Boston, Massachusetts – Ever since Massachusetts issued the first compulsory education law in 1789, many parents have attempted to justify the reasons for home schooling their children: escalating violence in public schools, cutting down on gasoline for the SUV, freedom to teach religious beliefs, getting more yard work out of their kids, better quality of instruction and having someone around to fetch them beer. But, the parents of 15-year -old Ornice Bartimeus have chosen a more creative approach to educating their only son.
“We were concerned,” said Adelia Bartimeus, Ornice’s mother. “We wanted Ornice to experience all of the benefits of home schooling without sacrificing any of the important social aspects of attending a large public school.” To do so, the Bartimeus’ came up with a unique approach to making Ornice’s experiences at home mirror those he would have at a public institution.
Like other children, Ornice’s school day begins at 3:45 A.M. After donning his school uniform (a blue blazer over Orkin Termite Control overalls and rubber hip boots), he trundles downstairs for a hearty feast of waffles, chicken livers and grits. “After breakfast, I pack a bag full of his favorite treats and brush him out the door,” says Adelia. “We make Ornice walk a half mile down County Road 109 in the rain to wait for the bus driven by Ornice’s father, Bertram.” As he approaches the bus, Bertram speeds away, making Ornice late for school.
Once Ornice arrives on campus, he just has time to sprint to the locker his father built for him behind the garage. “You’re late, Bartimeus!” said his first period History teacher, Betram Bartimeus. “I suppose you’re going to use that excuse again about missing the bus…”
After first period has ended, the Bartimeuses make Ornice jog in place outside for ten minutes to simulate walking to his next class. “We think it’s important that Ornice has the same social interaction with others that public school students have,” says Adelia. “So, we have him go outside and talk with Lyman Finwall, our 89year-old neighbor. He can’t hear and he has Alzheimer’s, so it’s a lot like talking to a Guidance Counselor.”
During second period, Ornice’s Math teacher (Bertram Bartimeus) asks the class to turn in their report cards that he sent home the day before. “Say, this signature looks like its been forged,” said Bertram. “Oh, no sir… That’s my father’s signature alright. You can tell by the dippy way that he crosses his T’s.” Ornice and Bertram go around and around until Ornice is finally given two hours of detention for arguing with his teacher.
Third period is P.E., and because it’s raining, Ornice trudges to the garage that his father has converted into a gymnasium, complete with the smell of old, sweaty socks, Ben Gay and decaying jock straps. “OK, Bartimeus,” shouts Bertram. “You’ve got 5 minutes to get into your gym clothes. Today is calisthenics day!” Bertram puts young Ornice through his paces with a barrage of push-ups, sit-ups, wind sprints and four-count burpees. Because the calisthenics run overtime, Ornice has just 5-minutes to shower and change before he has to run into the kitchen for lunch.
Being Friday, the menu consists of fish sticks, macaroni and cheese and warm, orange Kool-aid. “Originally, I thought about serving Ornice healthy lunches – like the food I serve for dinner,” says Adelia. “But, then I figured that would be setting Ornice up for failure later in life, so we decided to give him the same garbage that they serve at Ulysses S. Thonen High School. Bertram has even installed a vending machine outside filled with sugary soft drinks, candy, Twinkies, Cheetos and all of the other rubbish that they’ve banned from private schools.”
Before lunch period ends, Ornice surreptitiously slips across the street with his next door neighbor Bobbie Kurban to engage in an age-old high school tradition: smoking cigarettes on the street corner while ogling girls. “Oh, sure. We know what Ornice is up to,” says Bertram. “In fact, we encourage it. But just to make the experience as realistic as possible, I try to catch him in the act a couple of times a week to make him feel like he’s doing something he’s not supposed to. Once a month, I even take away his cigarettes and send him to the Principal’s office.”
Later on that afternoon, Ornice decides to ditch fifth period and goes out to cover the side of his neighbor’s house with graffiti. “We knew that eventually he’d get around to defacing public property,” says Bertram. “So, instead of making him walk all the way down to the Franklin Bridge underpass, we let him disfigure the neighbors’ walls. They don’t seem to mind. After all, it’s normal thing to do for any full-blooded teenage, isn’t it?”
During sixth period, Ornice is given permission to leave class to try out for the Chess Club, the Debating Society and the Lacrosse team. Because he’s the only student trying out, he handily wins spots on all of the teams but fails to earn a spot in the Girls’ Glee Club.
At 3:30, Ornice gathers up all of his books and heads out to catch the bus for home. On the way, he’s cornered by a group of tough-looking thugs bent on stealing his money and giving him a wedgy. “Just because Ornice is schooled at home, we didn’t want him to miss out on some of the more realistic aspects of becoming a young man,” says Bertram. “So, three times a month, I hire his cousins to rough him up a bit, toss his homework into the gutter and give him a Dutch rub. It’s good for him.”
By the time he reaches home, Ornice is ready for some good news. “Ornice,” said Adelia. “I have some wonderful news for you. Your Aunt Candalaria has agreed to be your date for the Senior Prom.” Ornice could barely contain his elation at getting the news. His aunt had strung him along for over three weeks, and it was looking like we wouldn’t be going to the Prom.
“We’re all for home schooling,” says Adelia. “But we’re also glad that Ornice is learning the important lessons a young man his age needs. And, when he graduates, we’ve decided to continue his college education at home. In fact, Bertram has already started researching fraternity hazing.”