The subject of this post is one that I usually avoid, but it deals with a question that every home-educating family has heard over and over again, and quite frankly, I am sick of it.
If you home school, I don't need to tell you what I am talking about.
If you don't home school, then you need to know that this question is a little like fingernails on a chalkboard to families who do home school.
Now, I don't normally sit around thinking about how to answer this question, but a fellow home educating mom shared something this week on Facebook that got me started wondering if the way I respond is the best way. I started thinking that it is possible that the better way to respond would be to offer an invitation, but before I tackle that aspect of this topic, I want to start with how I want to respond to the way this question is typically posed in the media.
The next time someone asks me if I am worried about my children's socialization, this is the response I hope to be brave enough to give them: "Absolutely, that is one of the main reasons I home school."
If you don't understand what I mean by that response, spend a little time researching exactly what socialization means and I think you'll get it.
Now that I've got the annoyed response out of the way, let me share how this conversation normally goes. Most new people I meet seem to be worried about my kids having adequate opportunities to develop their social skills, but they ask the question with a little more tact. It usually goes something like this: "Are you part of a home school group or co-op or something?" The first few times this happened, I really didn't think much of it. At the beginning of this journey, I honestly didn't know how to answer the question ... and back then, I didn't even understand the difference between socialization and developing social skills. Now, several years and three kids into our home-schooling adventure, I think I have been asked some version of this question by every (non-homeschooling) person I have met since we started. For the most part, it really doesn't bother me, but once in a while I come across something so outrageous that I can't help but wish I had a better answer for those random people (like a lady who quizzed me for several minutes in Walmart one time) that feel the need to check up on my kids social skills. And now, thanks to the most ridiculous blog post about homeschooling that I have ever read, I think I have finally found my answer.
A friend on Facebook brought to my (and other home-educators) attention a blog post entitled More Like Homecrueling written by a young woman in upstate New York. The best I can tell, this girl isn't married and doesn't have any children, but she has come across a few home schoolers in her life and based on these 3 or 4 individuals, she has formed the opinion that home schooled children are all socially awkward recluses sitting in their homes pining away to join the normal kids on the school bus as it passes by their home every morning. I don't feel the need to address the absolute absurdity, not to mention, narrow-mindedness, of her opinion, but after reading the 300+ comments on the post, I must admit that she obviously touched a nerve ... and not just among home schooling families. It really shouldn't surprise anyone that such a derogatory opinion put forth in such an inflammatory way might ruffle a few feathers, but I was shocked at the number of comments and the many issues surrounding home education on which they touched. I won't go into all of that here, let me just say that the discussion became a spring board for what I am about to share.
In the future, perhaps I should answer questions about our home schooling with an invitation. Maybe I could word it this way.
If you are interested in knowing anything about my kids, let me invite you to get to know them. Talk to my children ... don't quiz them on whether or not they would rather be in public school, or if it is hard to have their Mama teach them all the time. Just get to know them. Ask them about their likes and dislikes, their hobbies, and what they like to read or the games they like to play. Come with us to little league games and dance recitals and see them interact with their friends (most of whom attend public school). If you still aren't satisfied, come visit our church and witness first-hand their relationships there, both with other children and with the adults that they easily communicate with on a regular basis.
Still unsure? Here's one final option ...
Join our family at one of our home school group meetings and just observe the kids. You might be surprised to find a group of kids from all types of backgrounds ... some are rich, some are poor, most are probably in the middle. The reasons why these families have chosen to home educate their children are as varied as the children themselves. If you view us with an open mind, you will find that very few of us are operating under the belief that our children are perfect, or that the education that we are providing for those kids is perfect. Most of us have many fears about our own abilities, but we move forward in faith that God is going to honor our efforts. And, contrary to what seems to be a popular opinion, most of us don't think that we are better parents simply because we home school our kids. We don't look down on the parents of children in public school, and, while some home schoolers are definitely over-achievers, most of us are parents of normal kids going about normal lives, with this one exception - we choose to be fully responsible for our children's education.
I feel quite certain that I will never deliver this little speech anywhere but here, but it feels good just to get it out of my head. After having read almost all of the comments on the blog post mentioned above, the one comment that was repeated several times and that made me want to respond most vehemently, was the idea that because I don't hold a degree in every subject that I will need to teach my children, I am obviously unqualified. Since I didn't care to add to the craziness on the blog (and since the author was obviously uninterested in hearing any point of view that opposed her own), I'll tell you what I think about that here. While it is true that I am not an expert in much of anything, I am passionate about my children learning what they need to know and I am fully aware that the responsibility sits squarely on my shoulders. I cannot tell you right now exactly how I will handle advanced math and science classes for my children because we haven't reached that level yet, but I can tell you that I firmly believe that if I instill a solid work ethic (which we are still working on) and a love of learning in my children then they will have the tools they need to learn any subject.
This just might be one of the longest posts I have ever written for this blog, which probably tells you how very passionate I am about the subject at hand. And, while the attitudes of others may not affect my ability to educate my kids, no one likes to be stereotyped for any reason. Somehow, I don't think the author, or those commenting so strongly against home schooling on that other blog, would like to have the choices they make for their children (if they even have them) scrutinized and declared cruel or unacceptable, especially by those who know absolutely nothing about the life they lead. Who would?