Roads on Her Face #21: How School Happened

It’s more fun to tell stories than to talk about logistics, but the logistics of “how stuff happened” are always the parts people want to know more about. How did you eat? (Mostly with our mouths). Where did money come from? (It grew on trees). How did you get so smart? (I didn’t go to public school, much).

School the way most kids did school wasn’t really a viable option, given Dad’s penchant for pissing people off, landing in jail, or general anti-social tendencies. It’s hard to catch the bus when you’re 40 miles on a dirt road from the nearest bus stop. School officials tend to ask questions that no one is prepared to answer, such as “Where are your school records? Do you have an address or a phone number?” Somehow, we were accepted at many schools all across the country, mostly I imagine because we brought in extra cash to the district as low income little desk-occupiers. No one ever followed us when we left after a few weeks or a month, and I wonder if anyone ever noticed. I didn’t get too close to most of my school acquaintances, who were usually of the lonely outsider type anyway. They were just glad to have someone to sit with at lunch, and I was glad not to have to try to talk to a group of kids at once. I was much better one on one. I didn’t particularly want them to come over to play in our trailer or car, and I wouldn’t have known what to tell them when they started asking questions. I was savvy enough to know that I was vaguely ashamed of us, but also proud that we could make it living this way when I knew most of the people we met hadn’t the vaguest idea how we survived. I liked the idea of being self-sufficient, and still do, though now I realize how heavily we relied on government aid most of the time.

Now, I want a homestead off the grid somewhere in the hill country in Texas. I want chickens, and maybe mini-goats, an art studio, and a big spread that I can fence off and hide in. I’ll fit right in in Texas.

So, school- my mom’s daddy, Papa, had put some money aside in a savings account for me when I was born. Instead of having it for college, it got tapped into much earlier to enroll me into an expensive Christian satellite school program- well, expensive for homeless folks. I think it may have been between $200 – $500 for the whole school year, very cheap especially considering the quality of the education (even with all the Bible parables sprinkled in). I’m guessing some of the rest of that money went to food, and probably beer. We were able to get the student and teacher books, the tests, study guides, and lesson plans. I would do school in the morning and have the rest of the day off. When a dedicated kid sits down and completes all the schoolwork typical in a normal public school day, she should be done before noon. So much time is wasted in timekillers, recess, and babysitting that it’s no wonder kids are so under-educated. By the time I surpassed my mom’s math education, I was easily schooling myself and honestly grading my own work. The other kids were young enough that reading and some math and coloring were good enough, and by the time we settled in one spot and enrolled them in public school for the rest of their school years, they only had a few missing years of education and still easily tested into their respective grades. They went to a small New Mexico school that also needed more desk-warmers, and the accompanying grant money.

I went to two full years of public school my last two years of high school, where I got the requisite sexual and partying education every teenager needs. I didn’t even go to some of my classes and still got straight As. I helped the overloaded teachers by explaining geometry to a few of the other students, and they overlooked my occasional truancy and low-cut blouses. I got a full ride to college, too.