Got chatting to a Dad at the park yesterday as I watched Snowy scramble to the top of the climbing frame. I'm still not used to having older kids and it makes me laugh to see Snowy showing off for the littlies, to see the way they watch his moves as though they were studying how to be six. Homeschooling came up, as it always does, and I glossed over the reasons why, as I always do.
There's a reason for the glossing over, which is that many people don't really want to know, just want to poke and prod at the weirdness of it all. In the beginning, I saw every query as an opportunity to advocate for home education. Some people were curious, some were dismayed. There was a great deal of wonderment and head-shaking and I learnt to save my energy for more important things - like the education of my children - and to deflect the questions of strangers.
Thinking it over last night, I realised that it had become a habit - useful for dealing with random playground chat, less useful when I minimise the reasons the kids are not in school even to myself. Jokey reasons - We could never get to school on time. Wishy-washy reasons - school doesn't suit some kids. Earth mama reasons - I miss them when they're gone.
When the real reason was that I couldn't bear the system, the institution of school. I tried hard, and so did Lucy, for the six months she was in kindergarten. Until the day I turned up to Monday assembly. I tried not to be cynical as the 'awards' were handed out. I tried not to be bothered by the principal cheerily and mindlessly telling the students how special they were, how special this school was, how they - X Public School - were 'the best'. So much praise, so few details. Then it was time for the anthem. The children stood and were told to face the flag. The mothers stood and faced the flag as well. It was 2003. Our government had fed us lies, ignored our marching. We had just sent troops into Iraq. There was no way I was standing up to face the flag. Where were we, America, home of the patriot ? My daughter was standing and singing, her teacher was standing and singing, every other parent was standing and singing. I was sitting. I was not singing. I was conspicuous, frowned at by the mother nearest me. This was not citizenship. It was a rally, training our children to be 'good', to be 'obedient', to do as they were told....training us, their mothers, to do as we were told. To regard ourselves as 'the best' and loyal to our special group, our special school, our special nation. Reading, writing and arithmetic...and raising little fascists.
Yes, I know it's extreme thinking, and yes, I know most teachers and most students are caring and thoughtful people, good citizens. Plenty of people can live within the system and not feel compromised, not be compromised. They can shake it off. I couldn't, not then.
And sometimes I am so busy making a joke of it, making it comfortable for strangers, that I forget the fire and urgency of the decision to quit. It doesn't exactly make for easy playground chat.