This post is dedicated to the wonderful & talented Idzie, also Maine Coons magazine.
Today I’m lying on a table getting myofascial massage for my head and neck pain. The bodywork feels amazing and strange and all of a sudden the pain and lack of movement in my neck are drastically reduced. I am not only given incredible massage and manipulated but shown the weirdest fracking exercise I’ve ever come across, like seriously I’m embarassed to have to do it in a room with two people watching my technique, and no I’m fully clothed and mostly lying down, it’s just an incredibly weird series of movements.
The practitioner and her assistant find out I homeschool, because they ask about my “workday”. Four minutes later they’ve forgotten already as they ask in the kid in the lobby is with the Hoquiam school district. “My kids are homeschooled,” I remind them.
What follows is the very typical, OH SO TYPICAL I could write it out verbatim, series of questions and statements (this happens a lot when I’m a “captive” audience, dentist etc). Including, “Homeschooling works, but only if the parents are educated” and horror stories of totally messed-up kids that are a direct result of homeschooling (no totally messed-up kids are ever credited as the direct result of public schooling, just so you know). I know I should be long past this, but I am always surprised when people who did not or do not homeschool and display profound ignorance about those worlds (including not knowing state requirements or legalities of home education nor, even more importantly, having delved into the autodidactic tradition with even one toe), proceed to tell ME with authority tons of Truthy realities, I mean just go on and on. And then, comically, end the often one-sided conversation (one-sided as far as openmindedness, assuredly) with a version of, here’s today’s: “Well, I don’t really have an opinion one way or the other.” Pro-tip, Yes You Do.
Today I have a life lived in gratitude and I can tell you, no matter how cheeky I sound here, I am in full acceptance of these varieties of limitation and I don’t hold a grudge (I mean come on… I have my limitations too, like everyone). Maybe I feel a twinge of sadness. I find it’s pretty easy to have a conversation with consideration to person going on, and with a good deal of kindness. “Yes, reading and math are frequently issues of controversy when it comes to home education.” That is a statement of fact and I can say it. The fact I get queried, very rarely, what I believe or how we do things, lends me to further consider that yes, People Do Have Opinions, and they aren’t availing themselves of mine, and that’s cool. This is made all the more comical given how many parents, adults, and teachers have taken me aside to ask me How Did I Get My Kids To Read So Early or, Wait, Kids Can DO That? It’s like I get the recognition something is working, but a constant stream of opinions as to how it Can’t or Won’t.
Since our family is in quite the minority in America by not only “homeschooling” but also not following school-at-home edicts nor centering our parenting in an authoritarian/authoritative fashion, we’re regularly asked to not only defend our very lives but give a treatise or exposition on how Stuff Works, like college. And the law. And free-range kids. In conversations I try to be kindest to the adult in question while being entirely honest (many people who don’t school stay in the closet, so to speak – and there are many compelling reasons to do so). This keeps me relaxed and enjoying the conversation. No, really. But I really do get the vibe that when my children display epic talents or literacy or math skills or social skills I’m looked at as an exceptionally “good mom” (I’ve already written on this), whereas, in the case of questioning and commentary on the lines I received today (Ignorant to Semi-Hostile, with Socially Polite Overtones), I can feel the beady eye on my kids and any, at all, “backwards” or squirellyness or even unusual sartorial expression is received with an arch eyebrow. Whatever.
Anyway, today my son had kids at the door all day long begging him to come out and run the neighborhood. My daughter (after putting finishing touches on her new blog) in her evening frock attended the hospital with me to visit a newborn and new mom, speaking directly and considerately to mom, friend, and hospital staff. Earlier she and her brother cooked and did dishes and laundry with me entirely peaceably, took care of pets, and socialized and assisted at an evening party of my mother’s. It’s not like I’m writing about Performance, I’m just saying, it’s really weird to be considered default=Batshit by so many for doing things that are Entirely Normal and work out really, really well.
Yes, it works out really, really well, and yet that seems to go entirely over the heads of all those people who are apparently unaware that schooling is the antithesis of everything neuroscience tells us about how human beings learn best.
I don’t think it’s a question of others not being able to grasp it, more like just constant indoctrination as we grow up! That indoctrination is likely why I get a pretty predictable series of statements based in myth or whatever (“But what about socialization?” etc).
Hey, thanks for your comment, and welcome to the blog!
I think it’s a defense mechanism. In general, people don’t like to be wrong. Add parenting to the mix, where doing the “wrong” thing can “ruin your kids for life” and confrontation is to be expected. Any explanation I provide as to why I don’t make my kids go to school can be perceived by the parents of a schooled child as an attack on their judgment and parenting. The fact that I am suggesting an alternative to what they have already accepted as prerequisite to success in life forces them to evaluate their choice when they may not have even known they had one. It’s uncomfortable, maybe even emotionally painful. It certainly is for me every time I am overwhelmed by the bombardment of “educational” messages we receive daily. Am I wrong? Am I messing her up? Will she be made fun of? It happens to parents on both sides of the fence. Our side just required an open mind for consideration. That doesn’t happen overnight. It took me about a year and I still struggle with it sometimes.
