, because did I mention I’ve been trapped inside?

Here’s what I did while he was gone.

I took the lizards — Mr. Big and Miss Elizardbeth Bennett — for walkies eight million times, because it was super-humid out and that makes them go crazy if they have to stay in their tanks. These lizards are not large enough to roam around our apartment all by themselves. They’re like toddlers: you have to watch them every second or they’ll eat something totally inappropriate, or hurt themselves, or relieve themselves under the CD rack. (Okay, they’re not exactly like toddlers.)

I called my son’s music school and left a message canceling his violin lesson. Which I may as well not have even bothered doing, because they called the very next morning at lesson time demanding to know where he was.

I wrote up a master list of dinner ideas that won’t kill anybody or make anybody cry, which is harder than it sounds considering my husbands many food allergies and my son’s vegetarianism (which I will most definitely kvetch about here at some point).

I had the following conversation with my bed-ridden son:

“Mommy, could you please make me some lunch?”

“Sure. What do you want?”

“Do we have any leftover soup?”

“No.”

“Soup and bread would be great.”

I had a huge argument with my son about how I’d pronounced the word “no.” I insisted that I’d been straightforwardly sincere, while he held the position that I’d obviously been using an “I’m saying no when I really mean yes” tone of voice.

I considered the feasibility of nannycamming our entire apartment, so that instead of having this kind of argument six thousand times a week, I could just post the tape on YouTube and ask unbiased viewers to submit opinions as to who was right.

I took a shower several hours after that long smelly morning run.

I reminded myself not to shave my pits until I buy new razor blades.

I gave the tub a quick scrub and tried not to think about how long it had been since the bathroom had been given an honest-and-for-true deep-down cleaning.

I pondered what, if anything, was the difference between wanting the bathroom clean and wanting to clean the bathroom. A feminist philosopher I used to read at the feminist bookstore I used to work at insisted that women should never, ever clean anything unless they genuinely felt like cleaning. So now instead of just feeling guilty when our place falls to rack and ruin, I also feel guilty when I try to clear away the worst of the damage.

I played several billion games of Uno with my son. This was his idea and was supposed to distract him from how lousy he felt. Instead, he still felt lousy, plus he was furious because I relentlessly won hand after hand of what is essentially a game of chance.

Here’s what I didn’t do while my husband was running errands:

Anything fun.

Anything cool.

Anything glamorous.

Anything particularly productive.

Anything just for the heck of it.

Anything at all professional.

Anything chocolate-related.

Eventually, my husband came home, looking quite cheerful.

“Guess what?”

Oh, goody.

We live in Santa Monica. We moved here waaay back when you came to Santa Monica because you were broke, not in order to become so.

My husband had gone to the great big Whole Foods on Wilshire Boulevard, and while he was there…

“I saw Thor!”

Or at least Chris Hemsworth, the actor who plays Thor.

Also, my husband saw Chris Hemsworth’s new baby.

Now, here’s the thing.

I like the movie Thor, and I worship at the altar of The Avengers, but I find Chris Hemsworth disturbingly muscular. Well, he’s supposed to be, right? He’s a freakin’ god.

When my female friends are drooling over pictures of guys from movies or the “Game of Thrones” series, I have often said, “You know, there’s such a thing as too many abs.”

If I absolutely had to pick a guy from Thor on whom to have a crush, I would go with the guy who played Loki. Or — more realistically at my age and level of babeitude — Anthony Hopkins.

I’m weird, is what I’m saying.

So this Thor-related incident didn’t hit me quite the same way it would another red-blooded straight woman.

But there was something fundamentally wrong with my husband running into a big, huge movie star while I was stuck at home shuffling the Uno deck.

Because — well, let’s review.

High point of my husband’s day: “Look! The star of several recent movies! And his adorable offspring!”

High point of my day: “Look! Something shiny!”

Plus, my husband is embarrassingly heterosexual. This was totally wasted on him. He was more excited about seeing Thor’s baby. “It was so cute!” Oh, please. Like there are any non-cute babies out there. Babies are cute by definition.

And he talked to him. My husband talked to Thor, I mean. He complimented his baby. And Hemsworth graciously accepted said compliment. With his own actual voice. And even if you’re me, you have to admit that Chris Hemsworth’s voice is top-ten material.

Of course, for me to know that, I’d have to haul out a DVD or schlep my sorry self down to a movie theater. My husband can rely on his in-person MEMORIES.

So, yeah — I get to be bitter.

