Homeschooling for the Rich and for the Poor

Homeschooling for the Rich and for the Poor September 3, 2020

I’m really sorry—it was not my intention to talk about homeschooling again. It’s a bit unsettling to have the thing that you’ve been doing for a decade or whatever, with a whole range of feelings attached, to suddenly have it come fully into the mainstream and be running into it everywhere. I keep meaning to avoid it altogether and go on to more interesting topics, but it’s in the news as everyone faces “going back” to school either at home or online or in person.

Yesterday morning, for instance, Facebook’s local news aggregate thingy gave me an article about how the authorities were called on a mother of two girls who were found sitting on the ground outside a Taco Bell, using the free wifi to log into their class. The Taco Bell employees talked to the girls for a while, and the police followed up and it turned out there was no abuse or neglect, only that the family was being evicted and they had nowhere to go. The community took a collection and put them in a hotel and the school district is looking into setting up hotspots so that kids can get online. I’m sorry I don’t have the link. It was yesterday and the thing is gone from me because Facebook is so mean and terrible. On the whole, it was a heartwarming little moment, as reported, which means it had to be tied up with a bow of one kind or another. Someone should really check back in six months to see what really happened.

So anyway, this morning Facebook gave me a People Magazine thing (I cannot, in good conscience, call this thing an “article”) with pics of all the celebs setting up their “school rooms” for their precious offspring. I’m sorry to say I don’t actually know who any of these famous people are, but I did look at all the pictures, and my eye did scrape over lines like…well shoot, FB has already taken the story away so I’ll have to go from memory…

”this is kindergarten” (that was the label on a beautifully curated Instagram photo of a perfect playroom, I think,

and “I have help”

and “Mommy wine-time”

I am assuming, of course, the “I have help” means the paid help of a tutor and staff. There’s no reason to settle for anything less. That’s definitely how I live (insert string of crying emojis here).

So anyway, in some weird way, a lot of people who normally have nothing in common, now at least face the hassle of changed plans and shattered dreams–to various degrees of course. Everyone is stressed, and there are still a lot of problems that only money can solve, and other problems that money only makes worse. Homeschooling is exactly that kind of conundrum.

Here are some things that money can buy in homeschooling:

Really Good Curriculum that is intuitive, elegantly devised, and easy to use (for me this is Memoria Press, and has been since almost the beginning).

An Excellent Internet Connection. I don’t know of anyone who tries to “school” without the internet anymore. I’m sure they’re out there, but I would be lost. This is not because I want children to surf around online unfettered, but because I use platforms like Khan Academy and ALEK (which you have to pay for) and because if you’re doing any kind of science with any little kids, youtube is worth its rabbit hole feature of following one interesting idea upon another. It’s faster and more conceptually useful (for me anyway) to listen to other people describe how the solar system works than me mucking it up with my imprecise impressions of space and time.

Good Ticonderoga Pencils

A White Board

A Map

Some Decent Surfaces and Shelving. Like, you can do school in the dining room, especially in an open concept house, but don’t feel bad about buying a nice cubicle shelving unit for all the stuff so you don’t lose your mind at dinner time every single day for the next nine months. You’re not being selfish. If you have the money, buy it.

And that is the issue—if you have the money. Money seriously makes life easier. I don’t think it’s unspiritual to say this. But some of us don’t have money, can’t buy nice shelving, can’t afford a good curriculum, and have to go somewhere else to get online. And if you’re stuck homeschooling this year, and can’t afford a Hollywood decorator to do up your schoolroom, don’t be too downcast. Here are some things that money can’t buy that children still really need and that the library can still provide:

Books of Any Kind. Honestly, if your children can learn to read books, their lives will be better than if they don’t want to and can’t anyway. You can learn anything from a book. I would suggest that if you’re depending on a school for zoom teaching, still plug that baby full of extra books because that will make the whole year more bearable.

Suffering. Actually, not all Libraries can provide this, but God will so don’t worry. Money can sometimes be its own suffering, when you have way too much of it, but most of us don’t need to worry about that. Children not getting the best life has to offer and everything they want the moment they want it is actually good for them. They should look beyond themselves. They should learn to cope. They should learn to make do. The ingenuity of those two girls to go get online outside a Taco Bell makes them immediately more interesting people than the little hothouse celebrity kindergartener. Gosh, I should go back and read The Prince and the Pauper, I bet I’m just saying what other people have already pointed out. Don’t get me wrong, I’m talking about suffering within reason. Don’t go looking for it, it will come to you on its own.

I can’t bring myself to add things like Love and Curiosity and Humility and bla bla bla. If you don’t know that already, I can’t help you. And what am I if not a help? (don’t answer that) I think one of the great benefits of homeschooling that is ruined by having too much money, is that children can be taught by their parents especially, but also by a whole community that rallies around, that they are on the one hand Very Important and worth all the hassle. ‘We are making sacrifices for your education,’ you can say. ‘You matter to us and so does your mind and heart.’ But, on the other hand, they can learn that they are not the most important people in the world. They have to live inside a broken world where suffering and unpleasantness reign unchecked for the vast number of people. Unhappy about a global pandemic? About how unfair it all is? That’s ok, millions of other people in the world are also unhappy right now. And playing that famous song ‘Because I’m Happy’ probably won’t fix it this time. We’re going to have to trust God to get us through, and sharpen that pencil all the way down to its stub, and do with a junky pair of headphones that cuts in and out, and an intern connection that drops at the critical moment. That’s just the way it is. Lift up your eyes off of yourself and onto the Lord of Life, first of all, and then to the edges of your local Taco Bell to see if anyone needs anything.

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