Crosspost: That Was Certainly Not Something I Expected To Be Controversial
HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Kathryn Brightbill’s blog The Life and Opinions of Kathryn Elizabeth, Person. It was originally published on June 7, 2013.
When I wrote my post The One Thing You Should Never Ask a Homeschool Kid a few weeks ago, it didn’t cross my mind that it might generate controversy. It was basically just a rant about something that’s bugged me since I was really little, and since most homeschoolers I know have complained about random people quizzing them about homeschooling, I didn’t think it would be a big deal. “Don’t put homeschool kids on the spot to defend their education,” pretty simple, right? I figured that maybe a few people would see it and think twice before quizzing the homeschool kids they come across and some kids could be spared the general weird awkwardness of those encounters.
So yeah, turns out that I’m a bad judge of what’s controversial.
[The next] Tuesday my little rant was crossposted to Homeschoolers Anonymous. I assumed that the most it would get was a few former homeschoolers commiserating about how much we were annoyed by the questions while we were growing up. That’s the response I got when I posted my original blog post to my personal Facebook.
It seems, however, that some homeschool parents just really aren’t a fan of people saying anything negative about homeschooling—not even if parents are only mentioned in one line of a post that’s mostly about bad behavior by non-homeschooling adults. In my estimation, there should be nothing about saying that no six year old should be expected to explain homeschooling laws, history, and philosophy to adults that could cause defensiveness on the part of parents.
This leads me to ask the following question:
If I, someone who has repeatedly said that I had an overwhelmingly positive homeschooling experience, cannot talk about a negative that is more pet peeve than anything without getting push back from parents, when are homeschoolers ever going to be given the space to be honest about their childhoods? I wasn’t criticizing my parents with that post, I wasn’t criticizing other homeschool parents, I was criticizing the elements of the non-homeschooling public who lack appropriate boundaries in interacting with kids.
Are we only allowed to speak about our experiences if they are positive?
I can tell the positive stories.
I could talk about how when I was diagnosed with ADD as an adult, my doctor told me that homeschooling was probably the best thing for me because the smart quiet kid who stares out the window for hours yet still gets good grades usually falls through the cracks. Or I could write about the research that shows that it’s experiences in middle and high school that scare girls away from computer science and engineering, but that I never had anyone to tell me I wasn’t supposed to be good with computers until I’d gotten to college and already knew my capabilities. It would all be true, but it wouldn’t be the whole truth, and deliberately leaving out important information that would allow people to make informed decisions is an awful lot like lying.
The truth is that for as many good things as I can relate, defending homeschooling to strangers before I even lost all my baby teeth was not fun. Neither was spending a good chunk of my childhood and college years trying to make sure that no one would think I was one of those “weird homeschoolers.” Ditto for the pressure of knowing that people thought I was the model homeschool child (it’s impossible to even rebel when your options seem limited to finding some counter culture and possibly being seen as “weird”—what you’ve been trying to avoid, or else becoming the cliche of the goody two shoes who goes wild).
Do those negatives outweigh the positive for me? No. If I had to do my life over again and was given the choice of being homeschooled I’d probably go for it. That doesn’t mean those experiences and feelings weren’t very real and aren’t the reason why I’ve been reluctant for years to discuss anything one way or another about homeschooling.
When homeschooling parents discount the experiences of those of us who actually lived it and have found our way through to the other side as adults, they’re saying to us that we don’t matter. That it’s irrelevant that we were the guinea pigs, and because the results of the little experiment didn’t come out quite like they wanted they’d rather we just disappear.
If I can’t tell my story without generating controversy and flack from parents who don’t want to hear anything negative, then how are the people who had genuinely bad experiences going to be heard?
So again I ask, are we only allowed to speak if we tell you what you want to hear?
Props for a fantastic post! Sharing it.
That is great!! I cringe when my kids are on the spot tested where ever they go! IT is terrible! As a public school child I never experienced full grown, stranger adults testing me any where. You speak and keep speaking! To quote a master, “Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.”
“As a public school child I never experienced full grown, stranger adults testing me any where.”
This is, I think, the crux of the matter. Unless a homeschool child has been exceptionally sheltered, they’re well aware that what is being asked of them is not asked of other kids, and consequently the experience of being questioned is “othering.” It’s sending the message that you’re somehow different than your peers, and for reasons outside of your control.
It’s almost like the way that queer/non-white people are expected to be ambassadors and defenders for all queers and non-white people, and as kbrightbill says, yes, it is othering. Especially as a child, it’s a strange and tiring experience. I’d just be trying to help my mom get through the grocery store and I’d have to explain to cashiers, random shoppers, pretty much anyone who asked, that yes, we were homeschooling but we were still receiving a great education and has these advantages and those advantages and I just wanted to get in the car, go home and eat my food.
I’m so sorry you’ve had such a backlash. I try to step into those sorts of exchanged without hushing up my child. it’s not their job to defend my decisions, but I don’t want them to feel like they’re too unqualified to speak to adults. It’s a fine line and my response depends on what the third party is saying and in what manner. There may be post-encounter conversations with my kids as well.