And the next time my sweet sonny gets sick, I’M running all the errands, and Daddy can take over the creaming-our-child-at-Uno duties. Because that’s equality. Or something.

She’s not just bitter — she’s BAD

July 8th, 2012

I never thought of editing a magazine as the kind of job that had a guilt trip built right into it. Then I started Secular Homeschooling, and every day that I wasn’t the world’s freakin’ perfect homeschooler felt like a lie I was telling the whole damned world.

“How can you sit there giving advice to homeschooling parents?” my inner voice would scream as I tried to type up an innocent little article on fun activities for the younger set. “You yelled at your kid today! And then you went and reread that Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle book and daydreamed about being one of the moms in one of those stories! Those moms who got to clean nice empty houses and had plenty of time to bake and call their friends on the phone just because they felt like it!”

Of course, even if my kid went to public school, I wouldn’t have a life like that. I’d be scrounging around doing whatever paid employment I could find. I wouldn’t want to be a just-plain homemaker anyway. It would drive me nuts.

But when I have to admit publicly that my life is now literally driving me nuts, it’s nice to have one less source of guilt. I may be a mess, but at least I don’t have a job title that implies I’m managing to “have it all.”

I am, as the lovely Brits would say, not coping.

I am crying a lot.

I am screaming a great deal.

I threw a laundry basket hard enough to break it just yesterday.

And it’s all because I can’t stop being a feminist.

A feminist by my own pared-down, nothing-but-the-basics definition: a woman who insists on thinking of herself as a human being.

It’s not about homeschooling. It’s about parenting.

I am not a good parent.

Specifically, I am not a good mother.

I am a mother like Edna Pontellier, the main character of Kate Chopin’s The Awakening.

I, like Edna, am not willing to be a “mother-woman” and volunteer my own needs and identity to be subsumed by those of my child.

I’d give my life — my physical existence — to save my son’s in a minute. That’s a given.

But I’m not willing to give up half my life on a daily basis. I’m not willing to be only physically alive for his sake. And that’s what it feels like lately.

He needs exercise, so I rearrange my schedule to get him to the park or out on a walk every day. We live in the city and don’t have a yard, so exercise is by appointment, as it were.

I need exercise, so if I can fit it in around everything else that needs doing around here, I can get it.

His mind needs stimulation and education, so I spend hours online and in the library doing research, and more hours writing up classes and figuring out how to help him to reach his goal of becoming an engineer.

My mind needs stimulation and education, so if I can fit it in around the edges of his life, I can get it.

Ditto for my goal of becoming a published novelist.

If a life were nothing more than a physical existence, there would have been no conflict over Terri Schiavo.

If I could shove aside my own needs for the next four years or so, they wouldn’t be needs.

My son needs to be homeschooled. Our local public high school is a terror and he can’t go there. We can’t afford a private school. And anyway, his going to school wouldn’t be less stressful — it would just be a different kind of stress. I don’t want that any more than he does.

But something has to give around here, and I’m trying to figure out what it is.

*    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *

I wrote that and then I put this essay aside. I came back to it a couple of weeks later with no answers.

Things are, if anything, worse than ever.

The building I on-site manage has gone completely haywire, and I’m needed a lot — but I’m not doing a whole lot. I’m just locking and unlocking doors, wrangling plumbers and drywallers, and never knowing exactly when I’ll be needed to do more of the same. It starts in the morning and doesn’t end until after six or seven at night. So I can’t do anything uninterruptible, like work out or write anything that needs actual brain power.

My husband got a cold and then a viral lung infection and then a bacterial lung infection. He’s allergic to a lot of medication that would help, and his diabetes makes it impossible for him to take other medication that would help. He’ll be home from work for several more days at least. He’s been feverish at night, and we have to take him to the doctor if it gets higher than a certain temperature so we have to keep monitoring it. He also has to take his medication every six hours. We’re not sleeping a lot.

A friend of mine whose child I teach science wants me to teach three classes this week instead of the usual one, because that works better for their schedule. I had a unit worked out based on the dates we’d already agreed on, but now her daughter is angry about having to have “school” all the way through June when her friends get to start summer vacation earlier. These science classes aren’t from a boxed curriculum. They involve research and writing and scrambling for materials and experiments and online resources. I just called to leave a message that between the building and my husband’s illness, we have too much going on for me to teach tomorrow and I understand if she can’t reschedule — if that’s the case, we’ll see her next fall.

I’m feeling guilty because technically, I could physically stay up late, write the class, get up early, and teach the class. Provided I shove all my needs around the edges of other people’s lives the way I said I needed to stop doing, I could do that.

