Welcome, my Tenacious Homeschool Tribe!
You know, I know that I’m giggling, but that’s because people’s opinions never cease to amaze me. I belong to many homeschool groups on Facebook, Meet Up, Instagram, and Twitter. All the social media groups that you can imagine having to do with homeschooling. I belong to a lot of them. And I saw several posts in the last couple of weeks that made me think of our New Year experience. I want to share it with you because I know that people who might have just decided to start homeschooling will be facing this challenge.
So, I was at this big, humongous New Year’s Eve party in the community where we lived in Puerto Rico. We spent a lot of money on this party. We had taken the kids. This was a special outing. Right? And so, they sit us with this lovely couple from New York. We really like them; they really like us. Everything’s wonderful. He’s a retired barrister. She’s a former doctor. I mean, she’s asking me where I went to school, what my Ph.D. is on, and all of these things, and we’re just really jelling. We enjoy the same type of theater, the same kind of books.
Then she asked, “How are your kids enjoying (the name of the school in the community)?”
I responded, “Oh, our kids don’t go to that school.”
And she says, “Oh my goodness, you’re not sending them to the public schools here in the area?”
I said, “No, no, no. We homeschool.”
Oh… Wrong words. Wrong words. This woman completely flipped out. I received a twenty-minute lecture on why I was irresponsible, neglecting my children, depriving them of their socialization. The reasons I was being an all-around terrible mother. And the whole time, I teetered between wanting to laugher and wanting to punch this woman in the face! Number one; more important than anything else, it’s nobody’s business except your own! Everyone has an opinion, but no one’s opinion should matter. Only yours and your spouse, or your partner, or your significant other! Whatever the situation might be, it is a decision that you make as a family, in your family’s best interest. You don’t need to justify it to anyone else.
I have learned that it only becomes more and more convoluted if you get into the justification thing. You’re not going to be able to have a logical, cool explanation with people who are being completely irrational. And what do I mean by irrational?
Back to the, “it’s none of their business!” For starters, this is a family choice, a family decision. Whatever your reason, the pandemic, your child has special needs, we wanted to try it out, whatever it is. The only thing that matters is that you’re comfortable with it.
When people challenge me like this, I really made an effort to explain myself at first. And when I thought, “Why? It’s not their business. They don’t know what our family has gone through or how we arrived at that decision.”
And back to frankly, it’s none of their business. There’s no better way to put it. It’s truly nobody’s business except your family’s. And by family, I don’t mean your father or mother, your in-laws, or whoever wants to give you their opinion. They might be well-intentioned, but their idea of what homeschooling is and the reality that is homeschooling is completely different. My sister, who’s a nurse in California, once said to me, “Only the weirdos homeschool.”
I said, “Okay, what exactly is a weirdo? Can you please define it for me? ‘Cause, it seems like it’s a very broad word.”
“They have no friends. They isolate themselves. They’re survivalists. They’re deeply religious people.”
I was like, “Well, perhaps, there might be individuals like that, but trust me, once you get out into the homeschool community, hopefully, sometime soon, you’re going to find out that the majority of the people are not weirdos. Or if they’re weirdos, they’re weirdos in a good way.”
One of the most shocking things that I found out in the community is that many retired teachers have given up their careers to homeschool their children.
As far as the kids being weird, let me tell you that when my kids went to preschool, they had a large group of friends. Very quickly, the families began dividing themselves by the people who lived in the town all their lives and the people who had just moved there. The people that just moved there, like my family, were not really included in a lot of things. In fact, we were often excluded. So, we really didn’t have that full sense of community. It never fully developed.
When we moved to Florida, where there’s a lot more racial diversity, religious diversity, cultural diversity, all kinds of diversity. However, we found out that the socialization component didn’t change because parents were so busy. They were busy with work, they were busy taking the kids to classes, and it was tough to connect. Also, most families that attended this private school lived all over the area, many within forty minutes of the school. So, it was a big deal to set up a playdate. Frankly, we were limited to the kids that were in the same classroom as our own children. We might not necessarily like the family or might not necessarily feel that the family’s a good fit with your family. Still, you’re kind of stuck in that group.
