For they have much to say ...
This morning we brought Earlybird to speech. For the past few weeks I've been leaving my older two at home with my mum while EB and I sneak out for the hour it takes to go to, and come back from, therapy. Today, however, I had all the boys with me.
Now, give or take a reschedule or two, I see the same parents there each week - we're all Friday morning regulars. We know each other's stories by now. Recently though, there has been a new woman in the waiting room, a grandmother, who, (I overheard) is a retired reading teacher. Sure enough, this woman was there today, and, sure enough, I noticed her noticing my (obviously school-aged) children with an air of keen interest. I could feel her trying to catch my eye.
Here it comes, I thought. The "Why aren't your children in school?" conversation that can go well, or ... not so well.
Was I feeling on top of my game, I wondered? Ready to explain and even defend, if necessary, the merits of home education?
Honestly, I was kind of tired - it was early and I hadn't had nearly enough coffee to be my usually cheerful, can-do teacher-mama self.
So I carefully avoided her eye.
Bookworm settled himself in a corner and began reading his book, while Crackerjack and I starting paging through an earth science read-aloud, sharing a chair in an opposite corner.
Now, I've been homeschooling for seven years. I've had my share of "why aren't you in school?" conversations. Usually I am more than happy to share the why's and how's of our home learning life with anyone who'll listen.
But I also happen to be a people-pleaser who can't stand confrontation. So when I feel a conversation brewing, I worry a little. Will this person be nice, or, well, confrontational? Is she (or he) familiar with homeschoolers - in real life, or just on the news?
Anyway, while I'm working all this over in my mind, the next thing I know, Bookworm has engaged this woman in conversation. He often does this kind of thing. He brings books everywhere we go, and because he gets so much enjoyment out of them, he often laughs aloud. Because he laughs aloud, he often attracts attention and once he's caught your eye, he launches into it.
So he's over in the corner telling this woman all about Mariel of Redwall - how it's book #4 in a series, how this is the second time he's read it, how he loves these characters - and he has her thoroughly captivated. I can hardly pay attention to the pages I'm reading to CJ, I'm straining so hard to hear what they're saying.
The ensuing conversation went something like this:
Woman: "Wow, you seem to really enjoy reading. Do you read a lot?"
BW: "Oh yes, I read all the time. Things my mum assigns me and then lots of stuff I like, too."
Woman: "Good for you! I love to see kids reading. What grade are you in? Fourth?"
BW: "I'm in ... um ... (thinks a moment) ... sixth."
Woman: "And what school do you go to?"
BW: "Oh, I'm homeschooled."
Pause. Really long pause. I'm dying to look over, and then ...
Woman: "Well, aren't you a lucky boy!"
In my peripheral vision I can see she is looking at me now, but I continue pretending I have no idea this conversation is going on.
The pair of them go back to talking about Redwall, and other good books, like Harry Potter and The Chronicles of Narnia. They talk for some time, BW describing, in great detail, all the characters he likes and even reading aloud a particularly jubilant passage (in his best accent, no less).
Finally she could take it no longer; she called out across the way to me:
"Excuse me ... is this your child?"
I looked up, and nodded with a smile. And she returned my smile, warmly.
"Oh, he's so wonderful! And I understand you homeschool ..."
What followed was a lovely conversation about homeschooling. The why's and the how's and the good for you's.
Today I realized I shouldn't worry so much about what someone might say - or what I should say - about homeschooling. All that really matters is what we think - my husband, my children and me.
But I also realized I have no better homeschooling spiel than my own children. Left to their own devices - given a chance to show how it is they pass the time that is so generously doled out to them - they provide the perfect answer to the question, "Why aren't you in school?"
Though I feel compelled to add:
"What? And miss all this?" :)