How dare I not do everything everyone asks me if it’s physically possible for me to do so.

*    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *

My son came into my room last week, while I was typing out the first part of this essay. Without asking what I was doing or saying “Excuse me,” he showed me something funny on Facebook. I told him I was working. He went out to the main room. A minute later, he called that our pet lizards were going nuts in their tanks and needed walkies, and as I knew, he couldn’t wrangle them both at once.

I helped him. Then I told him I needed to ask him a few questions.

Did he know that my writing was work? Not just in the sense that it’s difficult; but in the sense that, for example, a book manuscript I sold several years ago (and then collected a kill fee on) paid for his piano? And the magazine I used to write for and publish had purchased a much-needed new computer, among other things? Even the short stories and articles that were my first sales had paid actual checks. My blog postings are a message to the world that I’m still working, and a way of keeping my voice out there while I work to sell my first full-length fiction manuscript.

If it was hard to do and it made money or had the potential to make money, was my writing work?

He agreed that it was.

Very well. Let’s say that today, when the great lizard frenzy occurred, I’d been out on an errand and his father had been working at home, tip-tapping away at his computer with work he’d brought home from his office. Would my son have called his father for help with walkies?

My son looked crestfallen.

“No,” he said with admirable honesty.

So: in spite of what he said about agreeing that my work was work, didn’t his actions say something else?

“Yes.”

Now: let’s say that instead of typing, I’d been cleaning the back bedroom when the lizards went berserk. Say I was up on the mini-step ladder dusting the stupid blinds. (I hate dusting blinds.) Would he have called me for help reptile-wrangling, or managed it somehow himself.

“I honestly don’t know,” he said.

I believed him. “So office work is 100% real ‘work,’” I said. “Housework is about halfway there. And writing isn’t work at all.”

His face had been crumpling steadily since the beginning of this Socratic dialogue. “I get it,” he said. “I’m sorry.”

He did get it.

It hasn’t helped much.

All morning I have been telling him that it is incredibly important to me that I finish a piece of writing — a specific blog posting about a specific aspect of feminist politics that is very important to me and is very difficult to write well about. All morning, I’ve been sitting at the computer tip-tapping away at said essay. I have made no secret of this.

The plumbers and drywallers can’t help interrupting me. My son can. And won’t.

Some of them are charming interruptions. I’m glad he’s glad I managed to bake cake today. (I’m glad, too.) And it’s wonderful that he’s 14 years old and still wants to give me a gentle hug or stroke my hair.

But the sweetest gesture in the world is scream-worthy if his timing remains so relentlessly off.

*    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *

Coming back to this essay once again after several weeks away. Again, no easy answers. No answers at all, really. But I’m not willing to throw away all this writing and all the hurt behind it just because I can’t think of a neat, wrap-it-up ending.

All things considered, I guess trailing off and staggering on is the only way to go.

First a rant…

April 25th, 2012

I actually had to make a list of all the bittering and ranting I need to do. There’s so much, I’m falling behind and I don’t want to forget to cover any of it.

So of course something completely trivial came up this morning and made me need to burst out a quick rant just for the sake of ranting.

I approve pretty much every comment that gets thrown at my postings. I think people should be able to say whatever they want to about my postings, right up close and personal, flattering or not. (One great thing about Daily Kos, where I’ve been doing still more ranting lately, is that you don’t have the option of saying no to comments. People can wander in and say whatever the heck they want to, provided they have an account.)

I say “pretty much” because there have been two comments I didn’t put through. One was an entry to the Let’s Talk Like That Extra Reading Guy contest. The writing was so nasty that either the entrant really is Mr. Extra Reading himself, in which case I’m not letting him post because he might give my blog the clap; or he’s so good at imitating him that he scares me.

The other comment came in just this morning. It was in response to “The Case Against Jesse Scaccia.”

Here’s most of the comment. I’m leaving out some pertinent information for reasons I’ll explain in a minute. I’m not leaving out capitalization and punctuation; they were never there to begin with.

“So worried he will be elected to Council what a horrific blow to homeschoolers everywhere that would be he will be at … on … come and share what you know/ask him questions/most people have NO CLUE about his stances”

Let me see if I have this straight.

I’m angry because Jesse Scaccia set about purposely and publicly insulting homeschoolers.

I’m more angry because he took great joy in how annoyed homeschoolers were by his words.

The closest he came to an apology was an article he wrote suggesting a “solution” to homeschooling.

