I Yam is the Power That Be


One thing homeschooling allows me to be is fully myself. As a career teacher, you are beholden to the denominators of the community you serve. I’ve always chafed a bit against this, even as I recognized rules and standards were an expression of the social contract that negotiate our individual standards, desires, and agendas. I think it’s a huge part of why I’ve stayed in independent schools so long, where the accountability is more intimate and there is generally more flexibility and autonomy granted.

You don’t want teachers to be too hemmed in; they are not conveyors-of-information-cum-babysitters. The people you want teaching your kids are real people, interesting people, people with passions and histories and life experiences, people who will curse under their breath or pray in the bathroom or buy a silly, extravagant (maybe borderline inappropriate) gift for a friend just because. Learning is social, and one way it is so is that there is a real limit to how we respond to content, no matter how compelling. As humans, we respond to each other, but only if we act like people.

Still, I’ve tried in several ways to be as rigorously objective and agnostic as I could. No matter my own feelings or standing on a subject, I’ve tried to convey a position that is little else but consistently contrarian to what my students felt.

This has probably been good practice for me. I do want my own children to be their own persons and to do their own thinking. I want to avail them of every perspective and not cheat their exploration.

But I also want them to know who I am. I want them to know who I voted for and why, who I pray to and why, how I strive and why. I am liberated to talk about my faith and how those core beliefs impact every area of my thinking. I am liberated to share my tastes and hold court on judgments aesthetic and otherwise. I can talk to them and share with them personally, knowing who they are and what they can handle. I can cross the lines that only a friend or family can cross, but not an outsider, even a trusted one.

Of course, this works both ways. Seeing more of me means also seeing beyond a manicured presentation of myself. My kids will be privy to all my flaws and petty smallness. They’ll know all too well how mean, immature, and goddammawful I can be. They know already. In some ways, homeschooling the kids will be like trading in the polished, generic, institutionally-driven blockbuster they might be getting at school for a more meandering, exhausting, experimental, and possibly more profound art film. Either one could bomb or thrill.
King Kunta clip


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