Monday, February 3, 2014

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Homeschool Vs. Public School: an 8-year argument.

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Mel and I had been married about two months the first time we talked about educating our children. This was just long enough for the excitement of being married to wear off. We were now fighting about stupid things, like how I folded the laundry or who vacuumed last.  We hadn’t learned to pick our battles. We’d just finished watching a movie, the title of which I cannot recall. At the time, we were living in Provo, Utah, in a first floor condo. Both of us were twenty-two-years-old.
It was around midnight and we were snuggling on the sofa when Mel asked, “What do you think about homeschooling our kids?”
We didn’t have kids yet, but we talked about the hypothetical kids a lot: What will we name our kids? Will we have a boy or a girl? Who will be our kid’s favorite parent? Who will be his/her favorite grandparent? And so on. 
Buzzle

 I laughed at the idea of homeschool. A snorty pompous laugh that I often got when I thought something was completely asinine.
“What?” Mel asked. “Why are you laughing?”
“Are you serious?” I asked. “Because really… have you met homeschooled kids? They have problems. I don’t think it’s good for the kids or the family.”
I went on telling her about a friend of mine who was homeschooled. His mother went crazy, drugged their father with some pills she got in Mexico, placed him in a car, and then pushed the car off a cliff. But when the car got caught in some trees, and the dad started to wake up, she beat him in the head with a hammer until some hikers came by and stopped her. “I’ve seen the horseshoe-shaped scars on the man’s forehead,” I said. “It’s some crazy shit. I am not a psychiatrist, but I think spending that much time with her kids made her homicidal.”
Mel rolled her eyes. She started to speak, but I wouldn’t have it. I didn’t like the idea of homeschooling at all, so I went on, telling her stories of shut-ins and oddballs. Homeschooled kids I’d known who didn’t wear deodorant or couldn’t hold a conversation. Kids that never saw the light of day. Kids that never left their parents’ basement because they were intimidated by the outside world. “Someday I’d like for our kids to leave the house. I don’t want them to smell like shit and never get married. Is that what you want? It’s just a stupid idea. I don’t know why you would even suggest it.”
When I look back on what I said, I realize that I was being a complete asshole. Mel wanted to have a serious conversation. I think she wanted me to come at the subject with an open mind. But instead I insulted her idea, which more or less means I insulted her.  But in the heat of the moment, I was sincerely scared. I’d always hated the idea of homeschooling and swore against ever doing it. I didn’t want to hear her arguments on the subject. I didn’t want to know why she felt that way. I was not interested in having a civil conversation that would result in a compromise. These were not skills I’d acquired yet. I was young and full of ideas and opinions and I wanted my voice to be heard. I was old enough to be married, but still young enough to feel like I’d been told what to do by teachers and parents for too long. I was ready to be heard, and on this particular subject, I was not going to listen; I was going to dictate.
Once I was done speaking, we sat in silence for a while. It was still early enough in our marriage that Mel didn’t feel comfortable speaking her mind yet. She’d always been a small reserved person in both personality and shape. She only stood about five-foot-two with small hands and brown hair. Her voice was soft and sweet, not the kind of voice associated with loud arguments or snappy comebacks. It was this soft sweetness that originally had attracted me to her.
At this stage in our marriage, her way of arguing was to get really quiet, and if I pushed the subject, she locked herself in another room.
After a few moments, her face started to turn red. Her fists were clenched at her sides. She was about to cry. Then she said in a shaky frustrated voice, “I like the idea of homeschool. I’m going to bed.” Then she went into the bedroom and locked the door. 

I didn’t sit there for too long waiting for her. I didn’t give her a little time to cool off. I knocked on the door, softly at first. “Really? Come on babe. Let’s talk about this. I’m sure once you hear what I have to say you will realize that homeschooling is a really dumb idea.” I said it a few times, but in different variations. “Let’s talk about this, babe.” Or “Come on. I don’t want to be up all night. Let’s talk.” I kept referring to it as a dumb idea or stupid idea, and I can only imagine Mel in our bedroom, probably gazing at her reflection in the upright mirror across from the bed, wondering how she was going to survive life with this jackass.  
I naively assumed that I was a good listener, when in fact, I was a talker. I was going to get her to see my way. I knew I could convince her that homeschool was a really bad idea. I just knew I could if she’d only listen. This was how we communicated back then. I talked while Mel sat silent. And once Mel had had enough, she locked herself away and waited for me to see things her way, which I never did.
Both of our tactics sucked.
I tried to get her to open the door for almost an hour. At one point I tried to pick the lock with a small screwdriver, as if I had any idea how to do that. I went through a few emotional states: irritation, understanding, confusion, but mostly I was just angry. At around 2AM I gave up. This was the first time in our marriage that I spent a night on the sofa. 

  

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Clint Edwards was blessed with a charming and spitfire wife, a video game obsessed little boy, and a snarky little girl in a Cinderella play dress. When Clint was 9-years-old his father left. With no example of fatherhood, he had to learn how to be a father and husband through trial and error. His essays on parenting and marriage have been featured in Huffington Post Parents, Huffington Post Weddings, and The Good Men Project. He lives in Oregon. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter.

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