When we first began homeschooling, I couldn't find what I was looking for.
Though I scoured the shelves of Barnes & Noble, and Googled until my fingers bled, I couldn't find anybody like me. Actually, to be honest, "like me" isn't exactly what I was looking for. I didn't need somebody with adult ADD who drank too many mochas, mindlessly tap danced while waiting in line at the grocery store, and had a secret hang-ups about both Donny Osmond and the BeeGees.
I wasn't looking for that at all.
I needed some peeps - a crew - a homeschool posse if you will. And while I had a hard time specifying what kind of faction I was looking to create, I was pretty certain about where I didn't fit in, and decided to start there. Because even though I still don't know what kind of homeschooler I am, I certainly knew what kind of homeschooler I am not:
A) The kind typically found on a Warren Jeffs compound. These are the moms wearing homemade denim jumpers, whose children wear ties to breakfast, always say "yes sir,", and are capable of raising a barn by the time they are seventh graders (which is good because they'll need somewhere to house the wife and kids in three years). These children always do their chores, never watch TV, and as result can't tell the difference between Nick Jonas and the guy on the Quaker Oats box. Their homeschool experience is designed to help them create more little homeschoolers - like a breeding ground for a G-rated Children of the Corn. And while there are aspects of this lifestyle that do appeal to me (the 'yes sir' and the barn raising), none of us really fit the bill where this lifestyle is concerned.
B) The parent whose two year old gleefully translates Goodnight Moon into the binary code. I can't keep up with that. I know - because I tried. Thinking there was no other niche for us, Punk and I joined a gifted homeschoolers co-op. It was early elementary kids - nobody over the age of 9. Punk started reading when he was 2, so this seemed to be an obvious choice for us. I got a heaping dose of reality on our second visit, when the father of a third grader was giving away a pre-calculus book, because they'd finished it last year. He also had a college level chemistry text that was passe' and a global economics book that "didn't delve into the complexities of various blahbitty blah blahs nearly well enough for little Sam."
No other parents would take the books from this guy, they looked at him like he was nuts . . . . because they'd already finished them too.
So they gave them to me, saying I'd need them sooner than later. Punk was 3.
He's smart. So is Kooka. But nobody in my house is going to MIT on a full ride before they hit puberty. That's a fact. Doogie Howser he ain't, which left me with option number . . .
C) The Indiana Jones homeschoolers. You've heard of these guys - hiking through the mosquito infested jungles of ancient Peru. Mom's backpack contains 6 pounds of organic/fair trade granola, and a set of 8 month old twins. Born on the summer solstace they can already identify which of the jungle fauna is edible, and gurgle in wonder when a rare blue morpho butterfly lands nearby.
Mom, her surgeon husband and precocious 6 year old are fluent in both English and the native Witoto language, which comes in handy as they offer medical service in exchange for for a dry hut to sleep in, and a daily helping of quiona with crushed grasshopper.
This is the kind of homeschooler that makes me feel like a complete failure. How can these people be keeping down their indigenous dinner, fighting off poison dart frogs, escaping malaria, and teaching their children to read? I can't carry my kid in a backpack through the mall, let alone the uneven terrain of South American ruins.
Where did I fit in?
So began my real quest:
Wasn't there anybody who homeschooled simply because they loved being with their kids? Who wanted to be the one who taught them to read, caught toads in the pond, and saw the light go on when long division finally made sense? Wasn't there anybody who went to church on Sundays, ate at McDonalds - (or worse yet the gas station) more than she'd like to admit, sometimes forgot to do spelling, listened to the Jackson 5, taught their 2nd grader to use a cell phone, and occasionally bought her kids clothes at the mall?
Wasn't there anybody normal?
And yes, God forbid - the thought has occurred to me that maybe everyone else is normal, and not only is my freak factor off the charts, but I am inadvertently spreading my weirdness to my unwitting children who will grow up to be social pariahs with bad haircuts, who are forced to buy all of their clothes at the truck stop by using their "frequent fueling card." I realize that this is a distinct possibility.
But, I hope I'm wrong.