Skeptical doesn’t begin to cover how I felt about homeschooling a few years ago. I mean, have you met some of those homeschool moms? I would never, ever, not on your life homeschool.


A few years ago, I was a civil litigator with a three-year-old daughter. A very difficult, willful, perfectionist, vocal three-year-old daughter who could charm waiters, lecture on dinosaur taxonomies, correct my bird identifications…but would scream bloody murder if she saw a slug or a fly or–FSM forbid–spilled something on herself.


My happy place.

I like quiet and I like predictability. I like peace. I like knowing everything is settled and organized.

My daughter–pH, or the Princess of Hats–was not quiet or predictable or peaceful or settled or organized. She was three and she was a hellion. We were all miserable, and something had to give.

I cut my schedule to three days a week and presto! Instant improvement. It was so amazing I decided to take a break from the law–the plan was just six months. My timing couldn’t have been worse, and finding a new legal job was next to impossible. I took on the role of full-time caregiver and part-time editor and would-be novelist.

pH at three was hell in a fuzzy pink coat. I survived it somehow, and four and five turned out to be delightful. Mostly. We lived in the Pearl District then and rambled around Portland, watched crews filming Leverage, hung out at OMSI and the zoo and took the streetcar and MAX to the airport or the tram or sometimes just wherever it was going. (We spent–and spend–a lot of time in coffee shops, because Portland.) DSC04860

Kindergarten rolled around. I was thrilled. I would have time to write! Maybe I could do some part-time legal work! The angels rejoiced and so did I.

The kindergarten was Waldorf. I immediately knew I didn’t fit in, but it’s unusual for me to be in a room full of people with my interests. I wasn’t too worried. It’d work out. This must be how every parent feels when their chid starts school, right, like their heart is being ripped from their chest?

Not so much. It was a disaster, but it took me too long (six months) to realize it. We pulled her that March, and I focused on getting her ready academically (since Waldorf doesn’t do academics in kindergarten) for the fall. First grade was put her in a place-based learning charter (I still don’t know what placed-based learning means) and it was worse, but we recognized it earlier. I could tell immediately which kids her teacher liked and which she didn’t–and she didn’t like pH. At all. At our first conference, she told us pH couldn’t learn. (Really, who says that?) We showed the teacher all the work pH had done at home with me. The teacher had no ready response. My husband said, “I think what you’re telling us is that she can’t learn from you.”

That was that. We had discussed it as a possibility…but I was skeptical I could pull it off, to say the least. It was terrible in the beginning, when I was figuring everything out, trying this activity and that outing, and this group and that. I had to submerge my identity as a lawyer, as a professional, as someone who could tell other people what to do (and have them do it without arguing with me)! But I’ve been homeschooling ever since. pH is a willful, stubborn, bright, maddening, charming, sweet, frustrating, but amazing girl. Homeschooling her isn’t easy, and probably never will be.


Our coffee names that day were Batman and Batra.

But we’ve gone back to spending time at coffee shops (with our respective Kindles). We know many of the OMSI volunteers by name. We go to the zoo and the art museum and sometimes the tram, still, just for the heck of it. It’s just like a boat, pH solemnly told a man when she was four, echoing what I had told her the first time she rode it. The tram reached one of the towers and set it rocking back and forth.

Homeschooling, too, is just like a boat. There are swells and storms. There are becalmed days, when kedging doesn’t even work.

I’m no longer skeptical of homeschooling pH. No, I’m skeptical of other things associated with homeschooling and education–and that is what this blog is about.