One of the unacknowledged side effects of homeschooling, considerably more annoying than toenail fungus and sudden death, is that everyone who comes to your home with at least two of their five senses intact will either be thinking, “Of course their house is spotless, someone is home all day cleaning” or (more likely) “You would think their house would be cleaner, since someone is home all day doing nothing.” They won’t care that your children know there are waymore than five senses (balance, kinesthetic, time, common and spidey, to name just five more), or that they have learned to echo-locate around laundry piles in the dark since they are never awake before dusk and you are too lazy and short to change the burnt-out light bulbs. No, they will judge you by their own shallow, puny standards that may seem to align snugly with your county’s Department of Health regulations for living , but are really kind of extreme. And they won’t say it to your face, so you won’t be able to point out that homeschooling advocate and avant-garde hairstyle model Albert Einstein, when faced with spring cleaning his Princeton office, famously said, “If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, of what then, is an empty desk?” Or perhaps more to the point, “A clever person solves a problem. A wise person avoids it.”
There you have it: You and Einstein have better things to do than housekeeping.
Not satisfied with this rationalization for Goo Gone and sandpaper avoidance? (What? You don’t use these products when washing dishes? What kind of housekeeper are you?)
Okay, how about this: you aren’t messy - you’re strewing. Strewing is the unschooling parent’s underhanded method of exposing their children to their curriculum. It goes something like this: your kid has no interest in math, so you leave your un-balanced checkbook under their pillow, hoping they will be curious enough about the family finances (and motivated by the desire to understand why you can’t afford google plus one Magic cards and a subscription to the LegoTM Kit-of-the-Minute Club) to invent accounting. Or you are worried that your kid’s taste in literature has stalled at the Garfieldphase, so you leave a copy of Dante’s Inferno on the bathroom counter while simultaneously running out of toilet paper. Now that you understand strewing, you just need to apply it retroactively. That sticky spot on the kitchen floor where your child drooled orange juice when you asked him to write “ham” on the grocery list isn’t a mopping disaster, it’s an in-progress physics experiment demonstrating the properties of surface tension and viscosity, the tensile strength of dog fur and the concept of inertia, both physical and psychological. Whatever classical physics can’t explain, quantum physics and Freudian psychology can justify. Trust us on this.
Added bonus effect: your kid, stuck to the floor in footie pajamas, will eventually grow tall enough to clear off enough countertop space to make you a sandwich, but probably one without ham.
The Handwringers Handwringers Barbara Alward and Diane Kallas continue to find humor in every day life. Their original Handwringer column ran in every issue of HSC’s California Homeschooler from 1997-2002. Between them they have four children ranging from 21 to 30, each uniquely charming and living in the real world.