Living Free Range on the Edges of Town
How homeschooling compels us to adapt wherever we are
I live in a neighborhood that is on the edge of another town where the median home sale price for a 3 bedroom is $568K. There are homes for sale everywhere in that town, and better public schools there too (whatever that really means I couldn’t tell you), and the parks are always manicured, maintained, and updated. That town is across the street from this town where I live.
Do you want to know how a town is doing? Look at their parks.
My neighborhood park has play equipment in need of serious repair. Merry-go-rounds, teeter-totters, metal slides, swing sets, spring rocking animals, monkey bars, climbers have become rustic under years of southern California heat waves. You’re not allowed to grill at the parks in my town and you’ll be lucky to find a staff member available for any inquiry you might have, like reporting a dead squirrel at the foot of a tree.
Over the course of my daughter’s lifetime (5 years)—the time we’ve been residents in this town—we’ve joined the sports teams of that town across the street as non-residents. We pay a fee to have our boys play on a flag-football team or to learn swimming in the summers. Residents of that town don’t pay a premium. We’ve tried the parks and rec programs in our town, but we’ve found a lack of organization: one class got canceled last minute and another class session was canceled without notice.
I’ve found myself thinking about how much we assign significance to the amenities our places of residence have to offer. I’m realizing now that adapting to living on the border of this town and that town has become a sweet spot. We walk to the park in my town that is close to a middle school my son will never attend and I give my children free rein there. Scooters, bikes, nerf guns, bows, roller skates, football, swords all come out of my trunk while the public school is in session. We get curious looks from grocery clerks. No school today, they say, suspiciously. We homeschool, I say.
All manner of learning is ubiquitous. My son does his math at the checkout, estimates totals and change. My daughter reviews a list and marks off items we’ve collected. My other son stands at the butcher shop to request a pound-and-a-half of ground beef.
We’re constantly adapting during conventional school hours while we’re out of doors, well aware that we’re not ordinary. We’re peculiar people for being out in broad daylight as a family when my children should be tucked away inside an institution, shuffled between classrooms, subsidized with textbooks choke full of indoctrination we don’t subscribe to. The curiosity, then, about why we’re free ranging is always there.
The other day on our way to pick up breakfast before joining our co-op group for a field trip to Medieval Times, we discovered my car’s tire was flat. I drove slowly to the service station and my teenage son added air to my tire, just enough to get us to our next stop. At the tire shop a few blocks away, the clerk checked all four and my son mitigated the conversation, in Spanish. Your son is sharp, the clerk said.
Much of the time is spent in this way, adapting to a crisis, making room for failure, getting places. Living. Together.
We exist in a culturally oppressive state of anguish and hostility, and in California, the hysteria about homeschooling and homeschoolers is especially fraught with political moves and severe government overreach. But we press on with life as unconventional as it is to be seen during the waking hours of daylight, waiting for the next opportunity for us to emerge from our homes. Adapting again.