A Homeschooler’s Image
Something that I struggle with a homeschooling mom, that I’m sure other homeschooling parents also struggle with, is the desire to project a good image as a homeschooling parent. Not a perfect, Little Miss Mary Sunshine image, but at least to project an image that somewhat resembles the one that most of us have in our head of what homeschooling ‘should’ look like or sound like or be like.
It’s unrealistic, of course, because homeschooling is what it is – at the foundation, it’s just a part of your day and days can be good and productive, or start off with crabby moods and go downhill from there – it’s life. But when someone learns that you’re homeschooling, you’re automatically fitted with this lens that people see you through, regardless of whether or not your homeschooling life emulates what they expect to see, and you just can’t help but want to convey a good image – even if you’re not quite what they expect.
Here in the ‘bible belt’ it’s usually pretty easy to clue in to what they expect to see. Homeschoolers here are almost always from fundamentalist Christian families and people expect to see many of the common threads of discipline and deportment that are associated with families who are active in the church.
Enter my heathen children…
My boys are active. And by that, I mean that if there is a structure to be climbed, they will attempt to climb it. If there is an echo to be experienced, my children will find it. If there is a mess to be made, my children will be instrumental in making it everything it can possibly be. I do not see this as a bad thing, however there are a lot of disapproving stares that come from the peanut gallery and I can’t help but wonder if, on occasion, I am doing harm to homeschoolers’ image or expanding the public’s consciousness by not only allowing but encouraging my children to fully experience their world. I’m not saying that I allow blatant disregard of basic social rules of conduct, but if there’s a gray area, my kids are more likely to be pushing the boundaries of what is considered normal while I take pictures and call posing cues.
On the one hand, I try to make sure that my kids are actively involved in our community. That goes along with instilling respect for quiet libraries, museums and national monuments, not making an ass of ourselves on field trips, in the newspaper or on television, and treating the property of others and the public with respect. But I also don’t want to raise ‘sheeple’ who just go along with the status-quo because that’s what is expected of them. I am a part of a very small secular homeschooling community and most of us follow what are considered to be alternative parenting styles – meaning that we don’t have perfect little zombie children who are seen and not heard. Ours are heard a great deal of the time – but it’s the normal chatter of friends and children. They’re not being loud to be disrespectful, they’re noisy because they’re exuberant and happy youths and it really only takes a slight change in your perception to get caught up in their natural excitement most days. While I hardly want our group (or anyone associated with it) to convey the image that secular homeschoolers are not also well-mannered, I don’t want for us to gain a reputation of being unruly and damage the opportunities that are extended to homeschoolers in our community.
I’m not entirely sure that I can have both of those things; a respectable image and lively children… and then I start to wonder if this is really something I need to worry about.
Image is such a subjective thing. I’ve heard, from numerous people, that my kids are well-mannered and polite. I’ve also been on the receiving end of scathing remarks about their rudeness and smart mouths. I’ve heard compliments as to their intellect and ability to pay attention, and had serious doubts expressed as to whether or not inviting my rambunctious and easily distracted children was a good idea. I think that my kids fit a happy medium known as ‘normal’, but for some reason people like the containers they use to fit people into their lives. We all have a desire to fit in, but I think that a lot of the time we fail to ask ourselves if fitting in is worth the effort.