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The saga of Benjamin,
the backwoods, homeschool boy
who wanted to get a job

By Margaret Wright

 

Issue #37 • January/February, 1996

Raised in the woods of Northern Idaho, home schooled by loving, protective parents, he was a happy, carefree child for the first sixteen years of life. The sixteenth summer, reality hit, and he discovered his "toys" were costing more, and Mom and Dad were expecting contributions of a higher percentage than in the past. Hence, the idea to get a real job came into Benjamin's mind.

Odd jobs for people in the area around our home no longer brought in the amount of money needed to support his hobbies. After searching the newspapers for several weeks, he found an ad for a job that sounded suitable for his training, with a schedule that would fit his lifestyle. The local theme park (15 miles away) was hiring teens to fill in for the regular summer workers who were leaving for school and college.

We stopped one day on the way home from town to pick up an application. I was always on the lookout for learning experiences, so I figured it would be good practice filling out the forms. After all, we always knew the day would come when our offspring would be ready to fly from the nest. I helped him fill in all the little lines with the details of his existence. Pretty basic stuff.

However, I cringed when we came to the "education" part. I have an unshakable belief in keeping the children at home under the care of their parents. Benjamin's older sister was home schooled and has done very well, but this was the first test of how the outside world would react to this child—and I was a wee bit nervous. Our son was going to be judged on a decision that we, his parents, had made when he was a little bitty thing so many years ago. We just wrote in the two words "home schooled" across the "education" blanks.

The paper sat around for a few days. He reminded me for the umpteenth time, "Did you mail it yet?"

Oh well, it would be a disappointment for him, but that's learning, too, so I sent it in.

I had actually forgotten it when the phone rang a few days later and a gentleman asked for Benjamin. I took the message that Benjamin was to meet him at his office the next day at eight a.m. for an interview. I could have swooned at that point. I wanted to yell at him, "No, no, you cannot take my child from me," but I controlled myself and got the information.

We were up earlier than usual. Benjamin was in a high state of anticipation. I was suffering from an extreme condition called anxiety. OK, I told myself, there is a slim possibility of his being hired. What do we need as far as paper work? I had no idea, so I called the park's personnel office. We were told to bring his birth certificate, social security card, and a picture ID.

Picture ID? Why would he need that? The office lady says, "The federal government says everyone has to have one before they can be employed."

"No, we don't have a school picture ID." (I always knew the same kid would come down the stairs every day to do his school work.)

"Well, what about a year book?" Yeah, right, for one kid. (We did draw his picture a long time ago and write a story about him.)

"OK," she says, "He can work one day without the ID," while Mom figures something out.

Off to the theme park we went. After a 15-minute interview, Benjamin came back to the truck with his work schedule and announced he was going to be rich. One of the managers told me he'd had several home schoolers work for him over the years and they work out just fine and are very self-motivated. I was relieved to hear that. At least now I know it's not a permanent scar on my child's unblemished record.

Actually, most people do give good recommendations for home schoolers. I don't know why I was anticipating problems.

We were sent over to Personnel to fill out the mountain of paper work and produce our documentation that this child exists. I produced his birth certificate, social security card, immunization records, and a picture ID with fingerprints. It had been made by the Sheriff's Department and was to be used in the event he was ever stolen and we decided we wanted him back.

Well, everything was in order, but the ID would not work. Fingerprints, no less, and the government says No. It might not be him. Well then, why did the Sheriff's Department put their seal on it?

Plan B: Into town to the driver's license bureau. Yes, we could get a picture ID, but we needed three proofs of who he is, along with a certified, homogenized, and pasteurized birth certificate from Boise. I had one, but it wasn't the right kind of copy. They want the kind that costs $10 and takes 30 days to get here. OK, I've got "my copy" of the birth certificate, birth announcement that was in the paper, church blessing certificate, immunization record, and a Medic Alert Card I carry in my wallet that matches the number on the bracelet he wears. Nope, not enough proof he's who I said he was. (Look, do you want to see the Caesarean scar; it's a beaut.)

Plan C: Go get a passport! Now that's simple compared to Plan B. We can get the pictures made, only $30. Yes, I can get them that day. Then to the courthouse with my folder of info and the clerk there says, "No problem." Pay them $40 and he will have a passport in two weeks. Let me get this straight: I can't get this kid a personal ID card from Kootenai County to work in a local theme park, but I can get him a passport that will let him travel all over the world? The answer to that was, "Go figure!"

If not for the time frame involved, I would have done the passport thing. After all, isn't a mother supposed to pull out all the stops for her child?

Benjamin is showing signs of wilting by now, but that's OK. "Don't worry son, I'll get you that job if I have to call the Governor."

We stopped by the Sheriff's Department on the way out of town, and the sweet, portly gentleman safely hidden behind six inches of bullet-proof glass just smiled and said, "Sorry, we don't do personal ID's any more. We have 15 or 20 parents a month needing help with the same problem." (At this point, I can see why he's behind that glass.)

Back to the theme park (on the second tank of gas for the pickup that morning). I tell the Personnel Manager my tale of woe, and she is as distressed as I am at this injustice. She digs out the Federal Regulations Book that has all these rules, and as we are reading down the list of items that so far have given me nothing but a headache, we find that a person under the age of 17 can use a statement of identity from their personal physician as to who they are and the date of their birth. This will circumvent the requirement for a Personal Picture ID!

OK...Plan D: Back to town, (22 miles) to storm the doctor's office. (Hang in son, we're on a mission!)

The receptionist could probably tell by my demeanor that I was getting close to murder or suicide (depending on the outcome of our visit), and she proceeded to offer all kinds of help. She made several copies of Benjamin's records and stamped them with the doctor's "stamp of approval." She even signed with her own name, saying that might help.

By now Benjamin was tired and hungry and even said maybe he didn't want a job.

"Are you kidding? This is a matter of pride and principle, and I will get you hired and working if it kills both of us!" This from a devoted mother who just a few hours earlier was close to tears because her little fledgling was going out into the big bad world.

Back to the theme park, and through the gate for the thousandth time. Except this time they just waved us through without any questions. (By the way, this time the parking attendant had me park in the handicapped space. Go figure.)

Down to personnel. . . . Well praise be to the gods that watch out over fools and children with kamikaze mothers, all the paperwork passed inspection and he got his coveralls with a T-shirt and a little badge that had his name on it.

Back home after nine hours of our (my) non-stop mission, I settled down with two aspirins and a coke, when reality hit. "Oh, no! What have I done?" My sweet, innocent child whom I have protected with my life has been thrust out into society to fight the tigers, and I'm the one that made sure it happened.

Just then the phone rings and that sweet little voice says, "Hi Mom, it's Benjamin." (Like I didn't know who he was . . . after all, now I have proof!) "I'm having a blast. They let me use the big weed eater!"

It's official, my fledgling has flown the nest and I am so glad we kept him at home as long as we could.




Read More by Margaret Wright

Read More Country Living Articles

 
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