Things really changed when we began homeschooling because we could select who we wanted to socialize with. We belong to so many groups that were quite spread out all over the county. We have friends who were really close by and friends who were further away, friends who live in a couple of cities. And so, we traveled pretty extensively. The girls participated in theatre, dance, taekwondo, music lessons, piano, guitar, ukulele, voice lessons. And so, we met groups of people who shared more of our interests and values. So, our homeschool community was really a lot stronger than our traditional school community.
But again, everybody’s different. Maybe you’re not interested in that level of socialization for your kids. Maybe your kids are not interested in that. I’ve certainly met children that are homeschooled that are highly introverted, and they just want to have one or two friends. But I often heard from their parents that this is a much better situation because they can connect with children that share their own interest. And so, the bonding is stronger. They feel safer socializing with the other kids. So, there’s a certain level of comfort there that the kids could not develop in the traditional homeschool setting.
So, are the kids’ weirdos? Maybe mine are. Yeah, perhaps they are. I mean, come on, how many thirteen-year-old girls want to be the next so and so that sing musical theater? I have one that’s selling an inflatable duck on Amazon. I have another one that’s constantly co-playing, and who knows what Bug, my five-year-old son, is going to come up with. Maybe they are all weirdos, but you know what they are? They’re happy weirdos, and that’s what’s important to me. So, I don’t care what other people think.
As far as their education, people often argue that homeschoolers fall behind. I have met that kind of homeschooler. You know, I had a couple of girlfriends that moved from Florida to California. One of them had no problems. The other one was investigated by the state. For some moms, it’s difficult to homeschool because they can’t separate homeschool time from being a mom. I know that sounds weird, but it’s one thing when you’re being the mom and their teacher, and it’s another thing when you’re being their mom. We’ll talk about that in another episode.
So, she was behind, but she wasn’t neglectful. Her child wasn’t so far behind that she couldn’t catch up. She was pretty young, and in less than three months, she was right on pace with everybody. But more often than not, when homeschoolers that I’ve met decide to go back to traditional school settings, and the state tests them, most of them test above grade level. A family where the girl decided she wanted to go back to school and the family was very supportive. The district tested her in the local high school. She should have been entering the ninth grade, but it turns out she was testing at advanced twelfth grade in almost every single subject. The school didn’t really know what to do with her because she was so advanced compared to the younger students, but then if they put her in the older grade, she would have to socialize with older students. So that was a challenge the family had to manage. But it is a challenge that I often see in homeschool kids.
Parents can be committed to homeschooling and homeschool in many different ways. But the parents that are committed to having college-bound teens, when they try to return to a traditional setting, most of the time, as I said, they’re far more advanced. And no, many of these moms do not have a college degree. Most moms have high school and some college. More and more, I’m seeing teachers who have chosen to retire, and I have met professional women. But the majority of the moms that homeschool and just do an amazing job are high school graduates.
So, when people say things like, “Are you qualified to teach your child?”
Yes. Yes, you are!
So, what did I say to this lady who almost ruined my New Year’s Eve party? I listened to her, and I thanked her for her opinion, and I was done. I didn’t argue with her ’cause that wouldn’t have gotten me anything. Frankly, it seems like the more you try to explain, the more aggravated you become, and the less that people will listen. So, I choose to go that route. I just decided to thank her for her opinion, and she felt great about herself.
My party wasn’t ruined. My girls that the woman was concerned were not well socialized were impressing everybody at the table with their tenth-grade vocabulary even though they were only in the third grade. They were having conversations about the arts, politics, dancing around on the dance floor with adults and kids, and just having a blast!
I was being complimented constantly by everybody at the table. Most of our table mates were professionals whose children had already graduated from college. They were amazed at how well behaved, how well socialized, how intelligent my children were. Was it a contradiction? Yes, it was. And the thing about it was, I understood that this woman had minimal knowledge about homeschoolers. It felt great that everybody was complimenting, even if indirectly. They all thought I was doing a great job homeschooling my kids, socializing, educating, and turning them into well-rounded, imperfect individuals.
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