Seventeen years of Treehouse talk

Seventeen years of Treehouse talk

Thursday, March 08, 2018

From the archives: What Bubba and me think about homeskooling

First posted February 2008. At the time we had a first grader, a fifth grader, and a public-high-schooler who was still taking one course at home.

I try to stay away from most of the ignorant anti-homeschool articles and letturs-to-the-edditor out there; and heaven knows, there are lots of them, especially after any homeschooler gets into any trouble with the law or does some other antisocial thing. Occasionally I've posted my own rebuttals about homeschoolers/homeschooling not being so weird/scary.

But it's time to set things straight.

The question is, who's weird here?

First, you go ahead and define weird. OK...

"Synonyms: These adjectives refer to what is of a mysteriously strange, usually frightening nature. Weird may suggest the operation of supernatural influences, or merely the odd or unusual: "The person of the house gave a weird little laugh" (Charles Dickens). "There is a weird power in a spoken word" (Joseph Conrad). Something eerie inspires fear or uneasiness and implies a sinister influence: "At nightfall on the marshes, the thing was eerie and fantastic to behold" (Robert Louis Stevenson). Uncanny refers to what is unnatural and peculiarly unsettling: "The queer stumps ... had uncanny shapes, as of monstrous creatures" (John Galsworthy). Something unearthly seems so strange and unnatural as to come from or belong to another world: "He could hear the unearthly scream of some curlew piercing the din" (Henry Kingsley)." (Bolds are mine.)

You know what's really weird, is that a lot of people looking up those synonyms (if anybody did) probably wouldn't have read anything by Conrad or Dickens or Stevenson. Whereas some--not all, mind you--of our unearthly and unsettling homeschoolers will take those books as their common currency.

If you read, you tend to go looking for friends who read...or you like to read about people who like to read, like Father Tim in the Mitford books who hangs out at the bookstore, pondering Churchill's History of the English-Speaking Peoples and waiting for obscure books by John Buchan to arrive (also one of Mr. Fixit's favourite writers).

Not that Father Tim is a homeschooler. Just that he's weird in kind of the same way as some homeschoolers. (Not all homeschoolers are bookworms, just not all vegetarians eat nutritiously.
Some homeschoolers would rather be doing than reading.)

Weird is listening to little kids at the park talking about the sexy hot singers they're supposed to like.

And the rest of us just go on scaring people (unsettling them?), just by doing our thing. My six-year-old kind of blew some people away at church when she did a reading with her sister a couple of weeks ago. I don't think they've ever had somebody under seven lead the responsive reading before. But she would have done that even if she wasn't homeschooled. It's a famly thang.

Weird is standing behind mothers in line at teachers' night and hearing them talk about how they get up to commute at 5 or 6 in the morning, drop the little ones at daycare, get home at 5 or 6 at night, and still have to make dinner for everybody including the teenagers. [Oh--you want to know what I'm doing at teachers' night? If you've just climbed up here, our teenager takes most of her classes now at the public high school. Homeschooling-all-the-way isn't a doctrinal thing with us; figuring out what works best for our own kids takes priority over dogma.]

So here's my request: Stop writing those letters telling the powers-that-be to swing their blackjack a little harder at us. Stop writing the breathless articles that always have something in them somewhere about how deprived of real lives homeschooling moms are, or how we'll suddenly become incompetent once the kids get to algebra, or how we need to be sending our kids into the school system so that they'll absorb whatever version of socialization you think is best for my family. It's not like your deathless prose is going to give me the sudden revelation that I've totally messed up my kids' lives. (Although the collective blast of them might eventually make homeschooling more difficult or in some places illegal, depriving the world of some great independent thinkers and people who would have dropped through the cracks, educational and otherwise.)

Some of what's fantastic (unbelievable) to behold in homeschooling is truly fantastic (unbelievably great). Not everything about homeschooling is wonderful. Not every homeschooler is wonderful--kid or parent. What else would you expect?

But we're not all weird either. Some of us watch the Three Stooges. Some of us listen to KISS (as if that defines normal, but for some people it might). Some of us can even read, write, spell, and think through what the the world can offer to our kids--and what we can offer back.

And that's the trooth.

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