I was at the grocery store on a Tuesday morning and, as always, I had my 4 children with me. We were doing our own thing as we went through the aisles of the store.
Since we love to turn every moment into a learning moment, we were taking our time and soaking in all the knowledge we could. We were helping our one-year-old learn colours while talking about all the different fruits and vegetables we were putting in our cart. We were comparing and contrasting the number of bananas in the bunches and doing some basic math to make sure we got the correct amount of bananas as written on the list. We were weighing fruits and vegetables as we added them to our cart and were estimating how much it was going to cost us to purchase those items.
It is amazing the math lessons that can be done simply by grocery shopping.
Ian found this gigantic sweet potato and wanted to have his picture taken with it because it was, and I quote, “the most gigantic sweet potato in the whole world!”
I will admit, it was the biggest sweet potato I had ever seen. I probably should have weighed it. We then could have gone home and actually gone some research about the biggest sweet potato in the world, but I got distracted…
While walking through the grocery store, we were stopped by a person and asked why the children were not in school.
I explained that they were in school, for the world is our classroom. She looked at me sideways, as if I had 9 heads. So I plainly said that we homeschool. You could tell by the look on her face that she was not in support of my schooling choices.
She started asking my children questions. It started innocently enough. “What grade are you in?” “Don’t you want to go to school?” These are all questions we have encountered before. The boys answered her questions politely and with respect.
But what she did next took me by surprise…
She started quizzing them in math, and spelling, and geography.
I had to interrupt her at that moment.
I don’t understand why someone would think it was appropriate to quiz a random stranger’s children while grocery shopping… or at any time! Had it been a Tuesday evening, and my children attended a day at the local public school, I am almost 100% certain that this situation would not have happened. She would not have thought twice about why my children were at the grocery store with me and she would not have stopped us. I have never heard of a parent, whose children are in school, talk about a random stranger quizzing their children. Sadly, I have heard many stories about this happening to homeschoolers.
This woman was not a teacher – I asked. If she had, then maybe her estimation of what they needed to know for their grade level would have been accurate, but she clearly did not know what they should be learning at their grade level. Had she been a teacher she probably would have understood that children do not like to be put on the spot like that anyways and random quizzes in the grocery store are never an accurate way to test their knowledge of a subject.
She was just a “concerned citizen” making sure that I was doing my job as an educator.
I was dumbfounded.
In order to not say something I would regret, I just encouraged my children to walk the other way and we continued on with our lives. I only had one thing I could say to her at that moment.
I don’t know why someone would think they, as random strangers with no training in education, would have the right to test the knowledge of someone’s children. I assume you would never go up to another adult to see if they knew their multiplication tables, so why would you do that to a child?
Children are human beings. They are not there to spout out the knowledge they have acquired at the drop of a hat. They are not stage performers. They are human beings who get shy when put on the spot. They are human beings whose minds go blank when caught off guard by a math quiz in the grocery store. They are human beings, learning how to navigate their complex world.
On our way home, I answered many questions about why this woman felt the need to ask them questions. This was the first time the children had ever been quizzed like that and they did not understand her motive behind doing it. I honestly can not say I understand what her motive was either. I just let them know that I was their ally and that I would always support them.
We got home, put away the groceries and went on with our lives. I wonder how many children this woman has quizzed at the grocery store.
I wish I had had a great response to her quiz. Some kind of explanation about why it was not appropriate for her to be acting the way she did, but I didn’t. This blog post is the first time I have really tried to put those thoughts into words. The social etiquette behind what happen is too complex. Clearly, I still don’t know what I would have told her in the moment besides what I did.
So what was my response when she quizzed my children?
Please don’t quiz my child.