March 17, 2015

A Homeschool Mom Apologizes: 10 things public schoolers believe - Part I

People who don't homeschool seem to not really know anything about homeschooling apart from the stereotypes perpetuated by social media memes and random (rare) news stories of psychopathic homeschool parents who locked their kids in a closet and starved them to death.

Many people think pocket protectors, social awkwardness, and parental abuse and neglect are the sum total of what homeschooling is.

And so, as a homeschooling momma, I feel I need to apologize on behalf of all the other homeschooling parents like me, to you, the public schooling parents who think we are doing our children a disservice.

I'm sorry my kids are different, maybe even a little weird.
Actually, this is one of those "sorry; not sorry" moments.  I'm sorry many of you feel that being different is necessarily a bad thing.  I'm not sorry that my kids don't conform to societal norms.  Frankly, I see that as a good thing.   I don't want my kids to keep up with the Joneses.  I want them to think for themselves, to follow after their own interests, and to not worry about the latest trends and fashions.  I want them to grow into much more deep and complex people than that.  

Just today, talking with my 12-year-old son about playing on the local playground, I asked him if that was something "cool" for kids his age to do.  He responded, "I don't care if it is.  I'm not trying to be cool.  I just want to be myself."

So, if my kids build the Eiffel Tower out of Legos and continue to think girls have cooties while other kids are texting on their smart phones and going to school dances where they make out with their girl/boyfriends, I will smile with pride and tell my kids what a good job they're doing.  And buy them more Legos.

I'm sorry you feel you couldn't do it.
Because, you could.  If it's really something you felt led to do, you could.  You'd figure it out.  But, when you say you couldn't do it, that's not really what you mean, is it?  More likely, what you mean is that you don't really know or understand what homeschooling is all about, and you don't know how you would go about it.  Or, what you mean is that it's not something you've ever felt you or your kids are led to do, so you've never given it any thought.

It's unfamiliar and uncomfortable.  That's okay.  We understand.  We've been where you are. 

But there are single mothers who homeschool effectively while working two or more jobs, completing online degrees, and raising multiple children.  Maybe some day you'll want to learn more about it.  Maybe not.  But believe me when I tell you - yes, you could do it.  We're living proof!

I'm sorry you think a child should be in the public school system in order to be properly "socialized".
What is it, exactly, that you mean by "socialization"?  I suspect you mean social interaction with other kids their own age.  I suspect you mean, "How will your kids learn to make friends?"  Or, "How will your kids learn to interact appropriately with people outside your own home?"  More specifically, I think you mean that without peer interaction within a public school setting, homeschooled kids will be socially awkward.  Weird.  At the same time, though, I think you mean, "How will your kids play sports, and don't you feel as though you're depriving them of important moments in the life of typical students - like pep rallies, and the prom?"

My knee-jerk reaction is to ask how often in your own daily life you find yourself sitting at a desk quietly for nearly 8 hours a day amongst 30 people your same age where you're only allowed to interact with them for a total of about 1 hour of those 8.  Is that what you call socialization?  Of course, that's slightly exaggerated, but only slightly.

My more rational response is this:  

If socialization is the way in which a child learns to interact with the outside world beyond their own home and immediate family, then I promise you we are meeting - and probably exceeding - your expectations.

Most homeschoolers I know have so much going on in their schedules that it makes me exhausted just to hear about it.  And, yes, there are also some homeschoolers who fit the stereotype of never leaving the house and  living in a bubble all their lives.  Those, however, are the exception, not the norm.  My family falls somewhere between the two extremes.  Here's what our typical schedule looks like:

On Sundays, we attend church.  This isn't just sitting in a pew and listening to a Bible lecture.  My 10-year-old joins in the children's church program.  He is with about 30 other kids ranging in age from 4 to 11.  They hear a Bible lesson, they sing songs, they play games, they make crafts, and more.  They are not restricted from interacting with each other, as kids are in a classroom setting.  My 12-year-old is too old for children's church, so he volunteers as an assistant with the younger kids.  He helps teach the Bible lessons and helps to keep the kids from getting too wild.  It amazes me how many little kids find him at other times throughout the week and run up to give him a hug.  The adult teachers of the children's program rave about how good he is with the kids and how helpful he is to the teachers.

On Tuesdays, we attend a local homeschool cooperative group.  A simple way to describe it is set up in a similar way that public school is.  Parents teach numerous different subjects, and the kids are broken down into age groupings.  They choose which subjects they want to learn.  There are class periods each day, so they get to take 3 classes.  During their classes, they are grouped with kids their same ages (give or take a couple years), and they sit at tables and listen to the teacher, similar to public school.  Before and after classes, however, all the kids - from age 0 to 12th grade, and all their parents - play together in the gymnasium, have lunch together, work on projects together, and are responsible for cleaning up the building before they leave - together.

On Wednesdays, both boys take piano lessons.  This requires them to interact with an adult one-on-one.  Once a month, though, the piano teacher holds a joint workshop for all her 20 students where they all get together to listen to a seasoned musician play for them as well as just hanging out with kids and adults who share their interest in piano.  Twice a year, they take part in a recital, performing in front of all the other students and their families.

After their piano lessons on Wednesdays, they participate in our church's after school religious education program, which we call Wild Wednesday.  About 50 kids from the local public school get out of school early and meet at our church where they learn a Bible lesson and how to apply it to their daily lives.  They sing songs, do crafts, and play games.  My 10-year-old takes part as a student along with the other kids ranging in age from 1st grade to 5th grade.  My 12-year-old is, again, too old to participate, so he works as a volunteer, assisting the Children's Pastor with anything she needs, and, again, being a role model to the younger kids.

On Thursdays evenings, both boys with their dad attend a program called Christian Service Brigade, which is similar to Boy Scouts, but is specifically Christian oriented.  They interact with other boys (and their dads) between the ages of 7 and 12 where they learn hands-on life skills as well as how to apply that week's Bible lesson to their lives.  Despite its name, not all the kids who attend are Christians.  So my boys have had to learn to get along with some rough around the edges kids.

On Fridays, once a month, our whole family attends what is called Fab Friday at our church.  It's a family oriented event with a different theme each month, and the purpose is simply family-friendly fun.  We have movie nights, talent shows, pizza and games nights, cookie decorating, sometimes we go bowling or roller skating, and once a year the kids have an overnighter.  My boys get to interact with people ranging in age from 0 to 100+.  They play foosball with fourth graders and puzzles with parents, and they look forward to it every month.

This schedule is just a normal week.  During the warmer months, my boys attend a summer Bible camp and a basketball camp.  My youngest plays summer soccer.  We go camping with friends and family.  And year-round, they invite friends from the neighborhood over for biking, or go-carting, or sledding, depending on the weather.

This is not atypical of homeschooling families.  Most have similar schedules.  You tell me:  are my homeschooled kids lacking in socialization?  Sure, they may never go to a prom, but honestly, if that's the measure of a successfully socialized kid, well.... I'm happy to keep my kids weirdly unsocialized

Photo credit:  Thomas Hawk
Meme credit:  used with permission by Hip Homeschool Moms
Do any of these resonate with you?  If you're a homeschooler, do you hear them often from non-homeschoolers?  If you're a public schooler, have you ever thought these things?

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