She's incredibly personable. "When I get old," she tells me, "I'm going to repair vacuum cleaners. I don't know why, but it's relaxing and I'm good at it." But since she's still young, she's a lifeguard at the local pool in the summer. She teaches biology the rest of the year. Her favorite part is genetics.
"There is some incredible stuff going on in the genetics field right now," I offer. But, for the life of me, I can't recall the term "heritable epigenetics." I could have impressed her. Oh well. [Interested in learning more? Check out the Time article on DNA changes from your environment.]
"So what do you do?"
So many teachers ask me about homeschooling. It's uncanny. I tell her.
"Homeschoolers are socially awkward," she says, more as an observation than a statement.
I can't really disagree. But that's only part of the story. I wipe the water dripping from the tip of my nose. "That's more of a personality thing, right? I mean, I went to public high school, and there were some pretty awkward kids there who had been in school their whole lives."
She makes a sound of agreement. I imagine her thinking of a particular student of hers.
But I can't leave it at that. Paul Graham's essay on nerds keeps coming to mind. "Homeschoolers have a different set of priorities. Sometimes they're not as hip to what's hip these days; that makes them strange."
And here, like in the van to the airport, something changed. "You know," she says, "James was homeschooled." I don't know who James is, a coworker from the sound of things. I let her go on. "And I think Timothy was as well." She turns to another lifeguard nearby. "Wasn't Timothy homeschooled?" Getting little more than a shrug, she turns back to me, "I'm really all for that. And charter schools."
I smile. We make a little more small talk and then I push off the wall for a few more laps.
Homeschoolers are not really any more strange than their public schooled counterparts. But their priorities are often rather different. To me, that's a good thing.
Filmmaker, Writer, Empty Nester