From Plaza Motel to Home School

by Mark Freeman

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The choice to home school my daughter had nothing to do with differences in philosophical opinions on academics or a concern about the quality of education from our public schools.  It was just because I didn’t want her attending school in a motel.

The Plaza was the only space large enough—and empty enough— to house the students and staff for the coming year while the school underwent a much maligned renovation that the town had finally approved after a vitriol filled, protracted bond process and vote. My family took a tour of the motel/school during the open house at the end of last school year. I had encouraged my daughter to remain open minded on the prospect of attending school there, but had also given her the options of home schooling, or looking into a private school for the year—a financially unfeasible solution, but one we were willing to explore. After our walk through, it was a unanimous decision to home school.

There were many reasons for this decision: the small space the lack of an outdoor area for recess, or to just anywhere to be outside (the school would later fence off a small—and the only—green/grass space behind the hotel parking lot), my daughter’s dust allergy versus the wall to wall carpeting; the lack of natural light; the fact that the ‘school’ would be on the second floor of a strip mall over a wine shop, bar, sporting goods store, bank, and just down the strip from a restaurant and ice cream stand, laundry-mat, dollar store, Sears outlet, and drug testing clinic. Maybe, the biggest factor for me—and the one I haven’t shared with my daughter or the school—is the fact that it was a fucking motel. I’m not the kind of person who believes in vibes, or auras, but the slimy immutable motel essence that would cling to my kid every time she came home, that I could never fully cleanse from her tiny, pure soul, would be too much for me. I walked the motel, looked in the rooms, wandered the single hall, and it was no different than any other shady motel I’d seen. Like the one back in my home town, along the strip across from the beach that advertised—with impunity—on their brightly lit sign by the road, half-hourly rates. 

Maybe it’s just me, but I didn’t want my kid attending school in motel rooms previously occupied for lunch time trysts, allured affairs, or drug binged weekends.

Now I fully acknowledge our privilege in making this decision. My wife works hard and—after years of busting her ass as an underpaid, under appreciated teacher—has finally moved into administration and makes a decent salary. It allows me the opportunity to be home for my girls during the summer, home with them when they’re sick, driving them to and from school, or to the barn for riding lessons, or to soccer practice, which I have the privilege of coaching. It also allows me the time at home, while they’re in school, to write.

I haven’t written much since home-schooling began. I miss it. I feel an urgency bordering on desperation to tap words onto my screen, but there is a compelling argument, most days, to wait. A small hand slips into mine over breakfast. A body tucks into the crook of my arm to review math problems, questions about reading and writing mythology and allegory, conversations about protests and anthems, racism and cultural appropriation, climate change and natural disasters. 

One month into this year of home schooling and I am convinced of two things: the first is that I may not write much more than 700 words at a time on topics ranging from stay-at-home-dad to home-schooling, and second, that I will never be more grateful for seedy strip mall motels with wall to wall carpeting.