HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Darcy’s blog Darcy’s Heart-Stirrings. It was originally published on January 3, 2015.
There’s an article going around, called “10 Things Homeschool Moms Want You To Know”. Reading her points made me cringe, as it did my homeschooled friends who read it. You see, we were the kids in her article. So our perspective on these things are a little different than hers. Since this post was being passed around and lauded by homeschooling parents, I thought it worth an examination. I took her points and thoughtfully went through them here. Because I think that other homeschooled parents need to know that their perspective on homeschooling is not the only, and perhaps not the most important, one.
“1. Our choice to homeschool is not a judgment on you.”
This was her first point. She goes on to say that others shouldn’t feel bad, she won’t judge you for not homeschooling, don’t judge her for homeschooling, everyone is just doing what’s best for their kids. That’s all well and good and I sincerely hope it’s true for her. However, this was not my experience either as a homeschooled child or as a public school parent. Homeschooling was toted as superior no matter what. And those who didn’t homeschool just didn’t love their kids enough or let “worldly things” get in their way of choosing the best for their kids. We were raised thinking we were superior to public schooled kids, which we learned from the seminars and books and attitudes of the adults in our world. As a mom whose kids are in public school, I can say that this attitude of superiority is still prevalent in my world. It’s been repackaged by the new wave of homeschooling as “the natural, best way to teach children”. But it’s still a superiority complex. I think it’s great if everyone just chooses the best route for their family and leaves others alone unless harm is being done, but that just hasn’t been my experience in this context, then or now.
“2. Our kids are behind in school.”
This one really irks me and I almost think is the most important point:
Educational neglect is a very real travesty among my alumni peers.
It isn’t something to joke about. It isn’t something to be taken lightly. This is not a good thing. The author says that her 13-yr-old daughter can’t spell “were” and her son hasn’t done his math. She then throws up a red herring to distract from these disturbing facts to tell her readers (who are presumably public school parents) that it’s OK because our kids are behind too. Behind in what? Well, life skills! That’s right, she says because her kids can change the brakes in a car and lead a Bible study they’re actually not behind but yours are because they can’t do basic life things, and claims importance is “a matter of perspective”. But from my perspective and that of my friends, having “life skills” and not being equal to our peers in academics means that we are not only behind in school, we are now behind in life. We were taken out of the competition before we even started. Jobs, scholarships, college, all the things that could get us where we want to go in life….we never stood a chance for these. We, with all our “life skills” and “work ethics”, were passed over for kids who weren’t behind in school. You can complain all you like about the way things are and the way things should be, but the way things are means that if you do not have academic skills equal to your peers, you will lose. And you will spend your adult life trying to catch up. Many of my friends are in their 20’s and taking high-school equivalency classes just to get into college. They are a decade behind their peers. Take it from the homeschooled alumni: this is serious and needs to be taken seriously.
Now about the false dichotomy. Does she really think that public schooled kids can’t change brakes or lead a Bible study? That public schooled kids have only “book learning”? Where you go to school doesn’t make a difference, it’s how you’re parented that provides education in life skills. My kids are in public school. They also spend their free time with animals, art, reading, baking, camping, fishing, going on geological hikes, visiting museums, helping Dad fix things, learning horse care, and myriads of other things that will give them life skills. They are also very much NOT behind in academics. You can have the best of both worlds, and I suggest that if this mother’s children are not getting that, perhaps she needs to rethink her educational methods.
“3. Our kids are weird.”
So, yeah, I was definitely weird. Actually, I felt like a freak as a child. It was tough. Maybe I would’ve still felt that way in public school, maybe not. But she goes on to say “don’t stereotype, we’re not all like that”, which is cool and everything, except for the fact that her entire piece is based on stereotyping both homeschoolers and kids in public school. Huh.
“4. We really aren’t all that patient.”
