It happened again the other day. A woman at the drugstore asked Eamon why he wasn’t in school. When I explained that we are homeschoolers, she looked at the two other kids standing beside my cart and the baby strapped to me in his carrier and gasped.
“How do you manage to give them all the attention they need?” she asked.
Now I’ve been here before. I knew I was already making this woman’s head spin with the fraction of my brood that I had with me, and so I opted against telling her about the three kids I had left at home with their father.
Instead, I told her that we work hard at homeschooling. I told her my husband helps me. I told her that we try to set routines, stick to schedules, and set yearly goals for ourselves, and that so far we seem to be managing fairly well.
It might have been paranoia, but with each word I spoke, I thought I could see her eyes narrowing with suspicion. In fact, she began to look very much like a retired public school teacher–the kind that places unquestioning faith in the public system and sees people like me as irresponsible parents and trouble-makers. She might have been wondering why we were at the drugstore buying diapers when we should have been home dividing fractions. She might have been pondering giving my 6 year-old a pop quiz right there in the toothpaste aisle to assess his progress.
I didn’t stick around to find out. I finished up my comments and hurried out of there. On the way home, though, I thought a bit more about this woman’s question: How do you give them all the attention they need?
It’s a good question. It’s an important one that every parent should ask about their children’s education. It occurs to me, though, that most people ask it to the wrong person. Why ask me how I manage to give my students’ all the attention they need? I only have seven kids of various needs and abilities. And I love them. I want only what is best for them and would do anything in the world for their betterment. I am 100% motivated to see that all my children do get all the attention they need on a daily basis.
Why don’t more people ask a public school teacher how she manages to give 30+ students of varying abilities the individualized attention they need? Never mind about accommodating for disabilities, variations in learning styles, and the distractions and disruptions that naturally come with a classroom filled with young people. What about the gifted child who could use more intellectual stimulation and could easily move along at a more accelerated pace? What about the reluctant reader who makes slow but steady progress only if he receives near-constant coaxing and encouragement? What about the kid sitting in the back row who still doesn’t know exactly what a “common denominator” is but is too timid to interrupt the classroom and ask the teacher to repeat herself?
A teacher is only one person after all, and although she may care about her students, at the end of the day they aren’t her children. There is only so much she is going to be able and willing to do. Yes, indeed, it is an excellent question: How on earth does she manage to give them all the attention they need?