A Footnote on the Un/Homeschooling Discussion

Again with the unschooling/homeschooling . . .

[I posted this a couple of days ago, then I took it down. I was trying to express that my privileged perspective on homeschooling might give me a more simplistic view of the whole “label issue” than others would have, but I started to think I just sounded condescending. (Maybe the whole Obama-bitter “controversy” has me hypersensitive! ๐Ÿ˜‰ ) But this is a blog, not a book, so I don’t have time to edit and prune and perfect to get the tone just right. Consequently, either you’re going to have to give me the benefit of the doubt, or think I’m a boneheaded so-and-so — or something in between those two — and I’m just going to have to let it go!]

As I keep reading and thinking and enjoying, a nagging voice at the back of my head says “What a privileged girl you are!”

I was looking at Elsie’s question about the ideal school, the school that might tempt me away from homeschooling, and I realized that my ideal school would probably be impractical for many families — families whose work makes them adhere to fairly consistent 9-5 schedules, who cannot work at home. Depending on whom you ask, my ability to work from home for good pay comes from either the grace of God or my own hard work and the time I’ve spent acquiring and honing desirable skills. Either way, I have the good fortune to do a kind of work, for a level of pay, that many people could not wake up tomorrow and begin doing.

As I read Willa’s notes on the history of homeschooling, I know that it would not have been nearly as easy for me to pull my daughter out of school if other parents had not pioneered this path, making at least somewhat socially acceptable. Socially tolerable maybe?

I’m blessed with family members who have been accepting of our desire to homeschool. It might not have been their 1st choice, but it’s OK. On my husband’s side of the family, his sister was one of those pioneers — for her own family, at least — in making homeschooling seem acceptable to her family — including us! It didn’t hurt that I came to homeschooling with a PhD, teaching experience, a stint as president of a moms group, and a mind-bendingly challenging period as co-chair of our parish council during a time of contentious transition, not to mention with a demonstrably self-educating child. Wrong or right, I’m still the “smart girl” in a lot of my circles (save for those years in grad school when I was the “about average girl”), which means I’m cut a lot of slack. (More than I deserve!)

Dare I say, it is also somewhat my personality to dive in with what I want first and deal with objections later? I am not thick-skinned by any means, but I do have a serious stubborn and independent streak. And I have a hefty dose of (sometimes misplaced!) confidence in my ability to do whatever task I set myself — at least, I do before I start. (I do learn a lot this way . . . I just never learn to consider whether the knitting pattern is too hard before I buy the yarn and dig in, and I haven’t quite learned to accept the limitations of time and space when taking on a new project.)

I came to homechooling with such a sense of freedom about whether to do it and how to do it — not that it wouldn’t be challenging and we wouldn’t get a lot of crap for it, just that we *could* do it — that it’s hard for me to imagine otherwise. At the point we became homeschoolers, the only pressure we felt from others was the pressure to do less! (I think this was in part because of our identification with the gifted label, which tends to make people suspicious, like you’re tying your child to a chair and running flashcards and math drills all day. “No lunch til you’ve got this periodic table of elements down cold!!”)

This probably makes me less than sensitive to the reality that many people have come to homeschooling feeling unsure, under scrutinty, unsupported, underqualified. As Theresa says, there may be something in finding an appropriate lable that helps with those feelings by finding people who get it. Reflecting on the discussion of the last month or so, I don’t think I’d change anything I’ve said here or in com boxes. I just wish I could add a qualifying footnote that would convey an acknowledgement of that reality. I would not want to dispute the liberating potential of well-chosen words.



Filed under Curriculum, Gifted Ed, Learning Styles, Our Philosophy (such as it is), Why Homeschool?

2 responses to “A Footnote on the Un/Homeschooling Discussion

  1. Well, I think it’s always good to re-examine old terminology and concepts in a new light. That’s what I got out of this discussion, just to mention one thing.

    It occurred to me as I read your other post about jargon vs specialized language that this Fish/Orwell contrast is a bit of an echo of the “unschooling as box/unschooling as identity” discussion. To me it seems that specialized language specifies, clarifies, delineates while jargon obfuscates intentionally. I am sure that people could read the same thing in both ways; but it’s probably better to assume the best unless there is real evidence that the specialized language is a smokescreen for a poverty of though.

    With the specialized terminology of homeschooling, I can see a use for it but at the same time see how it could possibly be used reflexively or even aggressively, which was I suppose what originally bothered you about the word.

    Perhaps this should have gone in the box of your other post — but the two topics do seem to overlap a bit ๐Ÿ˜‰

  2. Oh, and I never can really “read” my comments until they are posted and then I often cringe because I can’t edit them. I meant “poverty of thought”. And when I wrote about “probably better to assume the best” I was so totally focused on the Fish com box that it didn’t even occur to me that it might be read as advice to you. I hope you did not take it that way, because your posts didn’t tall into that category in the least, to my mind. I was just talking about the way that people sometimes tune out or criticize complex language just because they don’t want to be bothered trying to understand it — as you were saying in your post about Stanley Fish.

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