3 Silly Things I Cared About Before I Was a Homeschooler

foreground shows a yellow plastic cup filled with colored pencils; in the background, a boy writes

I’m the goat that has tried the grass on both sides of the fence, so to speak. A very attractive goat, of course, with a very hard head, naturally. But, nevertheless, we were once public schoolers. And now we are not.

I have tasted life on both sides of the schooling fence and therefore get to claim some bit of expertise when I tell you that some of what seems important enough to worry about on one side is absolutely laughable from the other.

Things like…worrying if the paper Thanksgiving turkey you and your husband decorated for your kindergartener meets expectations and can hang with the Pinterest-worthy gobblers on display in the school hallway. …are obviously laughable when viewed from the homeschool side of things. I lump my before and after concerns into these three big buckets. You can see that choosing to homeschool has caused a huge transformation!

1. Am I Doing My Part to Help the Village?

Before: You see, I was once the mom who was sweating in the carpool line, dreading the four hundred seventeen neon notes of drudgery brought to me by my children’s backpacks when they bounded into the car. There was an entire pine tree’s worth of threats, requests for supplies, and notices of events or fines brought home daily.

If they needed pencils, I sent multiple packs. I begrudgingly became homeroom mom for two classes. Apparently, I am easy prey to hot pink 18 font pleas for help from teachers. I set up book fairs, bought and distributed snacks and grab bags at every holiday, chaperoned field trips, etc. Why? The truth? Because I wanted the teacher to like my kids—maybe even treat them a little special. I wanted the other kids and parents to like me and my kids.

Sure, I wanted to help out, too. But I was playing the back-scratch game. My goal was to keep the teachers happy. I thought if I refused, my kids would get pushed aside or be given the wonky cutouts from the PTA workroom for that weeks’ craft time. And, honestly, I wanted to be there with my boys every chance I got. It was I who cried on their first day of kindergarten, not them. It was like being stripped of a title I had worked 5 years to achieve. They were my boys, and I did not like being pushed aside.

After Deciding to Homeschool: I have not been asked to pimp my kid around our neighborhood, selling cookie dough and gift wrap in five years. Not that I ever complied. Fundraisers are for annoying people. My children clearly need no lessons. I am still in charge of providing snacks, pencils, supervision and inspirational threats to my select class of students. And a billion other items and tasks. Yet, I stopped caring what the teachers and other parents thought about me and set out on my own with a twin under each arm.

So what if they had adored my Frankenstein pudding cups? Were my children getting the education they needed just because I could put together a mean grab bag of dollar store crap-ola? No longer am I waiting idly by to be given a task that will allow me to be a part of my sons’ education. My time and effort are now spent for the benefit of my children, no neon slip of paper needed to remind me.

I am still helping the village by teaching my kids to become leaders not followers, and just think of all those tax dollars we have freed up. I still volunteer and help out with the extracurricular activities with which my boys are involved. But I feel less guilty bowing out of a request than I would have before homeschooling. I mean this stuff doesn’t teach itself! I am no longer the mom with time to bake and decorate 57 cake pops.

2. Is My House Ready for Company?

Before: Okay people, I am the mother of three boys so the answer was as “Nothen as it is now. My need for neatness and order has changed though. And probably not in the way you are all hoping and praying I am about to give credence to.

When my kids were still in public school, I had a toddler wrecking ball at home. But he could be contained enough that generally there was a place for everything and everything was in its place while the other two were at school. I didn’t require beds to be made, but I liked the couch pillows neat, blankets folded, toys put away, kitchen clean, and laundry not sitting in baskets. Or at least not sitting in baskets in the living room. Since I was not working I had time to make it happen, and I felt I had no excuse for cluttered living. The truth is I cannot stand clutter much. So, on any given day if someone dropped by—say a friend or the mayor—I probably would have been ready enough for inspection, plus or minus a greasy handprint or two on the stainless-steel fridge.

But Now That we Homeschool: Um, we really live here now. Before, our home was more like Grand Central Station, a place we stopped to refuel, stow a few items, sleep, and maybe hose off before the next scheduled departure.

We are no longer scattered across the county tucking our things away in separate classrooms, lockers, and preschool cubbies. We do life here, so we tuck everything we need in here. Needless to say, our home is bulging like a spider’s egg sack, except nicer.   

