Saturday, October 15, 2011

Can't We All Just Get Along...

Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative
This last month has given me reason to stop and reflect back over our educational journey. I remember the day the church secretary took me to task about our decision to homeschool. She was anxious to see me put the kids in 'real' school, get a 'real' job, and rescue my family from certain financial ruin. It would have been a good gig if I could have gotten it. As we all know, I didn't.

Since a 'real job' was elusive, I kept homeschooling. At the time, I spent a lot of days wishing I could see the future. Then, I could show her what my kids would be and do in 10 year's time. The future is here. Look at us now. Would she be proud that the newly 21-year-old son of a fraidy cat, who has vestibular vertigo, is about to jump on a hot air balloon half a world away. He's in hot pursuit of his own personal bucket list. He didn't get that courage from you-know-who.

Back when we started homeschooling, there was a great divide over the choice. The educational world was awash in an 'us against them' mentality. If we went out in public during the school day, we did so apprehensively, apologetically, and fearfully. At least one person would be sure to ask if we'd been to the dentist and then look askance when we muttered that we were homeschoolers. I made sure no one had bangs covering their foreheads just to make sure onlookers could see that we didn't have a hidden 3rd eyeball.

These days, the atmosphere is a lot friendlier. Sadly, you can still expect to receive petulant whines and frosty rebukes about 'socialization'. A friend's neighbor, a retired school teacher, quizzed her about her children's hygiene habits. The same lady would knock on their door at 8:30am with some concern or another. Mostly, she wanted to reassure herself that 6 homeschooled kids were up and at 'em. Just last week, I was in a public venue that hosts a regular homeschool event. One of the employees commented, “If they were in REAL school....” and filled in the blank regarding a perceived inequity between homeschoolers and traditionally schooled kids.

Over the years, I've known families who only homeschooled from the time their kids were in utero til high school graduation. I've also known families who had one kid in homeschool, one in private, and another in public school all at the same time.

Lately, one friend unexpectedly entered her school aged kids into public school after a set of twins were born. Over the years we had discussed her homeschooling journey. My constant reassurance was, “Don't can't break them.”

She recently messaged me: “ were always right. I didn't break them. They are doing wonderfully well in their public school.” I couldn't be prouder if I was the mother and grandmother to that growing brood.

As more and more families opt for the choice, fewer folks look at us with outright derision. Retired school teachers often respond favorably and say, “Oh, my family member homeschools.” A lot of homeschoolers are former teachers who left the system to educate their own kids. Take it from me, it takes us a while to get over our former jobs as we settle into a homeschool lifestlye!

We recently joined a church sponsored fitness center with a lot of retirees on the roster. At first, our presence during school hours gave a lot of them pause. They'd eye Son #2 suspiciously as we fumbled our way into familiarity with the equipment. Of course, it didn't help any that he had a scowl and hairstyle meant to evoke echo's of his love for heavy metal music. Eventually, I found a way to inform most that we were homeschoolers fulfilling his high school PE requirement.

As the weeks have worn on, a sweet, sweet thing has happened. The same folks who used to look at us with thinly veiled discomfort now brighten when they see him. Some of the seniors are helping him develop a mean game of pool. For some, I think he is becoming a link to their own grandchildren scattered across the country. That softening toward him started before a haircut quashed the rumor that he had a 3rd eyeball in the middle of his forehead.

A couple of weeks ago, an unexpected thing happened. I was with a group of homeschool moms, only one of whom knew about Son #1's job adventure. She asked me for news which obviously piqued the interest of the others. As I explained, they reacted pretty much like everyone else. Gasps of excitement and interest erupted, and then, conversations quickly turned to other things.

I am afraid, however, I saw shadows of doubt or apprehension cross some faces. Were those initial responses of excitement quickly followed by some sense of inadequacy? Were they thinking, “Why her kid and not mine? Did I do all I could? What should I have done that I didn't do? Will my kid succeed too? Why, her son is only 20! What did she do that I didn't do?”

As homeschoolers we have a sense of propelling each other through doubt and confusion into confidence and success as we navigate this ever progressing educational choice. No 2 of us use the same curriculum in the same way or even at the same times. Success will look different for each of us on any given day. The success of one homeschool grad is ultimately a success for all no matter what the venue.

Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative
God's plan for our life has been so different. Not a single day has gone by that I have not wished for an easier, more well-traveled road. The choices that were good for us 2 years ago may not work so well next year. The choices that work well for you would be a disaster for us. Our successes might bring you heart ache in the context of your own life.

In the end, parenting in this rapidly changing, ever more confusing, fraidy cat just plain scary. I need you, and you need me as our kids inevitably experience both success and failure in life. We won't make it as well without each other. Our mutual support should transcend the choices we make about the educational journeys our families navigate in any given year.

Courtesy B. Creasy
Knowing what I know, seeing what I've seen, today my heart cries out, why can't we all just get along? 

Ecclesiastes 4:10
And if one has a fall, the other will give him a hand; but unhappy is the man who is by himself, because he has no helper.


  1. Much needed encouragement at just the right time! I've been groaning about how much school we have missed and how behind the kids are because of this terribly timed move across the country! Putting them in school was seeming more and more like a good option for us lately...Even though my kids haven't seemingly conquered any fears or obstacles in their own life, I see little things such as self-motivation and independence when it comes to studying and "doing school". Thanks for the encouragement, friend! (By the way, we love Isaac's hairstyle :)

  2. I have become quite the fan of your blog... And now more than ever. As a "newcomer" to the homeschool world, I have a million questions, concerns and misunderstandings. I look at many of you "veteran" homeschoolers and envy your accomplishments and persistence! I hang on every word of moms who have been down the road before me.... Bring on the words, string them together, teach me good things. I need all the help I can get! And thank you for sharing...