As soon as anyone finds out you’re homeschooling, you’ll be either deluged with questions or given a strange, judgmental, I-can’t-wait to-tell-my-friends- look. The questions are preferable (most people are genuinely curious) but, frankly, can be tedious after a period of time.

By the way, there is a right response to finding out someone is homeschooling their children. It’s: “How are you enjoying it?” It makes no value judgments, contains no implicit condemnations, isn’t defensive, and it demonstrates someone actually cares…about the parent as well as the child. Because homeschooling isn’t just about the child, believe me.

Why homeschooling?

The answer is going to be different for everyone, but the problem is that there isn’t a good answer. There’s no short answer, anyway, not for me. Some people can say “religion,” but people I know who homeschool for religious reasons don’t answer that way.

NO, REALLY, WHY?

Short answers that haven’t worked:

“I had no idea how bad Portland schools were until it was time to enroll my daughter.” As a response, this kind of sucks, but I use it when I’m irritated with the questioner. It presumes that anyone who does put their kid in Portland schools is doing the child a disservice, and that’s not true. Unless they go to one of the schools with the high lead or radon levels, but…

“The school we’re zoned for is a Title I school with almost no gifted program and is thirty blocks away.” Again, this sucks as answer, although it’s true (the geographically closer and academically better school has cachement lines drawn expressly to exclude condominiums and apartments). Leaving aside everything else, do you really want to have that conversation about gifted kids with a stranger?

If I am really, really, really annoyed, I’ll load for bear and say, “The neighborhood school doesn’t meet my daughter’s academic needs.” This is true, but it’s only partially true (my daughter would soon drive the average neighborhood schoolteacher crazy, too), and it only works if you can turn your back and ignore follow up questions. (Or not: I am fond of telling the story of how my daughter got in trouble for sharing the species of the birds in the play area with other students. My response was a long pause and then, “Well, was she right?”)

I’ve never been brave enough to try this one, but perhaps I haven’t been pushed far enough: “I just hate waking her up early and getting her lunch ready.”

Short answers that work: 

“It’s the best choice for our family.” Boom. This may invite follow-up questions, but it stands on its own. Useful for nosy Nellies in the grocery line.

“The neighborhood school isn’t a good fit.” Same as above, but you’ll have to fend off “Why aren’t you sending your child to [insert expensive private school here]?” Seriously, people do this. If I worked full time, I couldn’t afford to send my kid to those schools.

“Homeschooling gives us time to do so much more than just academics.” Heck, let me show you all my museum membership cards in my wallet.

“Homeschooling works for my daughter.” Related to “best choice” in that it makes a statement that can’t be easily challenged.

Our long answer: 

I have a bright, willful girl who is very much like her parents, and we were both miserable in elementary, junior, and high schools and did most of our learning outside of them. We both went to college and have the student loans to show for it. We both still love learning, and we were shocked to see that as bad as our school experiences were, hers was worse: what art? what gym? what music?

Our daughter was miserable in school. She hated it. She feigned illness. Oh, all kids do that? Probably not to the same degree. The only thing she liked about school was recess, and this is a kid who learns on her own for the sake of learning. She would say she didn’t know how to do work rather than do it (or do it and potentially make a mistake.) And on and on.

But she shines in small groups where she’s allowed to be herself (and to be knowledgeable). She had the most amazing Trackers counselor this summer who said, “I love how she isn’t afraid to say when something is wrong.” Because she isn’t in school, we can do a lot of extracurricular activities: camps, classes, hikes, and trips.

And if she is having a bad day, it doesn’t mean other people have to have a bad day. We can just go to the zoo.

Bonus reason: I don’t have to do any stupid fundraisers. 

Next up: Socialization.

*(Why am I starting at 11 and not 10? 11 is my favorite number.)