He only expressed public regret regarding his posting when he decided to run for office and his words came back to bite him in the butt.

He only expressed this regret on other people’s blog postings. Though he’s one of two administrators for the blog in question, he hasn’t posted an apology there; nor has he said anything on his FB page or “I’m running for office!” web site.

I don’t like people who hurt other people because 1. they think it’s fun and 2. they can get away with it, so 3. why not.

I don’t like people who hurt other people because they think those people can never hurt them back so see above re why not.

Jesse Scaccia is guilty of all of the above.

I’m still on his mailing list, so he’s terminally stupid to boot.

These are perfectly important things to know about a political candidate.

I don’t live in Norfolk, VA. Even if I did, I wouldn’t be obligated to give a balanced view of any or all of the candidates in their election.

If it’s not pretty bloody obvious that I’m not here to give Scaccia ad space, someone tell me how to make it more so.

What if the abovementioned commenter had phrased things a little differently? Like this, for instance?

“I understand how angry Scaccia’s posting made you and the rest of the homeschooling community. That’s completely understandable, and I’m not excusing or condoning his behavior in any way. However, this election is about a lot of very important issues. I think it’s crucial for Norfolk voters to have a thorough understanding of what each candidate plans to do if elected. If you’d like to ask some questions, Jesse will be appearing at…”

I would have really hated it if someone had sent me something like that, because I don’t think I could have refused to post it even though it would mean some free advertising for his campaign.

It’s no good asking now, by the way. Let the record state that I’m now officially closed when it comes to positive publicity on Scaccia’s behalf.

But I’d just like Karin Asin, if that’s his or her real name, to know that her comment didn’t cast me into any ethical dilemma at all.

You started off sarcastic and bitchy. Which is my department on this blog, thank you.

You went on to insult my intelligence by assuming I’d fail to notice a blatant ad for your candidate’s event.

Weirdly enough, I’m not even remotely tempted to click “approve” on your comment.

But I think I deserve a few huzzah-for-free-speech points for letting you have most of your say anyway.

What Jesse Scaccia Meant To Say

April 12th, 2012

Two days ago, I got another email from Jesse Scaccia.

He wants to have a meaningful conversation on the subject of homeschooling. His words.

He’s sure we agree more than we disagree on the subject. Also his words.

He insists that his objection to homeschooling is purely philosophical — a point he’s made in comments on other blogs. He stands by the point he made in his blog post, but not the language he used to make it.

He closes by begging for my graciousness in giving him a moment of my time for the aforementioned meaningful conversation.

Three years ago, I asked for a moment of his time. Specifically, I asked him to read “The Bitter Homeschooler’s Wish List” and try to understand how it feels to hear the same criticisms masquerading as questions day after day after day. I briefly described a typical day in my homeschooling life and asked him to think about how I felt knowing that apparently I’m “pissing off” people like him just by getting up in the morning.

I received no reply.

I received a reply pretty darned quick later that day, when I emailed back asking if there was anything he wanted me to mention in the article I’d be writing about him.

Which told me that he wasn’t interested in meaningful conversation. He was interested in enjoying the feeling of power that went along with infuriating an entire community.

That’s not my interpretation of events, by the way. In a reply to a comment on his blog, he told a homeschooler named Tara, “I am delighted by your defensiveness!”

He had the power. When he was bored by the direction our conversation was going, he stopped replying.

Until he saw that I had some power in the writing department as well, and I intended to use it.

Even then, he wasn’t interested in graciousness or meaningful conversation. He was interested in trying to stop me from writing my piece.

When he couldn’t, he sent me one last email expressing his horror at the name-calling and insults homeschoolers had thrown his way in response to his blog posting. He didn’t understand why, if they thought he was misinformed, they hadn’t patiently tried to educate him on the subject. His words. This, he thought, definitely supported one of his points, which is that we homeschoolers are antisocial. Also his words.

That was three years ago.

Now he wants meaningful conversation.

I’m not interested in talking to someone who only wants to talk to me when he feels threatened by my behavior and wants to change it.

He insists that we should look past the language used in his blog posting and see the points he made instead.

Okay.

So what does his “Case Against Homeschooling” look like, if you take away the abusive language?

#10: Because homeschoolers are a minority, they will be treated like outsiders when they go to college. Being an outsider is not a good feeling. Don’t do this to your child. (My aunt’s next-door neighbor makes this point against interracial marriage. He’s not racist, he insists; he just thinks that it’s not fair to the kids of such marriages, because they’ll be teased in school. By his kids, presumably.)

