Monday, March 5, 2012

Does it offend you that I homeschool?

The  conversation usually goes something like this...

Stranger:  "How old are your kids?"

Me: "They are 1, 3, 4, and 5."

Stranger:  "Wow, you must have your hands full.  Are any of them in school yet?"

Me:  "Yeah, we homeschool."

Stranger:  (surprise)  "You must be very patient.  I could never do that."

Me:  "I'm not that patient.  I am constantly working on it though."

Stranger:  (some sort of question about socialization, whether or not I have a teaching degree, how I am going to teach them to read, etc.  I actually had one man, a previous neighbor, say "Don't you think that's pretty arrogant of you to assume you know how to educate your kid better than all the teachers in the public school?" Yeah, people can get pretty rude here)

Me:  "My kids are very social." or "No, you don't need a degree to teach your children." or  "Well, I'll teach them each according to their learning style and when they are ready to learn"  and as for the neighbor, I simply said "I'm sorry you think that.  I have to get back inside.  It was nice talking to you."

Stranger:  "So, what made you decide to homeschool?"

What should I say here? 

"Well we feel that the public school system fails to promote creativity and individuality, encourages teaching to a test to obtain high scores, and creates a prisoner or slave mentality in children, and basically is not a safe, loving, encouraging, or positive environment.  In fact, we believe it to be pretty much the exact opposite.  The school system is an unsafe, unloving, discouraging, and negative environment."

All of these things I have felt about some teacher, class or school at one time or another, not necessarily all of these things about every school all the time. Yes, I know that not every teacher or every class or every school would be described this way. There are some wonderful teachers that truly devote their lives to educating other people's children and the schools, students and families in communities around the country are made better places because of them.  Thank you to those teachers.  You know if you are one of them.  But.  There are no guarantees.

No, of course I don't say that.  If I did ,most people would take that to mean the same thing as if I were to say:

"You must not care about your children  at all to send them to such a horrible place!" ( Before you start your angry comment, hear me out.)

My response is usually some version of :

"There are a lot of different reasons. We have spent a lot of time figuring out what is best for our family, right now, homeschooling is best."

Okay, maybe I have spent more time thinking about it (since my oldest was about 2) than my husband but he listens to my opinion and thankfully respects it and, yes, we are in agreement that at this time, homeschooling works best for us and our children.  There may be a time when that changes and we will put a lot of thought (and prayer) into any other decision we make for our children. 

Even with this very non-confrontational response, the conversation turns slightly uncomfortable about half of the time.  It's as if I have somehow offended someone by the act of not enrolling my children in their  school.

What I would really like to ask at this point is:

"So, what made you decide to public school?"

Hmmmm, I really wonder what kind of response I would get.

I wonder if the people who criticise our family's decision have spent years researching educational choices, questioning themselves, praying for guidance, and learning about their children's personality, interests, and learning styles.  I'm sure some do.  But more probably just say, "Okay, he's 5 now, time to hand him over to the government (also known as enrolling him in public school)"? 

I feel like homeschoolers are constantly being judged, but if we criticise public schools (and it seems that just the act of keeping our children out of public schools is a criticism) then we are judging others, and how dare we!

I carry kids on my back.  Please no comments on the mess in the background or that I obviously hadn't brushed my hair this day...I had a baby and 3 toddlers.  Enough said?
No, I don't like the schools and I think they are a generally unhealthy environment for children and do more harm than good.  But does it offend me that millions of parents enroll their children in the care of mostly strangers each year with no questions asked?  Nope.  I am happy that we all are still free to choose.

Some people choose not to spank their children.  Is that an act of judging me personally for choosing to spank my children?  Probably not.  Who knows,  maybe it is.  Do I care? 

What do you think?