Homeschooling: It's not what we do, it's how we live.

Educate the Children

All over Facebook recently, I’ve seen pictures with a topic, like ‘Stay at Home Mom‘ and ‘Home Birthing Parents‘, and ‘Doulas‘ with 6 pictures that reflect the different attitudes and perceptions of what the parents/people who subscribe to the beliefs of the topic are like. I looked around for one on homeschooling, but couldn’t find one, so I made one:

And I thought I’d write about how homeschooling (or homeschoolers) seem to be viewed by the outside world.

I think one of the main perceptions I get from local society is that I don’t fit in with their ideal of what a homeschooling mother ‘should’ look like. I don’t own a denim jumper, I only have 2 kids, and though I drive a mini-van, it’s just your average-sized grocery-getter (or chariot, as one of my friends lovingly describes the transportation of choice for busy families). That’s not true for all areas, of course, but here there are definitely more than a few denim-jumper/quiver-full families.  If it’s not the denim dress uniform, then it’s khaki and twin-sets (the less-than-stylish around here call this brand of woman a ‘West End Wanda’); another group that belong not to. My standard uniform is a black tee-shirt, jeans and whichever shoes I feel like putting on (which can range from Doc Martens, to wedge heels, to flip flops, depending on the day’s activities), which puts me firmly in the ‘impostor’ – or worse, ‘secular’ – category, according to the homeschooling majority in my area.

Then you have homeschooling as portrayed in the media. Over and over, I’ve seen stories about how abusive homeschooling is, and/or that the only reason people homeschool is to indoctrinate their kids into religion. While I do know plenty of homeschoolers who do so for religious reasons, most don’t fall anywhere near that crazy tree. For most Christian homeschoolers, their goal is to raise their kids with their family’s values at the forefront, including the need and desire to be faithful ministers of their god. Though I disagree with that approach, I do understand it and think that it’s dishonest to link homeschooling – even if the primary goal is religious in nature – with abuse, neglect or other acts of parents who would find some other way to harm their kids if religion was taken out of the picture. Those people are mentally ill and that does not describe the vast majority of homeschooling parents.

Up next is the perception that teachers have of homeschoolers. This one also gets an unfair rap in my opinion. I think that this perception is perpetuated by children who, for whatever reason, go back into the classroom after homeschooling for a while. Many times, the child is classified as ‘behind’ when that’s only part of the picture. One of the main benefits of homeschooling is that you can tailor your child’s education to your individual child. In Texas, we’re not required to follow the school’s curriculum, so we have a lot of room to truly match what we’re teaching to where our child is at. We can also go about education in an entirely different manner (mastery-focused instead of covering X amount of material this week; or take history chronologically while the school starts with your family and branches out from there). We can use unconventional methods – from educational philosophy or theory to using non-standard materials or classroom environments. Since we don’t follow the same method and curriculum as classroom teachers, that means that there are areas where our child may be behind and there are usually also areas where our kids have a more well-rounded education than his classroom counterparts. But too often, it’s not the whole of education that shows, only the areas where your child is not ‘up to standards’ and thus, the myth continues.

After that, we come to how non-homeschooling people see homeschooling (not all of them, obviously – but some, certainly). I think that the perception (not necessarily of ‘me’, but of homeschooling parents in general) is that homeschooling parents see their kids as genius-level potential, and that with enough early learning and constant fact-drilling, it will be enough to bring that potential into reality. I know that I speak for plenty of homeschooling parents when I say that our kids don’t hold any more potential than yours, nor are they smarter than your kids. The difference is how we go about  accessing that potential. Homeschooling, again, allows us to tailor every aspect of our child’s education to that child. Even if we have several children, we can adapt how or what they’re learning to address that specific child’s needs. If we have a child with ADHD, we can do spelling words or math while the child is on a trampoline or yoga ball. If we have a child who is a night owl, we can start our school hours later in the day (or even have school at night). If we have one child who prefers reading and another who is adept in math, we can cater to those strengths while taking the other subjects a little slower to ensure that the foundation is solid before moving on. Give any student that level of personal attention and you’re going to get better results.

Next, there’s my perception. Since the comic is not my own creation and yet I identify with it wholeheartedly, I dare say that other homeschooling mothers feel similarly at least part of the time. If the text is too small, it reads, ‘5 minutes after Mindy died trying, Brice finally understood fractions‘. It seems like there are days, especially when we start something new, that I explain and explain and explain and yet still it seems like nothing gets through. We’ve been doing this for over 2 years now, and I can see the pattern… all the sudden, one day it clicks. There’s no rhyme or reason to it, but it’s happened over and over again. Then we start something new; rinse, repeat. As frustrating as it is to get the idea through my kids’ head that they’re learning something – they’re not experts yet and mistakes are okay; expected, even – the poor dears are blessed with enough aspects of my personality to ensure that failure is a big deal. They’d rather not do it at all than fail. But the other side of the coin is the gratification and exhilaration on their faces when they do finally get it and can do it like a pro.

