When doing the research for this blog, I asked a number of home schooling parents to share with me the things people have said to them when they mentioned that they home school. The response was overwhelming, and for a while I thought I might have to turn this into a top twenty! I even received some responses from kids and teenagers about what people have said directly to them. Keep in mind that the top ten list contains actual real-life comments–none are made up.
If you aren’t a home schooling parent, you may not at first understand the implications of each comment on the top ten list. However, as a socially responsible individual, it behooves you to read the list, and the following explanation of each item, if only for the purpose of educating yourself. I hope the result of this list will be three-fold: Firstly, that home schooling parents everywhere will get a chuckle and, secondly, realize they are not alone. Thirdly, that those who don’t home school recognize that their comments, while possibly well-meaning, run the gamut from not very nice to just plain mean and/or ignorant of home schooling in general.
So, here we go, in typical David Letterman fashion:
The Top Ten Things Not to Say to A Home Schooling Parent
10. “I’d shoot myself if I had to spend that much time with my kids!”
9. “How could you possibly teach all of those subjects to all different grades?”
8. “You’re not a professional / You don’t have a teaching degree so you shouldn’t be teaching.”
7. “But your kids seem so normal.”
6. “I don’t think its healthy for kids to be around their parents all day.”
5. “Oh, you only have two children? I thought home school families had at least 18 kids!”
4. “But your kids will miss out on… going to the prom / being on a sports team / being in band / going on field trips.”
3. “They’ll never fit in when they go to college… if they can get into college.”
2. “What about socialization?”
1. “How can you do that to your kids?”
And now to address each comment:
10. This comment was made to Jennifer, a home schooling mother of three, who then responded by asking, “So, why did you have children, anyway?” Children are a blessing and should be treated as such.
9. We are able to teach multiple subjects to multiple grade levels simultaneously because home schooled children are able to follow directions, focus, and apply themselves to the work. While our homes may resemble the one-room-schoolhouses of old, that isn’t a bad thing–we are able to devote much more time to the needs of each individual child than a traditional school teacher who has 15, 20, 25, or more students to deal with in one class. Additionally, we can tailor each child’s education to his/her individual learning style. Of course we aren’t perfect, and we are often able to be an example of one who is able to laugh at oneself and still keep moving forward.
8. To define two words, a “professional” is someone who does something for a paycheck. It is true that most home schooling parents do not have teaching degrees, therefore we are amateurs. An “amateur” is someone who does something because they love doing it. The paycheck of a home school parent is the reward of seeing our children learn and grow each day.
7. Yes, home school children are perfectly normal. They can carry on intelligent conversations with their peers as well as adults. They are involved in their community, they have after-school jobs, and they are polite and well-mannered.
6. Lynda, a home schooling mom of boys, told me that when she receives this comment, she usually replies by saying, “Oh, its okay for us because we actually like each other.” She admits the comment is a bit smarmy, but there is truth to it–home school kids and their parents actually get along! It may not be a bed of roses 24/7, but the kids seem to have a better grasp of how much their parents care for them, that their parents’ advice is worthwhile, and that father really does know best.
5. Well, we can’t all be like the Duggars.
4. The prom: As a mom who loves her daughters, I can honestly say, “Thank God my girls will not be subjected to a prom.” And it isn’t like my girls will never have the chance to show off their social graces. There are wedding receptions, formal banquets, and other events for which they will be able to get all frilly and gorgeous and all without the peer pressure of a prom.
Sports: Many states and school districts allow home schoolers to try out for a spot on their teams. In my area’s school districts, there are home school kids on the public school soccer, cross country, golf, tennis, swim, and volleyball teams, and on the cheer leading squad. In some areas, home school co-ops are so large they have competitive teams within the organization. For those in districts which don’t integrate home schoolers into public school teams, there are always club sports (usually through the YMCA or a similar organization), private lessons (gymnastics and dance), or a student can take up a lifetime fitness sport at their leisure (running, cycling, golf). Athletic opportunities abound.
