I don’t like Homeschoolers.
You know the ones I’m talking about. The Denim Jumper Brigade, the “Hi, I’m Sue and I home-school.” An entire sub-culture of women who base their identity upon how they raise, educate and direct their children. These are probably the same women who find motherhood the pinnacle of their existence. You know those I talk about. The women who believe birthing and nurturance of little bodies are the veritable holy grail of the XX chromosome. Not really my point but they irritate me too. Mostly because while parenthood lasts forever, being Mommy is not the sum total of a woman’s existence and when it fades, there must be a woman of substance still remaining or the shell will collapse in on itself and the woman will simply quit functioning. And what a waste that is!
Back to my initial point… Now, I know nothing about Sue. I see what she looks like and I now know that she home-educates her child/children. Sue patiently waits for my polite exclamation, “Oh my!!! That must be sooo difficult, how do you ever manage?” and I am tempted to giggle. The anticipation of a stroked ego, an endorsement of her status as uber-mom being confirmed is written all over her.
She doesn’t get it from me since I have always home-educated my children and instead begins to shuffle from foot to foot when I ask a pointed and informed question such as “Which curricula do you use? Which method do you employ?” or the most terrifying question ever asked a home-schooler… “How do your children test?”
It’s a phenomena of sorts I suppose. But is there really another thing like it? Do parents who don’t home-educate ever introduce themselves, “Hi I’m Lucy and I send my children to Mt Washington Elementary”? Ever?
What is it about that simple topic that seems to just grate on my ever-lovin’ nerves?
Now, this may seem like a strange train of thought coming from a long-term home-schooler but seriously? I am just done.
I don’t fit in anywhere!
I am a person of faith, a fundamentalist Christian (ick, hate labels), but we don’t home-educate for religious reasons or to isolate our children from all the Outside Evil Influences *cue manic laugh*. I am conservative in my political leanings but see that there has been much good done by those who have sought to create a level playing field for education and hope to see more of that in the future. I don’t build my own curriculum from popsicle sticks and library resources and I have found myself directly in the middle of the debate with my children both educated at home and enrolled in a public school system.
Even *gasp*, I have friends who do choose to educate their children differently from me and I don’t despise or belittle their effort for doing so.
I am soooo tolerant. Hah!
Not really. More honestly, I just don’t have this burning need to control the behavior of others.
What I do long to see is a productive dialogue between parents toward the end goal of providing as much opportunity as we can to give our children the best possible future. Educational, societal, environmental, animal, vegetable, mineral…
While I don’t particularly care for the “I’m right at everyone else’s expense” brand of home-schoolers I am crazy about the families that are determined to do the best they can to provide a positive education and life for their children. That means sometimes they educate their children at home, sometimes they go to private, charter, public, online schools. I am a big fan of any parents willing to explore every avenue toward one common goal. Doing the best they can for the children they’ve been blessed with.
How can I provide a way for my children to grow up to be well-educated, well-spoken, responsible and productive individuals? What am I doing that prevents that and how can I change?
I am anticipating an entire generation of young men and women not hindered by their upbringing but, instead, supported by it.
The other element of the religious homeschooler equation that I find equally troubling is the individuals who continue to insist that while their children are failing miserably in the 3 R’s at least they have “character”.
Just a thought, but doesn’t character often come from the perseverance necessary to learn? The self-discipline imposed to study, to retain and to begin the process of teaching our children to think critically? Doesn’t requiring some sort of academic success (within reason) teach your children the brilliance of success and the satisfaction of earning their own education? For those who tend to hide behind “religious” excuses I invariably think of the Apostle Paul who was highly educated and BECAUSE of his education had a great impact on his environment. Knowledge + Ability to Communicate + Desire to Teach = ?? C’mon. You don’t have to be Billy Graham to figure that one out!
In our home, our sons are allowed to question. Our methods, our approach, our convictions. When they disagree, we discuss it. What they are not allowed to do is behave in an insubordinate manner or to behave disrespectfully.
I’m not raising robots. I expect them to grow beyond me. I hope they will grow beyond me. I’m counting on it. How else will any of us grow if the next generation doesn’t?
Back to my original thought….
I don’t like homeschoolers. The narrow minded, you must look/think/act like me to be acceptable variety. These ridiculous women who spend an inordinate amount of effort raising their eyebrows and whispering behind their hands about those who don’t measure up to their little status are a small but very loud group among the rest who choose to live this way.
Isn’t it about time we started realizing that we don’t need them to do what we’ve been doing all along? Has their way produced children we want ours to emulate?
Not in my experience.
I want my children to have an intelligent and well-spoken voice in whichever environment they find themselves. Whether they find themselves in secular or religious, public or private arenas I hope to enable positive discourse not sabotage it by instilling my own brand of prejudice and personal fear.
It’s a shame the loudest voices in the homeschooling community have led to a stereotypical long-haired, plain woman in a denim jumper. A woman who has raised her 6 children to know the difference between Timothy grass and tulip seeds but hasn’t imparted a whit of comprehension on how to function in the world we all live in. Children who can quote 407 verses out of the Bible but know nothing or next to nothing about the political environment other than Democrat = Bad and Republican = Good. A woman convinced of her own sense of self-righteousness to the point that she ruthlessly crushes the young impressionable parents who have, for whatever personal reason, chosen to take a deep breath, close their eyes, cross their fingers and jump into the deep end of home-educating. She crushes them simply by not coming along side them to encourage but belittles their effort, looks down on their results and questions their judgment.
This has been the face of home-educators in the past. And whether or not you want to admit it, that is changing. More and more the trend of home-educating is changing from a conservative religious basis to an alternative education choice. An option for families who travel or who move a lot. An alternative for families who aren’t excited about crowded classrooms or current curriculum. Even families who struggle with learning disabilities and other issues are finding themselves more excellently served in a home environment than a public one.
Like I said at the beginning, I am a person of faith. I have a deep faith I hope to encourage and instill in my children. G-d is real to me and prayer, study of the Bible and a desire to live a righteous life are the pillars of my daily life. How I choose to exemplify that to my children is not reliant upon which method of education I employ and the value of my faith is not defined by the fact that I home-educate.
All too often I have found myself, in the homeschooling crowd, with more in common with families who have little if any spiritual basis to their lives. I have found these families to be more honest about the struggles and the triumphs that come with educating our children in the home (or at the library, on a riverbed, in the car, at Costco while we wait in line for prescriptions).
I love that I have the freedom to educate my children using the methods that I have found work well for us. I hope the freedom to choose those methods that work best for our individual families stay available to all of us. Now more than ever as we are recognizing that success is as much dependent on the method of education as the quality of curriculum.