The Case of the Missing Life7:30 AM
For whatever reason works in my mind, I've always had one dream: eating lunch in the public school cafeteria. Half-day kindergarten, the one-and-only time I could call myself public schooled, was always a failure in my mind because I went home to eat. I grew green at the thought of my brother, public schooled till second grade, eating lunch in the cafeteria, with his Dr. Seuss lunch box and thermos. Or was it the Jurassic Park set?
That was one dream I never experienced. I did go to the school nurse when my mother told me not to, because I had to get the experience of it. (That didn't end well.)
I had a backpack and fresh crayons. Beyond that, not even my one-and-only public school experience seemed like the typical public school experience.
As I grew older and read and observed more and more, my five-year-old hunch grew into a fact: The quintessential American childhood, with its problems, joys and successes, happens on the public school campus. Anything else, no matter how legit, right or better, just isn't going to be embraced with open arms. I mean, take away the prom, the little high school becoming state champ, the first kiss behind the brick building, and you've knocked out a good chunk of down home American fare.
School for America is public.
Allegedly maturity comes with age, but I've always struggled with identity crisis when juxtaposed next to questions of public school. I'm a smart kid, with only one B to her name (oh, how I lament that B). It's disappointing, if not frustrating, that I don't get to have a state-paid venue for my gifts - that I don't get eligible for big scholarships and opportunities - that I don't get the chance to be recognized as a community graduate with plans, dreams and talent - lots of it. Sometimes I'm discontent; sometimes I'm confused; sometimes I'm upset; but always, I cannot walk away from the high school without feeling that I've missed out on a huge part of life.
Nobody will ever ask me to the prom (though I wouldn't go, anyways). Nobody will ever vote me Class Clown (though I'd be embarrassed if I was). And I'll never get to eat lunch in the school cafeteria...not that the menu sounds particularly appetizing.
What a sorry existence.
Fact is, we homeschoolers must - we must - learn that yes, we will be different. Totally different. We will sacrifice things. We will miss things typical to others, things that seem so important to mainstream America. If we don't realize this, we'll panic at the thought of Junior missing his chance as All American School's star quarterback or Susie her spot in the school orchestra. We'll flip at the idea of spending eight hours away from a peer group our own age - we'll freak at the lack of homeschool opportunities. We'll think we're missing something - something important - no, something essential.
And then we grump about it and feel depressed and give up - and we miss the whole point of why we homeschooled in the first place.
We are not the world's. We press on to a higher goal, for we are not of this world but of that world to come. In the long run, proms, sports and school lunches will not affect our ability to excel at a job, run a home or disciple a new believer. That part of education is icing on the cake. The real deal, the true education, happens when the rubber hits the road. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise.
Public school in many ways offers canned opportunities - join this club, go to this lecture, see this counselor. That's fine - that's wonderful, even. But homeschooling offers opportunities, too - free-range. You have to get off the couch and seek them. You have to teach yourself. You have to get outside your comfort zone and do things to make your dream happen. You may be alone. You may be unguided. You may be in the middle of nowhere trying to make things happen.
What we call "missed opportunities" are in reality the biggest opportunities of all - opportunities to prove oneself, to stretch taller, to take initiative and to really focus on and excel at what is truly one's passion.
If you think about it, we miss nothing by homeschooling - nothing important, anyway. And indeed, we miss a lot of trash and detours that wouldn't get us to our direct route in the long run. What is our goal? What is our destination? And are we truly reaching for that...or are we dabbling in things unnecessary - even hindering?
Homeschooling (in a small town, no less) by nature filters out distractions to our goals. Once we come to realize the blessing of a counter-cultural, different school experience, we will see the incredible opportunity we have to forge ourselves, blaze a new path and strike out for the glory of God alone.
School lunches? I'll pop in if I have the time.