Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: Conversation (face to face) (10/07/10)
- TITLE: On Trial, Again
By Francy Judge
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Sunlight skipped in and out of clouds; every few minutes, I’d throw on my sweater only to yank it off again. The unique scent of hot turf, sweaty boys, and garbage trucks, rose up from the soccer field--worse than rotten broccoli, the potpourri of sports. But my son’s soccer game was exciting and I could ignore the smells tickling my nose, at least until half time, when I’d join the other soccer moms in complaining.
“Ooh, that smell is unbearable,” I said to the moms next to me on the bench, covering my nose with the back of my hand.
“I know. You’d think they could park their dump trucks somewhere else, away from a soccer field full of kids.”
“I guess it doesn’t bother the kids. Jake’s cleats smell like they were born in the dump.”
“Same with Dillon’s. There’s nothing worse than his sweaty soccer socks; although, the dog loves them.”
We chuckle while watching our boys charge at the goal. Then the conversation turns toward schoolwork.
“I don’t know how Dillon can run—last night he stayed up past midnight working on Ms. Glasstein’s history project.”
“She gives way too much homework,” Page scrunches her nose—was it the stench or the thought of homework? “Tommy never gets to sleep before eleven.”
I stared straight at the field so they wouldn’t ask—
But Mary did. “Who does Jake have this year? Not Mr. Woods, I hope.”
“No, not him.”
“That’s good,” said Mary. “So he must have Mrs. Marino or Mrs. Thomas.”
They cocked their heads in confusion—two perplexed puppies trying to process my words.
“Does he go to private school?”
“No, he’s homeschooled.”
Now, the questions—the same questions I’ve heard since I started homeschooling ten years ago. . .
“Oh, hmm, really?” said Page.
“Wow, do you have the patience of Job?” asked Mary.
Page’s eyes lit up as if she figured the answer to an ancient riddle. “Are you a certified teacher?”
“No, just a mom.” Okay, you can blink now—I’m not an alien, determined to rule my kids’ lives.
Mary’s forehead wrinkled. “How do you know he’s working at the right level?”
I’d have loved to say Jake has the same IQ as Einstein, but he’s no Einstein. A circus performer, maybe.
“I give him quizzes every week and he takes a standardized test at the end of each year.” But I knew that wouldn’t satisfy their curiosity.
Page asked right on cue: “Well, how does he do socially? I mean he’s not around his peers all day.”
So? “He does have three brothers and a sister. Does he look strange to you?”
“No, of course not,” they responded quickly.
But I was sure they’d be quick to notice any odd behavior and blame it on his lack of peer contact. Or me. This had been easy up until this point, but I knew the most challenging question was coming. . .
Page squinted in the sun. “Do you mind me asking. . . why did you decide to homeschool?”
They stared at me, the teacher on trial. Is she qualified to teach her children?
I debated—should I give them the real answer, testify to my relationship with God, say homeschooling was His plan or chicken out and beat around the invisible bush? I would have to endure the now-I-know-you’re-nuts look. They waited for my answer.
“Mmm . . . many reasons.” I could feel feathers sprouting. “They’re taught in the method that suits each individually.” Cluck, cluck. “We can finish quickly and take field trips.” Cock-a-doodle-doo. “And there’s no peer pressure at home.” Before the rooster crowed three times, I decided to tell the real reason…
Suddenly, Jake bounded over and interrupted me. “Mom, could I please have my water? I’m sooo thirsty.” Sweat trickled down his cheeks.
Half-time ended and so did my bumbling attempt to defend my choice to homeschool. The rooster may not have crowed, but I felt as guilty as Paul must have for missing the opportunity to share my faith.
A cool breeze tickled my neck, reminding me God was still there; I’d get another chance. I knew it wouldn’t be long before I’d be on trial. Again.
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