Why I don’t homeschool (episode 4972)

I dragged myself out of bed this morning, my nose still congested five days into a cold that’s been just bad enough to make me kind of miserable and deny me sleep,  but not bad enough to take me down into bed-ridden incompetence. In some ways that’s the worst kind of cold, because I don’t have a legitimate excuse for sitting around being lazy. I have to make up fake excuses instead. Excuse me, alternative excuses.

I sat up and tried to breathe through my clogged sinuses. I stretched my feet before I stood, so that the pain from my plantar fascitis (plantar fascist is more like it) wouldn’t make me fall over. I hobbled over to the bathroom and got through my morning routine. (Not much to it really. Eye drops. Pee. Brush teeth. Avoid looking in mirror. Dress in something not stained or smelly). I hobbled downstairs and got to work on breakfast and school lunches, alongside Anthony.

Some days, right at this point, when I’m feeling tired of this never-ending routine, when I can’t bear the thought of packing another lunch, when I’ve been sick and I can barely get my eyelids to lift off my eyeballs… I wonder what it would be like to homeschool. I wouldn’t have to make school lunches. I wouldn’t have to rush about on someone else’s schedule. I wouldn’t have to worry about making sure the kids take the right books, papers, and equipment with them to cover the next seven hours without me. I wouldn’t have to worry about whether the curriculum they’re stuck in is appropriate for their developmental levels and current interests.

I could sleep in. Sleeping in is a significant factor favoring homeschooling.

Also if we home schooled, we could eat when we want, learn when we want, and go outside when we want. We could be doing a lot of very cool stuff.

But I know there are significant impediments to home schooling, mostly involving my personality and all the questions. I would have to decide once and for all (unlike in this written piece so far) whether homeschooling is one word or two. If it’s one word, does that make me more Germanic? Because I don’t think I’m Germanic at all, but in that language they like to string lots of words together to make new words, right? If I homeschool instead of home school, do I have to teach my kids German?

Does it still count as home schooling if I outsource 80% of the actual education to others? Why isn’t that called “private tutoring”? Is it still homeschooling if I have the kids do all their learning through on-line courses and materials? Why is that home schooling and not computer schooling or on-line schooling? Do I have to make flash cards and maintain an apocalyptic supply of glue sticks? Can I get away with unschooling and just do whatever the *#)% I want on any given day? Will my children still have good hygiene skills if someone doesn’t tell them twenty times a day to take a squirt of hand sanitizer before doing the next activity? Does digging for worms and making a garden count as physical education? Does trying to figure out the vector of falling leaves and catch them before they hit the ground count as science? Does using the garden hose on the kids count as giving them a bath?


Gosh it’s been a while since this happened, but… I can’t remember what I was going to tell you about. I’m pretty sure this isn’t it. Hold on a second while I rummage.

* * * * *

AH! That took a few minutes. Here we go:

I woke up this morning and made it downstairs. (Right, that’s where I got distracted.) The kids came down for breakfast and we had a pretty typical morning conversation as we ate. Nick was joyfully shouting completely random numbers for no apparent reason, while Jesse hung her head in moping annoyance. “Forty one!” “Nine hundred fifty two!” As I headed to the basement to find a juice box for each kid’s lunch, I yelled  back at Nick, “Every time you say a number, I’ll say one back!”

So we did that for a couple iterations with integers, and then when it was my turn again I shouted “PI!”

Anthony and I cheerfully explained pi and why it’s a unique and important and cool number, but there was zero interest in the seven- and eleven-year-old set in our household.

Nick said another number. I answered, “i!” Anthony explained about this important imaginary number.


We went again. This time I said “C, from C equals M C squared! Speed of light!”


We had a curiosity-filled conversation about whether it’s in fact true that the speed of light is as fast as anything  can go, and what light-years mean, and how the speed of light is different from the speed of sound, and how it’s all waves. Or particles. Or waves. Or something else.

We stuck with waves. Anthony remarked on how cool it is that sound comes at us in WAVES, and then I tried to explain how a sonic boom happens when something approaches and exceeds the speed of sound. I used the fingers of one hand to show how the waves start to smoosh up closer and closer together, and my other hand was the jet getting faster and faster and causing the waves to smoosh even tighter until they were all smooshed up together, and then BOOM!

It’s kind of hard to explain actually, isn’t it. Oh well. If I were a home schooling mom, I thought, we could spend the next week studying light and sound, and how cool would that be. I’d actually learn something.

I should have let my mind dwell on that, but instead I was mindful, I did the mindful thing, I mindfully returned the present and mindfully continued to interact in the present moment with my mindful family. This is when I made a crucial mistake.

In a sorry attempt to make a joke, I said, if Nick ran faster than the speed of sound, it would be more like a sonic shriek than a boom.

Nick thought that was funny. I suggested he give it a try—

Wait, what?

What did I say?

Why? Why would I do that? WHY???

As the words came out of me, like a tic-ish blurt over which I have no control, Jesse hung her head so low her nose almost touched her plate, and she almost imperceptibly shook her head in a tooth-gritting silent scream. Anthony muttered, “please don’t. No.”

Nick got up from the table and skipped into the living room. Everything was still. Three people in the kitchen breathed a sigh of relief.

A short moment later, Nick started screaming at maximum volume as he raced around the house.

It turns out that Nick can make a sonic shriek even without achieving the speed of sound.


And this is why, when I dropped Nick off at school earlier than usual today, the thought of home schooling was far from my mind. Instead, I was filled with even more gratitude than usual for the extraordinary teachers who take my children, day after day, and fill their academic cups. Without me there.