Then there’s the reality of what it is that I, and homeschooling parents all over the world like me, actually do, and that is educate our children. We’re not experts, we’re not perfect. We have good days and bad, ups and downs and yes, there are days when we want to throw in the towel. It’s not about being superior or thinking we’re better or can do a better job than you; we don’t homeschool to judge you or your educational choices. In fact, we don’t care one bit what you do with your kids; we’re too busy doing stuff with our own kids

The long and the short of it is that homeschooling parents come in a variety of packages, and no two are exactly similar. Now that I think about it, I’m may have a tee-shirt made that says ‘Homeschooler: Contents May Vary‘ to wear when we’re out and about. Like non-homeschooling parents, we do the things we think are best for our kids. Any contentious parent homeschools with genuine intent, and with their children’s best interests at the forefront of their lives. They’re not abusive, they’re not fanatics; they’re just regular people who feel like homeschooling is the best educational path for their kids. We’re not raising geniuses; we don’t think our kids are prodigies, but neither do we let them bum around all the time without seeing to their education. Our methods may look lackadaisical to you, but until you live in our home and see what we do, how we do it and what the results are, then we respectfully suggest that you keep your nose occupied elsewhere. We’re human; we get frustrated just like anyone would, but we’re also in a unique position of seeing our child’s mind expand on a daily basis – and taking pride on the role that we play in helping them learn.

Even with all our differences, homeschooling parents have one goal: educate the children.

Warmly,
~h

Photo credits:

homeschooling family: http://www.recycledpolyfurniture.com/about.php

religious indoctrination as child abuse: http://jesusmustbestopped.blogspot.com/2011/08/childhood-religious-indoctrination.html

kids playing video games: http://www.sheknows.com/parenting/articles/822769/are-your-kids-addicted-to-video-games

reading baby: http://ladyhazard.tumblr.com/post/372126132/aashawn-cristina-awesome-reading-baby-im

Mindy comic ( (c)Todd Wilson): http://extrememakeover-homeschooledition.blogspot.com/2011/07/year-two.html

Homeschool outside: http://thepioneerwoman.com/homeschooling/2011/03/how-long-will-you-homeschool-your-children/

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7 responses

  1. Excellent Post! This has been much on my mind lately. It is really hurtful that my current career as home educator is depicted in the manner you show above.

    I know plenty of religious home-schoolers as well, and so far I have witnessed no direct evidence of hourly beatings, forced feedings, or children chained in the basement. They seem like real nice people to me. We may not agree on a whole lot politically speaking, but I figure that I would rather deal with independent thinking adults with their own opinions, than a fawning gaggle of group-thinkers.

    I think I may have to go out and make my own version of the poster you found. Good stuff! What a great idea.

    This coming from a t-shirt wearing flip flop anti-fashionista with garden dirt under her fingers!

    February 14, 2012 at 1:31 pm

    • I might have to post my own version on this one too.
      I’m feeling a bit miffed right now…the perfect attitude for blogging…LOL

      February 17, 2012 at 1:41 am

  2. Cute cartoon! This was timely for me, as having just moved, we have to reintroduce ourselves to a whole new town as “homeschoolers”. Having homeschooled for four years in a different part of the state already, I’d almost forgotten what it was like to get the weird looks and raised eyebrows. We are in a part of the state where people assume if we are homeschooling that we are a certain kind of people, which we aren’t necessarily. It’s amazing how much educating a homeschooling parent has to do…and I’m not even talking about the KIDS we are supposed to be educating! 😉

    February 14, 2012 at 9:38 pm

  3. Love the homeschool as others see it comic! LOL
    It’s so true!

    I’m loving your new site. Looks like you put a bit of work into it!

    This post was a good one! To be honest, I’m getting TIRED of how homeschoolers are so misrepresented in the media. Any idea what we can do about it???

    February 17, 2012 at 1:39 am

  4. Excellent post! I have been homeschooling since 2005 and have gotten used to the stereo types. It’s funny though…Every. Single. Time. people who didn’t already know we were homeschoolers find out, they look at me and go “Huh. Wouldn’t have thought that.” Lol.

    Not only do I not bake my own bread (really, *why* is this a stereotype?!), I can’t cook at all. I’ve tried. Yes, I drive a minivan. But it’s usually blaring hard rock or 90’s rock/alternative. I don’t tease my bangs, but it’s possible my hair will be a different color next time my friends see me. I can’t even imagine putting on a denim jumper, but I do have a dozen tattoos. While we love going to the High Museum of Art, and the Natural History Museum, we also love to hang out at Dragon*Con (a 4 day sci-fi/fantasy convention).

    I’d be lying if I said that seeing the shocked expression on people’s faces didn’t amuse me, lol.

    In truth, I’ve given up trying to explain to people what we do in our homeschool. We can’t satisfy everyone, but we are doing our best to do right by our boys. That is what’s most important to us. 🙂

    Again, loved your post. Thanks for sharing!

    Katie
    Mom to a 2nd grader who is learning that a homeschool spelling curriculum CAN be fun!

    February 17, 2012 at 10:21 am

  5. I know homeschoolers that grind their own grain to bake their own bread. I am not one of those people. In fact, we tried to make kind of bread from an ancient Near Eastern recipe-It had to be Babylonian, because it was associated with the Epic of Gilgamesh.

    We even screwed that one up. It wouldn’t have even made good beer-bread! *sigh*

    We do the core classes reading, writing, math, grammar, history, and most focus on becoming armchair naturalists as our main science [note main not only].

    And I have to say, with that last one, we never run into other homeschoolers, ever. We almost always have the woods and the prairies all to ourselves.

    I am almost beyond giving a crap about people in regular life that I meet, who have some “helpful” words about why homeschooling is bad. This isn’t the first closet I have exited in full-on-freak regalia!

    But I do get tired of the BS online. I don’t know why that bothers me more, but it does.

    February 18, 2012 at 8:56 pm

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