I was home-schooled.
While other kids were standing in cafeteria lines and sticking gum to the bottom of school desks, I was at home, listening to my mom explain biology and pre-algebra and waiting till I could go upstairs and play Legos with my sisters.
I've asked my mom why she and my dad chose to home-school us, and she always responds with something about "a better education" and "public school being a waste of time." In truth, I really think my mom loved it as much as we did.
Take, for example, the time she wanted us to have a real biology education — to do some dissections.
My mom piled my two older sisters and me into the Dodge Grand Caravan and drove 15 minutes from the comfy Franklin suburbs to a cattle farm and butcher shop in rural Tennessee.
That's where my mom was getting our dissection materials — not a "science provider," or a school or somewhere sane – from a butcher shop.
A bell on the door dinged a welcome as my mom ushered us inside the shop. The smell was intense, like walking into a cooler of raw meat. You think the outside of cows smell bad? Wait until you smell the inside.
The first thing we saw was one of those meat counters like at a deli, complete with steaks, ground beef and cow tongue. But as our eyes wandered around the room, we saw the door to the "processing" room.
Through that doorway, I saw dead cow No. 1 — hanging from its hind legs, draining blood.
At this point, 7-year-old me was ready to get out of there. It smelled bad, people were holding knives and I was totally unprepared for this experience. My mom, on the other hand, still wanted stuff for us to dissect and knew the only way to get the material was to go back into the "processing" room. I thought of it as the room of death.
My mom and my sisters entered the room of death while I ran outside. I was a naturally curious child (got it from my mom), so I decided to wander around the dirt lot to the back of the shop.
That's where I saw dead cow No. 2.
Well, it wasn't dead yet. It was a young bull, and three ranchers had gotten it onto one of those flat trailers that you pull behind a pickup truck. They tied ropes around its two horns so it couldn't move around and were trying to point a big gun right at the bull's forehead.
The funny thing is, my first response after being dumbstruck for a second was to run and get my mom — I thought she'd want to see this. As I was running back to the front door to get my mom, I heard the gunshot.
My mom was walking outside with a soft cooler bag, which I would later traumatically learn was full of a cow kidney, a goat liver and a few eyeballs. This was the same bag we used to keep things cold when we shopped at Sam's Club. It never smelled quite right again.
I think the important moments don't change our lives; they make us realize that our lives have already changed. For me, the trip to the butcher was one of those times. I realized my childhood is weird, and my family is weird and I'll never be the same for it.
I think it's fair to say this is an experience most school children never experience. They do, on the other hand, experience a real social life and meeting people other than their neighbors and other weird home-school kids.
Every now and then, one of my good friends will tell me my "home-school is showing," usually when I'm small-talking about theoretical physics at a party, or citing philosophy in the middle of an otherwise normal conversation.
Every time they say my home-school is showing, I think back to that butcher shop. Not because I'm experiencing some post-slaughter post traumatic stress disorder, but because of my mom. She was relentless in her search for knowledge to the point where she'd walk into a butcher to get stuff for us to dissect. My mom never stopped learning, and never stopped teaching us.
If that boundless curiosity is what it means for my home-school to show, I hope it's always showing.
Evan Ford is a junior in philosophy and economics. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.