Whomever comes a calling without giving notice is just going to have to enjoy our style though, because we have redecorated a bit. Okay, a lot a bit. Every room in this house is doused in evidence of homeschool. The entire second floor is wall to wall maps, desks, bookshelves bulging with books, musical instruments, science projects, math games.

Did I mention books? The first floor is where I keep the prettiest ones. One must be certain things are edible in the kitchen/science lab. Where I once would have place a useless ceramic doo-dad on the sofa table, there sits a magnetic map of the 50 US states. In the garage, a toy bin wall unit is dedicated to a well-sorted rock collection. There is a plastic box filled with our pet snails floating around here somewhere? We collect unhatched eggs, antlers, coins, and have set off rockets in the kitchen one science fair season. We keep an open crate of art supplies handy at the kitchen table. You know, just in case the mood hits.

Did I mention books? With so much packed in here, we are in need of more order than before. I do a good job breathing and telling myself to just let it go like those annoying little memes suggest. Until one day I wake up and lose my mind and make everyone get this ship back in some sort of discernible order, lest I start throwing things overboard. The rule is if you are done with it, put it up. If you plan to come back to it, turn off the electrical components or at least get it out of the walking path. You never know when the Queen of England might show up for tea. Just make sure and smell it before you serve it.

3. Are my Kids Cool Enough? Do They Fit In?

3 Silly Things I Cared About Before I Was a HomeschoolerBefore:

  • “No son, you cannot wear that shirt again this week! Everyone saw you in it on Tuesday. Yes, I know I washed it, but we don’t want people thinking it is dirty or that we can’t afford more clothes.”
  • “Those shorts don’t match that shirt. Yes, they are both red, but one is crimson and the other is maroon. They’re all going to laugh at you!”
  • “This is the brand of shoes/jeans/backpack we have to get so that he/she can make the right kind of friends and not be teased on the playground or grouped with the less fortunate children.”
  • “Are you sure you want to play the French horn? Why not the drums, or better yet basketball with the cool boys?” (No, this conversation never happened, but I imagine it has sometime, somewhere.)
  • “The teacher says you have to leave that book at home so that the other kids don’t feel intimidated by your reading ability. No, you aren’t weird.
  • “Please just try to sit quietly at your desk and don’t fly paper airplanes around your head so the teacher doesn’t send a note home about how you aren’t focused. I know you are bored, but we don’t want to upset the teacher by distracting the other students.”
  • “Well, if no one is interested in talking about what you like, just talk about what they are all talking about. ...No, they shouldn’t be talking about 'sexy things' in 2nd grade. Just walk away. I’ll talk to the teacher. ...Okay, I won’t. I know you are trying to make friends.”

Thank God We Now Homeschool:

  • “Just put on pants in case the doorbell rings.”
  • “I may not have washed it yet, but just make sure it doesn’t smell before you wear it again. We aren’t going to see the same people today anyway.”
  • "Well you are correct they are both shades of red. I wonder what is the html hexadecimal number for each shade?”
  • “Pick out some shoes. All I ask is that they fit your foot and this price range. Remember what we save in footwear we can add to the field trip/book budget.”
  • “I wish I had had the guts to get up there and belt it out at an audition for a musical the way you just did. You inspire me. No, there weren’t a lot of boys that auditioned because they are too worried about what the other boys will think. But I’ll tell you what they are secretly thinking—‘I wish I could do that and not worry what people would think.’”
  • “Yes, you can check out a book from any section of the library you want, and you can tell me all about it when you are finished.”
  • “You can stand on your head and do math if it helps you think. And you can move on when you are done, I’m not stopping you.”
  • “You are the cool kid. Be yourself, change for no one. Your uniqueness will find your real friends.”
  • “Stay weird and homeschool on.”

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About the Author

Jennifer Cabrera

Jennifer Cabrera is the witty writer at Hifalutin Homeschooler, a blog that aims to offer comedic relief to homeschool moms and dads. She is the mother of three boys, ages 8 and 12 year old twins. As a Physician Assistant/MPH graduate of Nova Southeastern University in Ft. Lauderdale, FL, Jennifer unexpectedly fell into homeschooling after butting heads with the public school system and was amazed to discover it was everything she never knew she always wanted to do.

Her writing pokes fun of the highs and lows of homeschooling. She is proud and opinionated about homeschooling her uncommonly brilliant boys. Because the opposite of common is remarkable. And cafeteria food sucks.