#9: Students should have a place dedicated specifically to learning. Homeschoolers don’t have that — they study at the kitchen or living room table. They should go to school instead.

#8: Homeschooling parents are wealthy and well educated. Their kids would do well in school, and they should go there.

#7: Instead of homeschooling, Christians should send their children to public school in order to proselytize.

#6: Homeschooling parents lack the training and education to teach their children as well as public school teachers can.

#5: Homeschooling as a concept is annoying to Jesse Scaccia.

#4: Homeschooling is a breeding ground for racism and other forms of intolerance.

#3: No matter what homeschooling parents say about how their children participate in plenty of outside activities — and what these parents say could be described as “garbage,” if we hadn’t already agreed to leave that sort of language out of this revised list — homeschooling leaves children socially unprepared.

#2: Homeschooling is a gamble, and a risky one at that. Again, if we hadn’t previously resolved not to talk like that, this would be the second time in this list that the word “arrogant” would be used to describe homeschooling parents.

#1: There’s no way of rephrasing this one, because it’s short and to the point in the original. Homeschooled kids are geeks.

Let the record state that Jesse Scaccia stands by the points made in his blog post — just not the language he used to make his point. All right. That’s the list sans language.

Feeling gracious yet?

The Case Against Jesse Scaccia

April 10th, 2012

This morning, a political plea for funds showed up in my email-box. That isn’t unusual — I’m on a lot of mailing lists. What did surprise me was who wanted my money today. Why was I, a California resident, expected to care about who was running for city council in Norfolk, Virginia?

As I said, I’m on a lot of mailing lists. I ended up on this one because of a conversation I had three years ago with the candidate in question.

His name is Jesse Scaccia.

Scaccia is famous in the homeschooling community. Not in a name-recognition kind of way; but he’s definitely on our radar. All you have to say is, “Hey, remember that guy who wrote that blog post a few years ago? The one about his top ten reasons for hating homeschooling? He called us a bunch of self-aggrandizing society-phobes who are arrogant to the point of lunacy? And I quote?”

You probably won’t even have to say that much to get the memories flowing. I know from experience that writing in list form can be a good way to get the Internet’s attention.

Of course I wrote to him. I was angry, but that didn’t bother Jesse. He loved the attention he was getting. You can see my half of the correspondence in the article I wrote about our exchange.

Scaccia was angry by the end of the conversation — but apparently not angry enough to remove me from his email address book. Either that or he believes that old adage about all publicity being good publicity. Because when he decided to run for city council in Norfolk, Virginia, he dropped a line to the Bitter Homeschooler. He’d love a donation of either money or time.

My first thought was to write back asking him to take me off a mailing list I never should have been on. My second impulse was to email back a request for his home address so I could send him a check for a million dollars. I didn’t do either, but I did mention the incident on Facebook.

“Oh, great,” homeschooling activist and writer Tammy Takahashi responded. “Where’s he running for office?”

I told her. And then I realized I ought to be telling a lot of other people. Specifically, the homeschooling community of Norfolk, Virginia. And maybe as much of the rest of the homeschooling community as I could reach while I was at it.

In the last presidential election, I heard a lot of conversations about which candidate was more supportive of homeschooling. Which isn’t something to worry about in a presidential election. Homeschooling is legal in every state in America — but every state has its own laws about what constitutes a home education. Some states require testing; some don’t. Some require portfolios and government oversight; some think it’s enough that parents say, “Hey! Guess what? We’re homeschooling! See ya!” The president has nothing to do with any of this. It would be nice if he liked us, but it really isn’t necessary.

Local politicians, on the other hand, can have a real impact on homeschooling. They can work to implement truancy laws, testing requirements, and daytime curfews.

Jesse Scaccia is viciously anti-homeschooling. He’s made his views quite clear.

It might be a good idea for the homeschoolers in Norfolk to mobilize to keep Jesse Scaccia from getting into office — and to keep a sharp eye on him if he does get elected.

I wrote to the moderator of a Norfolk homeschooling support group letting her know who Scaccia is and what he’s running for. I got a lovely reply, telling me that she’d been thinking of supporting him since the incumbents really need booting out. However, she isn’t prepared to support someone like him.

Homeschoolers are always outstandingly generous when it comes to sharing information. It shouldn’t take long for this bit to get around.

Scaccia asked me for money and/or time. I really can’t afford the cash.

But now that he mentions it, I think I can spare a few minutes toward his campaign.

