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One of the many reasons people home school is so they have some control over what their children are exposed to. Theoretically, when they’re close to the hearth during their young years, children can be sheltered from the clearinghouse culture of the schoolyard, and thus hang on to their innocence and childhood longer. But truth is always stranger than fiction.

Around this time of year at my house we’ve had a lot of “Don’t spoil Santa for your friends” conversations. Since my husband’s a Hindu and I’m an atheist, there’s no good reason for them to believe in Santa — but many, if not most, of their friends still do. I don’t want to be the one to ruin it for them.

My oldest and I have also had “the conversation” about sex (in the middle of a quiet and mostly empty Chinese restaurant when he asked, “How does the sperm get to the egg?” and “FedEx” didn’t seem like the right reply.) So I told him, and started to explain that it was like Santa — not all of his friends know yet, and their parents may want to keep it that way. Then it struck me how utterly wrong it felt to be talking about sex and Santa in the same sentence.

At the time, my 5-year-old daughter, Mira, still thought the hen married the rooster to make eggs, and that was just fine with me. It’s six months later, and she’s explaining to me that “if we get chickens, then we’ll eat the eggs that haven’t been spermed because the others are fertilized and will turn into chicks.”

I figure it’s only a matter of time before my 3-year-old comes out with his own version. So here is another truth about homeschooling: All of your younger children will be able to explain anything you tell the oldest in a thoroughly precise and usually loud, ill-timed way.

Suddenly, there’s no such thing as complete innocence anymore.

If you’re studying history or science with your older children, or watching nature videos, it’s especially hard to keep “tough” subjects hidden from the younger kids. Do you skip over the part in the video about slavery where it talks about the children that the Master had by his slaves? (Cue conversation about how you don’t have to be married to make babies.)

How do you explain what those praying mantises are doing and why she’s biting his head off? (Please, no one ask if he likes it!)

What do you say when someone asks why the conquistadors killed the Native American men but left the women alive? (Hey, isn’t that a cardinal on the bird feeder?)

All I know is that now I’m off the hook about Santa until next year, and if we do manage to get chickens this spring as I’m hoping, then everyone’s getting “unspermed” eggs for Christmas.