“Mom! Wipe my butt!” The tot screamed from the open bathroom door. I was midway through chanting linking verbs with the boy in the dining room. It was sometime around then that I remembered how incredibly ugly life can be.
Looking through my writing over the past year and a half, a lot of it paints a pretty picture. Life can look so picture perfect, and sometimes it even feels that way too. But then there was today.
“Where were we?” I began clapping again as we chanted. “Am, is, are was were, be, being…”
The tot entered the room, picked up a handful of pencils that were in a can nearby, and dropped them one at a time, like sprinkling colored sugar atop cookies.
“When is it time to do my school?” She whined, which was proceeded by two more questions that distracted the boy. He then began poking her, who started poking him back, and then they started laughing very loudly and running circles around the table.
The dogs heard, or thought they heard, a stranger somewhere within five miles of my house, and they began to bark ferociously at the dining room windows.
I sat my face in my hands, kind of wanting to plug my ears while the thoughts swirled around in my head. Why do I homeschool? I could shuffle these wild animals off to the schoolhouse and be eating donuts in the nude on the couch.
Maybe It Has To Do With The Local Public School Textbooks I Acquired
My son can kick those textbooks’ butts. Not only is the content dumbed down, it is written in a way that provides tidbits of information without anything interesting to spark enthusiasm. It is just boilerplate facts, with really unattractive pictures of kids dressed in styles that were popular ten years ago. But let’s not talk about all the educational reasons to homeschool—those can be looked up elsewhere.
I always feel a little disgusted when I see the memes around back-to-school time. So many people are so glad to get rid of their children. There are moms I know that celebrate the silence of their homes on that first day back to school. They can’t wait to relinquish that responsibility onto someone else for six to eight hours a day. I like to think that it is because they wholeheartedly believe that the school system is doing an excellent job of semi-raising their children.
I look down on those lazy mothers, but then I think back to this morning and the ugliness. The tot asked fifty questions about nonsensical things that were impossible to answer. The boy drained the water out of my glass because he was too lazy to get up and refill his own. And then the squabbling. Kids are undeniably annoying.
And, conveniently, really lovely too.
Homeschooling can be a formula for a very impressive education…and an intense lesson in ugly togetherness.
Togetherness, Mummified Togetherness
“This looks like the one,” I said as I picked out the smallest plastic wrapped chicken sitting in a puddle of salmonella slime in the meat cooler. “This, son, is going to be your mummy.”
The boy looked nonchalantly at it, like it was all a matter of destiny, and he really had no say in which chicken would be the one sacrificed for science.
“Now we are going to need a few bottles of salt, a few bottles of baking powder, and some alcohol. It says any alcohol will do—the Egyptians used wine.”
The boy had no preference as to the alcohol, being only a boy of six. So instead he stood in position at the front of the cart, feet set on the rack beneath for a proper cruise through the grocery store like a person clinging onto the back of a streetcar. The tot was peacefully swinging her feet from her place in the child seat at the front of the cart. It was a picture perfect scene.
Looking at that pretty picture before me, I thought how most kids would be at school at that hour instead of spending the day with family. Most kids would not be able to learn about Egypt’s Old Kingdom by making a mummy out of a chicken.
I let out a slow breath as I felt that knot in my throat begin to release as I remembered. This is why I homeschool.
But Picture Perfect Isn’t Sustainable
Downtown this evening the streets were empty because of all those puddles on them. Tourists flee from puddles, and locals flock to them for the same reason.
The children, hyped up from the chocolate alligators that were half eaten in their hands, were running about in a boisterous way. I was a bit relieved by it at first. I had just been asked my five hundredth question for the day, and was growing irritable from feeling as though I never have a thought without some little question interrupting it.
But the boisterousness followed me into the pizza place, which then brought on the squinted-eyed look of mom rage that most children recognize. That was followed by a stern talk of how we are not wild animals, and therefore cannot act like them. Lacking manners is being disrespectful toward all the people around us, etc.
We walked through wind that blasted hair into my face, and with a pizza box in my hands, I was powerless to move it. We found an outdoor table beneath an ancient live oak. The ambiance was gorgeous, the children had tempered their wild animal behavior to something semi-domesticated, and I let out that huff of air again.
Life is just one big school, and I am headmistress. It’s an ugly job.
I watched the children chase each other around a fountain, laughing joyfully.
But the benefits are wonderful.