After our glorious, innocent, hands-on childhood, we were thrown into another sphere of homeschooling: the new, larger co-op.
A “co-op” is another one of those homeschool phrases that mimics hippie culture; in homeschooling, a co-op refers to this learning-share community, in which different moms teach different subjects to a class of children (rather than having the kids at home all the time). We’d meet once or twice a week for classes on various subjects, generally in the basement of whichever Baptist church we could coerce to let us use their space for a minimal sum.
This was a different batch of children, and we were often surprised by them. But we adapted. Because when you’re homeschooled, you have an extremely high level of tolerance for weirdness. Because you’re all weird. And you don’t really know how weird you are.
Because I am still marginally acquainted with some of these people, here is a heavily truncated list of things I remember:
- There was this high-strung sibling pair who were loud and pious and avid fans of WWF wrestling. They made biblical stop-action movies with Legos in their basement. They might still.
- Being told by a boy that the gates of heaven were closed to me because I didn’t read the KJV, the only inspired Word of God.
- A girl whose mother claimed she was a mathematical genius, although we saw no evidence of this genius in other areas.
- A sister who piously covered her brother’s eyes any time someone kissed on TV. This same brother would spy on us while we were having sleepovers and tattle on his mother about my licentious attire (e.g., a tank top).
- The electricity went out during class one afternoon, and a girl claimed it was the work of the devil, who didn’t want us to be educated. I thought it was a pretty clever ploy to get us out of taking a test.
- At a restaurant, a saintly girl once took the plate of this boy, who presumed himself to be the melancholy priest of our social circle. He looked at me and said, “You should do that for me more often.” My seething rage knew no bounds. (I mean, really. Is it any surprise that I became such an unapologetic feminist?)
- A boy who talked a big game about his athletic ability, even though we girls could outclass him on the frisbee field every time.
- A girl who was not permitted to learn how to drive or attend college, because those things were for men. She was supposed to wait at home for a husband. But… she was homeschooled… and they all went to a home church. I guess they just assumed she would marry one of her brothers?
- A friend who was put under house arrest for 40 days on a diet of rice and water by her father, who heard about her hugging her boyfriend in a parking lot. I was enraged and wrote a blog post decrying her unjust treatment (yes, I was an angry little blogger, even back then), which her father and some other fathers read. They denounced me as a harlot and a sinner in the comments section. My parents heard about this pettiness and instead of disciplining me, they called these fathers idiots and cowards. I wrote my friend a letter every day for those 40 days, encouraging her to be strong. I don’t know if her father ever let her read them.
- A group of cute and obedient sisters who wore ankle-length dresses to run the mile and practice calisthenics. They were a scene straight out of a Laura Ingalls Wilder story. We felt bad for them, but they never complained. Our mothers held them up to us as examples of chastity and purity. But we still got to wear shorts.
I maintain a fondness for all of these characters, because they were my childhood friends. We saw each other every week, exchanged letters, threw weird, retro (as in, Revolutionary War-retro) parties. I think of them from time to time and wonder what they are doing. Mercifully, being off Facebook now means I don’t know and can only imagine. My imagination sometimes runs wild.