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Mr. Pointy Nose Returns

By Tammy Drennan

Sister heard the knock on the door first, but Brother beat her to it. It was Mr. Pointy Nose, the truant officer who had visited many months earlier with dire warnings about homeschooling and had left a friend, with a bread recipe.

"It's the man from the state!" Brother yelled. Mother rushed from the kitchen with Baby on her hip and sighed in relief when she saw their guest. "Please, come in," she said.

Mr. Pointy Nose took a chair in the living room and Sister went for refreshments.

"What brings you all the way out here again?" Mother asked.

"Well," said Mr. Pointy Nose, "two things, actually. First, I wanted to let you know that I've quit my job and I'm moving to Montana."

Mother was surprised. Brother was ecstatic. "Oh, wow! Montana! That's a big state! They have a lot of steer and horses and even buffalo. Can we come visit you?"

Mother signaled Brother to calm down. "What will you do in Montana?" she asked Mr. Pointy Nose.

"I have a brother who owns a ranch out there. I thought I'd try my hand at cattle herding." He smiled sheepishly, as if he knew how unsuited for such work he seemed. "It's always good to learn new things," he added.

"I think it's a wonderful idea," Mother said.

"Can we visit?" Brother asked again, ignoring Mother's warning glare.

"I'd be happy to have you," Mr. Pointy Nose said, "but you know it's hundreds of miles from here." Brother nodded and ran for an encyclopedia.

"On a more serious note," Mr. Pointy Nose continued, "A new truant officer has been assigned, and I'm afraid she won't be so easily won over. She's on a low-carb diet."

Mother burst into laughter. Mr. Pointy Nose was starting his new life with a new sense of humor.

"Really," Mr. Pointy Nose said, "she's a tough one. Takes her job and herself very seriously. I didn't want you to be surprised."

Mother thanked Mr. Pointy Nose for the heads-up and wrapped some homemade strudel for his journey. He left amidst wishes of good luck and even some hugs.

After the children were in bed, Mother and Father talked long into the night. Sister and Brother tip-toed out of their room and sat in the hallway for many moments watching the light under their parents' door and worrying in whispers about the new truant officer. They weren't doing anything wrong, of course. As a matter of fact, they were doing many things quite right. But they worried nonetheless.

The family didn't have to wait long to meet the new truant officer. She showed up at their door two days after Mr. Pointy Nose. "Ms. No-Bread" the children decided to call her in private, even after Mother gave them a disapproving look. "Well," Sister said, "it's not mean. She doesn't like to eat bread, does she?"

Ms. No-Bread was tall and even sterner than Mr. Pointy Nose had let on. After a brief and official introduction, she announced, "Your children belong in school."

"My children are in school," Mother said calmly. "We homeschool."

"We live at school," Brother added, even as Sister tugged at the back of his shirt. Brother was only seven and still not very good at knowing when he should keep quiet.

Ms. No-Bread's eyebrows drew together until they touched. "That's not school and it's not legal."

Mother turned and handed Baby to Sister. "I think there must be a misunderstanding," she said when she turned back to Ms. No-Bread. "Homeschooling is perfectly legal and has been very good for my children."

Ms. No-Bread harrumphed and stomped back to her car, warning, "We'll see about that!"

The next day, the family was served with papers to appear in court. That night, Mother and Father stayed up late talking again. Sister and Brother sat in the hall again. Brother fumed, "I should have set a trap for that lady."

"What would you do with her if you caught her?" Sister asked.

Brother thought this over for a long time. "I would get Daddy to drive her far away and leave her there. In Montana."

Sister laughed. "That wouldn't be a very nice thing to do to Mr. Pointy Nose."

The day of their hearing arrived and the whole family went together. Brother was under orders to be on his best behavior. Father and Mother had decided they would represent themselves and that Mother would speak for the family.

Ms. No-Bread presented her case before the judge, then shocked the family by asking that the children be removed to foster care while the case was under investigation. It was with great effort that Mother gathered her wits to speak.

"Your honor," she said, when it was her turn. "I'm sure this lady has the best of intentions, and I'm glad she cares so much about children." Mother held her breath for a second.

"Our family has been homeschooling for nine years," Mother continued. "I have to be honest and tell you that we would do it with or without the blessing of the state, but it does happen that homeschooling is legal in our state and that we are not in violation of the law."

The judge leaned forward. Mother hoped she hadn't shocked him, or offended his sense of authority. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Brother lean forward, too. He and Sister were sitting on the front row, because they had begged to be close to Mother -- just in case. Father sat near the back with Baby, because Baby wasn't always very quiet. Only a handful of others sat scattered about the courtroom -- two other homeschool families who had come to support Mother and Father, and some people there for their own hearings.

"You're telling me," the judge said, more surprised than angry, "that you would knowingly break the law if it didn't suit you?"

Mother cleared her throat. "Yes, your honor, I would. You see, a law that forcibly takes children from their parents to be educated by the state is both unconstitutional and unconscionable. For the good of my children and for the sake of liberty, I would be forced to choose what is right over what politicians had concluded should be the fate of my children."

The judge was rapt now. He gathered his robes and descended from his bench. Ms. No-Bread gasped.