Thankfully, almost without exception, when something triggers my doubt to that degree, my daughter does something completely unexpected and wonderful that tells me I’m on the right track.
I’m sorry that you got judged while you were in the middle of an appointment where someone else had agreed to take care of you for a certain period of time. It happens too often and is a shame. It sounds like the massage was actually helping with the pain but something happened and they forgot that you’re not just a body on the table. You deserved to be loved, unconditionally, during your time there. Kidsync has a really good explanation of why that happened, which seems to apply so well to the occurrence in a grocery store, at a party, etc…but there is absolutely no excuse for that kind of judgement to be happening in a treatment space, where you should feel utterly safe and free to let go of what you are there to let go of. I hope you were able to get some healing from the experience and not just re-traumatized by the same bullshit you have to deal with in your everyday life. Much love to you.
I was going to copy bits of your comment to say “Amen” to, but the whole comment was stellar and I cosign it entirely.
I remember when my kids were very little and I would read about homeschooling parents (usually moms). I felt simultaneous revulsion, terror, low self-worth, anger, and envy. I couldn’t WAIT to put my kids in school and not be Overwhelmed all the time and I thought those Homeschooling moms were big show-off assholes making me look bad and making me feel bad because I didn’t love my kids right, or something. Ha, when I found out about Unschooling it sounded Dirty-Hippie Neglectful! This is just *me*, I’m talking about my sick mind back then. I don’t know how often other people are under these kinds of influences, but I remember mine well enough to have a modicum of perspective when someone blurts out criticism, etc.
I’m going to be honest and say I am unlikely to be entirely unguarded on the table with a new practitioner… yes, loving vibes would have been nice but I was at peace with these women’s commentary, maybe because I really have accepted how many minds are closed to the idea kids are People and OK on their own, without by-rote institutionalization. Et cetera. What else can I do but accept it?
Thank you for asking, I did actually receive some healing. I also managed to eventually get the conversation to a few other places. For instance I knew where the sphenoid was when I heard it mentioned and even brought up the Great Wing of Sphenoid and when the practitioner and the assistant asked how I knew this and I replied truthfully that I remembered it from high school they seemed surprised and pleased. The thought that occurred to me at that point was that in sobriety my mind is returning to me. “Once a pickle, you can never be a cucumber” as we say about alcoholics, but it was nice to feel like my old, old self, someone who has interest in a variety of disciplines.
And thanks, commentors, for being such a supportive group. I like that I can write out exactly what I’m up to and receive such thoughtful commentary and such typed-out TLC.
I always wonder how my kids would do if they were homeschooled, either with a classroom-style method at home or as unschoolers. I always worry that I wouldn’t be able to give them the time they needed and that I wouldn’t be able to address skills such as math, at which I suck. I’ve met people who homeschool with various styles/methods and each has related to me their family’s experience. It works/ed for some and not for others, for many different reasons. For me, when I think about homeschooling Maeve, I have these fears that she won’t learn anything new, since she gravitates towards things she already knows about and books she’s already read. I have to push her to do anything new. Earlier in the week Scott and I told her that she needed to read The Hobbit and somehow Scott convinced her to do it. A day and a half and she was done and saying “The Hobbit is the best book ever!” and asked to read the Lord of the Rings. It took us 2 years to get her to that point so who knows what would happen if she weren’t required to do things, school-wise?
You and Kidsync have pretty much summed up both sides of the coin when it comes to why people have such strong anti-homeschool opinions. And yes, a lot of the opinions people hold are really based in their own fears of not being a good enough parent. The idea that they could offer their kids anything remotely close to a good education without using the public school system is alien, mostly because we’ve held the idea of college degrees and experience in such high regard for the past 50 years or more. I’d like to add that for some people, school is literally their child care, because they have to work during the day and have no support network with which to facilitate a homeschooling experience. The idea of not having a school to send their kids to, a place where they will (ostensibly) be safe, scares the crap out of them.
I’d also like to point out that all the people I know who have been or are homeschoolers have a minimum of a bachelor’s degree, often more. These are individuals who have had the opportunity to know that there are other options than traditional schooling and have investigated their options. I’ve never met a homeschooler who only had a high school diploma or a GED. That’s not to say that such a person isn’t capable of homeschooling and raising successful children or that there are no homeschooling families who don’t have college degrees. But it does mean that such a family would be more likely to have a lower income and therefore need both parents to work, especially if they lived in a major city. I know that in DC, the goal of the poorer population is to get their kids into the best schools possible by any means necessary. For a lot of them it means vouchers to go to private schools or charter schools. In the 4 years that I lived in the metro DC area, I heard a lot of news on the local NPR station regarding schooling, many of which were forums where people came to address their education concerns. Not once did I hear anyone say that they were considering taking their kids out of the schools in order to homeschool them – their paradigm for education always involved a classroom. Just something to think about.