This one is a little concerning. She says, “We aren’t any more patient than you are. There are days when we scream. There are days when we cry. There are days when we lock ourselves in the bathroom for hours on end. Our kids drive us crazy too.” I’m no perfect parent and I’ve done my share of yelling and losing patience, but, see, screaming is not really normal. Unless your child is about to be run over by a stampede or bit by a snake, screaming at children is not merely “I lost my patience”. It’s more like “I am overwhelmed and taking it out on the first people I see”. And, no, I have never locked myself in the bathroom. If I need some space I go outside and breathe and watch my kids play and soak up some sunshine. I get out of the house and spend time in a book store or on a mountain somewhere by myself.
I take care of myself so I can take care of my kids.
There are healthy and unhealthy ways to blow off steam and screaming at your kids is not healthy. Locking yourself in the bathroom is a sign you need help and major self-care. Saying, “See? I’m just like you! I do crazy things that are a cry for help!” is not convincing at all. It’s OK to say you’re in over your head and need help, need to switch things up a bit. Many of us lived daily with parents that were stretched to the max because of homeschooling. Parents that were constantly impatient because they never had time to take care of themselves and therefore they couldn’t rightly care for us. Parents who threw their hands up in the air, declared “school is over today I can’t take anymore” at 10 AM, and locked themselves in their room. This not ok.
As someone who was the child in this author’s scenario, I need parents to know that this is not healthy and does not produce healthy relationships or attitudes in the home. As a parent, I get the need for a break, trust me. My husband is a trucker and I parent 4 kids alone. So take a break! You are not superwoman. But don’t act in unhealthy ways, don’t sacrifice your kids’ education and emotional security for the sake of homeschooling. It isn’t worth it and you aren’t doing them any favors.
And if this was just supposed to be a joke…..it failed miserably. It’s not funny.
“5. We’re just trying to do what’s best for our kids.”
See, here’s my thoughts: many, if not most, parents want what’s best for their kids. I mean, have you ever heard a parent say, “Naw, I don’t really care what’s best for my kids”? But they’ve been duped into thinking that homeschooling is always The Best Right Way for their kids, so much so, that all the warning signs that it isn’t actually best….like screaming and locking yourself in the bathroom and your kids falling behind…..are completely ignored. “We were just trying to do what was best!” is something we alumni have heard ad nauseam. When, in reality, they couldn’t see past the picture of The Perfect Family that they so desperately wanted to what really was best. They were so convinced they were right, they let critical thinking fly out the door. They bought a bill of goods hook, line, and sinker, to our detriment. When my best friend’s mom couldn’t figure out how to teach her what she needed to know, she just quit teaching her. No more school. Because public school was so wrong and evil that it couldn’t possibly be better than nothing at all. The warning signs that homeschooling is not “what’s best” are there. There’s a bunch of them in this author’s piece. (Can I just say that if your 13-yr-old can’t spell, and you’re locking yourself in the bathroom, and your kids are unable to operate in the society they were born into, that you are not “Doing what is best” for them OR for you?) But those warning signs will be ignored because Homeschooling is a hill to die on and there can be no failure. I’ve seen it. I’ve lived it. So many of our parents still insist homeschooling was “best” even in face of educational neglect, emotional abuse, and lifelong struggles due to being homeschooled poorly. So I have a difficult time with parents like this one who claim if it wasn’t best, they wouldn’t do it. They will never be convinced that it isn’t best so the claim is pointless. I sincerely hope I’m wrong, that this parent, this author, is different. But I’m cynical for good reason.
“6. Our kids are not trick ponies.”
From a kids’ perspective, this is totally legit. It was always annoying to be given pop quizzes upon a stranger’s discovery that we were homeschooled. Just leave kids alone, ‘k? They don’t owe you an explanation for their parent’s choices.
“7. Grades don’t reflect character.”
Does anyone think they do?
She then downplays grades as unimportant and character as the most important thing. Another obvious false dichotomy. And from the alumni’s perspective, it would’ve been nice to know what our grades were. That way when we graduated and entered the real world, we would know whether we were good competition for our peers or woefully behind and unable to get scholarships and jobs. Parents liked to say that grades didn’t matter, but I think they should have. Perhaps just to make sure they were teaching us the way we needed to be taught, to make sure we were keeping up and learning, to hold them accountable.
