Archive for the 'homeschooling' Category

little victories: the kind of beauty that stands out in a crowd

I like to stand out. I like to be different.

Writing the buzz cut piece reminded me.

Well, getting the buzz cut reminded me. And then writing about it. For me, everything is two-pronged: the doing and the writing.

As a little kid, I was shy, but I liked to stand out. People don’t think those things go together. They think when you’re shy you want to disappear. But I was just particular about the ways that I wanted to stand out.

I hear that kids are supposed to be afraid of being different from other kids. And I’ve definitely had those moments, of course. But for some reason, there weren’t many of them. Instead, there was this fierce pride. Like a little unquenchable flame, just inside my belly, a tiny eternal light like the one that hung over the ark where the Torahs are kept on the bima. But mine didn’t have cobwebs like the one at temple.


“Why doesn’t the school bus pick you up in the morning?” my neighbor, Benny, asked me when I was ten. He sounded a little accusing.

“Because my mom doesn’t let it,” I said.

“My mom says you probably go to school at a special school. At your Jewish church.”

“No,” I said, “I don’t go to any school. And it’s not a church, it’s called Temple Har Zion.” I felt important.

Benny made a face at me that said, “you aren’t saying real words.” “That’s weird,” he said.

“Do you want to learn a prayer in Hebrew?” I said.

“Okay,” he said.

So I taught him the Sh’ma, the central prayer. Sh’ma yisrael, Adonai eloheinu, Adonai echad. I sang it. I convinced him to sing it, too.

I was the weirdest kid on our street, of course. Jewish AND homeschooled, in a town where no one was either. In a town where once the boys down the street cut a swastika in a nearby cornfield. So I don’t know why I liked to stand out. Maybe because I was always with my mom, and she was always comfortable standing out.

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the toe hair story

I was eleven. I was at a slumber party. Remember those? It was for my friend Amy’s birthday. She’d invited a bunch of girls over, and there were going to be games and punch and cookies and sleeping bags.

She lived in the biggest house of anyone I knew—with bricks on the front and fancy things like porcelain figurines and sculptures of horses inside. I thought her mom was fancy, too. She was very, very thin, with an air of sadness about her, and she always had her hair up, with a few wisps escaping. She had a long, elegant neck, and she wore slim, matching clothes. Amy’s dad had left her mom for one of his college students. I thought the student would be terrible—an empty-eyed girl with round breasts popping out of her pink lacey shirt. I imagined her as a sort of ill-intentioned Barbie. But once they dropped Amy off at my house together and she was confusingly earthy and friendly, wearing cargo pants and Birkenstocks, with a gap-toothed smile. And Amy’s dad was chubby and bashful. I thought he looked ashamed, standing in front of my parents with his girl, who was only nineteen.

I was already nervous in Amy’s house, because I had seen her dad with the girl. And because I felt sorry for her elegant mother, who I imagined was British, even though she didn’t have a British accent, just because I thought that British people were all elegant and liked sculptures of horses. I felt awkward, feeling sorry for someone’s mom. I knew it wasn’t my place.


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the Tiger Mom talks

I saw Amy Chua, the Tiger Mom, last night at the 92nd Street Y. Actually, I ran into her on my way to the bathroom, before her talk started. I wasn’t positive it was her, but I had a feeling. She was wearing a hot pink dress under a fitted leather jacket. Her hair was perfect. I looked at her and she looked at me, as though she was waiting for me to say something (like “Oh my god, I LOVED your book!” or “It’s women like you who are ruining this country.”), but I didn’t, and we awkwardly squeezed by each other in the narrow hall. The sleeve of her jacket brushed my arm.

Like a lot of people, I didn’t read the book, I read the Wall St Journal excerpt. Like a lot of people, I joined in conversations about parenting styles and whether “eastern” or “western” parenting is better, and how much tiger is too much. Everyone was shocked by her. Everyone was horrified. “This is why kids kill themselves,” people said. “Because there’s so much pressure to succeed.” “Her daughters will have eating disorders,” people said. Everyone was defensive.

In her talk, Amy Chua was funny and a little overeager. She kept starting thoughts and switching over to something else, so that her sentences tumbled together, breaking off and beginning again in crisscrossing excitement. She had so much correcting to do. The book was supposed to be funny. It was supposed to be a confession. She was shocked by the response. She would much rather her children were happy than successful– what parent wouldn’t? And can we not call certain things success? How about we just say “overcoming challenges,” because that’s what makes life fulfilling. The book, she said, was a celebration of rebellion, not conformity. Her youngest daughter rebelled, and she was forced to reexamine the parenting style she’d adopted from her incredibly hardworking, poor immigrant parents. But she did reexamine, and she changed.

The Tiger Mom came off as earnest, humble, and extremely loving. Not at all the way she’s been described. She came off just like most of the parents I know and have known, growing up. She was just trying to figure out what was best for her kids.

If this is the Tiger Mom, then where are the real tiger moms?

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Kate on January 30th 2012 in family, homeschooling, life

Getting hit on in college

This is a little story that makes me proud of myself.

I only went to one party in college. It was a “welcome freshman” barbeque at the campus Hillel. (What could be more bangin’?) I don’t remember eating anything. I was standing in line to get something to eat when a boy materialized in front of me and said, “I like your shirt.”

I looked down. It was pink. Salmon, really.

(I don’t know why I find that funny. I’m really sorry. Source)

“Thanks,” I said.