My Name is Not Rick Santorum: Another Bitter Homeschooler’s Wish List

February 26th, 2012

1. Yes, it can be unsettling to think of people insisting that children should only be taught certain ideas and viewpoints. Please bear in mind that many of the people who find this idea disquieting are homeschoolers.

2. If you think that most American homeschoolers are religious and that therefore homeschooling is a religious act, you obviously haven’t been paying much attention to the fact that for better or for worse, most Americans are religious.

3. If you think that public schools all teach science in general and the theory of evolution in particular in a rigorously scientific fashion, you haven’t been to school lately. You also haven’t read this report.

4. If you think that public school teachers in America never teach religion in a way that directly contradicts the neutral, secular stance the law requires, you haven’t been to school lately. And you definitely haven’t talked to all the families I know who decided to homeschool because their local public schools were saturated in religious teachings these families didn’t approve of or agree with. Why didn’t these families take it to court? Maybe they were afraid of triggering the kind of response Jessica Ahlquist did. Maybe they wouldn’t have minded that so much on their own behalf, but they hesitated to make their children pariahs and destroy any chance of their having a peaceful, happy social life.

5. And speaking of homeschoolers having social lives… Seriously? We’re still having that argument? There are still people out there who believe that not going to school means not going anywhere? That not making friends at school means not making friends anywhere? That the place famous for the reprimand, “Young lady, you are not here to socialize!” is the only place to make friends? Tell that to all the homeschoolers who have plenty of friends. Then tell it to all the kids in school who don’t have any and feel like failures because the message they get every day is that there’s no excuse for being lonely in a crowd.

6. And speaking of all the hate mail Jessica Ahlquist’s been getting: You know this isn’t from homeschoolers, right? You know it’s from people who apparently don’t understand what you keep claiming about how public schooling teaches tolerance and promotes diversity, right?

7. And speaking of diversity in the public schools: You know that a public school can’t be more diverse than the community it’s in, right? If you claim that people shouldn’t homeschool because their children won’t learn about racial, religious, and/or cultural diversity (a dubious premise), you’re also saying that people who live in Iowa should be legally required to mail their school-aged children to New York City and/or Los Angeles for the duration of their educational careers.

8. From the department of Stale Old Stereotypes: Could you STOP already with the idea that we sit around in our pajamas and/or bathrobes all day? If you’re admitting that’s what you do given half a chance, fine. But we’re too busy for that kind of nonsense. Please stop assuming we’re living down to your standards.

9. And speaking of standards: Some homeschoolers are required to take standardized tests. Some of us aren’t. It depends on where we live. It doesn’t matter much to the people who are already against homeschooling and aren’t going to let a little thing like accurate information get in their way, but it’s time to stop making sweeping pronouncements about us based on anything to do with test scores. There is serious, intelligent debate among serious, intelligent educators regarding the value of standardized testing. There is no debate at all about the fact that “teaching to the test” leads to a narrow, sterile, lifeless education significantly lacking in creativity and critical thinking. Homeschoolers aren’t the ones having their budgets cut on subjects like physical education, music, and Advanced Daydreaming 101.

10. Have you ever noticed that some families have lots of kids and others have just one or two? Maybe you could start noticing that about homeschooling families, too.

11. Please stop telling me the circumstances under which you would deem homeschooling acceptable. That’s creepily close to making rules regarding who can and can’t have children.

12. And speaking of having children: Stop saying that homeschooling could be a cover for child abuse. Do you have any idea how nasty an accusation that is? Again, are you saying that if you were at home with your children on a regular basis, that’s what you’d do with your time? And are you also making this kind of accusation to parents who go on to send their children to school but enjoy a few years at home with them first?

13. Stop already with the stories about all those horrifyingly uneducated, miseducated, bigoted, narrow-minded, or just plain stupid homeschooled kids you’ve met. You know very well that we can counter each one with multiple examples of violent, ignorant, racist, sexist, homophobic kids who went to public school. You also know that no matter how many of those kids we dropped on your front lawn (and please stop tempting us), you wouldn’t accept them as evidence that public schools don’t work and the system should be abolished. And you’re right. The plural of anecdote is not data. Quit only remembering that when it suits you.

14. Back to the man who inspired this list. Have you insisted that Rick Santorum represents Republicans, Christians, conservatives, or people from Pennsylvania? Probably not. Please stop making him your Official Representative Homeschooler. Otherwise, we might start playing that game, too. And you really don’t want to see the election results if the homeschooling community gets to pick an Official Representative Result of Public Schooling.