Wednesday, May 2, 2012

We're not all freaky wimps in homeschool land

This is a very late post--but that's okay, because some of my readers are night owls. And those of you who aren't are probably early risers, so you'll see it first thing tomorrow morning; it's all good.

In my online wanderings lately, I've had to sigh a bit as I've noticed a familiar end-of-the-year theme relating to homeschooling. I've seen this sort of thing crop up before, and it always tends to take one of these forms:

A: Thank the good Lord I don't homeschool! I'm not that crazy! Besides, I don't want my kids to grow up to be freaky wimps! But, waaaahhh! Summer's almost kids are going to be in the house all summer long!!! I'm going to go insane! I mean it...

B: I homeschool. But I'm horrible at it, ha, ha! My kids are practically savages! Foreign languages--oh, please, they barely speak English! And our idea of science class is a walk in the park. Literally. And then math is counting the number of scrapes and bruises Jenny got on the slide (mostly because Jimmy keeps pushing her off.) Can eight-year-old boys have homicidal tendencies? No, just kidding, glad he's not some freaky wimp with manners, or something. I mean, we already homeschool, and that's weird enough...

C: We are finally at the end of our year-long homeschooling experiment. I've only been griping about it since September 26. As I predicted, it has been a total failure. The kids are signed up for real school next year. I can't wait. Sure, the Super Duper Catholic people will judge me, but I knew I was going to hate this and fail at it, and so it's no surprise that I did. But that's okay, because I've decided that homeschooling is insane, and anyone who does it is insane, and their kids are all going to turn out to be freaky wimps...

Can I just say, on behalf of reasonably successful homeschoolers everywhere: enough, already?

I get that sometimes people might feel somewhat intimidated by people who homeschool and actually enjoy it and get a lot out of it and forge good relationships with their kids two of whom have decided to listen to Japanese language cds for fun when the "regular" school work of the day is over (no joke--they really are, though the third daughter is holding out so far, which will probably last until her sisters start telling secrets in Japanese, or until triple-digit summer temps make foreign language cds seem relaxing and distracting, whichever comes first). I understand that sometimes it might seem as though homeschooling moms look down on moms who don't homeschool, because some do--newsflash, even homeschooling moms are human beings prone to sin, so sure, some homeschooling moms can be jerks about it.

But lots of us are homeschooling because it's what works best for our family. We don't need to "keep it real" by pretending that our children are running wild (or did when they were little) because they didn't--but then, homeschooling and discipline are two different issues, aren't they? We don't need to pretend that we're raising geniuses (unless we are--but we, personally, are not, and that's fine). We don't look down our noses--most of us--at our fellow Catholics who public school or Catholic school or co-op school or small private school, because we're big believers in doing what works for your family. And we don't have some burning need to make-believe that the only sane people are the ones who tried homeschooling for a year before coming to their senses--because we've been doing it for a long time, and it still works for us.

So, here's the deal: if you would never in a million years consider homeschooling because you know that it wouldn't work for you: that's fine. Great, even. But please stop assuming that it doesn't work for anyone who isn't, you know, insane.

And if you homeschool in a totally relaxed and undisciplined manner which works for you because you're cool with ER visits and a really slow approach to things like spelling: that's fine. Great, even. But please stop assuming that all homeschoolers do things your way and that those who say they don't are just lying through their teeth, because it's not true.

And if you grudgingly and reluctantly started homeschooling last September 1 and regretted the decision by September 2 but clenched your teeth and got through the torture one dreaded workbook page at a time for a whole school year, that's fine, too. But please don't think that every homeschooling mom secretly hates her life and her work as a homeschool teacher, because some of us are fine with it and even love it, and would do it all over again if we could ('cause the elementary school Catholic workbooks are even cooler now then they were when I started this!).

After all, I do try to avoid sweeping assumptions about families who choose public school or Catholic school or private school. If they're doing what works best for their families, if their children are happy and have good, positive relationships with their parents and with each other, if life is good in general--then there's no problem.

So if my fellow Catholics would agree to avoid sweeping assumptions about families who homeschool (even if some of those assumptions are coming from families who homeschool), that would be nice. We're really not all freaky wimps out here. Especially the "wimps" part.


Anonymous said...

Go Red! I needed this today. Thank you, thank you!


Rebecca in ID said...

Thanks for posting this! I am so enjoying homeschooling with my four girls; I love their company, I love what they're learning and what I'm learning. I love the whole adventure. All the negativity I hear makes me sad, especially when it comes from home schoolers. My approach has changed through the years; for example, this last year I have been very unschooly, but my eldest daughter (almost 12) is asking me for more structure. She is telling me what I need to pick up at the store for science experiments and she is telling me she'd like to study the different countries/cultures one by one, in an organized way. The younger ones are insisting on learning Latin and violin like their sister, and working on it several times a week. Their love of learning is inspiring and humbling. I know everyone is different, but the one piece of advice I would have for any parent, homeschooling or not, is that if your approach or the school's approach is creating negativity in you or your kids, try something else. Drop it and do something *radically different* if necessary. Don't just keep beating your head against the same wall and hating every moment! It's all about love of learning and good relationships, so nurture those and the rest will follow. Be a fellow student.

Charlotte said...

Good post. I agree with 99% of it, I really do, despite the things I say on my blog.

However, I pay money every year to be a part of the local Catholic homeschool email and forum board, since about 10% of me is still open to the idea. The stuff the participants say there SCARE ME. Maybe it's only the loud-mouths, but they certainly ARE judging people who don't homeschool. And then when I read everything else they concern themselves with and complain about, well, I don't think they're wimps, but I am left leaning toward the "freaky" moniker.