Band: Many home school kids take private music lessons. Those who excel often become a part of local and regional youth orchestras. A friend of mine who felt that music should be an integral part of her home school allowed her children to explore various musical instruments. All three eventually earned spots in the Erie Junior Philharmonic Orchestra.
Field Trips: Traditional school field trips can’t even hold a candle to home school field trips. Small families have access to far more experiences than an entire busload of children and we can spend more time in the museum than, say, lining up for the bus. Smaller groups have fewer distractions and are able to focus more on learning. We can take up an entire week visiting every major sight of the historic triangle of Yorktown, Jamestowne, and Williamsburg, VA; we can hike a portion of the Appalachian Trail; we can even spend two weeks to drive from north western PA to Glacier National Park in Montana and stop at Mt. Rushmore, the Badlands, Devil’s Tower, and Yellowstone on the way… If you home school, you know what I’m talking about. And because home schoolers aren’t restricted by traditional school schedules, we can go on these extended field trips at any time of the year.
3. A recent poll of college professors concluded that home school students are much better at communicating with their professors than their traditional school counterparts. Another poll found that many colleges, including those considered “ivy league,” recruit home schooled students because they tend to work hard and are self-motivated. As far as “fitting in” is concerned, because home schooled kids already know what it means to be set apart from the crowd and go against the flow, they are more likely to be in charge of their own destiny rather than follow the crowd. And with colleges actively recruiting home schoolers, it is likely that they will find others who share the same background experiences. My response to that comment is, “When they get in they’ll do just fine, thank you.”
2. This is the second most widely-heard comment, and one that home school parents laugh at the most. My response to this is usually, “I think you mean ‘socializing’ not ‘socialization’.” Socialization is what Adolph Hitler did to the Hitler Jungend and what the North Koreans do to their children today. In psychology, socialization is the process by which children and others are compelled to adopt the behavior patterns of the culture that surrounds them in order to fit in and not upset the status quo. One of the many reasons parents choose to home school is so their children do not adopt the patterns of behavior of their culture! Home school parents are rearing and educating their children to develop the ability to question and think critically, rather than blindly follow the mindless mob.
As for “socializing,” which is interaction with others, I already covered some of that when I mentioned the athletic teams and music ensembles. Many home school kids are involved with Boy and Girl Scouts; some are involved in educational co-ops; others are part of youth groups, go to summer camps, volunteer in social service organizations, are in their church choir or drama team, etc. They go to the mall, to the movies, to concerts, and out to dinner with friends. In other words, they have plenty of friends and do lots and lots of stuff with said friends.
1. This is probably the most hurtful of all the comments home school parents have to hear. Sometimes it isn’t actually said out loud–it is often the underlying question behind all of the other comments. My friend Veronica provided her insights into this question when she said, “I want to answer them with a few questions of my own. Do you think that I am uneducated or backwards? Do you think I made the decisions to do this lightly? Do you have any idea of the personal or financial sacrifice the goes into it? Do you really think that I don’t love my children more than life itself?”
She continues, “Home schooling is not something I am doing to my kids, it is something I am doing for them. For their sake I choose to use my education to teach them instead of pursuing a career. For them I choose to have less freedom, to live on less and to be seen as less in the eyes of the world in order that they might gain more in this life and the one to come. Only love causes me to make all of the sacrifices that are required in order to home school my children.”
Hopefully everyone who reads this article recognizes the beauty of the home school lifestyle. Our future is in the hands of our children. Everything that we as parents do, the sacrifices we make, the thousands of hours we put into educating our kids–it’s all because we love them and we want to make the world a better place. So the next time you hear someone say, “I’m a home school parent,” think about your response. I was in a store recently, around 1:30 in the afternoon, when a woman asked why my children weren’t in school. I stated that we home school and that the girls had all finished their work early that day, so we were out shopping.
“Wow,” the woman said. “That’s awesome.”
I smiled and replied, “Yes. Yes, it is.”