…and in conclusion

The first year I homeschooled Rhino, I had a lot of feelings.  I was unhappy to be homeschooling but relieved to have the option.  I was angry there weren’t other options and guilty that I wasn’t working to create them rather than retreating into my little world of privilege.  I was scared of Rhino’s initial academic meltdown and proud of her volunteer work and personal growth.  

I was working through the personal and political repercussions of our family’s choices.  What does privilege mean in the context of a child with disabilities?  Is taking just two years away from the urban public school system with one of three children such a sin?  I found myself pleased that our homeschooling endeavor wasn’t regulated (in part because Rhino was 16 and eligible to drop out if she wanted to), yet I found myself wishing there were  lot more regulation of other homeschoolers.  I developed a bit of an obsession with fundamentalist Christians.

I had no interest in the homeschooling community.  A good friend recommended a book on homeschooling (it’s called Kingdom of Children), and I bought it, only to realize that there are probably 10,000 books I am more interested in reading.  I find the whole concept of homeschooling annoying.

And that’s where I am now.  I think homeschooling worked out well for Rhino in the particular unique circumstances she and our family faced in a particular moment in our history.  I’m glad we were able to homeschool, though sorry we had to do it.  I wish there were were some volunteer-internship based public charter school with a college prep curriculum and time for students to dream.  

If I were a different kind of person, I would start that school.  But I’m not that person.  

So here I am, realizing that my opinions of homeschooling are more or less what they were when I started this endeavor—it’s bad for society and people shouldn’t do it.  But I’ve made my peace (or as much peace as I’m ever going to make) with homeschooling Rhino anyway.  

And even though I actually have half a dozen posts in draft, and thoughts about any number of things I’ve seen about homeschooling in the news, and experiences that I never got around to blogging about, I really don’t want to think/talk/write about homeschooling anymore.

Rhino continues to be her amazing self, and if you like you can follow her adventures at http://ofknightsandcollegiates.tumblr.com/ (she blogs with 4 friends who are all heading to college—guess who the cuttlefish is?)

As for me, I do have things I want to blog about, and when I start a new blog, I will post the url.

Go and support your urban public school system.  And if you ever get a chance, you should pet a penguin.  They are super-super soft, and forever after just thinking about how great it was will give you an endorphin rush.  

The penguin feeding ritual.  See previous post.

The penguin feeding ritual.  See previous post.


This is a tough time of year for a homeschooler who is friends almost exclusively with traditional schoolers.  The kids who go to actual schools are having proms and graduations and senior trips.  Rhino is flopped on the loveseat (inexplicably wearing the new wool hat I knit her even though it’s about 90 degrees).  But she is not relaxing.  She is trying to finish her Financial Skills class in the least amount of time possible.  (By the way, do you “reconcile” your checking account?)

Rhino will not have a graduation.  She did go to her friend’s junior prom nearly two months ago, but she never had a prom of her own.  She did not go on a graduation trip or get a class ring.  And for the last 2 years, she has missed scheduled classes, cafeterias,  drama club, play rehearsals, and all the other rituals of the daily life of the traditionally schooled teen.  
Of course, she has had her own rituals.  But they are mostly just hers.  They are not collectively recognized because, at least in our case, homeschooling is not a collective experience.  I’ve never been much for pomp and circumstance myself—graduations are pretty far down there in my levels of hell.  I am, however, very big on collective social experiences, and for Rhino’s missing that—that she will never be a senior in the way that our society understands—I am sad for her.
At least she got to experience the penguin feeding ritual.

Countdown to Launch

I know I haven’t posted in forever, and actually, the homeschooling endeavor is beginning to come to a close.  Ultimately, I suppose this blog, if I continue it, will have to morph into something else.  But before the morph, there are some things from the last several months I would like to consider.

Something transformative happened to Rhino this spring.  It was a gradual transformation—there was no single moment in which I said “Aha!  Rhino has become amazing beyond my wildest dreams!”  But that’s how the winter/spring have culminated. 

Rhino is the outreach coordinator for the District Youth Service Committee for our religious denomination.  She recruited many new youth to the quarterly conferences, and churches that had never participated before sent their youth.  She served as a dean at one of the conferences.  She went to monthly meeting all over the region.  The adult person in charge of youth for the district asked her to revise the standards for the YES (Youth Empowerment and Supportive Congregations) Award.  She arranged and ran a Cluster event at our church that involved baking a huge number of pies (and raising $250 for a local charity).

Rhino served on the religious education committee at our church.  She co-chaired the Youth Adult Committee (YAC—it’s a community service committee).  She ran the youth group (which won a YES award under her leadership).  She attended the Leadership Committee (because she was co-chair of YAC).

Rhino wrote a proposal to amend our church’s bylaws to allow youth to become full members with voting rights after they complete the Coming of Age program, a  program that is supposed to lead youth to religious adulthood (kind of a low-key bar mitzvah type thing).  She lobbied for congregational support, and ultimately the board passed her proposal unanimously.

Rhino is going to accept the Governor’s Service Award on behalf of the youth volunteer program at the zoo.  The volunteer coordinator told her she had been chosen because she did Junior Zoo Crew, Junior Zookeeper, Junior Interpreter, and Animal Handling and had worked at the zoo for 4 years.   

Rhino is a penguin keeper at the zoo.  She knows the name and identification number of every penguin.  She assists in feeds and in teaching baby penguins to swim (did you know baby penguins hate water?).  She watched over four hatchlings born into the Endangered Species Preservation Program.  And she endured a lot of penguin bites.

Rhino has seen more than 100 children pass through the preschool for homeless children.  Our church decided to make the preschool one of its places to contribute special offerings.

Rhino applied to two Americorps Programs.  She first heard from the one that accepts fewer than 20% of applicants, most of whom are college graduates.  So next year, Rhino will be a City Year corps member in a city about an hour away.  She’s going to live on her own (with some roommates from the program).

Also, Rhino did school.  She is currently preparing for two AP exams, and because City Year requires that she have a diploma, she is planning to finish the requirements to graduate from the University of Nebraska’s independent study highschool by mid-July.  It’s not perfect.  She didn’t finish her Spanish class or her math class.  She’ll only finish the first semester of AP English.  

Somehow, I think she still came out okay.

Rhino takes one for the cause.

Not all penguins want to love you. Some want to bite you.

Rhino takes one for the cause.


Not all penguins want to love you. Some want to bite you.