“Faint of heart”: Is it a metaphor or a metonym? Or maybe an idiom? 

I don’t know, but now I’ve got enough material for my daughter’s next two ELA classes. Even though I’m a writer, I’m no expert in teaching figurative language (fortunately, the Internet is). But that’s what homeschooling is all about.

It all started when my daughter had 6 weeks left in kindergarten. Her best friend had dropped out to be “temporarily homeschooled” for personal reasons. Boy, did my daughter like that idea. She begged to be homeschooled too. Of course I said no. Not only had we no excuse, not only did I know it was just because she hated getting up early, but there was no way I could do what her teacher did—teach kids to read? Clean up messes? Stand in line? All without raising his voice or swearing even once? Homeschooling was terrifying. I had multiple advanced degrees, but I was sure I’d be referred to the Department of Social Services if I tried. Also, it felt like I’d be that guy saying, “I’m not a teacher, but I slept at a Holiday Inn Express last night.” 

And I had a novel to finish.

Then her teacher left halfway through first grade, and it started again: “The sub yells a lot. Can I be homeschooled? Remember when E______ did it last year?” To which I said, “I’m sure {the sub} will be just fine,” and, to myself, “Of course {the sub} yells, she’s got a room full of 6-year olds! All day long!” 

And, “Really, this is the year I’ll finish my book.”

The next two years, though in a mixed-grade class, my daughter ended up the only girl in her grade. The begging started again. My reply: “Hang out with the younger girls. Your teachers are great and you’re learning lots of cool things.”

“But you finished the book!”

“Now I have to write the sequel.”

Fourth and fifth grades, the boy-girl imbalance was even more of a problem. Whenever a boy noticed her, (often in the form of awkward teasing, these being 11-year olds), I’d say: “Honey, if you drop out every time that happens, you’re gonna have a hard time of it.”

Sixth grade it was girl drama. Whenever a friend ignored her/wouldn’t let her be/hung out with someone else at recess: “We don’t avoid our problems, we learn from them. Here are some things you can try saying. And a tissue.”

Then her older brother got into a high school that required a 30 minute commute (public charter school = no bus) and which had a completely different calendar. Our local middle school was 20 minutes in the opposite direction. Compared to spending two hours a day in traffic and my children never getting to hang out together, homeschooling didn’t look so bad. So when she “volunteered” for it—“To make your lives easier!”—I said yes.

But I was still terrified. And there was that sequel to finish.

It’s been two months since we opened “Purple Cat Academy”, and though it’s still a Work In Progress (like my book, my blog, my life in general), I don’t know why I waited this long. She has caught up in math and surged into the curriculum for the grade ahead. She’s read “Strange Case of Jekyll and Hyde” and, for a final project, is making an animated video summarizing the story (there’s an app for that). She’s baked (and eaten) a cell cake and written a five-paragraph essay comparing Homemade versus Store-bought Almond Milk. But more importantly, she’s had two months of indulging her every academic whim.

Cell cake — not a low calorie project

All the things I was afraid of have not come to pass. I don’t swear more than usual. I still like my kids. Yes, I have no formal training in education, but I’m long-used to Imposter Syndrome from being a woman in medicine. Not having any idea what our year-long curriculum will be doesn’t mean I can’t make progress towards it every day—after all, I only have one student’s needs to consider. Thanks to a sincerely overwhelming amount of local and global resources, neither of us feels alone. She has plenty of “outside” activities and enjoys them even more, now that we’re not squeezing them all in between after school and dinner. I’m making time to write, and the book is slowly shaping into something publishable.

Learning is fun again. Adequate sleep is a great thing. Pajamas are perfectly acceptable at our school. The best part about self-publishing is that deadlines are entirely self-imposed and always flexible. Mostly, what I’ve learned is that professional teachers are awesome, totally under-appreciated, and definitely underpaid. But for the next two years at least, I’ve committed to being one. 

(As for the book: “Timber Howligan, Agent on the Loose” should come out in the first half of 2020, during which we’ll probably do a project on marketing and promotion!)

Not a purple cat. Although this moment did lead to what might be our next research project, “Do cats have nose hairs?”

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