Tuesday, October 18, 2011

no special skills

I’m having an epiphany. It’s about homeschooling.


You know how everyone always responds with the same line when they hear that you homeschool your kids? Oh, you homeschool? Wow, I could never do that!

Maybe it gets said to you, or maybe you've said it to other people. (Or maybe you just think it.) It’s okay if you do. Really, it is. We all get twinges of I could never do that when other people do things differently from us. (Or maybe it’s just a polite way of saying, You’re crazy! That’s always a good possibility.)

In any case, it’s been dawning on me that maybe people say I could never do that because they think homeschooling parents talk to their kids like school teachers talk to their students—patiently, clearly, kindly, and in complete sentences. (If you’re a homeschooling parent and you talk to your child that way, good for you. And you may go now.)


This weekend, I had a conversation about homeschooling. These homeschooling conversations pop up occasionally, and they almost always catch me off-guard. I usually botch them something fierce, because in my efforts to downplay the uniqueness of the homeschooling situation, I end up making it sound like some half-assed affair. Which, if you came to my house, you might think it is, but I promise you, it’s a half-assed affair I’ve put a lot of thought into!

Best I can figure, I do this downplaying thing because I’m super-sensitive to the undercurrent of comparison feelings that lap at the edges of any conversation between mamas who have made different lifestyle choices. No matter how respectfully and carefully and graciously the speakers speak (and listen), it’s like there’s an evil undertow just waiting to suck both struggling mamas down into the cold wet and kill them. (Oh, the drama!) So when I feel that I might be threatening someone just because I homeschool my kids, I get tense, and my tongue tangles.

However, this time around the questioner was a grandmother so we were not in parallel situations, thus greatly reducing the threat element. Plus, she was sincerely interested. So when she asked me what our schedule was like, I told her straight up—no embellishing, and no sweeping it under the rug, either.

And then she gave the little I don’t think I could’ve done that response, and the little epiphany I’ve been puzzling over popped into my noggin and I decided to try it out on her.

“You know, I think lots of people think homeschooling is beyond them because they’d have to act like a real teacher. All professional and mannerly, or something. But really, teaching your kids to do math is not much different from getting them to clean their rooms.”

She raised her eyebrows at me.

“It's true! I yell, I threaten, I do all the stuff that teachers aren’t allowed to do. You ought-a see me give a reading lesson, oh boy!”

I stood up straighter, jabbed my finger at an imaginary child, and bellowed, “This is ridiculous! I am NOT in the mood to waste my time while you bounce around in your chair like a freakin’ kangaroo. SIT BACK DOWN RIGHT NOW OR I’LL PUT YOU ON TIMEOUT."

(Finger jab-jab-jab)

“No, that is NOT an fff. You KNOW it is not an fff. I don’t want to HEAR you make that sound again, do you understand?"

(Foot stomp)

“CONCENTRATE! Look at the PAGE, not my face! THE WORDS ARE NOT ON MY FACE!"

“So see,” I said, bringing my voice back to normal levels. “It doesn’t take any special skills to teach your kids. Just look at me.”

My friend wiped the tears from her eyes and took a couple deep, steadying breaths. “Yes,” she gasped. “I can see that.”

Please note: I am not suggesting that kids learn best when they are yelled at. (In fact, the opposite is true, or so I've been told.) I mostly try to not yell, and I succeed about 70 percent of the time. But I am an emoter, and when I get frustrated, everyone knows it.


My point is, I act the same whether I’m supervising a math lesson or checking a just-cleaned bathroom, correcting table manners or giving a piano lesson (my knitting needles poised to stab, I mean, knit), overseeing a laundry-folding party or drilling the multiplication tables.

And when you look at homeschooling thataway, well, anyone can do that. (Now wanting to, well, that’s an altogether different matter.)


This same time, years previous: apple cake, Italian cream cake, The Stash of 2008

12 comments:

  1. I agree. I always tell people that just because you homeschool your kids, it doesn't mean you have more patience. It's just an extension of parenting. The kids are expected to listen and obey when I ask them to do something school-related and there are consequences they are very familiar with if they don't.

    Also I SO resonate with this paragraph you wrote above...

    "Best I can figure, I do this downplaying thing because I’m super-sensitive to the undercurrent of comparison feelings that lap at the edges of any conversation between mamas who have made different lifestyle choices. No matter how respectfully and carefully and graciously the speakers speak (and listen), it’s like there’s an evil undertow just waiting to suck both struggling mamas down into the cold wet and kill them. (Oh, the drama!) So when I feel that I might be threatening someone just because I homeschool my kids, I get tense, and my tongue tangles."

    You said it beautifully. It's hard to talk about homeschooling and I wish it weren't.

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  2. One of your best posts ever, honey.

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  3. #1 I love your Mothers comments... Are you being graded? I too like this post. I give it an A- simply because there is always room for improvement. :)

    #2 Freakin' Kangaroo... I love it!

    #3 I had to google the word emote. And JJ... I too "emote."

    #4 Peace Out Girl Scout... you are one funny lady. Well, that and I think you are little crazy.

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  4. Shirley, Really? I was having second thoughts about it, wishing I hadn't posted it, but if you say so...

    Mavis, #1 Of course I'm being graded. My mother homeschooled me, remember?

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  5. Love it! And you are right...I could do it...and would if I had to....just don't want to! I supplement what I think my kids aren't getting in math and I help with piano lessons. That is the limit of my desire to "teach." The difficulty of hs'ing conversations is the feeling of judgement on both sides. I don't want to be made to feel guilty for NOT doing it and I don't want to make anyone else have to defend that they do it. Make sense? It's just one more unique decision we all make in deciding how we want to parent our children. We are all still mamas!! So...you go girl! And I'll go too!

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  6. Hit the nail on the head! After most of my homeschool "conversations" I expect some agency to come knocking on my door cause it really doesn't sound like we do a whole lot! I say "it's not public school at home" and most times people release and "ohhh" after that and I hope it gives them something to think about and realize there are vast differences in how we teach. Kids still learn to read, math, and even extracurricular but not taught in the same manner as a school environment.
    L in Elkton

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  7. You captured the essence exactly.

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  8. I'm with JulieHT. I could...but an entire day with my son would possibly kill us both. He's smart enough to get everything done so quickly, but then what do we do? Drive each other crazy. So I send him to school to drive other people crazy. :)

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  9. I am so glad to read this post, mainly b/c I am homeschooling my child (the others too when they are older) and boy oh boy, I wonder every single day whether
    a.) I'm the absolute worst at it b/c I feel like I'm constantly on his case and every single day I lose it at some point and fuss/yell/threaten/bribe/etc. - even on the most fun activities
    b.) if *he* is not cut out for it b/c we aren't exactly looking/acting like you feel like everyone else is in their happy-go-lucky posts about what they did that day and how happy everyone is with abundant patience, not that it's needed b/c their children do everything they are supposed to do and in a timely fashion...sigh...
    c.) if we are cut out for it at all b/c of the above two things.

    It's in my heart to do it, I desperately want to do it, but WHEW, at least once a week I question it, only b/c we are always fussing with each other. Glad to hear that is fairly normal!

    THANK YOU!

    Oh and every time I read one of your posts, I feel like *I* could have written the same things (although, not as eloquently!!!) - we must be cut from the same cloth, so to speak :)

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  10. Mary, Glad I could help you feel more normal! The truth is so freeing---we're all just people, struggling along. There's really no point in trying to make ourselves look all put together, at least that's what I believe...

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