By R.L. Stollar, HA Community Coordinator
I read an article the other day entitled, “5 Simple Ways Men Can Better Respect Women.” You should go check it out.
The article inspired me to think of a parallel list for homeschool parents who are interested in how they can better respect us alumni speaking up about our homeschooling experiences. (And while we’re at it, Heather Doney made a great list a while ago called “20 Ways Not to Respond to Homeschool Horror Stories.” You should check her list out, too.)
So without further ado, here are 5 simple ways homeschool parents can better respect alumni:
1. Don’t Parentsplain; Validate.
Parentsplaining is simple: in the same way that “mansplaining” is the act of a man speaking to a woman with the assumption that she knows less than he does about the topic being discussed on the basis of her gender, “parentsplaining” is the act of a parent speaking to a homeschool student or alumni with the assumption that they know less than the parent does about the topic being discussed on the basis of their not-being-parents.
For example, when someone shares an article on Facebook about the damage Christian Patriarchy does to homeschool students’ perceptions of healthy sexuality, and some homeschool parent you haven’t talked to in years randomly pops up and says, “I’ve been homeschooling for decades and I’ve never encountered this so you should stop obsessing with fringe cultures.”
Cue eye rolls from all of us alumni.
Parents, we know you’ve been homeschooling for decades. You know why? Because we’ve been homeschooled for decades. You are welcome to explain to us about all the behind-the-curtains drama among parents, about why you chose this or that curriculum, and if you’d do things differently if you could. But you don’t get to dictate to us whether our experiences were true or valid. We are the ones who have to do that. They are our experiences, not yours. And as the people in the conversation who actually experienced homeschooling — You didn’t experience it, remember? You created the experience — we get to explain the experience, not you.
So stop telling us that we experienced what you created differently than how you intended us to experience it. That’s on you, not us. Maybe you should have thought about that before you created the experiences for us in the first place.
2. Talk to Us Like We’re Adults.
The use of diminutives by homeschool parents starts early. When homeschool alumni are kids and disagree with their parents, parents tell them they will “understand” x or y “when you grow up.” Then alumni do grow up and still disagree. So the parents tell them they will “understand” x or y “when you have kids.” Then alumni do have kids and still disagree. So the parents tell them they will “understand” x or y “when your kids start going to school.” Then alumni’s kids do go to school and still disagree and —
— and you get the point. Sometimes it seems like alumni will only be fully human and only capable of having their own opinions when they are grandparents. Though even then it probably won’t be enough.
So let’s just clear this up: Whatever argument you’re setting forward is either valid or invalid. If it’s valid, its validity cannot rest on whether or not my genitals made a baby with another set of genitals. So explain your argument’s validity and don’t talk down to us. If you cannot actually explain why your position is valid, then realize you haven’t thought it through. Go back to the drawing board and re-engage when you have a better argument than, “But you haven’t done some baby-making yet!”
3. Educate Yourself.
Education isn’t bad. In fact, groups like Homeschoolers Anonymous (and Recovering Grace, and Rethinking Vision Forum, and so forth) exist specifically to educate you. Many of us are constantly educating others, explaining what this or that acronym means (“HSLDA? VF? ATI? IBLP? YMCA?”) or what this or that individual did (“Jonathan Lindvall is to Reb Bradley as Doug Phillips is to Michael Farris?”).
But don’t be lazy. You don’t need to be a walking encyclopedia of homeschool trivia like some of us are. But you can at least take it upon yourself and do your own research once in a while. Instead of demanding we justify why we think Michael and Debi Pearl are child abuse advocates, go read To Train Up A Child. Or read it again, if you haven’t in 20 years. Or go read Libby Anne’s extensive and detailed analysis of every single paragraph in the book. And if you didn’t know such an analysis existed, ask. If you actually do care about making homeschooling better, then we expect you to be a little more motivated than you seem to come across as.
Otherwise you seem more motivated to disprove us than to actually find out the truth for yourself.
Stop asking us for education. Get educated yourself.
4. Speak Up.
Seriously. Do you care about anything we’re talking about? Then speak up already!
Since groups like HA and Recovering Grace have launched, there have been a few parents and homeschool-convention speakers who have extended an olive branch. These are quick attempts at support and then they go back to their lives, rarely to speak of the interaction ever again. Homeschool celebrities will write a single, solitary blog post and pay lip service to the idea of taking abuse seriously — only to fall silent once again and continue their lives as if the whole deck is not being daily stacked against those of us refusing to be silent.
You can’t be neutral here, parents. You can’t write one blog post and then pretend like you actually did something. You can’t share one post from one alumni group and then act like you contributed to making the homeschooling world a safer place.
If you want to be an advocate for abuse victims and survivors, you need to start raising a ruckus. You need to throw caution to the wind and come along side us and fight for our voices to be heard. You need to start calling out fellow speakers and celebrities — including even your friends — when they advocate legalism, patriarchy, mishandling of child abuse, warped teachings on sex and sexuality, marginalizing attitudes towards LGBT* individuals, and so forth.
Speak up already.
5. Show, Not Tell.
There’s always that one parent who just has to interject and derail a conversation with the phrase, “Not all homeschoolers are like that.” They show up like the Kool-Aid Man:
Dear parents who aren’t “like that”: We know. If you’re not the problem, then you’re not problem. You don’t need to point it out just like a million other parents have pointed out. You don’t need to defend yourself or anyone else who isn’t a terrible human being. You don’t need to apologize “on behalf” of the terrible parents; you don’t need to show us how “with it” you are in terms of Millennial jargon; you don’t have to feel bad if you can’t relate to our memes and jokes.
Here’s what you can do instead: act.
Because actions speak louder than words.
Don’t tell us you listen. Listen. Listen, learn, support, and then go out and help us make the world a better place. We’d love for you to join us.