Vignette: homeschool fatigue

This is a vignette to begin a story idea I had a couple of years back. I like the tone so far, and I’d welcome any thoughts about the characters and rendering of setting.

“Sam, are you respecting me?”

Oh, no. Sam looked up from the cell diagram he’d doodled into a Martian colony. His mom stood with her hands on her hips, her eyes rimmed with patience fatigue. Sophia smirked at him from across the table.

“Um, no?” he said. He tried to cover his paper without looking like he was trying to cover his paper. “Sorry.”

How were you not respecting me?” his mom said.

“I, uh – I wasn’t listening while you were teaching?”

“Exactly. You weren’t listening while I was teaching. If we’re going to make homeschooling work, we need to respect one another. Okay, Sam?”

“Okay. I’m sorry.”

“Good. Now Sophia, can you tell me what the mitochondria in the cell do?”

Sam made a halfhearted effort to keep listening and then gave it up. He’d learned the parts of a cell two years ago, but had to sit through the lesson with Sophia even though she was a year older than he. All she cared about was sports. Every hour on the hour, Sophia lamented no longer being at a school to play soccer. Mom still hadn’t figured out how to make her care love learning like her boys did.

And now Edward, who was only fourteen, was practically done with school. He’d homeschooled from like age six, when he’d taught himself Greek. This year he mainly just programmed mods for Minecraft and condescended to his younger siblings.

Sam was smart, but not that smart. He had occasional fits of brilliance, like the cytotopographic spree of 2012, but they didn’t really last. He got distracted easily. He turned things into Martian colonies. He looked out the window to the new neighbors’ house.


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