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Mr. Artfellow

By Tammy D. Drennan

Home schooler Hildegard Happy worked at the art museum in her town. She was 17 years old and loved her job and was on very good terms with all her fellow employees. But Hildegard's boss often questioned her about being home schooled and was quite sure that Hildy, as people called her, was missing out on something.

One day, Hildy's mom stopped by to drop off some lunch for her, and Hildy's boss, Mr. Artfellow, took the opportunity to confront her. "Mrs. Happy, I want you to know what a good worker Hildy is," he began.

"Why, thank you," said Mrs. Happy.

"Yes," said Mr. Artfellow distractedly. "She's always on time and is very friendly with the visitors. But... well, it may not be any concern of mine, but it seems she must miss not hanging out with other kids. You know, all the social stuff."

Mrs. Happy was a little surprised, but she replied happily (she took her name quite seriously), "Hanging out?"

"Well, that's what teenagers do -- they hang out. You know -- at the mall."

"Oh, well, Hildy doesn't really care for the mall. She prefers places like this."

"What I mean is that she doesn't do teenage things -- social things -- hanging out."

Mrs. Happy was mildly perplexed. "I know many teenagers, but I don't know any who hang out. All the ones I know are busy pursuing their hobbies and goals. But I'm interested in your point -- I think maybe I just don't quite understand it. Do you know many teenagers?"

"Well, I know the ones who work here and a few in my neighborhood."

"Do they hang out at the mall?"

Mr. Artfellow chuckled at the thought of the teens who worked for him hanging out anywhere. "Not the ones who work here -- they're, you know, nerdy types. I mean, well, I don't mean Hildy, of course. But they go to school -- they get their socialization there."

"I guess I don't know what you mean by socialization." Mrs. Happy was trying to understand precisely what Mr. Artfellow meant.

"You know -- they spend a lot of time with kids their own age. That's important."

"Why?"

"Because -- it teaches them things, like how to get along with people and how to deal with people who aren't like them, cooperation, and stuff like that."

Mrs. Happy was more than a little surprised. "It does?" was all she could manage at first, but when Mr. Artfellow did not reply, she continued. "I suppose I don't understand how this could be true. Americans have been sending their children to school for over 100 years, but people don't seem any more able to get along and cooperate now than they ever did. Actually, it seems they are even less able now. And it seems they are just as unable to relate to those who are different from them. Hildy has never had trouble relating to people or getting along with anyone. She gets along beautifully with her brothers and sisters, her co-workers, her fellow home schoolers, and according to you, the visitors at the museum. She's happy with her life and is pursuing the goals she's set for herself. I think I must still be missing your point."

Mr. Artfellow thought for a moment. "But she won't get to go to the prom."

Mrs. Happy smiled and said nicely, "Oh yes, the prom. Isn't it sad that so many people's lives seem to end after high school? All the best things happen before the age of eighteen and it's just downhill from there -- but at least there's the prom to look back on, and maybe a football victory or a stint as a cheerleader. I'm so glad my life has improved since high school, because my prom turned out just awful for me. I spilled my food into my lap, then got sick and had to leave early. It was so embarrassing -- I thought I would never be able to live with the humiliation and disappointment, but the next day I started a job with a local vet and forgot all about the prom. I even forgot all about high school -- I was so excited to finally be part of the real world."

Mr. Artfellow smiled at some passing visitors then laughed, "You know, I never thought of it like that. To tell you the truth, I hated high school, and I didn't even go to the prom. The girl I wanted to take thought the whole thing was stupid. I was pretty mad at her at the time -- she was one of those independent, non-conformist types -- but I ended up marrying her. Now I've got a wonderful wife and job."

"Isn't it great to finally be free to live on your own terms, without anyone to tell you what's good for you, how many friends you should have and what you should do with your time?" asked Mrs. Happy. "I think I was 25 before near strangers stopped feeling free to question my choices and demand that I explain every aspect of my life."

Mr. Artfellow smiled, "Point well-taken, Mrs. Happy."

And with that, they shook hands and parted, reflecting on the improvement of their lives since their ill-fated proms.

©Tammy Drennan. Permission was granted by Tammy Drennan to post her article here~

About the Author:

Tammy Drennan homeschooled her own two sons for 18 years (1985-2003). She has also taught homeschool classes on topics ranging from public speaking to creative writing to the Constitution and the legal system. She has tutored children and adults in English, writing, math, and other subjects.

When Tammy started homeschooling, she had never heard the term and didn't know anyone else who was doing it. She just knew she didn't like what was going on in public schools. She finally met another homeschooler the second year she was homeschooling.

Tammy now has her own web site, HomeSchoolStarter.com

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