School | Thoughts

I Don’t Like Homeschoolers

February 15, 2009

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.

  • Spacebunny

    Heidi – I understand the people you are talking about (I see them at the homeschooling convention I occasionally attend and completely agree with your assessment of them), but they are far from the sum total of homeschoolers out there. In fact, while in your area they may be more the norm, that is not true everywhere. While I see those women at the convention, they are far outnumbered by the rest of us and while the vast majority of my former bible study now homeschools (when we first stated our intent to homeschool before I was even pregnant they all looked at us like we had two heads) none of them fit that mold, so perhaps the tide is turning. Think about it, you only know they homeschool because they open with it, how many people have you met that perhaps homeschool, but like you, it doesn’t always come up in conversation?

    As a related aside, another group of hsers that drive me to distraction are the “I use a superior method to yours” group. If you aren’t educating your child with the classical/unit/unschooling/Abeka method then you get the same reaction from them you described above.

  • 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.

    They are a small part. But they just seem to be the loudest and the ones who cause the most damage. It’s obnoxious.

    Totally with you on the My Way Is Best hs folks. Nuts.

  • Heidi,

    It seems you have a problem with the evangelicals. And by that I am not talking about their religious viewpoint, but rather that they are out their to win converts. They open with the fact that they homeschool because they are trying to lead the conversation to that so they might convince you of its superiority.

    In general the evangelical for any cause can be annoying and seemingly shallow. Be it global warming, the various religions, or homsechooling, these people all share the ability to grate upon the nerves. The funny thing is its as annoying to the non-“believer” as it is to those who already believe.

    Having said that, I have never had to deal with someone trying to convince me to homeschool, tho I did know one family where the mother did where the dumpy denim clothes. I am not quite sure why they do that? While denim is certainly durable and it has its place, it certainly isn’t a practical material for every outfit. Especially dresses! Oh, and modesty does not mean that you have to dress in ugly clothes! It likely means you will never wear the uber fashionable clothes but they can still look nice. Should I ever get married again (please Lord!) I won’t let her dress like that.

  • AW

    “As a related aside, another group of hsers that drive me to distraction are the “I use a superior method to yours” group.”

    This has been a question on my mind all morning – how to lovingly interact with the “evangelicals. . . . . out their to win converts.”

    I’m wondering if my posture and willingness to listen has opened me up for people to think they need to tell me a new/old/ better/way of doing things.

    My question this morning is – how do I lovingly co-exist with the “evangelicals” without ending every conversation just walking away. With the major converters – they won’t stop with a simple smile or nod or a “I see what you mean” – they want to /need to hear that I agree with them. But I dont’ . . . . .

    Still pondering today.

  • Heidi,

    I’m smiling because you and I had this conversation long ago on a website that is now far away. It was a time when I thought you should see things my way and you were sure I was wrong.

    We’ve both learned a lot about God, life and the expectations of others and we did it outside the four walls of a building our friends call “Church”. God managed to show us these things in His way.

    In Eugene, lots of people homeschool their kids. I did a series on it a few years back and was surprised to see how many were not people of faith. They were people who believed our current education system is lacking and wanted more for their kids. Yes, here in this liberal land of Eugene the homeschool kingdom continues to grow.

    The problem with some faith based home schoolers, as you have talked about above is they do it for the wrong reasons. It’s like people who go to church to find religion instead of to find God. These folks often come off like do-gooders and home school out of fear. We shouldn’t go to church or home school our kids out of fear. We should fear God and therefore want to get to know Him and have relationship with Him but to me there’s a huge difference.

    My wife and I did not home school our kids. It was not a good alternative. You just have to know my kids to understand that. Some, the religious types we talked of will scream, yell and try to convince me that I should have given it a chance. But that is not the point. It’s an individual thing as individual as our choices for church.

    I think one of the problems I have seen when people home school out of fear is they are not listening to God. When you try to hide your kids from the world, when it finds them, they are not prepared for what’s ahead. I see this is a lot of fear-based home schooled kids.

    Heidi what you are doing is great. It’s your choice and I know you hear and listen to God. I can tell by what you write that your kids will, are and will be ready to face the world…..and best of all they won’t be afraid of it but will be as wise as serpents. That’s how we should be raising our children. Our kids should be ready for battle, understanding of what’s ahead and not taught to stick their heads in the sand….home school, private school or in the public arena.

  • Roci

    I would urge you to patience with us lesser human beings.

    It is not as if they named their kids “Adolf Hitler” and “Arian Nation”. They are just being excited about their new hobby and want everyone to know.

  • BoysMom

    In defense of Sue, I think she started saying that in answer to the “What do you do?”s.
    Isn’t that what people always say, after they introduce themselves, “What do you do?” and they want to know what job you have, with the implication that your worth depends on the job you have.
    If you’re a homeschooler you’re less likely to be accused of wasting your education or setting back women’s progress than a stay-at-home mom is.
    So if you just met Sue-and-homeschools, she might just be trying to pre-empt that what-do-you-do question. She’s probably gotten the ‘wasting yourself’ lecture from total strangers before. Especially if Sue’s spouse happens to work with a lot of professional women.
    When my husband’s collegues ask what I do, I tell them I’m the bookkeeper for our small business and I homeschool. And they (being lawyers, paralegals, and so on) can accept that as a socially valuable choice much more easily than stay-at-home mom or just plain homeschool. It’s not a particularly accurate description of what I do–in a normal month the bookkeeping takes under an hour–but it’s socially acceptable and I’m sick of having to defend my choices with four young children in tow.
    It’s a shame we live in a society where it’s okay to scold strangers for their choices if it happens to be a woman who stays home with her children, but I have better things to do than try to fix it, and my attempts to change people’s perspectives could backfire on my husband’s career.
    It’s always women who do this: men just don’t seem to care that much.

  • I can vouch that Birdie Has NO denim jumpers, We are veteran homeschoolers though. We know the type you are talking about. Birdie has learned how to get along with that crowd though. it is a pet peeve of hers though when other homeschoolers get offended by the educational choices of other homeschoolers. Especially those shuch as yourself who have chosen a curriculum that is publicly funded or as Birdie says public education at home. It really is no different than choosing to use a curriculum set up by a private school but using it at home.
    Each family has to look at what is important to them and how their children learn and then make informed choices. Birdie has made her own “hodge podge” curriculum for years and it works for us, but I am quite sure it would not work for others.

  • Unless you have “experienced” the Denim Jumper Brigade it’s hard to quantify and communicate well what that looks like. I was attempting to discuss a particular mindset I have found to be destructive in the homeschooling environment.

    But truly, you could just substitute “Name that parenting method” or “pick that church” or “??” and you would have the same mentality being expressed.

    It bugs me. Not all veteran homeschoolers are part of the denim jumper brigade and not all DJB folks are veterans.

    There are non-negotiables. If you home-educate you (drum roll)…….. teach your kids at home using some form of curriculum with some sort of forward momentum. Or… You aren’t SCHOOLING!

    However, it’s anyone who chooses to become the Holy Spirit toward another believer and then imposing their own convictions/personal preference/idealogy at the expense of the other person that I find reprehensible.

    And as an aside… I would actually be NOT SUBMITTING to my husband if I even owned a long jean skirt or a denim jumper.

    I’d love to see them get their brains around that one!

  • “I don’t fit in anywhere!”

    Neither do I.

  • Birdie…

    You could hang out with me. I think we’d do just fine.