Over the weekend while I was out running errands, I decided to pop into the only bookstore in town that has home school supplies.
The last time I was there, I browsed around for a long time, unrushed and unbothered by the owner. I was quite looking forward to another visit. This time she met me at the door, cheerily asking how she could help. I said I had come in to look at some school supplies. I answered all the typical questions – telling her I’m a home schooler, my kids are almost 6 and 4, and that I was looking for a poster of the days of the week and months of the year.
She told me my son was too young for that. I was a little taken aback, but said that he’s been asking about the days of the week lately and I wanted to get something he could look at whenever he wanted. She said, “Oh, well if he’s asking, then that’s okay.” Oh, goody. She said home school moms are always coming into her store and trying to buy things that are way too advanced, because they all think their kids are just so smart.
That seemed like kind of a weird thing to say to a customer who JUST TOLD YOU she’s a home schooler, but whatever. And anyway, my kids ARE smart, so neener-neener.
She followed me around the store the entire time I was there, pointing out things I should buy and telling me repeatedly that she had been a teacher for thirty-five years. She would pause after this announcement and blink expectantly. I got the impression I was supposed to be asking her for advice.
She made pointed comments about the simple things home schooled kids miss out on learning – how to work with others, how to sit still, or how to recite a nursery rhyme. Nursery rhymes, for those of you not In The Know, are of paramount importance. Why, she saw he fell down and broke his crown referred to in a $500 Math book just last week! I was thinking that if I spent that kind of money on a math book, I’d want more than Humpty-Dumpty, but instead said brightly, “that’s so interesting!”
In an effort to change the subject, I mentioned that I was looking for an alphabet to put up that matched the handwriting program we use, Getty-Dubay.
Her: “That’s a terrible program.”
Me, feeling my eyebrows twitch a little: “Oh?”
Her: “It’s not a program that they recognize.”
Me: “Who’s They?”
Her: “The public school system and administration.”
Me: “I don’t care what the public school system does.”
Her, not missing a beat: “Or parochial schools.”
Me: “I don’t care about that either.”
Her: “You never know what might happen, things might change. We have some wonderful private schools in town.”
Me, edging away: “Well, I am committed to home schooling.”
Her: “They offer scholarships.”
Me, twitch, twitch: “Both my husband and I are very committed to home schooling. Money doesn’t have anything to do with it.”
Her: “Well, you never know what might happen. Things might change.”
And then she told me this story about how she had been in a horrible car accident last year, broken 30 bones in her body, and had only survived because there was an off duty trauma nurse walking by. “So, you never know what might happen.” She stopped just short of saying, “…it could happen to you!” but I’m pretty sure she was thinking it. She was so……. oddly gleeful at the prospect. It was a little unsettling.
I made sympathetic mouth noises, but by now my brows had crawled so far up into my hairline, I vaguely wondered if I’d ever see them again. She pounded the message home, telling me “to make sure and have a Plan B, because you never know what could happen, you might get a fantastic job offer! An offer that you wouldn’t be able to turn down, a job you would kill for!”
“I already have that job.”
“Oh, really? Where?”
I just looked at her. “Oh, right,” she said, “Being a mommy.”
Jim asked me why I didn’t walk out. I think it was because I’ve never had a total stranger talk to me like that before and was morbidly curious to see what she’d say next.