Being A Weirdo Has Its Benefits - May 22, 2006

by Mary Jo Thayer

I was trained as a public school teacher and a coach. And, I've been told that I'm a little competitive, which will be important later. I was a great teacher, by the way. I had a good rapport with the kids, and my classroom door in rural Virginia was continually revolving with my English students or cheerleaders coming in to discuss their problems. Or, just to hang out. They thought I knew quite a bit about life, and so did I. After all, I was married and all of 23-years-old. That qualifies as knowing something, right?

Well, I might have known something, but not everything like they thought I did. Looking back, I can see that if I had been a parent, I would have been a much better teacher. Why? Because I would have had some idea how precious those teens were to their parents. At the time, I only knew how precious they were to me.

After the birth of our first child, I missed teaching and decided to tutor a bit for a little extra money. I happened to get three kids from the same family whose parents were going to pull them from their Catholic schools. They were opting for homeschooling. Why? I could not even begin to tell you. I thought they were weird. The mom usually put in a word about how I should homeschool since I had all the credentials. I couldn't even fathom it. Our daughter was only 18-months-old. Besides, I was a school teacher, and she was going to go school so she could be-and I cringe at saying it out loud now-socialized.

So, as our children came along we enrolled them in school. First a public school and, as soon as we figured out how anti-Christian that environment seemed to be, then a Catholic school. They were at the Catholic school for two years before we figured a few more things out. One of the things we discovered was that there were hardly any minutes in the day for us, as parents, to influence our kids. They left the house at 7:30 each morning and returned at 4 in the afternoon. Then they either went to an activity or a friend's house to play, or friends came to our home. After dinner, it was time for homework and a bath, and they were tucked into bed by 7:30 or so, in order that they would have enough energy for another day just like this one.

One day, a friend told me she was going to homeschool. Enter into my life Weirdo Number Two. But it got me to thinking, so I went over to a neighboring parish and picked up a book about homeschooling and read it. A few weeks later, another friend called to tell me she had ordered information from Seton Home Study. Weirdo Number Three. However, I think my competitive edge surfaced. I wasn't going to let Weirdo Number Three beat ME to the punch. I knew for a fact from reading that one book that I was more ready to homeschool than she was! So, I ordered my own information packet. So there!

I also went back over to the sister parish and picked up a few more things on homeschooling. Just a few. Like a dozen books and as many cassette tapes! Then I did what any competitor would do when they were under the gun to win the race. I read and listened to all of them in one week. I cannot even begin to remember half of what I discovered, but the content of one sentence from one book will always stick with me. It was a wonderfully worded sentence that outlined the differences between "socialized" and "sociable". I knew from that moment that I wanted our children to be more sociable than socialized, and that's when I chose homeschooling and became "Weirdo Number Four."

Those other weirdos are still my friends, thank the Lord. They have been my supports and mentors for more than a decade. And when I think of what it means to be a committed mom, those three always top my list. This race is going to be a dead heat, and I don't even mind because all of us have benefitted greatly from daring to be weird.

Used with Permission.
Mary Jo Thayer