This is an excerpt from “Funny You Should Ask”, Book 1 in the Life without a Field Guide Series which is available at Amazon. Read it for free with Kindle Unlimited.
We were paying for gas at a convenience store and the kid behind the counter – who looked all of twelve to me – must be the new bifocals – asked the question, “No school today?” Sometimes, it’s, “Why aren’t you in school?” Sometimes, it’s “Doctor’s appointment?” My daughter usually answers, “I am in school. I’m an unschooler.” Sometimes this stumps the chump who asked the question and he or she just smiles and nods and we go on our way, each thinking that the other one just wasted a few minutes of prime talking time that could have been used to comment on the weather or Maine roads or whether it’s too early to plant peas.
Sometimes though, we run into someone who isn’t just asking to make conversation. These are people who firmly believe that kids should be in school and they don’t hesitate to let us know that. “Don’t you miss your friends?” is one of their questions. “Don’t you worry about socialization?” “What about college?” “How will your kids ever learn to fit into the real world?” “Kids need to learn how to deal with bullies” (Or homework or doing things they don’t want to do or fill in the blank.)
We got tired of answering these questions a long time ago, so I’m thinking of carrying a FAQ sheet around with me, so that I can hand it out. It’d save a lot of time. Here it is if you’d like to use it. If you think of anything I’ve forgotten to list, let me know.
- Q. Why aren’t you in school?
A. Why aren’t you in therapy? A. Why would you ask? A. I’m still contagious. A. If I can’t take my gun, I’m not gonna go. A .Head lice. A. My religion lets me marry at 9 and I’m on my honeymoon. A. Leprosy A. Psychiatrist appointment. A. I had to see my parole officer. Court date. A. My parents refuse to make me go to a place I hate where I’m cooped up for six hours with 22 other kids my own age and completely separated from both the real world and the people who love me the most.
- Q. Don’t you miss your friends?
A. Yes, I wish they’d quit school so they could hang out with me and my unschooling friends.
- Q. Don’t you worry about socialization?
A. Yes. That’s why my kids aren’t in school.
- Q. How will your kids learn to deal with the real world?
A. By watching reality shows, just like everyone else.
- Q. No, really, you can’t raise them in a bubble. What about the real world?
A. Please refer to the last answer to the first question on this list. Then consider that we’re standing in this store/home/community/park/library/restaurant/restroom interacting with another human being with no artificial strictures on our conversation, thoughts or actions. Now, define real world.
- Q. How will your kids learn to deal with bullies?
A. The same way they’re taught to deal with them in school. They’ll tell a grownup. The only difference is that they’ll have a grownup who’s paying attention and who’ll actually protect them, which is what kids have the right to expect from grownups. When they get old enough, we’ll help them learn to deal with bullies, but not until they have the maturity, experience and several self-defense lessons.
- Q. What about college?
A. College shmollege. If you raise kids to know that they can do what they want, and college is what they want, they’ll find a way to go.
- Q. How will they ever learn anything/get a job/turn out right if you just let them do what they want?
A. How will they ever learn anything meaningful unless they’re free to follow their interests and spend time on what’s important to them? How will they know what kind of job they want unless they’re encouraged to explore and not forced to learn what other people think they should learn? They know what’s right by using their brains, their hearts and their judgment; the same way you and I know what’s right. Scaring kids into behaving isn’t a workable long-term solution for us.
Q. What do you do on your day off?
A. The same thing we do every day: live, learn, love and laugh. A. Fight with my brother/sister and drive my mom crazy. (Actually, she’s so close; it’s a walk, not a drive. Some days, she could fall over and be there.) A. Play video games and watch Jeopardy. A. Draw A. Read A. Run around outside. A. Play with friends. A. All of the above, which I can’t do in school, which is why I’m not in school.