Written by Marla Taviano
“Remember, girls,” I say to my daughters, looking them each in the eye (I actually have to look up at two of the three now—when did this happen??), “we do not say THAT WORD here in Cambodia. Got it?”
Got it, Mom.
The next day, we’re out and about, and yet another stranger asks, “Wait, so … do they go to school …?”
The girls smile sweetly, turn their angelic faces to me as one, and let me answer.
“I used to be a teacher, so I teach them at home.”
This new line of mine seems to be working. Awkward situation averted. Moving on.
“Is it fine that you’re not really telling the truth?” my youngest (10) wants to know.
“Which part of that statement isn’t true?” I say, eyebrows raised.
“Mom, we’re unschooled. You don’t really teach us.”
“Excuse me. I teach you a lot of things. They just aren’t normal school things. Am I right?”
She shrugs her shoulders, presumably thinking of all the things she’s taught me today about Harry Potter and French (learning one new language at a time wasn’t enough, I guess) and peeling/cutting mangos just so.
“The Cambodians just don’t get the whole unschooling thing,” I say. “It’s way too complicated to try to explain.”
“Mom,” my 15-year-old says, “Americans don’t get it either. Nobody really gets it.”
“Nobody gets our family anyway,” says my 13-year-old, with a wave of her hand, “so it’s all good.”