I had an interesting chat with my sister-in-law the other day… she was saying that for the longest time she was under the impression that homeschooling parents were judgemental. The only reason she felt this was by virtue of the fact that they were going against the norm by taking their kids out of school. Logical conclusion dictates that if they are removing their kids from school, they’re obviously not happy with the standard for their kids and therefore don’t think much of the same standard for your kids. That is an understandable conclusion to reach when a parent who sends/is sending their kids to regular schools is faced with this issue for the first time.
But, says Kerry, she had only just recently realised that homeschooling parents also feel a sense of judgement bestowed upon them from regular school parents (and everyone else!) She had never before realised the extent to which homeschooling families suffer abuse in the form of judgemental and hurtful comments, alienation, and mistrust. Swimming against the stream requires a LOT of forethought, energy and commitment if you’re going to get anywhere and so it is for the homeschooling family. It’s not the norm. It’s not understood. And oftentimes people feel a sense of defensiveness when faced with the “Oh, we homeschool” answer to the “where do your kids go to school?” question; as if that answer contains the unsaid, “and so I don’t think much of your decision to send your kids to school … and so I don’t think much of you.”
There is so much emotion and controversy steeped in this homeschool vs. regular school debate. And because I’ve spent a few years now really researching the issue and grappling with the arguments and emotions involved, I can well understand why parents who “regular” school their kids would feel judged by homeschool parents… but … I wonder how many people in general realise how it feels to be in the homeschool parents’ shoes?
If you’re reading this and you’re not a homeschooling parent, when you do meet a homeschooling mom, what is your normal reaction? Do you think she’s strange, naive, overprotective, judgemental and/or religious? Do you laugh and say, “oh, you’re so brave; I could never do that!” or do you ask, “Why do you homeschool? What about socialisation? Who’s going to teach the kids maths in high school? Aren’t you worried about getting them into college?”
My general experience with this, from the homeschooling perspective, has been one of three types of reactions. When I mention that we’re homeschooling, I have 1) a barrage of hostile questions; anti-homeschooling arguments and statements like, “oh, you really mustn’t homeschool – I can’t see how that can be good for your kids!” or 2) a laugh-it-off, “you’re so brave” approach which seems to convey a “you’re crazy” underlying meaning. The most common response amongst my mommy peers is 3) a sense of hostility and defence. I guess the thought is if I’m homeschooling, then I obviously think that their decision to send their kids to school is wrong.
[Of course, this is my general experience and I am thankful to say that there have been some really positive experiences where people have been genuinely interested and even supportive, despite having either gone to school themselves, or currently sending their kids to school now. Most of my church family friends fit into that category and I'm really grateful for your support in this, girls!]
The point of this post is to highlight for non-homeschoolers what it is like to be on the receiving end of reactions I outlined above. I get the impression that people think that we’ve hurtled into this thing called homeschooling without thinking it through properly and with some idealistic, but completely unrealistic, view in mind. I am so used to the raised eyebrows; the condescending tones; the “but what about…” arguments that I’ve reached a point where I don’t advertise to strangers in public that we homeschool. If it comes out, it comes out and I’ll deal with it then, but neither Craig nor I invite abuse in this regard anymore.
The irony is that for most people there is very little research and deliberation that goes into sending their kids to school – it’s a “going with the stream” acceptable thing to do. No one questions your choice beyond the best you can afford. And that’s fine. But go against the stream and one faces a lot of flack. It is quite hurtful to be viewed as naive or idealistic when in actual fact this is a decision we’ve come to after much deliberation, research, prayer and our kids’ best interests in mind.
So it is that this blog is a good forum in which to “put it out there” what we believe and why we’ve chosen to homeschool, instead of engaging people in public. Few people who disagree with us on this subject have ever bothered to actually engage us on the topic to find out why we chose this route. And, I mean, genuinely wanting to know our reasons, rather than using it as an opportunity to push their agenda of “homeschooling is not a good idea”. So, this blog allows us to speak our reasons, without interruption, in a “take it or leave it” kinda fashion. Don’t get me wrong – we don’t mind healthy debate based on good thinking (I’ve had some good debates on the subject with Kerry) and gracious debating skills. But we do mind blanket prejudice dictating what our actions should be.
If, after reading all these posts on why we homeschool you still think we’re off our rocker – that’s fine. You’re entitled to your opinion :) But, at least you know some comprehensive reasons why we’ve chosen this route and you know it’s based on a LOT of thought and research. We welcome your thoughts, especially encouragement, but we do ask that you go easy on the criticism – we’ve heard it all before and are quite weary of it now. Thanks to those who do support and encourage us – especially those who haven’t made the same decision and yet still support us in our decision – you are much appreciated and your support goes a long way!