Friday, February 4, 2011

I was an experiment

Kate Fridkis blogs at Un-schooled and Eat the Damn Cake.

I think maybe I’m not anymore.

But I was an experiment.

No one was really sure how homeschooling would work out when my parents decided to give it a go. I mean, there were a few kids who had made it through, like the Colfaxes up on the farm in Northern California, who trotted off to Harvard after mastering all that goat herding and fence building. I don’t think my parents expected me to go to Harvard. Actually, I know they didn’t.

(This picture makes me really jealous of the Colfaxes. source)

I am the first born. It sounds a little epic when you write it (and when you put it in bold). Like there’s probably a prophecy somewhere about me and how I’ll save the world from Voldemort or something. Which I feel like there probably isn’t, because I haven’t had to learn any magic yet, and I’m getting kinda old for that sort of thing.
My brothers had it easier. By then, it seemed like homeschooling was working reasonably well, even though there was no real evidence that I had learned any math.

I am very cutting edge. You know, I’m part of a tiny group of grown unschoolers who are out in the world, doing stuff. Being people. Succeeding wildly. OK, maybe not that last bit. But I’m not sitting for hours on end in Grand Central Station, either, staring at the enormous clock in the hopes that eventually I’ll learn to tell time.

We used to make fun of each other (us homeschoolers), saying, “Can you tell time yet? Can you tie your shoes?” We were aware that everyone expected there to be big, obvious gaps in our educations. Even our parents thought there might be. Because we were an experiment, and no one could really be sure what would happen.

It was pretty clear from very early on, I’m sure, that I was no Colfax boy. First of all, I’m a girl. I liked dolls a lot. I liked reading fantasy novels, not classic literature. In fact, I hated classic literature. How embarrassing is that? For my parents. For me, even now. I still get this urge to lie and say that I loved Dickens and Dostoyevsky as a child. I read them. And I readThe Scarlet Letter and The Count of Monte Cristo, and The Old Man and the Sea, and everything else kids are supposed to read. I even disliked Pride and Prejudice at the time. It took me years and years to appreciate this stuff.

I was just being me, but it must’ve been nerve-wracking for my mom. She may have been wondering, “When is any of this going to stick?” Or “There is a distinct possibility that the girl will NEVER be able to add two numbers together.”

She was pretty polite about it in front of me. But sometimes I saw the fear in her eyes. She was afraid she was doing me a disservice. She looked nervous about her decision. It was a big, big decision after all.

But I never minded being an experiment. It was enormous amounts of fun. People always asked me if homeschooling was good for me. Like, “How’s it going?” As though at nine I’d look up, cock my head like a little bird and chirp, “Well, I don’t know. The free time is lovely, but I feel like I’m not acquiring sufficient fundamental information about European History.”

Are you kidding me? I was actually thinking, “I’m building a giant raft that’s gonna float on the pond!” And stuff like that. Which worked out pretty well for me, in the end. Because I now build the ships that the world depends on for efficient bulk product transportation.

(I couldn’t find a picture with a girl in it. source)

OK, no. Building a raft didn’t inform my eventual career. But because I had a lot of fun as a kid. And a lot of time to keep having fun. And no one to tell me I was weird and funny-looking and bossy (all of which was true). And without all that, I don’t know where I’d be. But I’m pretty sure I like it better here.

So I don’t really mind that my life has been a massive experiment. Any experiment that involves that many fantasy novels and late mornings in bed seems like an amazing idea. Even now.
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