Teach Your Children Well Part I: When I Think Back on All the Cr*p I Learned in High School

In free education, you get what you pay for.

At one point, in the six long years of infertility before the birth of number one son, we were going to homeschool. In fact, I collected books and all, planning on using them to teach the child.

And then the child arrived. At some point when Robert (Anson. Yes, when you name your child that, you get exactly what you deserve) was three, a friend gave me a book called “Raising the self-willed child.” Don’t bother finding it, or at least not that particular one (I imagine there’s more than one book of that name). It was based on the idea that if your child had sufficient self-esteem he would be miraculously docile.

Even at 30, I wasn’t stupid enough to believe that. So I brought Robert up as I (a self-willed child. Okay, my parents had other words for me) had been brought up: with mild physical discipline, until he was old enough to understand other forms of discipline. That is to say, for a while there the greatest punishment we could inflict was to remove his computer cord for a day or to make him copy three pages of whatever historical book first came to hand, in as good a handwriting as he could use. He still remembers both of those punishments with shudders, but it did wonders for his vocabulary. His penmanship still sucks. I blame doing most of his work on a keyboard. Or maybe being my son. (My penmanship is best described as “dragging a spider dipped in ink all over a paper.")

My first son was unexpectedly creative in forms of misdeeds. I think very few children made it a regular activity to defeat locks, remove all their clothing, and go running through the neighborhood in the middle of the night. Since this was a downtown neighborhood, it wasn’t even a safe thing to do.

My second son was unexpectedly sickly, suffering from asthma and a tendency to epic colds and pneumonia.

Add to that that when younger son was one, I myself managed to have a form of intercellular pneumonia that landed me in ICU for 11 days, and left me weakened for about two years.

All this to say that when it was time for older son to enter school, we meekly registered him for kindergarten. I simply couldn’t keep up with both of them, much less follow a coherent curriculum, when I was sleeping several hours a day, and my husband was in the part of his professional career where 18-hour days weren’t unusual. More during software-release pushes.

The school in the little mountain town we lived in was pleasant and nice, it gave Robert – always a solitary child – contact with other kids, and he seemed to be learning. Oh, not to read and write, since he already knew that when he entered school, but stuff about other countries (they studied Japan, for instance, at the superficial level you do in kindergarten), and he didn’t refuse to go to school, and he continued to read a lot. As for me, I got eight quiet hours to get the Victorian we lived in remodeled, do some writing, and look after a younger son.