The Look is slightly different, depending on where we are. It’s more curious if we’re swap-writing over beignets at the Creole restaurant down the street; more concerned if we’re poring over the pinned butterflies at the natural history museum during a school day. Regardless of how The Look begins, though, it nearly always culminates in the same question: “got the day off of school?”
“No,” one of us normally replies. “This is school.”
It’s a nervous kind of icebreaker, this particular question, and I know instantly that the person asking was hoping for a simple ‘yes.’ Because what lies beyond the question is a host of other questions, none of which they really want to ask, and certainly not of a dad. Moms have scripts, formal exchanges, sesshu-zarei that help them navigate these moments gracefully.
Dads do not. That’s why my next comment is, “we homeschool…because we’re preparing for the zombie apocalypse.”
It never fails to get something – a grin at worst, one of those uncontrollable bursts of laughter at best, and more often than not, it enables a graceful parting of the ways. But it also conveys, fairly clearly, that we’re doing this with a sense of humor and good grace.
I have to carry that humor with us, wherever we go, whether it’s out to a park to see if we can find a real walking stick to study or off to the aquarium to write while inspired by sharks drifting past. Because I’m a bit of an outlier in the homeschooling realm, one in which it is moms who are largely guiding their kids through their classwork while dads are off doing Traditional Dad Things®.
Sometimes, I work while they work. Once they’re rolling, the day’s work set forth, I can usually fire up Excel and get some client-project fiscal modeling done, or leave our Google Docs swap-write in one window while I run market development scenarios in another. But sometimes, the work has to wait, because…well, butterflies wait for no man, whether they’re pinned under glass or floating free above Colorado meadows while we’re out for a hike. There’s always early tomorrow morning or late tonight for the business of business; I’m comfortable with that.
I wish sometimes for more of us, more homeschooling dads. I wish for the chance to pool together and do the days I think homeschooling moms get together to do, four or six or ten of them all running headlong through the pools of blue light rippling along the aquarium floor, intensities pegging the needle as they point out creatures and talk about what it must feel like to be a shark. But The Look is enough to handle for us three, wandering through the butterflies and gems and Mars rover replicas, where we’re another curiosity among the many on display.
Dave Mayer and his wife Kathy blog about homeschooling their gifted kids at Chasing Hollyfeld.
• I told Dave that he should make a “Zombie Apocalypse Homeschool” t-shirt, and he ran out and and did just that. You can purchase yours here.
• If you’re looking to read another secular homeschool father’s story, then I highly recommend Family Matters: Why Homeschooling Makes Sense (Book | Kindle) by novelist David Guterson of Snow Falling on Cedars fame.
• Shortly after I uploaded this post, another post on the topic of homeschooling dads popped up over at SimpleHomeschool.net. The comments are worth checking out.
• Dave and I are both part of a network of parents who blog about giftedness. You can find several of us now in a Google Bundle RSS feed. It’s an eclectic mix. By the way, we all found one another through Gifted Homeschoolers Forum. GHF, a non-profit organization run by volunteers, also hosts a list of bloggers on their site. (Psst… don’t forget the October 2012 giveaway!)
• Moms and Dads alike are welcome to join me over on my new Facebook page, Work + Life + Homeschool. I created it as a place to spark conversation on modern homeschooling without flooding the Red, White & Grew fan page with education content while I write the book.
New from RW&G on Facebook: Work + Life + Homeschool