Mashed Potato Technique and other Unconventionalities

Last night I watched incredulously as my mother and my grown son Samuel make a pool of gravy inside their respective little mountains of mashed potatoes. Maybe it’s better to call the whole thing a volcano — the potatoes being the mountain and the gravy being the lava. To both my mother and my son, this is the normal, obvious, what-other-way-would-you-do-it technique.

In case you are not clear, let me explain. You create the structure by making a depression in the top of your potato-mountain and filling it with gravy. You then eat around from the outside, dipping each forkful of potato into the gravy-lava. Some people (I won’t name names) rotate their dinner plate, no kidding, so their fork can pierce the mountain at just the right angle. Assuming a healthy appetite, excellent gravy and creamy and fluffy mashed potatoes, you eventually of course you have eaten enough of the mountain that it can no longer hold the gravy-lava, but no one talks about this part. Perhaps you just hope no one sees the breakdown. Perhaps you have to plan it just right so you never have a lava spill. 

I cannot say. I do not reside in this mashed potato camp. I confess to not having given it much thought. Surely, I now see, there must be a great variety of techniques out there besides the lava-mountain one, each with their own peculiarities and advocates. (May you choose as your inner potato voice leads you!) Before this meal, I had not understood how serious some people are about this food, and was chided for allowing some lava to dribble down the face of the mountain as I was serving one of them. (No tip for this server!) When I questioned the seriousness of my error (I probably also gave the you’ve-got-to-be-kidding look), I was told, “Mom, you’re an accomplished eccentric. You should understand these things.”

“An accomplished eccentric.” This nice compliment easily made up for the teasing that followed in regard to my own inferior, poorly executed mashed potato technique, which is clearly not consistent with Samuel’s description of me, though I think I could make a case for the two of them being the eccentric ones on this point. It’s unfortunate timing though, seeing as I am addressing unconventionality here. Nonetheless I will try to carry on. 

Potatoes aside, being unconventional has been a great ride! I have reveled in unconventionality to the point where it helps define me. Unconventional not in the crazy, scary sense, you understand, but in the benign, mashed potato sense. That is — at least let us hope this is true — no one really cares how you eat them as long as you don’t make a mess. Certainly I (generally) play by the rules and abide (many) norms — at least most of the time I think — or maybe I am so set in my odd ways by now that I don’t even know where I veer off the track!

Choosing to (and having the freedom to) homeschool my children beginning in 1988, and having done it for nearly 20 years, was then and can still be regarded as an unconventional choice. I know it gave me the opportunity to develop certain ways of thinking more fully than I probably would have otherwise. When all is said and done, chances are good I learned and grew at least as much as my children did. But in the beginning, I didn’t know that would happen. What I did know was that if I didn’t at least try, I would wish I had.

When something odd, unusual, different, peculiar, eccentric, unconventional (pick your descriptor) is calling your name — ask yourself not only what happens if you do it, but what happens if you don’t. Let that be one of the questions you use to evaluate the choice to make your list of why you are doing that something.

Homeschooling can be like anything else — part of the journey. It happened to have been part of mine, weird, out of reach or unthinkable as it might be for you. What I learned along the way does NOT apply strictly to homeschooling though. It applies to life. Even if you are not homeschooling, never would, never could, never even considered it (and frankly always thought those people were nuts), you might want to think about the reasons I chose it, the reasons I, we, you, they (pick your pronoun) choose anything.

As often happens when we say things, a few words can be shorthand for many others. A succinct thought encompasses a broader scope than it lets on. My list of Why I Choose Homeschooling actually included

  • What sets this choice apart from the alternatives?
  • In making this choice, choosing this path, what might I accomplish that I might not be able to accomplish some other way — both for myself and for those around me?
  • How might this choice (and my choices within this choice) provide something that’s better than something else I might choose — both for me and for those around me?
  • What happens if I make this choice, and what happens if I don’t?

Can’t these same questions be asked of any choice we might make? Perhaps we should be asking them when we face a new fork in the road and have to explain, even just to ourselves, Why I Choose __X__.

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