OK, so I don’t like all homeschoolers

About every 3rd Friday, we go to the library.  I pay $40/year for a card in a neighboring city, because my own city’s library sucks isn’t so great.  (Yes, I reserve strong language for disappointing libraries where the librarians ignore you and every book on the shelves is out of place or missing, and all the kids’ stuff is beat-up and outdated.)

I have often delighted in the fact that when we see other families with schoolage children, in the daytime, at the library, that they’re frequently homeschooling families.  I’ve met a number of homeschooling families this way, and they’re typically wonderful;  there’s just something about library families.  Not trying to imply anything about my own family, mind you.  I guess it’s just that we usually meet like minds there.

Yesterday, though, I saw a lady eating in the library at a back table in the kids’ section.  I considered quietly reporting her surreptitious actions, but then it wasn’t necessary, because she left.  I sat down at the table she vacated, and did puzzles with Audrey while the three boys were on the computers.  She came back and sat in the chair right next to mine.  She proceeded to open another fruit cup, slurping the juice before taking out chopsticks (!) with which to eat the chunks.  She asked me if I homeschooled.  I said yes.  She then started to tell me her history of how she started homeschooling, which, normally, I very much enjoy hearing, but it was quite a lengthy monologue, and I felt very trapped.  I’d excuse myself and chase down Audrey, then return to vaguely the same area, and she’d resume, mid-sentence.  I started chatting with another mom, and then when I finished, she continued where she’d left off.

Long story short, she started homeschooling because she has a problem with authority, and doesn’t want anyone to tell her or her kids what to do.  Now, I’m all for the authority of parents in the lives of kids, and some of the things she told me that had been told to her by school officials were pretty startling, like telling her that while her child is on campus, instructions from herself or her husband are void when they counter instructions from school officials, that, basically, they had no authority while their child is in school.

However, I don’t think that homeschooling simply to maintain authority is, perhaps, the best choice.  It might be a good starting place, and events like that can be a good catalyst for making the leap over to the pro-homeschooling side.

However, her attitude, her actions, how she interacted with me (and others), and how she described her son’s homeschooling day raised all sorts of red flags for me.  She said that she will never enroll her son into any organized activity or group, because she doesn’t want to submit to anyone’s ideas or schedules or authority. 

Her son is 9, and she doesn’t teach him anything.  When I responded something like, “Yes, well, unschooling can be effective with a really motivated child,” since it sounded like unschooling to me, she vehemently denied that she was unschooling him.  She told me that the she’s a “stickler” for math and geography, both found online, which he does by himself.  She also made sure her son read books, and plays educational computer games.  She also travels with him 3 or 4 days a week, visiting various public libraries in the area, spending the whole day in them — packing a lunch, even, to eat in the library.

I did meet her son, and to the credit of both of them, he was a kind, polite and quite precocious child.  So, maybe his schooling, up to this point, has been adequate.

Still, though, with her hyper-independent outlook, unkempt appearance, and rather lackadasical approach to schooling, I just kept thinking, “This is the sort of homeschooling mother that my husband was afraid I’d become.”  (Before we started homeschooling, my husband’s only concern was that I not become like… well, exactly what was sitting before me.)

She gave me her phone number, but I think she’ll be the first homeschooling mother I’ve met who’s given me her number, who I will not call.  (Whom I will not call?)

Have you, as a homeschooler, ever met another homeschooling family and thought, “Um… No”?  I’m a bit torn, because — especially as a homeschooler — I’m hyper-aware that it really does take all kinds;  there are LOTS of ways by which to successfully homeschool.  And the prepackaged, ready-made, homogenized, unthinking, questionable-content students that the U.S. public school system is churning out is most certainly not the goal.  So, I’m not suggesting that every homeschooler needs to be just like me, or even that they need to all be the same, or highly-acceptable, socially.  But… there are those, who, IMO, take it a bit too far.   


About Karen Joy

I'm a partially-homeschooling mother of six -- 3 boys ages 19, 17 and 15 years old, and three girls: 11, 8, and 3. I like birding, reading, writing, organic gardening, singing, playing guitar, hiking, the outdoors, and books. I very casually lead a very large group of homeschooling families in the Phoenix area. I have a dear hubby who designs homes for a local home builder and who is the worship pastor of our church. I live in the desert, which I used to hate, but now appreciate.

Posted on December 1, 2007, in Homeschooling, Introspective Musings, Parenting. Bookmark the permalink. 9 Comments.

  1. looksgoodinpolkadots

    I think homeschooling is AMAZING. And it has always been my intention to be a homeschooling family. However, my husband doesn’t agree. WHY? Because of the exact thing you describe here. He is afraid that ALL homeschooling families are exactly like this lady. It’s a fear I haven’t been able to get him to see beyond. Our “meet in the middle” arrangement so far has been to enroll the children in a school where they are having a much richer experience than most traditional school environments. One in which I am encouraged to be hands on, where the Teachers respect and follow our guidelines. We have encountered quite a mix of homeschooling families. Those who do exactly what I would… and those who may end up turning out relatively uneducated and socially inept children (much the same as many public school systems). I fear that homeschooling to avoid authority may be instilling the exact opposite of what homeschooling should be trying to achieve.

  2. I met you at THAT library. She felt compelled to tell you her life story cause she wants approval. Or cause she has no adults to converse with. Funny, I was reluctant then and still am, the reluctant homeschooler.