I sometimes think now the whole “grades don’t matter” mantra was really a cop-out for our parents so they didn’t have anyone to judge their competency. For us, it just made everything confusing and made us think we were smarter or dumber than we really were. Trying being 18 and getting to college and realizing for the first time that grades DO matter. On a test, your profs aren’t going to say “Oh, your D doesn’t matter, we know you have great character”.
Once again, the idealism of the homeschoolers doesn’t match the real world that we were thrown into as adults unprepared.
“8. Our kids are socialized.”
That’s good to know. She says, “People seem to have great concern about whether or not our kids are well-adjusted socially. We would like to assure you, they are doing just fine.” I wonder if she’s thought to ask her kids how they feel about their socialization? Because my parents, and every homeschooled parent I knew, said the same things. “They are well-socialized” actually meant that we were pretty good at talking to adults and playing with small children. But many of us have no idea still how to relate to peers. Peers scare the crap out of us. Some of us still struggle to see ourselves as adults and peers of adults and struggle to relate and socialize with other adults our age. This is the product of most homeschooling socialization. We spent our lives around adults and siblings, and, rarely some of us luckier than others got to be a part of homeschooled co-ops with kids our own ages or sports teams. Not many of us were that lucky though. And some of us were completely isolated from everyone because we were dependent on our parents to offer opportunities to socialize and many parents just didn’t bother. It’s a legit concern and was reality for many in my generation.
“9. We worry.”
Here she says things like, “We really don’t need you to list the “what-ifs” for us. “What if he can’t get into college?” “What if you can’t teach her the proper way to dissect a frog?” “What if a ‘regular’ school was the better way to go?” We worry about all these things and more. We doubt ourselves and hope we haven’t ruined our children. We have the same Mama-guilt as you”.
This was a bit infuriating. You worry? Did you ever stop to think those worries were legit? We worried too. Worried that we’d never teach ourselves to read when you gave up on us. Worried that we were cheating our way through high school math because we didn’t understand it and you couldn’t figure out how to teach it. Worried that we’d never do anything with our lives because we didn’t know the first thing about life. Worried that we’d always be trapped, that we wouldn’t have friends, that we’d be seen as impostors if we ever stepped foot into a college or workplace. Worried that we’d never fit in anywhere. Worried that we wouldn’t know how to live life outside our very small boxes and 4 walls of our house. Some of us worried because our parents hurt us and since we were homeschooled we had no one to turn to and no way to know if their actions were normal or not. You worried?! Try being us. We are the ones that are still paying for your choices to not listen to your own worries. I’m not saying your worries are less important than ours, but, really, making this all about you and your worries and your success or failure is self-absorbed. This is about your children. If you have sincere worries for their future and whether homeschooling is a good idea or not, pay attention to those worries.
“10. Our kids do normal things.”
That’s cool she gives her kids normal kid things. She is an exception.
Most of us have no idea what any of those things are like. Prom? Heh, please. Dancing in our world was like having sex standing up. OMG you’d have to touch a girl!!! Some of us were forced to dress like Laura Ingalls and never allowed to watch TV. But the one line at the bottom really bothers me: “We like being different. We are okay being different, and we hope you can appreciate us for our differences!” Do you think your kids feel the same way? Would they even tell you if they didn’t? Because my mom said the same things. “Yay, us, we’re different! We’re not like all the sheeple!” But the fact was, I hated being different. I hated being weird and the freak. I hated it all and was miserable because of it. So, parents, speak for yourself. Maybe parents get off on being “different”, wear it like a badge, parading their different children around as some mark of….uniqueness? Superiority? I really have no idea.
But the point is that most homeschooled kids don’t get “normal” and we didn’t like being different, though our parents sure seemed to think it was awesome.
If this is the piece that homeschooling parents are passing around to describe homeschooling, they may want to reevaluate that.
It isn’t a flattering picture at all.
Perhaps what homeschooling today needs is a good dose of empathy: put yourself in your child’s shoes and see their world from their perspective.
Parents who were not homeschooled need to stop writing about what it’s like to be homeschooled because really they have no idea. And since it’s our lives that were affected most, and our futures that were gambled, I think that our perspective is important in order to prevent a lot of the mistakes made in our generation of homeschoolers. Education is, after all, supposed to be about the children and the next generation.