The judge motioned for Mother to sit in a nearby chair and he took one opposite her. "Please, continue," he said. Ms. No-Bread tried to protest, but the judge motioned her to sit also. "Doesn't this fascinate you?" he asked her.

Brother could contain himself no longer and ran to his mother and sat on her lap. She wrapped her arms around him and spoke.

"I know that many parents feel intimidated by the state system of education, but they do have the right to choose freedom. It's wrong for the state to take children by force. It's wrong for it to force its own curriculum and ideology on children, its own vision of the future, its own agenda for society. It's the role of citizens to create their own future, based on their own individual visions. That's how we came to be the United States of America and the freest nation on earth. The people, not the state, created America. Now the government has decided the people can no longer be trusted -- not even to raise their own children."

Ms. No-Bread rose to protest again, but the judge interrupted her. "What do you think of this, ma'am?"

Ms. No-Bread stuttered a few incoherent words and sat down.

"Go on," the judge said to Mother. "You have my interest."

"Your honor," Mother went on, "the state is our servant, not our master. Since when does the servant order the master to turn over his children and threaten to lock him up if he won't?"

The judge looked thoughtful. "But some parents, all too many, maybe, won't see to their children's education as they should. In the long run, that costs the state money -- welfare, prisons, tax revenues."

Mother looked doubtful. "Maybe," she said. "On the other hand, it's hard to imagine it getting much worse than it is now -- with most children in state schools. Could it be that the state has taken on a job never intended to fall to it and is paying the consequences? The family is not some program instituted by politicians. It's the natural way of life, a law of nature, so to speak. Laws of nature are usually violated at considerable risk to the offender."

The judge leaned back in his chair. "Whoa. You've given this some thought. Go on."

"Maybe," Mother said, "much of the dysfunction we see in society today is because the state has taken over the role of parents. Maybe state schooling is actually a major cause of our problems, for the very reason that it defies the laws of nature."

"But," the judge began.

Mother held up her hand. "Please, if you don't mind, I'd like to make one more point."

The judge nodded and Ms. No-Bread looked as if she might cry, or maybe explode.

"A few people argue that because some parents will fail to see to their children's education all children should be forced into state schools. This seems an odd line of reasoning to me. What else do we apply it to? Do we require children to be nourished by the state because some parents will feed them poorly? Poor nutrition costs the state -- in healthcare, lost taxes from lost earnings, and welfare. Do we force all adults to exercise daily? Adult lethargy costs the state plenty. Do we monitor the daily activities of all citizens because some will commit crimes? Crime costs the state a tremendous amount of money. Why the preemptive action against potential imperfections in parent-controlled education but nowhere else?"

The judge rubbed his chin. "That's a good question. Why, indeed?" He turned to Ms. No-Bread. "What do you think?"

"I don't think," she snapped. "I just do my job. Smarter people than me came up with this system."

The judge turned to Mother and raised his eyebrows.

"The history of our system is another story," she said, "and there's not time to get into it now. But common sense serves just as well to determine what's right. We may deem other people's imperfections worse than our own, but that does not give us the right to take away their children and indoctrinate them according to our own perceived perfection --"

At this, Ms. No-Bread stood and blurted out, "What about people who abuse their children? How will we ever know if they aren't in school?"

Mother nodded. "Child abuse is a horrible thing, but most abused children already attend state schools where the abuse goes unnoticed or even ignored. Some are even abused in schools without any repercussions. But again, are we prepared to monitor all families because a few do wrong? Is that what you would want if you had children?"

Ms. No-Bread didn't respond. She sat down and glared out a window.

"People are not perfect," Mother said. "There is plenty that needs to be done to help parents do their job better. But that is not the role of the state. The perfecting of imperfect human beings by their fellow imperfect human beings should be done by persuasion, not coercion."

Brother had drifted off to sleep and Mother shifted him on her lap so his head rested more comfortably against her shoulder. A heavy silence hung in the atmosphere, one of thoughtfulness.

"I won't take much more of your time," Mother said. "But I would like to emphasize that I did not bring children into the world to fulfill someone else's vision for the future. As you well know, there are dozens, maybe hundreds, of competing visions within education circles. And, as I'm also sure you know, the winning theories are those of people with the most will and money to influence politicians and others in authority. The law then attempts to take my children by force and make them submit to the winners' ideology. The only thing that stands between this grasp for my children and their freedom is their father and me. If I won't protect them, who will? So, yes, even if it meant breaking the law, I would protect my children from becoming pawns in this deadly game of who is most perfect and therefore justified in taking away the children to prepare them for the correct future."

Brother stirred and looked around. "Are we done yet?" he asked. The judge stood and ruffled Brother's hair. "Yes, son, we're done. Go home and learn all you can so you can make as convincing a case for freedom as your mother has done."

Brother leapt from Mother's lap, ran over to Ms. No-Bread and threw his arms around her. "You can come visit us sometime," he said. "We can give you roast beef instead of bread."

Ms. No-Bread looked bewildered and embarrassed, but also a little less stern. A tear slipped down her cheek and she nodded as Brother ran back to his mother.

©2007, 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, Resources Related to This Article

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The Original Mr. Pointy Nose