I have been researching homeschooling: its history, its adherents, its pedagogies. I’ll summarize about seven books for you to save you the time and pain:

Once upon a time, wise hippies who didn’t trust the Man decided to band together in communes where they breastfed their children until they were 18, and meanwhile let them run around and learn catch-as-catch-can.

Then, later, savvy Christian fundamentalists realized secular schools were teaching their children horrible doctrines of tolerance and cultural relativism and–worse–not praying in the schools. They pulled their children out of schools and began homeschooling them using Christian materials.

Sigh. Okay, I’ll lighten up on the sarcasm. But that is the gist.

Now–for real–over two million kids in the US, or at least, those who have parents who are willing to respond to surveys about their existence (this is an actual problem for researchers), are being homeschooled, although the numbers are squishy. According to some sources, more students are homeschooled than attend charter schools. I’m not sure that’s true, but it’s interesting if it is. Most of these homeschooled children are from white, middle-class, two parent, fundamental or evangelical Christian families with Mom at home. No, really, they are. It’s the vast majority. And they do use Christian curricula.

The best of the books I’ve found so far (and I’m still reading it, so it might improve, which is why I’m not naming it) about the history of homeschooling keeps referring to a liberal democratic state that wants to control the minds of students, and thus homeschooling is both a reflection of mistrust of government as well as a good choice to manipulate and control their minds into believing crazy-ass stuff to take charge of their education.

Well.

Perhaps I misplaced my tinfoil hat, but I want to know: where is this liberal democratic state-controlled school system? I live in Portland and I haven’t found it. Do they hold secret meetings at Whole Foods? Is the password on the bottom of the receipt with the bathroom code?

I’m in this gig not because I want to be. I’m in it because my school district sucks and the local school is one of the worst in the school district and because I can knock out a week’s worth of curriculum in a half-day, and we have time for museums and lessons and lots and lots of reading and art time.

Oh, and if you ask me, there’s too much religion in school.

Here’s my failing: I’m not much of a joiner. I’ve tried to be a homeschool group joiner, but the best I’ve done is get pH in classes with other homeschooled kids that are either science-based or arts/physical education. (But I am resolved to try again, because there are no kids in our neighborhood and I so wish for pH to have friends to talk Minecraft and Jurassic Park Lego Xbox-game with. Then again, I also wish I had someone I could talk to about the long 18th century. And a pony.)

If you hadn’t noticed, I don’t fit into that vast majority Christian homeschooling statistic. In fact, it frightens me that this is the majority of homeschoolers.

Here’s an example: last week I drove past an anti-choice rally at a clinic I’d driven past for years (my doctor used to be across the street; I’d see these protesters all the time and glare back then–but I had a kid in the car. Last week, I’d just dropped my kid off at camp).

And there I was. I had a free morning, when I was very young, I used to volunteer-escort women into clinics past protestors, and having had an abortion (for a planned pregnancy, which I wrote about on an earlier blog and probably need to repost), these people really piss me off. I mean, I see red. I am normally polite, but I spent enough time on Marine and Navy bases to know some choice phrases, and I thought them every time I drove by this intersection.

But…there was that free morning.

So I did the logical thing: I called friend RGP who once worked for Planned Parenthood, and went to Office Max for posterboard and giant Sharpies.

Within about 30 minutes, we’d occupied their protest. And had a nice time visiting when we weren’t coerced into conversation.

Despite my heavy pinko tendencies, I don’t want the government’s involvement in certain areas of my life, and one of those is my vagina or uterus. So to a point, I understand not wanting to trust in the government, but I have terrible cognitive dissonance when anti-government people are trying to legislate women’s bodies. Because legislation involves government. Cue head explosion.

But that’s not the scary bit. The scary bit was when the anti-choice folks were speaking to me and I realized they were extraordinarily ignorant. It wasn’t just the beliefs talking. They really were ignorant.

Anti-Choicer: “You know that Jesus died to save you.”

Me: “Ah, you’ve been reading John 3:16. That’s nice.” (I’d already asked this person, “Look, can we talk about the weather or something? It’s supposed to rain this weekend–isn’t that great? Also, I don’t know anything about sports but I’ll do my best if that’s the only common ground we have.” Clearly this didn’t work.)

Friend RGP: “It’s not like I asked him to.”

Me: “It was kind of presumptuous, really.”

RGP: “And he never calls or writes.”

Me: “Or sends thank-you notes when you pray. There’s nothing ruder than not sending a thank you note. You’d think God would be set up with Crane stationary.”

AC: “God made you in his image.”

Me: “I thought it was a rib.”

RGP: “If he did, can he do something about hemorrhoids?”

AC: “He died for your sins. We’re all sinners, and yet he died for us.”

Me: “Do you know what the word sin means?”

AC didn’t, and it bought us some peace. For a while.

AC: “May I show you a picture?”

Me and RGP: “No.”

AC: tried anyway. I might have said something at this point. I don’t remember. I was thinking all those words the Marines use; hopefully I didn’t say any.

RGP, after being told many Bible verses she already knows because–oh, I guess I should mention RGP and I met when I joined the church she belonged to. Our families gave up God and kept the friendship–tells AC some other choice bits of the Bible that are absurd.

AC: “Do you know that life begins at conception?”

Me: “I know what the court decisions say about it.”

AC: “Those babies are people from the moment of conception.”

Me: “How many trigonometry problems did you solve in utero? I’m curious. Trig was hard for me, and I was in my teens.”

Honestly, RGP will do a much better sum-up in her Friday blog post (I’m guessing our impromptu counter-protest will garner a mention). I do remember having to explain to an AC what the differences were between an apostate and a heretic and a heathen, and what happened at the Council of Nicaea (I was trying to give them an example, but they hadn’t heard of it).

I did ask them if they were doing this to demonstrate if they were part of the elect; I’ve got nearly 500 years of Calvinist breeding behind me. I was disappointed when they said no, they were certainly not worthy of being saved. To which I wondered what the hell the point was, but I’d had it by then.

When a handful of them gathered together to sing Amazing Grace, I joined in, then kept going because they didn’t know the second verse and I did. RGP sang the Mary Tyler Moore theme (rather better singing than the rest of us).

My favorite parts: the arrival of the police officer, because one of the ACs had called to say that someone was shouting “help me” from the clinic. I thanked him for validating our counter-protest. “I didn’t come for you,” he said. “I know, but it’s not really a protest without police.” (I think he snorted with amusement, but it could have been contempt. Didn’t matter.)  Also, the arrival of a hipster guy with a cute dog who thanked us for being there. We asked if we could have his dog to lend us even more sympathy but he wanted to keep it.

Incidentally, we got a lot of support from drivers–many thumbs up, many “Right ons!” and it was all worth it.

The reason I’m sharing all of this–other than it made for an interesting Friday morning and allowed me to vent years of fury at people harassing vulnerable women in the name of God–is that many of these people homeschool their children.

And that scares the shit out of me. Get me to the liberal democratic government education state, stat.


Disclaimer: conversational snippets may not be reported in the right order. Also, holding signs for two or more hours will lead to sore muscles the next day.