At Least He Didn’t Mention Beans
October 22, 2005
There is a certain subset of people who, upon finding out that you homeschool, feel the need to ask the children what they have been learning or quiz them on their math facts, historical dates, or some trivial tidbit of information. It is always done under the guise of making conversation, but I hate the way it puts the children on the spot. Especially when the children are faced with people who like to try and trick them by asking, “What is the thirteenth planet from the sun?” or “In what season do seagulls hibernate?”
I want to tell people to knock it off. It isn’t funny and frankly my children are too polite and respectful to call you an ass like you deserve, at least out loud. But I know they must be thinking it, they are being raised by me after all. Sometimes I will turn the question around, and in the same tone of false cheer ask, “So, what have you been doing that is worthy of note lately?”
The question– what are you learning?– always makes me cringe. Invariably one or more of the children will answer, “nothing.” Though I know that children who go to school answer this way too, for some reason it makes me feel like a failure, like I haven’t stimulated my children enough or provided them with interesting topics which they could discuss at length. And although I know that isn’t true, and that I don’t need to prove anything to anyone, I can’t help but feel silently judged by how my children respond.
So when I overheard the librarian ask my children what they had been learning, I felt that familiar tightening in my throat. My 10 yr old replied that I had just taught them a great poem. The librarian was intrigued, and I’ll admit I was too. Emerson? a Shakespearean couplet? Shel Silverstein? I hoped it wasn’t going to be Dr. Seuss, because that would be a bit embarrassing hearing one of them recite The Foot Book and call it poetry.
I edged closer to the doorway of the children’s room so I could hear every word. My heart was swelling with pride; the constricting in my throat beginning to ease.
He began, “Excuse me for being rude, It was not me it was my food. It got so lonesome down below it just came up to say, hello.”
And when the ground didn’t open up and swallow me whole, I gave thanks that he didn’t precede the poem with a hearty belch like at home. I have to look for the positive wherever I can find it some days.
Suddenly “nothing” seemed like a perfectly acceptable, if not preferable, answer.
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