Again, it might just be the most vocal loud-mouths and the other people are sitting back keeping quiet rolling their eyeballs like I am.

And as a side note, I wish the person on the homeschool forum here who keeps posting exciting! awesome! news announcements for boys to go to Legion Courage camps, etc., would just cut it out. But then if she did, the homeschoolers who insist on posting the latest messages from Medjugorje would have to knock it off, too.

We're all Catholic! What fun! (Laugh Erin! I am!) : )

Red Cardigan said...

Rebecca--that's great advice! Took me a few years to apply it myself. :) There's sometimes this need to cling to the way you think things "ought" to be done, even when they're not working. Getting beyond that notion is probably the best thing I've done for my girls.

Charlotte--I hear you! Actually, I've found that in some places the most vocal, most "involved" hs group people ARE the loudmouths--because they've got so much invested, maybe, or because they're natural cheerleaders anyway. I tend to avoid the local hs group--well, we're such a spread-out area, and most of the activities end up being 45 min. to an hour south of us, so after trying for a while I realized this was one thing that wasn't working at all, and set it free.

But we have a great parish and lots of extended family in the area, so my children aren't hurting for socialization. I know for other families the hs group, whatever its faults, is the best way to connect with other moms and kids. Again, it boils back down to doing what works for your family!

JMB said...

Thanks for writing this. It is so refreshing to hear from a home schooler that isn't complaining about her life. The only stuff I read online usually involves some sort of huge complaint, followed by advice that God is Calling YOU to homeschool, even if it means you don't want to do it. I always assumed that you should love what you are doing. I like being a mother, I enjoy my children and I don't mind summer vacations with them! I never had a desire to be a teacher, even as a young child. I teach CCD and it's a challenge. I just keep reminding myself that a spiritual work of mercy is "teaching the ignorant". That makes it better.

Deirdre Mundy said...

I hardly ever talk about homeschooling on line because--well, I like it. And it words for us. And we're pretty relaxed right now because my oldest is in second grade, and since I don't count 'reading for fun' as school, our actual, at the table, school time is pretty short. Because she's in second grade, and because if she's reading Little House or Stuart Little or Beverly Cleary I have trouble demanding that she put down the high quality literature and come do a worksheet RIGHT NOW.

My big problem (hey, maybe you guys can help out!) is finding an elementary school science text that is not 1. So superficial that it's boring (Harcourt) 2. Sentimental and gushy or 3. Written from a 'science is bad and you really shouldn't think to much about it because scientists are ungodly' perspective. Does anyone know of a GOOD science series for elementary school aged kids? One that has good graphics, interesting information, and hits life and earth sciences?

So that's my big complaint-- Science resources for homeschoolers are sadly lacking (though my friends remind me that second grade science has ALWAYS been lame....)

Rebecca in ID said...

Deirdre, there may be a good science text out there but I have never really run into one I like. And, I'm beginning to think that the whole premise of a science textbook for elementary age is a bit off. It doesn't really work. What I have found *does* work is getting a lot of good books from the library, like Isaac Asimov's books written for children (I've never seen his atheism come out in any way), Jim Arnosky's books, or just any books focusing on one topic of science, with some good illustrations. That kind of stuff really sparks interest. Then there are a lot of great reference books out there with good pictures and interesting facts, lots of times stuff you can pick up at Costco. Something you may want to consider for a little later--this last year we have been working with Supercharged Science, which is taught by a scientist and geared specifically towards home schoolers. The woman has worked with NASA, taught at Cal-Poly, brilliant woman, but knows how to bring it down and spark the interest. My 11-year-old daughter has, on her own (I sometimes have to pick up a part or two), made a robotic hand, a hovercraft, a working model of lungs, a model of an eye, and many other fascinating things. I don't even tell her to do the experiments; she asks if she can go on the computer and look up a new experiment. There are also, once a month or so, free online classes which last an hour or more. Anyway, the cost is a dollar for the first month, so you can see what all the stuff looks like and whether you want to do it, then $38 per month after that. I'm seeing a neat trickle-down effect where the younger ones are getting interested in what their sister is doing.

Roxaline said...

Apologia is a great science program for elementary age! It is explained nicely for the younger age while keeping their attention. Only drawback is that it is a textbook that has to be read to them (at least in younger grades). My daughter is in second grade and finishing up the human anatomy text and LOVES it!

Sue said...

Wow! I didn't know that anyone chose to study Japanese anymore - I started back at the end of the 80's when there was supposedly a boom, and even then there weren't that many of us. Tell your girls I said, "gambatte!"

We'll be winding up our 8th year homeschooling year pretty soon here, and we still love it and feel that it's the very best fit for us. That doesn't mean it's always easy, or that I never worry about whether I'm doing it as well as I could (I'm a bit nervous about starting high school with my oldest in Sept.). Sometimes things worth doing are hard. The main thing is knowing God's will for our own family and, as you said not assuming that anyone who chooses something else is insane!

danielle @ RLR said...

This ranks up there with my fave homeschooling articles ever!

I started homeschooling my oldest for practical reasons. Long story. I'll spare you the deets. But as time flowed...I began to enjoy myself more and more. And I've just kinda sorta never stopped.

I'm now homeschooling my daughter too.

My youngest has significant special needs and right now the best fit for him (and the other two) is in a school setting. And that's okay!

Which is why I looooooved how you expressed that many of us do this because it's right for our families!

Anyway...clearly I need to learn the art of the simple comment. But you just totally lit my fire with this one!