To all the moms who feel like they have a seat reserved at the Mad Hatter’s table, we GET You! 

A Guide to Successful Home-Schooling

A Guide to Successful Home-Schooling

[Not to Be Mistaken as a Guide to Successful Home-Schooling]

Last week, while making sales calls to districts, I had this conversation with a new principal -

Me: But the school board approved the math program already. The teachers piloted it last year. The results were all positive. My understanding was you were ready to implement.

Pr: That’s before the district’s curriculum director quit. Now it’s on me. I have a program I like, so we’ll continue to pilot your program with 500 students and run mine with the rest.

Me (resigned) : OK. To extend the pilot, there would be a 5 dollar per student fee.

Pr: I’m not doin’ that! You want $25,000 just to pilot?

Me: Well, it’s — um — it’s actually $2,500.


Pr: You probably expect me to buy your program so I can learn math.

Me: *nauseous laugh*

Last week, I corresponded with a teacher who’d spent months campaigning for a program to replace a sorely outdated science curriculum. I asked when the school might want to move forward. She emailed this (abridged) response:

I’ll be honest. I have no idea. I’m just the schmuck they put in charge of calling to get curriculum samples . I’m sorry I’m being so vague, I’m just trying to bake a cake out of hog slop (not really sure what that means but I’m just going with it).

Last week, former CEO of Chicago Public Schools, Barbara Byrd-Bennett, was sentenced to 4.5 years for arranging a CPS contract that was to pay her $2.3 million in kickbacks. At the time she brokered the deal, Bennett’s office was shuttering over 50 schools.

I was a teacher once. I hated it, then loved it, then hated it. Low pay was a demotivator, but for an idealistic, impetuous dimwit like me, the killer was administrative apathy. College never taught me how to cope with a red-tape system led by frauds whose only concern was what was in it for them.

My B.S. didn’t prepare me for the BS. I learned about it, its depth and breadth, after years of working with schools as a vendor. It could take the shape of a highly paid official reaping benefit in the midst of tragedy or an antiquated lesson taught by a jaded educator delegated to play patsy.

What I learned was no one would teach my kids properly, even if they wanted to.

As a father, that was one consideration in a decision to forgo public education but it wasn’t the driving force. My wife and I documented every reason in favor of home-schooling, starting with the most important. We came up with 42.

That was in 2006. Since then, I’ve added one more reason which resulted from sharing our decision with my father.

You see, my dad is a man of precision; everything is done a certain way over the course of a lifetime: You’re born, go to school, go to college, get a well-paying job, have a family, move to Florida and quietly pass away on your Barcalounger during Mannix. Detouring from the plan, regardless of circumstance, is unheard of.

prepare to die.png

Prepare to die.

Both my parents were teachers. They know all about the BS. But their concept of proper education was tainted by the stigma hot-glued to home-schoolers ever since the first report surfaced of a zealot family waging war on America in the name God and proper grammar. Not a ringing endorsement and most definitely not part of Dad’s life scheme.

So when I told my father, “We’ve thought hard about this and decided to teach the children ourselves,”

what he heard was

Paw! The missus and me done lots of deliberationing and done decided the chillen are gonna learn at home. Hoot! Weez raise ’em good n’ proper n’ teach ’um the ‘sentials, such as wenz not to be nekkid, how to trick a possum …

Dad was mum after receiving the information, probably deep in thought trying to recall the difference between tapeworm and ringworm.

time for recess.jpeg

Time for recess

But each subsequent visit from their Grandpa brought a pocketful of questions peppered over casual conversation with the kids in a not-so-discreet attempt to assess progress. Sometimes I’d let him; others not. (After 10 years, I’ve noticed this truancy investigation has lightened up. Heck, maybe that’s a sign the chillen are getting some know-how after all.)

The educational path taken by my father was the only one I was ever offered. Now, it is merely an option. Perhaps it may be viewed as conventional, but it is a mistake to view it as a sole choice. That realization became number 43 on the list.

My wife is a very good teacher. I’m amazed with the amount of knowledge the kids possess, but I’m most impressed with their emotional intelligence. Sure, they’ll produce a loud outburst that gets the neighborhood’s attention. But I don’t remember ever giving my parents a detailed explanation of what caused my dramatic fits like they do with me.

Wish I were mature like that.

I get to play substitute which is fun and convenient. My curriculum is a more worldly, home-economics, street-smarts hybrid program compared to my wife’s nuts and bolts.

Check out the lessons I’ve prepared next time the head teacher needs a break. It’s real hands-on-stuff -

  • How to Recognize Sarcasm; What to Do With It
  • Field-Trip! (Walmart, Target)
  • Getting a Full Refund
  • Getting the Name of the Person on the Phone Who Gave the Refund
  • How to Redirect a Stray Dog
  • How to Redirect a Solicitor
  • Washing Dishes as a Form of Poetry

My wife thinks some of my lessons are a ruse just to get chores done. She‘s smart like that, which is why I’m completely confident leaving the kids with her.

So why do we home-school?

Because we can.

That was reason 1.

come visit our book fair

come visit our book fair

The Weight of Time

The Weight of Time

My Kid Said...

My Kid Said...