May 16, 2013

Weird Home School Kids

I never realized how much flack home school families received, until we became one.  For the most part, our friends and family are supportive.  But there are a few who just don't get it.  Like one mom who sends her kids to public school because she wants her kids to "fit in".  And another who asked a home schooling friend of mine, "Why do you home school?  Do you want your kids to be weird?"

Insert "aghast" emoticon here.  (Is there such a thing?)

Granted, some home school families fit the stereotype.  Pants hiked up to their armpits.  Coke bottle glasses.  Skinny, pale, carrying books about astrophysics.  A mom who wears a denim jumper and a dad who wears a pocket protector.  The kind of folks who (unfortunately) get labeled as geeks or dorks.  They sew their own clothes, have chickens running free in their yard, and spend more time at the library than anywhere else.  You can spot them a mile away.

Is that necessarily a bad thing?  Even if it were accurate (which it isn't), should we care that some people think home schooling is equivalent to social suicide?  Does it matter that some people think our kids are going to be just plain weird?  And, how do we react when people say such things to us or about us?

When I tell other home schoolers this story, their jaws drop to the floor as they gasp in disbelief, and, even if they don't actually speak the words, you can hear them running through their heads... "Oh no she di-int!!!"  

It's an understandable reaction.  We don't want people telling us our kids are weird.  We don't want people implying that what we're doing is somehow wrong or inferior.  While we know how untrue those things are, hearing someone else say it stings.

But before you get twisted up about such comments, ask yourself, what is it that non-home schooling families find weird about home school families?  More often than not, they think home schooled kids will turn into dorks or geeks or nerds or whatever other euphemism you can think of.  They think our kids will no longer be able to interact in a "normal" way socially - what they refer to as "unsocialized".

Now, remember the facts.

Home schooling works.  In the most recent nationwide study, Progress Report 2009: Homeschool Academic Achievement and Demographics, as in all previous studies of the kind, home schooled students show significant academic achievement beyond that of their public schooled counterparts.  You can view a summary article about the study, or visit the website of the researcher to learn more.

As far as socialization is concerned, non-home schooling families who think our kids will be weird and unsocialized generally believe that a child's socialization must take the form of a public school classroom.  However, as written by Isabel Shaw on the website Family Education, "What kind of socialization occurs when 20 or 30 kids of the same age are placed in a classroom together day after day? Peer pressure is enormous. Kids feel like they need to look and sound and be like everyone else, at the risk of forgetting or never discovering who they really are. This results in rivalry, ridicule, and competition - hardly the environment for healthy socialization."

If being "weird" means that my kids will, in all likelihood, be well-educated, independent-thinking kids who don't base their social interactions on peer pressure, then, well... count us in for the long haul!!!

Have you ever faced comments like these from non-home schoolers?  How did you respond?

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