When I was in 7th grade and she in 3rd, Sam and I were homeschooled. Our mom was our teacher, along with Martha Stewart and Ellen Degeneres.
I don’t always tell people that I was homeschooled, mostly because I have to explain it, and then I can tell they think we went through a traumatic experience or a sickness that caused us to be pulled from school. “No, we just wanted to try it,” isn’t a very satisfying answer.
In reality, Sam and I didn’t like going to school. I lied to my friends that my eyes were red not because of crying but because “the A/C in the car blows right into them.” On top of that, my mom wanted to give us a better education. She had experience teaching, and cousins on both sides of my family tried at some point. Why couldn’t we?
My mom got a lot of, ahem, feedback and comments from other parents when they heard what we were doing — mostly from less progressive moms than she. When we went back to public school after that year of homeschool, we hadn’t fallen behind at all and we had gained so much. Looking back, I love that I had the experience if only so I could say that I had tried it.
Of course, homeschooling was a major change. There were no more bus rides, no other students. No more spending 8 hours at a school, at a desk, in a classroom.
Most of our mornings went like this: Wake up when we pleased and head to the living room couch to turn on the television. Watch Ellen. Then Martha (pre-jail). From Ellen we learned how to be hilarious people, and from Martha we learned that you could make a centerpiece out of egg shells and dead flowers.
Then school started.
If I’m being honest, neither Sam nor I remember doing more than a few hours of school work a day. What stands out is reading Anne Frank’s diary and learning about the Holocaust, and really wanting to learn fractions. My mom had discussions about our work with us, but we mainly taught ourselves. For part of the year, I went to a science class at The Nature Conservancy, and at the end of the school year I took a comprehensive test to make sure I was learning (I passed).
If it was Wednesday, we went to Homeschool Sports. These were the best days and I think back on them the most. This is where I met all my friends. We played soccer, climbed trees, and became so close we made plans outside of our scheduled Wednesday time. This is group would never have been friends in a public school. Freed from the pressures and cliques of public school we all got along just fine. Let me introduce you.
There was Aaron. He was insanely smart and your typical nerd. His family was kind of rich and his mom had gray hair because she didn’t believe in “chemicals.” We played tag at their house one night, and in the dark I ran over a recently planted baby tree. I wonder what happened to it.
Then there were the sun-deprived siblings, Katerina and Anthony. Every time we went to the mall we saw them — I think because it was the only thing to do in our town and without scheduled school hours we could go at 2pm on a Tuesday.
There was Seth, who spoke with an English accent, and who looked like a cross between that boy in Matilda who ate the whole chocolate cake and Dudley Dursley from Harry Potter. I know he was there at the time, but I only recall him clearly the time I saw him on TV, in the county spelling bee, his voice three octaves deeper.
Some of the coolest of the bunch were three Canadian brothers who all played hockey (surprise). I maybe had a crush on one of them, but by the time I realized it was too late and the year was over. I wish I knew what happened to them.
There may have been others, but no one, not even the people I’ve already named, were as important as Liam and Chris Hemsworth. (This is the part where I changed the names.)
Liam and Chris were brothers, Liam was my age and Chris a few years older. I instantly had a crush on Liam. Of course, I never did a thing about it because I was an awkward seventh grader, and everyone knows that is the worst year of school.
While I was crushing on Liam, his brother, Chris, was crushing on me. To sway my probably obvious obsession, Chris told me that Liam had a girlfriend, she was Swedish. This began my lifelong ideation that Swedish girls were the most attractive, although no one else has confirmed this since. It was probably a lie, but I believed him. No matter, I was going to stare at Liam from a distance as much as I wanted anyway.
The night I realized that Chris liked me, were were playing Man Hunt. The game combines hide-and-seek with tag, and it was the game of choice when us homeschoolers hung out. Man Hunt is a game where you throw out all regard for personal property. Other people’s yards become your playground. You hide in their bushes and run across their flower beds. We were at Chris and Liam’s house, and fortunately for their neighbors, there was a large pool area, clubhouse, and park for us to destroy.
The game began. My friend Alisha had joined, and we hid behind a hedge against a wall. Chris followed us. All three of us were hiding, and he wouldn’t stop talking. He crouched uncomfortably close to us, and I was very much over the whole situation. “Let’s get out of here,” I very strongly suggested.
“Why?” Chris asked. “Is it getting a little… hot in here?” We got out of there even quicker than I originally planned.
A few hours later, just as another round of Man Hunt began, it happened.
Chris called out to me. “You know that secret place I told you about? Meet me there. Alone.”
Earlier that night Chris told me about a special hiding place where no one would ever find you. Normally, that would be ideal for a game like this, but there was no way I was hiding someplace like that with him. His request wouldn’t have been half as bad if he didn’t finish it off the way he did. As he said the word ‘alone,’ he reached into his pocket, pulled out a chapstick, and applied it to his lips. Many times. Round and round.
“I wanna come!” called my sister, oblivious to his plan.
“Yes!” I cried, full of fear, and very aware of his intentions. “Yes, she can join us!”
“No, come alone,” he pleaded.
With that, our mothers called us inside. The game was over. I never had to find out what might have happened.
By the end of that school year, my family learned that a new middle school was opening in our district. It was an easy decision–the year of homeschooling was great in every way but that experiment was over. Sam returned to her elementary school and I went on to my eighth grade year at the brand new campus.
I was excited to get back to school with the kind of motivation that a fresh start brings, but more than that I was sad I would never see Liam again. After the last night of Homeschool Sports I dramatically listened to Celine Dion on my CD player as I went to sleep. I cried, and I reminisced on the moments we almost talked. I thought about all the times I stared at him until we made eye contact, and about that one good conversation that made me think he actually might have liked me. Of all the Celine Dion songs, I specifically felt that I Drove All Night described our situation. I listened to it again and again.
Here’s a sample of the lyrics:
I drove all night
Crept in your room
Woke you from your sleep
To make love to you