Getting Schooled

Two funny things happened today, but they were the same thing, so really maybe only one funny thing happened twice? Did I just kill this setup? I think, yes.

Have you ever received a compliment(ish)? This is a thing that happens when someone says something to you that either a) You can’t decipher if it was said with the intention of being a compliment or b)you received it as a compliment, then thought about it longer and saw it to be something less than. By now, if you know me and/or have been following me you know that I have a condition (self-diagnosed) that can translate to a degree of social awkwardness. I have both given and been the recipient of a compliment(ish), which gives me a unique perspective. Since I never send mine out maliciously, I must assume that others do the same and it’s probably all one big miscommunication.( If you do this with the intent to hurt people there is another name for this condition which I will diagnosis as “you are a terrible person”).

Big Sister had a yearly physical today. As such we went to the pediatrician’s office. There she and Little Sister unremarkably (I thought) each sat in her chair while watching an overhead mounted TV screen showing Disney’s “The Little Mermaid”. This is pretty mind-blowing stuff, right? We talked a little, we waited twenty minutes because we arrived a little early and then we went back in for the appointment. Around us, a child tried to climb fake pier posts (there is a nautical theme), a different child was threatened about ten times with “getting in to big trouble” if he continued to pull his sister’s hair – (which he hadn’t let go of by the time we were called back) and a little girl toppled first off of a chair and then as she was knocked over when crawled and stopped in front of the office door. This experience isn’t limited to our pediatrician’s office, our city or our state, I have friends in other regions who could nod in familiarity with all that was going on in that waiting room today.

On our way out, one of the nurses said, “Oh, your girls are homeschooled, aren’t they? I can just tell”. “How so”? I implored. She went on to tell me that because they remained seated without any force, they easily watched the movie on display and didn’t request a different one, or pull out another device, and the way they made eye contact and thanked her for stickers, she just knew.

We left the office and the compliment(ish) stuck to me, peanut butter wedged in my throat that I couldn’t quite get down. We continued on to our next stop, Home Depot, where we were on a mission to buy a sea grape plant for a friend’s birthday. We said hello to the garden center greeter and made our way to the sea grapes (a plant we have purchased in multiples from Home Depot over the years). At check out, the kids talked about sea grapes and collecting them along the other plants in our back yard. As I declined a bag (who needs a plastic bag for a sea-grape in a plastic pot?)the associate looked over the kids and said “They are homeschooled, right”?

This was astounding because I have never been asked that question and there it was the second time in less than an hour. I have homeschooled friends. I have friends who homeschool their children. I told the cashier I couldn’t believe that I had been asked that twice in a row – truly curious I asked why she thought they were home-schooled. “Oh, because they were engaged”, she said sweetly, “They said hello to me on their own and made conversations just like adults”.

This time I gave my more fully formed response. We think that all kids are homeschooled, primarily anyway and in our family we supplement that with public school too. We have heard arguments both for and against homeschooling. We have seen things go wrong with the school system. We have seen regression in some areas and we have seen tremendous growth in others. Both of which were fostered under our supervision and while the kids were away at school. Kind of like how you can gather a lot of information by reading about and theorizing diversity and really know it. Then you work in a group of people who share little in common with you other than the confines or mission of that same group and you gather a lot of life experience and you really know it.

This might seem like one big humble brag (the children are so wonderful and amazing I am being stopped left and right for a tell-all shakedown!). It’s not, I myself have had a meltdown in those same Home Depot aisles and I can assure you the kids have too. I had to wonder tonight though what was meant by those comments. What I heard was that the kids displayed manners, that they were tended to and interested. But I wondered why that lent itself to thinking they were like that because they were untainted by the public school system.

In a few weeks we will send our “baby” off to Kindergarten (a process some circles find to be cruelly unnecessary) and Big Sister will be taking standardized tests this year (I have heard this called “an outright miscarriage of justice”). I have been cautioned by some and scolded by others and championed by a different crowd entirely for what can be seen as somewhat noncommittal. We take it year by year.

But we (and I don’t use “we” lightly here) give out lessons that our kids will need to learn to navigate and succeed in life, maybe that makes us homeschoolers. We are committed to raising free thinkers. They are citizens of the world who can look people in the eye because they have been brought up to know that it not only says something about them but something about the other person as well. They say please and thank you because they have a lot to be grateful for and they are aware of that gift. And though they do not, under most circumstances, want to see me dance or hear me sing, they will stick by me in a store or office because that’s how we treat each other. Unless Sade’s “Smooth Operator” comes on in the grocery store and I can hear it, then it’s every man for himself, but that is a life skill as well. I guess taking a complement(ish) can be argued to be one too and I am still getting homework…

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