It's a scenario that has reared its ugly head at one point or another in every homeschooling family's life..
We all have that one “friend” or family member who has their opinion of homeschooling and is quick to share it with you. We've all heard the unsubstantiated remarks about socialization, lower test scores, lack of accountability and even the snide comments about our own educational level as a parent.
But those aren't the comments I'm talking about today. Instead, I would like to talk about the comments that come from the people we least expect it from – the people who are suppose to be (and for the most part are) on our side. The ones who say they are 100% on board with the idea of homeschooling but inadvertently turn around and say something that cuts deeper than anything your brother in law's wife could have said behind your back. Today's writing isn't so much for you, the homeschooling teacher, but for those family members.
Why did you say that?
I have a wonderful husband. Two years ago, when we were told that the school on base could not accommodate my son and would have to send him to a school 30 miles off base, my husband agreed that educating Garrett in our own home would be optimal. I admit, I'm not a special needs teacher and I have absolutely no formal instruction in educating kids. However, we both agreed that I knew my son best and would have a better idea of how to engage him and educate him. My husband was also on board when it came time to send our youngest to public schools and instead decided to keep her home and let the two learn together.
So imagine my surprise when the other day, overhearing a conversation between him and his parents on the phone, I heard him tell his father that we would most likely be putting the kids in public schools soon.
This was news to me. I didn't get that memo obviously, because as far as I knew, I had absolutely no plans of putting my kids into the public system.
At first, I was hurt by his comments. Did he lose faith in my ability to teach our children? Did he think I was doing a poor job?
Finally a few days later, I sat and I asked him about it (of course, after I huffed and sighed and had him ask me 100 times “Whats wrong” only for me to reply “Nothing!”). What was his reasoning in saying something like that?
His answer : “I know that eventually you're going to put them into public schools because you're not prepared to teach them higher level maths”.
My husband was going to sell me out over Trigonometry and Calculus.
What you say can hurt
When it comes to these types of comments, a spouse or family member might think their comments are with good intentions and not realize how much their comments can hurt us, especially a mom who is new to homeschooling who is struggling to find her niche. We're at a point where we are questioning everything: Am I doing enough? Am I doing too much? Is science and history really important in the lower elementary years?
We are already questioning every little move we make so when a well intentioned family member makes a comment or asks a question that taps into our already growing lack of confidence in what we are doing, it sends us into a tailspin of self doubt and emotional sabotage. Suddenly we're sitting there questioning if what we are doing is the best decision for our children or if maybe public schools are the better choice. It's one thing to have Snooty PTA Mom Suzi to say that lack of socialization due to homeschooling will cause our children to become hardened serial killers: it might bug us but we're not really going to take it to heart. It's a completely different situation when it's our spouse, friend or family member who's opinion we hold in high regards.
What not to say
How will you teach higher level subjects (math/science) when you did not take those types of classes yourself?
This is probably the easiest question to answer my husband when we had this discussion.. Simply put: I probably won't. I know my limitations. I hated higher math in school. I got as far as Algebra 2 and that was it for me. However, the local community colleges are more than happy to let me hand over my credit card to allow my home schooled child to attend a class on Trigonometry or Calculus if they get to that point. There are also plenty of educational websites that for a monthly fee, claim they can teach my children higher math concepts. However, right now my kids are in 1st grade and are working on 10+X=24 which I can handle just fine. Plus, we are never too old to learn ourselves. There are plenty of things I failed to learn in my years of school that I'm learning right along side with my kids so who knows, maybe I'll also learn Trigonometry as well.
Don't you feel the children are missing out on socialization with other kids their own age?
Socialization seems to be the go to argument for everything. We're so obsessed with socialization: even our dogs have to be taken out for play dates for socialization! My daughter has been in public schools since Kindergarten and before that she attended day care and so I have had the opportunity to observe this “all important” socialization. It's not all its cracked up to be. My daughter gets to sit around with
They won’t get to do extra-curricular activities.
Someone is always going to bring this one up. Maybe Dad was the quarterback on the high school football team and has dreams of reliving his youth through his son. You're sister was in the band and believes that playing an instrument is an important skill. Guess what? Just about anything a school who attends public schools participates in, my children can also participate in. Not only that, but my kids have the opportunities to participate in even more electives then what most public schools offer. My kids can take art classes, music classes, and instrument lessons just like any other kids: my son is learning to play the bagpipes for example. Sports such as football, soccer, and baseball are offered at local YMCAs and youth recreation programs. Homeschooled kids are at dance recitals and baseball practice right along side public schooled children every day and homeschooling moms and dads are rushing from one activity to another just like the PTA moms.
They’ll never learn to compare themselves to their peers
And what is the problem with this? Lets face it, kids don't sit with each other comparing how many hours they studied, how many novels they read last month or what enrichment programs they are interested in. Instead, they listen to each other insulting, bullying and belittling others based on their weight, looks and clothing. They are talking about who's the best kisser, who's lost their virginity and who the class prude is. Kids are developing eating disorders and committing suicide over these “comparisons”. I would much rather my children learn a healthy dose of self-confidence to help them as they grow into adulthood. I would rather my children learn that failure is a stepping stone for success – that it is okay to try something and fail and then try again until you learn and succeed. I also want my kids to know that here in our learning environment, they are safe from ridicule if they do fail. They then learn the self confidence they will need later in life to not be afraid of failure and continue on until they achieve their final goal. Public schools have eliminated any idea of healthy competition anyway. Thanks go the “Everyone’s a winner” mentality, children don't learn the rewards of hard work in order to take top price. They learn at an early age that even if you put in minimal effort, you still get recognition.
They can’t graduate from home school. How will they get into a college without a diploma?
Yes, they can.. And yes, they will. Yes, it's a time consuming project for the homeschooling parent but each class we teach our kids at the high school level translates to high school credits on a transcript. Once my kids complete a course of study that both the state and I feel is equivalent to what the graduating seniors at the public school have accomplished, then I will issue them a diploma. I'll even let them pick out whatever colors for a cap and gown and we will have senior pictures taken for the wall. Also, many colleges and universities allow high school students to take one or two college courses per semester to go towards both high school credits and college credits.
What you DON'T say also hurts
Finally, a point I should make is that sometimes its not what someone says but what they don't say that hurts. When I put my heart into teaching my children and my spouse shows little to no interest in what we have done, it hurts. The slight might not have been meant but that doesn't make it hurt any less. Add that to the fact that I'm one of those who needs affirmation of some sort from my husband and this creates a problem. I want/need to hear my husband say I'm doing a great job with the kids, that he feels that the education I am providing for them is at least adequate (preferably more than adequate) in his eyes. There are days I feel like I'm putting the kids on display (Hey Ash, tell daddy what the colors on the flag represent! Garrett, tell Daddy what the capital of Brazil is!) only to have little response as far as those needed words of affirmation go. This is disheartening to the homeschooling parent. However, I know that my kids know more about a large variety of subjects then their public school peers (they even know more some topics then my public school taught 10th grader, who cannot tell you where the state of New York is on the map). I plan on keeping it that way. So my affirmation will come not in the words I'm not hearing right now but will come in the form of two young adults who will be well rounded, well educated and hopefully successful in the real world.
But just in case you are a loved one of a homeschooling parent – try to make a point of telling them they are doing a good job and ask the kids what they learned today. Those two simple things can make a world of difference.