We home schooled our kids for nearly ten years. This was in the days before the Internet when dinosaurs still roamed the earth. Back then, the only way to shop for curriculum and resources was to attend a “home school book fair.” For those unfamiliar with the concept, this is where thousands of home school families gather at a convention center to browse through hundreds of booths devoted to educational resources of every size, shape, and color. Each summer, we would go to select the curriculum and tools we would use with our kids in the coming year.
Many years later, we find ourselves at a home school book fair once again. This time, we are vendors. Jenifer and I are convinced that families who home school are in desperate need for guidance as they coach their kids toward healthy sexuality. These parents certainly care about the issues, but many think that isolating their kids from the world’s thinking is sufficient. Our experience is that it is not. We have seen too many young people from sheltered homes go off to college only to quickly crash and burn due to inadequate preparation for all that they end up facing.
That’s how we ended up here. We set up a booth and are selling our book and promoting our ministry. It has been tons of fun. God has given us many great interactions with these awesome families from the home school community. (Shameless Plug Alert: If you don't have a clear plan to help your kids navigate opposite sex relationships, the junk on the Internet, and their sexuality in general, you should really check out The Talks. It's a book we wrote just for you.)
So here I sit at a home school book fair, looking for ways to kill time between conversations with parents. Due to a robust workshop schedule, there are long periods of time when traffic is thin and I have found myself alone. My response is to people-watch, noticing all the different home schoolers walking around. My other response is to blog, something I haven’t done enough of recently. So here’s my attempt at humor that I offer you today….
The Seven Parents You See at a Home School Book Fair
1. The “Whoever Buys the Most Resources Wins” Parent
This parent is pulling a rolling suitcase or cart that is filled to the top with books, DVDs, and educational tools. They are committed to making sure that they are equipped for every educational situation that the school year might present. I even saw someone pulling a red wagon full of curriculum, but I think there was a toddler buried under all the stuff, so maybe there wasn’t all that much. If the world economy collapses and the new currency is "learning activities,” these people will be set.
2. The “I’m Brand New To Home Schooling” Parent
Typically, these moms have been considering educating at home for years and are finally about to take the leap. Walking through the book fair, they are wide-eyed and a bit scared. Overwhelmed by all the options, they are usually afraid that they are going to do something wrong. I have found that there’s nothing more entertaining than telling this person that if they choose the wrong language arts curriculum for their 3rd grader, she will be ruined for life. Try it. It’s hilarious.
3. The “We Don’t Get Out Much” Parent
These parents are rare, but they account for 98% of all stereotypes about people who home school. Their kids are often carrying a paperback book under their arms (or are reading it as they walk, Brick Heck-style) and are well-mannered. These families give off the vibe that their three days at the book fair — combined with their three day stopover in Colonial Williamsburg — will serve as their annual vacation.
4. The “I Have A Past” Parent
I love these people. They have funky hair, a generous collection of tattoos, and 7 year old kids who look cooler than I ever have in my entire life. When you talk to them, it is apparent that God has done an amazing work in their lives. I get a kick out of watching the more “conservative” families stare at them while trying to look like they’re not staring at them.
5. The “I Churn My Own Butter” Parent
These folks are passionate about God, their kids, and home education. They also dress like they are from an entirely different century. Maybe they’re Amish. Maybe they’re Quakers. Maybe they put on their “Little House on the Prairie” gear when they come to the book fair as an elaborate prank on the rest of us. We may never know their reasons, but if you have ever gone to one of these things, you know that they’re there.
6. The “Duggars Are My Role Models” Parent
I am always impressed by Michelle Duggar’s ability to stay cool and soft-spoken when parenting her 19 kids. Likewise, I’m amazed at how chill the woman at the book fair is when she tells me she has 11 kids, aged 21 to 2. Oftentimes, this parent has her entire brood in tow. These kids are always polite and helpful to one another. Somebody please tell me why this parent can control her 11 kids and I have a hard time controlling my lone first grader.
7. The “I Home School But I'm Still Cool” Parent
You see this in the moms far more than the dads. These ladies are working incredibly hard to make sure you know that, even though they home school, they don’t fit the stereotype you have about home schoolers. Their clothes are hip, their hair is stylish. They make jokes about denim jumpers (which were apparently a home school mom requirement back in the day). They can often become defensive if you even suggest that they fall into one of the six categories above.
If you home school and have been to one of these book fairs, I hope that you smiled at this list. Or that you saw yourself somewhere in it. I know that every one of these parents I have seen today is fully committed to a very challenging task. They are raising incredible kids who they pray will walk with God and change the world. I consider it a privilege to be counted among their number.