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Destinations, Dreams and Dogs - International adventure with a fast-track family (& dogs) of Old World values, adopting the Russian-Italian-American good life on the go…!

Why Do I Homeschool?

I’ve asked the same question, myself, on some not-so-good days. The closest I can come to a concise and cogent answer is that I hope to train my children’s minds… while losing my own in the process.

Later this spring, my eldest son, Petya, and I will be traveling to a homeschool convention. We don’t fit a lot of the stereotypical models of homeschoolers, so it should be interesting. I’m a bit giddy even thinking of what we might wear to such an event–a teen boy is easy enough to dress:  a shirt and sweater with slacks, plus now he’s taken to wearing a blazer with jeans for his “hip and happening” look. But me? I’m not sure that my de rigeur business skirt suit or pants suit will fit in among prairie dresses and long braids. But then maybe I’m stereotyping, too.

I am pleasantly surprised not to see any weird seminars being offered on the forwarded daily schedule. No “Frilly Dressmaking 1, 2, 3”, “How to Make Meals for a Household of 20”, or “Why University Really Doesn’t Matter”.

We’re going to the convention for academics and morale. My son needs to mix with others who have done fabulously well being educated from home. I need to learn how to keep the kids learning by leaps and bounds without resulting in me wanting to run away from home.

Things were easy enough with one child from Russia. I started homeschooling because I did not wish for my child to enter public school not speaking a word of English, similar to my father’s experience long ago in New York City. Falling in with the wrong crowd, and getting in non-stop trouble were par for the course for he and his twin brother who had been raised in a Russian ghetto. When our son Petya entered the scene, he was 7-1/2 and had never been to school. How could I plunk him smack into a foreign language second grade and expect him to enjoy it?

As parents, our concept of education was that it was a lifelong learning endeavor. We hoped to guide him on an amazing adventure, rather than have his head flushed down the toilet by the resident school bully. It started out swimmingly with a compliant child, eager to learn. Now, six years later, he was above grade level, while his siblings struggled and backpedalled, all requiring different school materials and courses. They needed threats, coercion, and pep talks to get through one, single day. It was exhausting.

So I wanted to reward Petya as we looked forward to high school when academics, course selection, and grade point averages really Mattered. He, meanwhile, was looking forward to a three-day getaway with Mama, all expenses paid, and room service to boot. I wondered how long it would take us to get to this distant convention. He wondered if there were any indoor pool? Not that we’d be lounging around the hotel. I had every hour, on the hour, scheduled.

“Think of it as a working vacation,” I tell him.

“No problem,” he replies, noting that pizzas are deeply discounted after 9:00 pm, on the room service menu, and that we are in possession of tickets to a sold-out comedian’s parody on homeschoolers.

My teen has known me long enough to realize, that if he puts in his work time, fun time will be sure to follow. I take care of him, he takes care of me. A better son I could not have asked for. But he’s the one who got me into homeschooling in the first place. I’ll try not to hold it against him.

Naturally, the kind of presentations that I really need will not be on the docket: “How to Homeschool All Day, and Work All Night”, “How to Homeschool on Planes, Trains, and Automobiles”, “How to Homeschool When Your Children Do Not Speak English”, “How the Denying of Privileges Will Make Your Student Learn Short Vowels If Not Multiplication Tables”, “How to Homeschool When Your Foreign-Born Children Equate School With Being Beaten for Wrong Answers”, and “How the Police Can Be Used for Homeschool Tardiness… For Kids Who Like to Sleep Beyond 6:00 am”. Ah well, maybe next year. As they say, it’s not about Me.

Some of the greatest minds are being gathered for this conference which has enough Ph.D.s presenting information to dazzle any Ivy League or Ivory Tower wannabes. Looking over the lineup, I jot down some possibilities. We’ll aim for the probably packed-out ballroom sessions on “How to Complete College by Age 18”, or the benefits of Latin in “Why the Best Language to Study is a Dead Language”, in addition to sharpening writing and speaking skills, how to follow your dreams and find your life’s purpose, and so much more. There are parental sessions on burn-out, but I dare not take these, lest question and answer sessions follow, and I depress everyone there.

Recently, we took our kids to visit the local public schools. The administrators were very accommodating and responsive, helping them understand that other children work hard every day, too, and that school need not be a scary place. Benedetto and I had decent school experiences, so I try to come up with why it is, now that the younger kids know a little English, we continue to homeschool.

1. I want them to be at grade level before they qualify for AARP.
2. All children should know at least four foreign languages by the time they become teenagers.
3. I’d rather deal with any behavior problems at home than take time out of my perfectly packed day and have to drive to the school to pick up a child. They probably knocked somebody’s block off for a very good reason.
4. We like to travel during the off-season. The thousands we save each year can be going to the kids’ college fund, or my plastic surgery fund.
5. It’s best that the children be taught for seven hours/day instead of zoning out for six and coming alive during 45 minutes of ESL once/day.
6. I don’t want to do their science projects for them, whether flickering light bulbs or spewing volcanoes. I’m not interested in making my cup cakes look better than your cup cakes for the class snack time.
7. They will avoid the embarrassment of having no baby photos for the school yearbook, nor class bulletin board.
8. They do not need to settle for one or two field trips per year, when they can do ten or twelve… and actually learn something.
9. There is no peer pressure at home. Our dogs do not watch MTV, know the latest movie that’s out, nor crave $150 sneakers. I can live with that.
10. They think that their parents are the smartest people on earth.

So forget my momentary lapses of exhaustion, frustration, and self-centeredness. I consider what it’s like to do a science experiment in the kitchen, sit by the fire and play with the dogs, make a meal together, hike to a glacier, review the Civil War on a battlefield, travel to a foreign country and the kids can speak the language, volunteer with the homeless, reenact Colonial life, visit an ailing grandparent, grow a garden, learn a sport, try a musical instrument, memorize theorems and algorithms, write a thank you note, study the stars on a cloudless night, or skip a grade when the student is able. Priceless.

These are the best days, the homeschooling days, that allow us to make up for lost time and value and educate those who were once so far away, but now are safe, secure, and seeking to learn all that life has for them. I think we’ll fit in at the homeschooling convention, after all. Cincinnati, here we come.

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