Reaching the Other Side: Deanna Stollar’s Thoughts

mother-child-crossing-road

Deanna Stollar lives in Springfield, Oregon and is a former homeschooling mother of four children (including HA’s R.L. Stollar) and grandmother of two grandchildren. In the 1990’s she co-founded the San Jose, California homeschool support group SELAH (Students Educated Lovingly At Home) as well as San Jose homeschool debate club, CLASH. Deanna has written two debate textbooks for homeschool debate families, It Takes a Parent and Coaching Policy Debate. Along with her husband Terry, Deanna has spoken at numerous homeschool conventions, on topics ranging from “Creating Good Writers” to “Raising False Expectations.” In her spare time she loves to write; her work has been featured in a number of publications, most recently in A Cup of Comfort for Horse Lovers and A Cup of Comfort for New Mothers.

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Today at the library I watched as a mother told her kids that they needed to leave.

“Time to go home,” the Mom said. “That computer is gross. Someone else’s eyelash is on it – ugh. We don’t want to use a computer that has something like that on it.”

Her son looked dismayed, “But mom, I was in the middle of my report.”

“It doesn’t matter,” she said, a military determination in her eyes.

His brown hair, shoulder length in a blunt cut, he looked about twelve years old. His younger sister stood next to him. She didn’t argue with her mother, seemingly resigned to the fact they must leave — not willing to question her.

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We all know how ridiculous we homeschooling parents can be at times, but I shudder when realizing how dark and cruel some homes can be where instead safety and love should exist.  It sometimes overwhelms me to think of the kind of education taking place in such homes, and often I don’t want to even read about them.

As a now retired homeschooling mom of twenty-six years, I certainly made my fair share of mistakes both as a parent and educator.

Seeing this mom, however, struck a chord in me I have not felt in a while. It sat with me for days. I kept seeing the young boy’s disappointed face and his sister’s disengaged one. From their body language, it was clear this scene of irrationality was an often occurrence for them — a mother who changed her mind on a whim, over the perceived health danger in something as simple as an eyelash imbedded in computer keys; why not use that eyelash as a springboard for an imaginary story? Did a fairy leave it there or a unicorn? Why run away in fear from it?

This scene in the library, their words, their faces, haunted me for nearly a week until it rose to the surface what was really bothering me about it: what was this woman teaching her kids everyday?

She was teaching them to be afraid: afraid of a stranger, of someone who had dirty eyelashes, of equipment shared by others. How was she equipping and preparing them for the future? She was teaching them to fear something that was not real.

She was teaching them to be afraid of the library, of others, of society, and perhaps even of learning itself.

This made me very sad. What made me even sadder was that the librarian, who also witnessed this scenario, along with me, did nothing to remedy the situation either. Maybe she concluded, as I had, why bother.  What could we have realistically accomplished by stepping into this mom’s life in that one moment? Maybe nothing, but maybe our interjections could have helped her children. They perhaps for the first time would have heard something different — a taste of freedom — and longed for it more. Our words might have stayed with them over time and been beneficial.

I will never know now what difference we might have made.

About twenty years ago, I watched on a street corner as another mother screamed at her young blue-eyed, curly blond girl of three. The mother’s tone was both abusive and her reasoning completely unrealistic. Her three-year old was expressing valid fears at crossing the street and the mother refused to console her. She only berated her child. I watched for a moment then went up to the mother. I asked her if there was anything I could do to help. At first her voice was curt, annoyed with my interference, but eventually both she and her daughter calmed down and crossed the street together. As they held hands, the three-year-old girl added a skip in her gait. As they reached the other side, the little girl turned around and waved at me.

Reflecting back on that moment I wish now that I had tried to help the mother in the library. I wished I had tried to help get them to the other side, instead of being stuck in ignorance and fear, but I was too afraid to try that day — bound up in fear myself — the fear that I could not help her.

This is part of why I am glad that Homeschoolers Anonymous exists and that passionate people work hard on a regular basis to help others reach the other side of difficult and often horrifying situations.

They are making a difference, and that is a good thing indeed.

Happy 2014 HA! May it be a blessed year for you.