Friday, October 17, 2014

Kimmie on Homeschooling.

Oh I am not prone to optimism, but after Cal's piece the other day I thought I'd share a nice one, too.

I've had homeschoolers every once in a while, more in the past few years, and - forgive me - they are usually so maladapted for getting along with other humans that they never really thrive in my classes. They're usually sweet as all get out, but some also have a kind of titanic need for attention.

And then I got Edgar in my 9 am class and Lucinda in my 11, fraternal twins in their first year of college.

Their last name is exceedingly Massachussetts-ian, so I didn't even think they were related for a few weeks.

They dominate their own classes with comments and questions, but when I spoke to them they each pulled back. The thing was, I hated to do that. They are great to talk to. They know when they don't know something, and they're polite and thorough in trying to figure stuff out. Neither had ever been in a traditional classroom before September.

They're among the best students I've ever had.

Yesterday I was walking to my car around noon and I saw the two of them together getting in a van with a woman about my age. They waved, and then the woman started to walk toward me, hand outstretched. I could see Edgar and Lucinda's eyes open wide. They looked at each other with cute embarrassment.

"I'm Joanie," the approaching woman said. "I wanted to thank you for making my kids' first semester so much fun. They talk about your class all the time."

And she was warm and sweet and although I'm often horrified about meeting strangers, especially parents, it didn't bug me.

"Well, they're great," I said. "Whoever taught them so far has done a great job."

And, then still holding my hand, she started to tear up. Oh God, what had I done.

But it was all right. She thanked me, apologized for keeping me, and sheepishly she and the kids got into the van and pulled out as I was opening my car door.


  1. Over the years, the students I have had who have been homeschooled have been among my best students. I had three of five brothers and sisters come through my class at one point or another. All of them are doing very well out in the world now.

    The part of your story that weirded me out is where the kids are being picked up from college. By their mom. Are you at a commuter school ?

    1. Kimmie says...

      We have about 10-15% of freshmen who live off campus, most at home. I'm in the Boston area and we have a very heavy local population. Some kids stay at home because of cost; some stay home out of convenience.

    2. Well, BurntChrome, since you bring up the issue of being picked up, I can now confess something that occurred to me when first I read the post. I withheld comment then because it would have been the the first comment, and as such, I considered it somewhat fraught. But here it is:

      The van in this story, was it the one often seen parked down by the river, the same one she lured the kids into 14 years ago?

      Curse my brain.

  2. I've had only a few homeschoolers, but, based on that limited experience, the "titanic need for attention" and difficulty figuring out the rhythm of class participation rings a bell. On the other hand, so does the very good student part. Among other things, despite my strong belief in not being limited by the traditional literary canon, I have to admit that it's nice to teach students who are familiar with a wide range of texts from the traditional literary canon (especially since non-traditional texts tend to be in dialogue with those texts). And, honestly, the over-participation thing wouldn't be anywhere near as much of a problem if more of the non-homeschooled students did the prep work with the same thoroughness, and had anywhere near the same amount to say about the subject under discussion.

    I do have a good many students who live at home. That's mostly an economic and cultural (first-generation-American, coming from cultures where multigenerational households are the norm) thing. Most of our students travel on their own, however; the continued close family tie is most likely to result in their being called away from class to provide child- or eldercare or translation services, or transportation for someone else, or labor in the family business, so there's not quite the same danger of delayed/impeded maturity. If anything, most of them have been taking on some adult roles since sometime in their teens, and the decision to continue living at home is part of that pattern.