Coffee Cup

The Interview
Tammy Drennan

Sandy Bandy: Good Morning, City! This is Sandy Bandy for W14U Radio in the greatest city in America. This morning's guest is Diane Schipper, a mom who does something really radical -- she teaches her kids at home. That's right. Her kids have never even seen the inside of a school building! Diane, good to have you on the show. What in the world made you decide to teach your own kids?

Diane Schipper: Thanks for inviting me, Sandy. To answer your question, when they got to be around five years old, I asked myself why I should send them to school, and I couldn't come up with a single decent answer. But I went a step further and made a list of pros and cons -- reasons to send them and reasons not to send them. There wasn't anything on the pros side of the list. The only possibility was "to have more time to myself," but since I like having my kids around, that wouldn't have been honest.

SB: What about so you can spend time doing something more grown-up, like pursuing a career?

DS: Are you saying that teaching and mentoring aren't grown-up or challenging things to do?

SB: Well, I guess I better not say that. I've got kids in school. Let's try something else. How do you know your kids are learning the right things? Do you follow the same plan the schools do?

DS: You mean the plan where you pick what you think they should know, then split it up so it will last twelve years, then split it up further so each year's worth will hold out for the year? No, I don't follow that plan. I follow the go-for-it plan.

SB: OK... but how do you know they're learning anything? Do you test them?

DS: Many home schoolers use tests. I don't, because my kids and I talk a lot, so I know what they're learning.

SB: Now let me get this straight, because I know you have a 16-year-old daughter and a 15-year-old son -- your kids talk to you -- willingly?

DS: Why wouldn't they?

SB: Because, like, it's not cool to talk to your parents like they're real people.

DS: Oh, yes, well, they never learned that, having never been to school.

SB: Amazing! But that does bring us to a really important question: What about socialization?

DS: Let me be sure I know what you mean by socialization. If you mean do my kids have any friends, the answer is yes -- they have friends in the neighborhood, at church, among relatives; as a matter of fact, they make friends almost everywhere we go. Or do you mean how will home schooled kids learn to get along with different kinds of people if they don't go to school -- you know, like how jocks learn to get along with nerds, and how cheerleaders learn to appreciate the company of girls in special ed. Maybe you mean how the different races learn to accept one another, like at the local high school in my town where there was just a race riot. Or you could mean how boys learn to respect girls, or how kids learn to treat one another with dignity. Then there's the lesson of learning to get along with and relate to people of all ages. Are those things you learned in school?

SB: Hmm. This interview seems to keep turning around backward. Let me pursue the socialization thing just a little further. So maybe school isn't such a great place for learning the positive aspects of socialization, but what about the other side? We all need to learn to be tough, to deal with bullies and smart alecks and people who don't like us.

DS: I'm sorry to keep answering you with questions, Sandy, but if one of your co-workers called you nasty names every day, or if they knocked your papers out of your hands and cornered you in the restroom and threatened you or stole your money, what would you do? This really is an important issue -- please tell me what you would really do.

SB: I'd probably sue the pants off them.

DS: Do you think a jury would be on your side?

SB: If they weren't, I'd say something was definitely wrong with people's thinking.

DS: Do you think people would understand if you said you had been so traumatized by your co-worker's treatment that you decided to seek therapy?

SB: I'm sure they would.

DS: Didn't you learn how to handle all that sort of thing in school without falling apart? Didn't school toughen you up for the real world, where co-workers harass you and pick on you, call you names, make your life miserable?

SB: Point well-taken. One more question. What about the discipline of getting up and making it to school on time? That prepares you for the work world, doesn't it?

DS: That's a particularly interesting question. I have a friend who is a personnel manager at a large firm. Do you know what one of his biggest problems with employees is? They won't come to work on time. Sometimes they won't come to work at all. And they get angry if they are penalized for their tardiness or absenteeism. And almost every one of them graduated from a public school. What seems to work much better is what has always worked. If you are consistently punctual and do a decent job, you get to keep on working. If not, you don't. It works a lot better than twelve years of being-on-time training.

SB: That's it folks. You may decide to keep your kids in school, but you're gonna have to find better reasons for the decision. Talk at ya tomorrow.

Copyright 1999 Tammy Drennan - copied here with her permission.

Tammy Drennan has been homeschooling her children since 1985. She has two sons, now grown, intelligent, working, and reasonably sociable. She's been busy for 20 years tutoring, teaching classes, writing, organizing activities, helping others start on the homeschooling road, cooking, cleaning, etc., etc. Tammy's website is HomeSchool, and she can be contacted at

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