My husband being out of town, I took all four children with me to Encyclopedia’s spelling bee coaching, which is in a meeting room in the same building as the public library. I had brought along colouring books for Safari and Shiny Boots, and I nursed the baby while we waited at a little table outside the meeting room.
“You could wait in the library. They won’t be done until 7:00,” another parent informed me.
“Thank you,” I informed her, smiling. “We’re fine here.”
“The seating in the library is more comfortable. You could sit on couches and read while you wait.”
“I wouldn’t feel comfortable leaving my little guy. He’s only 6,” I explained, still smiling.
She smiled reassuringly. “It’s just like school. They won’t let him go until the parents come to pick them up.”
No, it’s not just like school. This is a public building, with all kinds of people milling about. In a school, visitors are monitored. Also, there are upwards of 100 children separated into groups with teenage coaches, with only two adults overlooking the room!
But I didn’t say all this. I did say: “I asked the teenager overseeing my son’s group what they do if a child needs to go to the washroom, and he told me that they send the child with a buddy. I’m not comfortable with two 6-year-olds going into the public washroom out there without supervision. So I’ll just wait here in case he needs to go to the washroom.”
She turned away, seemingly repulsed by the sound of my helicopter-mom blades slashing the air. A few moments later, she was back, this time without the smile. “Where does your son go to school?”
“We homeschool.” I am used to questioning remarks from strangers on this topic, and it’s actually a topic I enjoy. This was different, however. Her questions weren’t friendly curiosity but an interrogative challenge.
“What books do you use? Where do you get them? Are you a teacher?”
(Of course I’m a teacher! I teach my children, don’t I? But I answered her questions with a smile, as if I didn’t notice the unfriendly tone. I am practicing meekness.)
“How do you know they are up to standards? Have you had your children tested to see if they are learning anything? How long are you going to keep doing this?”
(I plan on doing it right through, God willing, but I didn’t tell her that. To be frank, her demeanor was simply so challenging that I didn’t want to prolong the conversation!)
“Well, we’re doing it for now,” I replied with a smile. “We’re only in Grade 1, and I haven’t come across anything that I’m not capable of.”
My Interrogator was undeterred. “Don’t you want them to make friends with classmates?”
I listed a few homeschool group activities that we are involved with. At this point, a Friendly Mother who was seated nearby, jumped into the conversation with questions of her own.
What is the homeschool co-op like, and was it a drop-off or parent-attended?
Her questions were honest and curious, not hostile or challenging. She had thought about homeschooling herself. My Interrogator, finding herself alone in her outrage, fell silent.
“Do your children listen to you?” The Friendly Mother wanted to know. She glanced over at my 2 and 4-year-olds, one quietly colouring and the other reading Bob books to himself. “I mean, they are doing really well here right now, but do they listen to you for school? I find my son used to work well with me, but since he started school, he doesn’t listen when I try to teach him things.”
“I think that we give away our authority when we send our children to school,” I told her. “We are sending them away to someone else to teach them, and that gives the impression that this teacher can teach them something that we can’t. We don’t go to a doctor or other professional for something we are capable of ourselves. So if we send them to a professional teacher, we are telling them that this is beyond our competence. So they begin to trust the teacher more than they do us, because of our own implicit admission of inability.”
Interrogator could take no more of this nonsense. She looked directly at me and thrust forth a question as a challenge, in an almost accusatory voice: “Why do you homeschool?”
“God has given me responsibility for these children, and that includes overseeing their education. So far, I am more than capable of everything that we cover, and I see no need to outsource this responsibility,” I told her, smiling. I know my times tables, too, so I can even keep going next year! I thought this, but did not add it.
“But why do you want to do it yourself?”
“I like homeschooling. I like my children. I had children to raise them, to teach them…”
“Well, I like my freedom! I need some freedom, some time for myself. My children go to school, and I have freedom.”
The conversation ended here, as children started to filter out from the spelling bee coaching. But I really wonder why she seemed so offended by the fact of my homeschooling. I wonder if she feels guilty over her desire for freedom. I’m not saying that every parent with a child in school feels guilt or should feel guilt, but this woman had something going on that made her really antagonist towards my choice. I haven’t come across that kind of antagonism from a stranger over homeschooling before.