Thursday, October 04, 2012


I can't think of a single circumstance where it would be OK to approach someone in a grocery store and offer your unsolicited advice about someone's child rearing. I understand this sort of thing happens routinely, but largely I've been able to avoid it. Danny's baby formula was by prescription only, so I never had to face the wrath of busybodies ready to, "educate " me about breastfeeding.

I am aware of, and understand the stereotypes  associated with homeschooling-I probably held many of them years ago. The difference between holding, and voicing an opinion is a matter of manners.

I was caught off guard in the produce department. Danny was filling out his grocery price journal when a 60-ish woman swooped in on us. It was cool today, so Danny was wearing a sportcoat over a shirt and argyle vest, with walking shorts and knee socks. That's his style, and as it doesn't feature rips, bleach spatters, or his arse hanging out of his shorts, I let him dress according to his tastes.

"Oh, he looks adorable." Mrs. Swoopy declares. He looks like he belongs at Hravard. They all dress that way at Harvard, my nephew is there he graduated top of his class, I'm a retired school teacher. Where does your son go to school?"

First, a couple points. I know my way around Harvard square, and the Classical Studies department as well, and trust me when I tell you no one wears argyle vests, sport coats, and shorts with knee socks-not even as an attempt at irony. I'm stretching my memory back to the 90's (ow, that hurt) but honestly, I never saw an argyle vest. Ever. What I did encounter were people who would let you know thirty seconds after being introduced that they attended Harvard. Usually, it would emerge they attended the Continuing Education programme, but yeah, technically that is Harvard.

Let's give Mrs. Swoopy the benefit of the doubt, being a proud auntie and all. She was bursting at the seams with pride ,and while I don't think I look terribly approachable, I at least look respectable enough to know Harvard exists.

"So where does he go to school?"

Obviously, if Danny is at a grocery store at 2 PM on a Thursday afternoon, he isn't attending a conventional school with 8-3 hours. A retired teacher obviously knows this. While it seems innocent enough, what she was in fact doing was interrogating me as to why my child isn't in school today. My child was in school today, he was spending an hour making a weekly journal of staple items that he graphs and reports on through the semester. What Mrs. Swoopy was doing was interrupting class.

I try my best to be a good ambassador for homeschooling, but I am loathe to tolerate bullying. I am happy enough to answer sincere questions, but I am not willing to be lectured by someone that has yet to master the basics of etiquette. It is never polite to approach someone, corner them in a public place, and proceed to scold them.

"But there are good schools you could send him to, with trained professionals. I hope you *at least* let him be around people. Children need socialisation."

It took everything I possess to refrain from uttering a remark about being socialised to have bad manners, and be bullied by strangers. If not an award, I should at least get a pat on the shoulder for that because it was really terribly difficult to hold my tongue. I suppose she imagines I keep him locked in a closet reading the Bible all day.

Thankfully, before I could respond, she scurried off, which I imagine was her intent. It was obvious Danny is homeschooled, and she didn't want to let pass an opportunity to share her disapproval.

Thank god I wasn't buying baby formula as well.

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