Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Don't Give Me Credit

I was talking with a friendly acquaintance the other day. I don't know her well enough to call her friend, but if we had the time and inclination, I think we would be great friends. I've always liked her.

We were chatting about our lives and our kids. She told me where her kids were going to school and she asked about mine. She had known that I was planning to homeschool.

At one point, she said that she gives me credit for homeschooling. While I appreciate the compliment, I can't accept it. I'm not doing a good, selfless thing by homeschooling -- I'm actually being very selfish.

I want to enjoy my life and that means not being a slave to the clock and the calendar. I want my kids to be able to follow their interests and learn at their own pace without being labelled in any way. Even a positive label is a negative thing that puts you in a box. Being called 'gifted' is as much of a trap as being called 'learning disabled' or 'special needs.'

I want to rejoice in my children's special gifts, in their uniqueness without being tempted into competition with others. Especially when that competition is the hell of arrogance and fear that comes with kids who 'advanced.' That only leads to looking over your shoulder and the dread that one day, someone will outdo you (because its really about you and not your kids). Of course, I don't want that gripping fear of worrying that my kids are behind, either. When we're 'at home', we are us, fearfully and wonderfully made.

I don't want others who deem themselves experts telling me that I don't know my child and making it so by taking her away from me for a large part of the day. I've heard many stories of parents being tapped for all sorts of slavish duties -- running the fundraisers, planning the parties, providing the food -- but I also hear of how they are cut off from their children's learning, often treated as if they are interfering.

I don't deserve any credit and I don't want any credit. I just want the freedom to homeschool without undue interference.


clanlally said...

Fine. I won't give you credit for homeschooling.


I will give you credit for stepping off the hamster wheel. I will give you credit for your efforts at un-climbing. It takes a form of courage to do what you are doing.

I say huzzah!

Anne Zelenka said...

This description of kids in school does not fit with my experience over nine years with three kids and five schools. Obviously, I'm a committed send-the-kids-to-schooler to have such vast experience with schools. I've not seen the negative things you describe, except the labeling, and that is pushed by parents as much as the schools themselves. I'd venture a guess that there are homeschoolers who have labeled their children gifted or speech-delayed or special needs.

It may be that people share their negative experiences of school with you because they are tailoring their communication to your mindset. I don't express all the great things we've experienced at school with you because it might come across as defensive or offensive or insensitive. The anecdotes you hear about school may not be representative of parents' experience of school, so I'm not sure to what extent you can generalize from it.

So let me share a little about why we like school. My kids enjoy going to school, not everyday but most days. They like working productively with other kids in community on a daily basis with a regular daily routine. Schoolwork they do introduces them to subjects they wouldn't otherwise pick up; for example, Henry has started studying French this year and it's the first time he's been interested in a foreign language even though he had Spanish training previously. I wouldn't have introduced French because I know Spanish. I don't do any slavish work for the school. I pick volunteer work that I enjoy, like art appreciation presentations and building a web site and helping with the rummage sale. These are positive activities for me, not negative. I am not cut off from my children's learning. On the contrary, my interactions with the kids' teachers increase my knowledge about the kids and often give me useful new perspectives.

The picture you present in this blog post and others of traditional schooling is quite ugly, so I'm not sure why you wouldn't deserve credit for making a choice to keep your children from it.

Marjorie said...

Well, thank you, Mike -- its nice to have fans ;-)

Anne and I have been discussing this topic in e-mails (for new readers, we are friends IRL), so she's already heard much of what I'm saying here, but I provide it for the benefit of my other reader (or however many there are).

First of all, I must out Anne as having read several books about homeschooling, so she may be committed to school, but she is open-minded enough to consider the alternatives. We may disagree, but she knows a bit of where I'm coming from and why.

The negative experiences of which I speak are from me -- I'm not saying others are having these experiences. This was how I felt in school -- somewhat, I probably overstated it in my post (as is my wont). But I'm also speaking my fears about how I would feel or my kids might feel if they were in school.

The ugliness I describe is the ugliness of my own feelings -- so avoiding school is very selfish on my part, which is why I don't deserve credit.

The slavish comments do come from my discussions with a room mother and others -- so I'm glad thats not your experience but I have heard others speak of feeling asked to work in some areas, but shut out from others.

And, yes, the homeschool community does have its gifted clubs and lots of talk about special needs and various therapies [speech, occupational, sensory, etc]. Of course, its much easier to pick and choose what you do and to avoid those things with which you don't agree.