When I tell people I home-school my kids, I get a few of the same reactions: agreement, intrigue or disgust. I’m not surprised, nor do I feel the need to defend myself. With all these eccentric home-schooling families that are spotlighted in the media — you know, the ones living in the wilderness and trying to live like it’s 1800 again — home-schooling gets a bad rep.
Recently a story of off-grid parents who home-school made the news. This family is embracing a "natural" lifestyle. They believe in self-sustainability, shun modern medicine and embrace free-range parenting. Adele, the mother in the story, gave birth to her two kids at home without any help from a medical professional, kept her placenta connected to her child's body for a week (carrying it around with her), treats her kids' illnesses with lemon juice and is in no rush to formally educate them. Adele says there's no need for her 5-year-old to learn to read and write right now, and prefers he learn his letters and numbers by seeing them when he's out and about "rather than it being forced upon them in a classroom that is not particularly inspiring."
That's one extreme. More often, though, you see stories hit the news about ultra-religious home-schoolers who only teach from the Bible to keep their kids "safe" and away from the sins of modern society. I understand that stereotypes exist for a reason. Yes, some home-schoolers are religious, and some want to transport themselves to Little House on the Prairie.
It blows my mind that often these families, who swear they hate technology and the modern evils, have blogs and agree to be featured in online media or on the 6 o’clock news.
And when the news goes viral, all we home-schoolers are immediately put in the same category.
That's not fair.
My husband and I wanted to home-school our kids from the very beginning. We didn’t get to bring that idea to fruition until my eldest son’s second year of elementary school. I quit my nine-to-five and started working from home. Our family’s choice to home-school wasn’t due to wanting to protect our kids from the public, nor was it religious-based. We were unhappy with public school education and wanted our kids to have a thorough and classic education the government couldn’t provide.
When I am out and about with my kids in the middle of a “school day,” I get funny stares and the occasional question, “Why aren’t ya’ll in school” (um, yes, "ya’ll" — we live in the South)? I politely explain that my kids are home-schooled. Sometimes I get someone who is a religious sympathizer: “Oh, I don’t blame you. With all those sinful things they teach.” Occasionally I get someone who’s curious but condescending: “Your kids seem so well socialized and intelligent.” However, most of the time I get the mild disgust: “Oh, OK” — the look on their face says it all.
When I see those families with their extreme views who happen to home-school on the news, my whole body cringes. In a matter of minutes, I start getting emails or texts from friends and family.
"Did you see that crazy home-school family on the news?"
"OMG, they don’t make their kids start school until they feel like it!"
"Thank God you’re not crazy like that."
I honestly don’t care about the bizarre choices that family decided to make. It’s not my place to judge them. I do wish, however, that they quit seeking news outlets to “share” their stories. Yes, it does make my life uncomfortable every time one of these stories hits mainstream, and I’m sick of defending my lifestyle because of it.
Not to mention, the science is on my side here.
A three-year study conducted by Vanderbilt Peabody College of Education and Human Development showed that home-schooled kids are "successful and they don’t perform worse than other students or seem to be disadvantaged in any way." Furthermore, the study indicates that "as many home-schooled students attend college as their traditional public school peers." Are home-schooled kids socially awkward? No more than public school kids, the study concluded.
My kids are intelligent, clean (most of the time) and well socialized. We like technology and are up-to-date on vaccines. I work full time from home, and my kids love Pokémon GO. They are involved with the community, have loads of friends and attend many events. I teach my boys Latin because I’m a nerd. Academically they are where they are supposed to be, and I have the freedom to advance or slow down their learning according to their interests and abilities.
To all you home-schooling families out there who feel this need to plaster your agenda all over the media outlets so you can promote your unusual lifestyle, you are giving other home-schoolers a bad rep. It just furthers the negative stereotype associated with those of us who decide to educate our kids ourselves. Yes, I know I may come across as a selfish brat who can’t stand the heat in the kitchen. I don’t care. If you are all about your simple lifestyle in the woods, fine. Keep it to yourself.
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