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