He grinned slyly. It was actually sly. He said, “So you’re a freshman?”

“Yup,” I said. “You must not be.”

He laughed. “I graduated last year. Just got some buddies here. I’m in med school. In New York City.”

He said New York City like that meant “The land of sexy grownups.” Continue Reading »

My new blog

I started another blog. I wanted to be able to write about education and homeschooling (the topic of a book I’m slowly but surely working on) without dividing this blog between that and body image related stuff. So now begins the great experiment of writing two blogs while also occasionally living the rest of my life. I’m feeling cocky, so I’m just gonna do it. If someone you know is interested in alternative education, regular education, stories of a weird childhood, or me, please direct them to the new blog. If someone you know teaches in a public school, please tell them to come over and have interesting discussions with me. (Or to inform me that my parents brainwashed me and homeschooling should be illegal. The legality of homeschooling is an interesting topic.) If you fit any of these descriptions, then come on over yourself!

Sometimes when I write about homeschooling, people think I’m saying that regular school is terrible and everyone who went or goes to it is going to turn out badly. I don’t think this at all. My parents went to public school. So did Bear. So did several of my closest friends. All of these people turned out really, really well. I don’t hate school. My little brother went to high school. It seemed to work out pretty well for him. I also don’t think homeschooling is perfect, and my mission is not to promote homeschooling as an ideal lifestyle. It’s just to raise awareness about alternative education options, and tell my own story. Homeschooling is a pretty new movement in the U.S., and, though I don’t think anyone has any numbers on this, I have always been able to tell that there aren’t that many people like me around. As in, people who didn’t go to any kind of school before college, and are now in their twenties. There are a lot more resources for homeschooling parents now than there were when my mom was starting out, but there aren’t many resources for the adult children of homeschooling. Now that we’re in the “real world,” it’s almost like we are supposed to forget about how weird our lives were up until college. We’re supposed to perfectly assimilate and quietly disappear. I’m bad at being quiet.

So this is my new blog: Un-schooled

Check it out! Spread the word! I’ll buy you cake…


Kate on November 17th 2010 in being different, homeschooling

I am going to become a criminal sometime really soon

Homeschooling was a failure for me. I had suspected as much, but I didn’t realize it fully until just now, as I sat at the table, trying to write yet another thank you note. Bear and I turned out to be more popular than expected, especially with our families. So now I’m writing lots of thank you notes. And by lots I mean about one hundred thousand. And my hand hurts so much that I had to stop. Which is why I’m typing now.

We all know how important penmanship is. It’s the mark of a well-educated, cultured, refined person. You can tell everything about a person by one glance at a note they’ve written by hand.

“Ah! What a lovely, elegant, beautiful woman she must be!”

Or, in my case, “Oh dear lord. Lock her up before she kills again!” Continue Reading »


Kate on November 5th 2010 in being different, homeschooling, wedding

No Makeup Week

This post is written as part of a project called No Makeup Week, originated by Rachel Rabbit White. She’s encouraging bloggers to try going a week without makeup, and to write about their relationship with makeup. And to post photos of themselves without makeup. I’m all over it. It’s a great idea, and I hope you’ll check out her stuff.

(For years, I thought this was the sexiest photo ever taken of me. No makeup)

I’m bad at makeup. Always have been. I’m scared of it. It’s powerful. Like a lightsaber. And when you haven’t trained as a Jedi Knight, then you really shouldn’t pick one of those things up. Another blade might pop out the back, like with Darth Maul’s. Maybe that’s part of the problem—too much Star Wars, not enough….Whatever little girls are supposed to like. I didn’t know what that was. I was homeschooled. I thought other little girls were cool for being good at math. I thought I was cool for thinking to get hockey skates instead of figure skates, so I could go as fast as the boys. And I never once defined myself as a tomboy, either. I was extremely feminine. But being feminine wasn’t based on what I did, it was based on how I felt. I felt like a pretty girl.

The first time I encountered makeup was when I stayed with my aunt and uncle in Florida when I was ten. My aunt had a lot of makeup, and every day she put a surprising amount of it on her face. I could understand why she was good at it, because she also painted pitchers and tabletops, with neat, perfect detail. It was like surgery- so many delicate tools. It was like those painters who have a brush of every size, and a palette that they clean after every painting is completed. Even as an art, it felt unfamiliar. I had about three brushes for when I painted, and the paint got everywhere.

“Would you like me to do your makeup?” She asked me.

Well, yes, of course! I was fascinated. The shade she picked for my lips was called “coral.” It was a beautiful color. Everything took a long time, but when she was done, I looked at my new face in the bulging makeup mirror, and thought I looked a little like a mermaid. We went out. I wore some stretchy black pants and a white vest. We went out to dinner, and when I jumped up from the table and ran off to the bathroom, I felt eyes on me. I looked around and a man was staring at me. He had been staring somewhere lower on my body, but now he looked at my face. He was old. He was sitting with his wife. And he wouldn’t stop staring at me.

I kept the coral lipstick. I couldn’t believe my aunt was willing to part with something so precious. But at home, I wasn’t very interested in applying it. I liked to take it out of the drawer once in a while and look at it. Roll it out of its secret tube and back. I knew there was some shared mysterious code of womanhood here. But learning it felt far away. Continue Reading »


Kate on September 21st 2010 in beauty, body, homeschooling