The Friar, the Dalai Lama, and Homeschooling

So last night I decided to have dinner in the East Village with a friend and her friends at Frankie's Pizzeria. One of the friends was a woman from San Francisco, who I will call "K." Somehow, I guess by way of K.'s "where does your child go to school?" question, that for the life of me, I cannot figure out why anyone would ask as a matter of course - except to perhaps find out one's status - the conversation turned uncomfortably to:

We homeschool.
Erm, not for us, no. [And maybe it's summer now so I am forgetting if it's hard, but that's beside the point]
"No, I think that's really hard. How can YOU POSSIBLY MANAGE ALL THAT WORK AT HOME?"
Well, a lot of it isn't even done at home. Homeschooling is sort of a misnomer.

My friend, C., who invited me to dinner, tried to steer the conversation to schools in New York City. We agreed that the public schools weren't that great. C. inquired, "And some schools do specialize, no? I believe there is a visual arts school -"

K: "No, there are no such schools in New York City."
Husband of friend: "No, I think there are. Bronx Science, for example."
K: [silence. Then she notices a picture on the wall of a friar who looked like the photo here] "Is that the Dalai Lama?"

K. then proceeded to talk to me about Catholic school education. "It's a really, really good education."

And a Capuchin monk can be easily confused for the Dalai Lama. Yeah, I'm sold.

Is it me, or does the "Where does your child go to school?" hook open conversation to places that homeschoolers simply do not wish to go? Is it a status question, an empty "what do you do?"-type question, or really a question about what sort of schooling choices we make?


Calletta said...

It's a question rather like, "What do you do?" . . . I hate that question. Maybe it's the European upbringing, but I'm not defined by my work. And I feel my status as a person should not be defined by my work or perceived success, either.

So, for short, yes, it's something of a status question. At least, that's how I'd see it. Unless there's an off chance the person asking is looking for a school for his/her child(ren).

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...
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la Maitresse said...

Comment spam.

L said...

Since everybody around here attends the (overcrowded, portable-based) neighborhood schools, I probably wouldn't hear that question, but, yeah, you might as well ask someone which side of the tracks they live on.

Another victim of Catholic school who at least learned:

The one-l lama,
He's a priest.
The two-l llama,
He's a beast.
And I will bet
A silk pajama
There isn't any
Three-l lllama.

-- Ogden Nash

Becky said...

As the product of a very good but very expensive NYC private school education lol, all these years on I'm pretty sure that in NYC and SF it's a status question. Of course, someone like K. wouldn't even deign to talk to me once she'd heard I'd "given up" NYC to be barefoot and pregnant with THREE kids on a farm in the rural west.

But even here lots of people get into a snit when they find out we hs and don't -- gasp -- use the ps system, no matter how horrible it is. And some, in fact, think we're being snobs because we hs, especially since it's classical hs'ing (oooh, Latin). If you can't win either way, we must be doing something right!

Loved the Ogden Nash ditty : ). My favorite remains, "Candy is dandy/But liquor is quicker" which might be handy to remember after pizza with Californians...

Anonymous said...

I don't think it's necessarily a status question. I think it's an "identity" question, analogous to "So what do you do?" asked of an adult.

What kids usually do is, they go to school. Mine goes to a public school and when I meet other parents they want to "compare and contrast." The next question is, "Does he like it?" or "How is that school?" So I wouldn't make TOO much of the question.

As for whether homeschooling is hard or not, we keep wrangling with the idea, but it DOES seem too hard, and I guess I have the usual fears:

-will he learn a significant part of the "canon"? (particularly math/science)
-will he actually do the lessons independently? it seems easier to do classwork, when everyone around you is doing it too, and, of course
-the social question

la Maitresse said...

Anyone wish to give some feedback to anonymous? Might you have an e-mail address? (You can set up a dummy one if you're shy. Works well for me ;)

As for the social question...could someone please, please elaborate! Is the question, "Will my child still socialize well as a homeschooler?" or is it "Will he become a social cretin as a homeschooler?" I am really hoping that someone will say what they mean (or fear) re: homeschooling.

Princess Ennui said...

I tend to lump that question in with "Where are you from?"...to which I don't have a good answer. I can certainly share the homeschool thing but I really, I mean REALLY, have to be in the mood to go through the whole defending myself and my actions to people who come up with things like, "Kids need to go to school so they can be offered drugs so they can turn them down."
I will say that I DO have a good arugment for the socialization thing...I was socialized all the way through college and I STILL dislike most people. Except for my "friends" in the blogging world, that is.

la Maitresse said...

Alright, and I have this to offer: last night I encountered five very well dressed boys who were hanging out and buying stuff where I was shopping. They blurted out expletives as part of their normal conversation (HEY YOU F*#^IN GET HERE NOW YOU F*%&IN S#$%^TTER) and used a talking volume too loud for my poor La Mai eardrums. Apparantly too loud for everyone else, as everyone began to stare at them. The five kids were maybe 13- 14 years old (?) and continued to laugh loudly and blurt expletives in conversation. I resisted the temptation to ask what school they attend. Well socialized? I think among each other, yes, they are. Is that the socialization that we prefer to see among human kids? That would require some thought.

Anonymous said...

hi , it's anonymous again.

By the social question, I meant, (mostly) simply putting the kid in situations where he will be able to form close relationships.

Maybe I'm exposing my own social insecurities here. I've mostly met good friends at jobs, in schools (when I was a student), and (oddly) online.

(I met my husband on an early electronic bbs of all things -- but they had 'f2f's (face-to-faces).

I guess i would fear that the kid would not have groups with a natural propensity for adherence/intimacy.

(maitressse, we e-mailed once and you actually said that Alexandre doesn't have kids to hang out with during the week and that this is a bit of a problem.)

I understand that there are gregarious people out there who are constantly making friends and acquaintances, but not everyone is like that. (my son is shy)

As for the cursing teenagers, (1) I was not talking about socialization in that sense, and (2) I'm not sure it's so bad to have a group of kids you can be rude with! this is a normal part of (annoying to us, fun for them) herdlike adolescent behavior (in my opinion). It's part of the separation process.

(that said, I'm sure I would have been offended to -- however, is there no irony in the juxtaposition of La Maitresse's involvement with the preservation of CBGB's and her offense at rude teenagers?? (thinking e.g. Sid Vicious, punk culture in general!)

One would think you'd have a high vulgarity threshold! (I happen to).

anyway I certainly haven't given up the possibility of homeschooling --just bringing up some issues here.

Anonymous said...

oh, also, I'm really not asking that anybody defend homeschooling. I have enormous respect for this particular modality/culture, which is how I found this (very engaging) blog in the first place.

(I don't know how to set up anonymous e-mail)

la Maitresse said...

I *totally* appreciate anonymous bringing up the issues!!! : )

It is true, anonymous, that A and I are figuring out the "afterschool" kids situation (have we not moved enough times?). There *are* opportunities for h-schoolers to interact when they are not in a learning environment, though. A currently has his science internship and interacts with the kids there, and he has his core group of friends with whom he "hangs out" and sometimes does a sleepover on weekends.

Hey, the punks that I knew were some of the nicest people around! ; D