These are the questions I have answered more times than I can count.
Your kids have really never been to school?
How do they learn math?
How do you know that they’re learning what they need to know?
Will they attend high school?
How do you make sure they aren’t falling behind?
What does your typical day look like?
These questions are then followed up with statements such as:
You must have a lot of patience.
I could never spend that much time with my kids.
If you’ve ever seen the movie “Bull Durham”, there is a great scene where catcher Crash Davis (Kevin Costner) tells up and coming pitcher “Nuke” Laloosh (Tim Robbins) that they are going to work on interviews. He makes him write down things like, “I’m just happy to be here, hope I can help the team,” and “I’ll just take it one day at a time and God willing it will all work out.” In other words, rote answers that we’ve all heard every player say at one time or another.
That’s kind of what I feel like some days. I repeat myself endlessly, often with bland statements that are the only way to answer without spending more time than anyone has or is interested in. In other words, I’ve become adept at the sports interview soundbite, adjusted for unschooling. I say them to people in elevators who wonder why my kids aren’t in school, the people in diners or on the subway or acquaintances from our building seen occasionally in the lobby.
For instance, here is a typical 2 minute or less conversation:
Person in elevator to one of my kids: No school today?
My kid: No, we homeschool.
Person, now addressing me: Really? How long do you plan to do that?
Me: As long as it keeps working for everyone.
Person: Don’t you have to follow some sort of program?
Me: No, our learning is all experiential.
Person (looking puzzled): But how do you know if they’re learning what they need to know? Aren’t there tests you have to take or something?
Me: We turn in quarterly reports to the Dept. of Ed every year, and there are a few tests once they get older.
Person: Wow. Well you must have more patience than I do!
(I smile and my kids attempt to not snort and roll their eyes.)
Yes, there were a few extra questions thrown in there, but the conversation will almost always end with one from the list I gave, followed by a statement about patience or time with kids.
It’s kind of baffling. Or amusing? Or maybe even discouraging if you think about it too much. Every now and then I’ve attempted to be more specific and enlighten the questioner, but after a few seconds their face goes blank. So unless someone expresses an true interest – like maybe they are considering taking their kids out of school or not sending them to school – I stick to the soundbite.
It’s easier for everyone that way.