  3. It amazes me how much my own experience has evolved over the years and I am wondering if what you saw from her was, unbeknownst to her, her manner of detoxing from the p.s. model of education. I think when a situation fails, and fails badly, we can tend to try to rid our lives of everything associated with that. It sounds to me like maybe that’s what she has done. She is obviously concerned about his education or she wouldn’t spend all day at the library.

    I agree with Lisa that she probably wants approval. On second thought, she may want feedback from other homeschoolers. Right now she may be lumping all authority into the same category as the people who told her and her husband they have no say in what happens with their son and is rejecting that unshakably. After she develops some ideas of what works through first hand experience, she and her husband will most likely adjust their views on the pros and cons of authority.

    The homeschooling adventure is as much of a learning experience for the parents as it is for the children, if not more! I have yet to meet the homeschooler who sticks with something that he or she eventually realizes is not working.

    Pray and ask God for wisdom about whether or not to call her. She sounds like she needs to be exposed to people who have a functioning homeschool who yield to the authority of others on occasion. (As well as people with manners!) Kwim?

  4. PolkaDots ~ What your family has decided was my 2nd choice, too. One year, I had my son enrolled in such a school, but ended up re-thinking the whole thing, and decided to continue homeschooling… Our hubbies would probably get along!!

    Lisa ~ Yes, my dear, I was thinking of you as I wrote this. You’re such a good teacher, and have such a wealth of spontaneously good ideas. Reluctant or not, you’re really doing a good job. Maybe she did want my approval. I never think of that sort of thing.

    Mrs. N ~ You’re always so kind and wise that I think of you as being much “older and wiser.” But I’m only 2 years younger than you, if I recall correctly. I *never* would have considered calling her, if not for what you said there in that last paragraph. I semi-begrudingly started praying about calling her. … For the record, she’s not new to homeschooling. It was actually her older daughter, who is now 21, whom she pulled from p.s. when the daugter was 14. The mom schooled her daughter for 2 years, then she got her GED. So, she’s been schooling the son, now in 5th grade, since K. However, all you say is true: Homeschooling is nearly as much about the parent learning; 90% of what I started with, I no longer do. I’m continually evaluating what we do, how we do it, what materials we use, etc…. Back to the woman, though, I am baffled about what it is she wants. Maybe she just needed an ear, because I literally spoke only a few words, and she just went on and on. As I was grumbling to God about the whole thing, I thought, “Grr. I don’t have nearly enough time to spend with people I like let alone people I don’t like.” But, isn’t that just like our Savior, to compel us to be kind, to minister to the unlovely, to teach us, to expose our own weaknesses, and to exercise us in areas where we’d just rather stay dormant… and I remembered some words from my pastor, who recently told me that he felt like a key to a step up in maturity for me is to be discipling others. I don’t invest enough in others; I’m selfish with my time and energy. ~sigh~

  5. I haven’t met any in person, but online I have met a few people who seemed like a caricature of every homeschool stereotype. I always got the feeling they were trying to sort of compensate online for their own concerns or misgivings. I’m no prophet and maybe they really do run their homes like that, but they make me uncomfortable.

  6. Hi Karen!! I have been enjoying your blog for a couple of months but with our move to Spain and then back again, life has been a bit hectic.

    Anyway, to your post. I think you and I talked about this some years ago?? My standpoint at that time was that people may be different than me but I’m sure there are things I could still learn from them. My view has changed, some. While I still believe there is probably something to learn from everyone, I now won’t put my time/efforts into something/someone that I know just won’t work out. I don’t know if it’s a bad thing or not but I now prefer like minded people (or how ever you want to put it) around me. It’s hard to keep up with friendships (for me anyway) that I like, let alone put the energy into something that takes a lot of work. Sometimes we just click with people and other times we don’t.

    I’m sure she can find like minded people to be around too. Sounds like to me she just likes to talk! 😉

    And can I just say…3 or 4 days a WEEK in different libraries!? I just can’t imagine doing something like that. While I love the library and we use it often, I think there are other places she could be taking her child to enrich is life/schooling. 🙂

  7. You know I use to feel guilty (a gift from below) and think that everyone that I “should” have something in common with (like at church) I should be friends with. I have come to understand that we are all different and unique but that doesn’t mean that I have to be best friends with that person.

    This person may have the experience that she and her son enjoy but it doesn’t mean that, just because you have homeschooling in common, that you will connect.


  8. Ah, I didn’t realize she wasn’t just starting out, or at least within a couple of years of starting out. That makes a difference. She has been avoiding situations where someone might be in authority over her children for years then. It has to be hard to make friends when she isolates herself like that.

    But I agree that you’re not obligated to be her best friend. Spending time with conversation hogs can be mentally exhausting. I try to remember that, as our family seems to be genetically predisposed to a higher daily average of words spoken than the average person. You’d never know that from my blog posts! LOL 😉

    Thank you for such a nice compliment. 🙂 I am 36.

  9. You have already received great advice on how to move forward so I will save my 2 cents as I am more interested in why you have to pay $40 to use a neighboring library. That stinks!!!! When you sign up for a card now, you get a statewide card and you can borrow/return books at any library in the state, all of it for free. I have been East coast all of my life so is that an east/west thing in terms of services?

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