Fathers and sons

The idea of a zoomed education has failed our household. It probably never had a chance. We picked the free school Milo attends for its ability to assuage his tics, build his socializing skills, get him street-savvy in an urban environment, and yet offer a wilderness element and farming acumen. He’s made friends for lifetime, wows older people with his conversational skills and ability to confidently look a grown-up in the eye while talking on most subjects, even when he admits knowing nothing.

But academic and study skills? Ain’t there yet.

We talked with an advisor from the high school where he’ll be going next year for ninth grade. They know about free-school students. They are prepared to help fill in gaps.

I started the application process for a sophomore year in Mexico for language and cultural immersion, two areas our son likes. They will be great for his life skills. We’re aiming at a senior year in Europe studying a third language.


My wife’s on our school’s board of directors and is less than impressed with Milo as a student. This makes me feel guilty as a parent. But I’m a writer; I can justify anything.

We’ve heard a great deal about modeling these last few months. From my work schedule to my ways of keeping the household running well, making my interactions with Milo’s friends fun while also educational, and being able to talk frankly with my son without condescension, I think I do that end of things well, I gave up “because-I-told-you-so” parenting a long time ago.

Most importantly, I’ve tried to push Milo to recognize the heart beneath professionalism’s sheen, to respect the emotional acuity of great art, strong science, effective politics. It’s a hard set of lessons, as I found out when I attempted to apply my own parents’ tastes to a changing world.

But it does bolster that kindness, that in-the-present focus, and that beginning of understanding I’m seeing blossom in my son’s eyes.

Read more installments of Village Voices by Paul Smart.