Homeschooling is Optional

I’m on a few e-mail lists about gifted ed, and as I mentioned they have a mix of homeschoolers and non-homeschoolers.

Naturally when someone poses a problem to the list, the different groups propose different solutions. I notice some people are very clear in their queries to point out “I can’t homeschool because . . . ” which typically leads to someone saying, somewhat off-topic, “Actually, I am in that same situation and I homeschool.” Which may lead to more explanations of why someone “could never,” and more explanations of why that particular reason is not a barrier, and a little bit of tension around this unspoken question of “What have you got against (not) homeschooling?”

I notice the same thing in person. Of course my friends are also a mix of homeschoolers and non-homeschoolers. As homeschoolers know, non-homeschoolers are well known for telling their homeschooling friends, “Oh, I could *never* do what you do.” (Which a polite homeschooler would never turn around to say, “I hear you — I could never send my kids to school like you do! Wow!”)

When we had a housewarming party recently, for most of the time a very good friend was the only non-homeschooler. I confess, when she pointed this out I had to smile, as for many homeschoolers it is usually the other way around. It was also a good opportunity to say, “well, homeschoolers like to socialize!” 😉 ba Dum dum

My friend told me later, after the party, that the homeschoolers were very nice (of course!) but that some had given her a bit of a hard sell on homeschooling. Knowing my friends, I found this really hard to believe. I encouraged her to tell me about what they said, and it seemed to be a version of The Conversation.

Non-HSer: “Oh, I could never do that.”

Friendly HSer: “Oh, of course you could!”

Non-HSer: “Oh, but . . .” I don’t have the patience/my kids are too crazy/it costs too much money/I wouldn’t know how to find the materials

Friendly HSer: “Trust me . . . ” I am very impatient/my kids are crazier/doesn’t have to, way cheaper than any private school/ here’s where you find the materials.

I think I get it. As The Conversation proceeds, the non-HSer is hearing that all of her reasons for not homeschooling are not good reasons. And by extension, she is hearing — though the friendly HSer is not saying — “you should homeschool.”

Maybe it’s a sign of homeschooling’s increasing mainstream status that some people consider it something like breastfeeding or stay-at-home parenting — something a truly committed parent would do if they could.

But it’s not really. A good enough reason not to homeschool is “I don’t want to homeschool.”

Which I think is what people who say, “I can’t homeschool because . . . ” must really mean in 99% of cases. And they get the wrong response from people who think what they mean is “I would homeschool if only it weren’t for . . .”

So I am announcing here, in print, where someone might Google and find it, that homeschooling is optional. It’s like going to Texas. Of course I could go there, but I don’t want to. But hey, you go to Texas all you want, have a great time, and show me your pictures when you get home!

A final note: hearing that my friend felt like she was getting a sales pitch reminded me to lighten up a little about the “I could never” and the “have you tried this school” and then “when do you think you’ll put them back in school.” It’s probable, or at least somewhat possible, that some of those comments come from that same helpful impulse to say, “Hey, your choices are broader than you think.” And it may be that I’m not making it clear that though it seemed at one time like we had to homeschool, now we do it because we want to, which is really the only reason to do it.

Because really, you don’t have to.

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9 Comments

Filed under Gifted Ed, Why Homeschool?

9 responses to “Homeschooling is Optional

  1. I agree with you … and disagree 😉

    Homeschooling is a highly personal thing, and the best reason for not doing it is, “I don’t want to.” I being mother or child.

    But I also must say, it’s not an option for us. We really have no other reasonable choice, and educational experts have confirmed this for us. It’s been important for me to acknowledge this because although I love hsing, its still hard sometimes knowing I have to do it even if I fall out of love with it, even if I get too tired, even if it gets hard or problematic. There’s a grief process involved, even though I love it.

    But for most people, there should be no guilt. For most people, personal choice can be the guiding factor.

  2. mamasteff

    Thank you, thank you, thank you! This is the best written piece about school choice I have read so far. It is honest and NOT pushy and explains to both sides what the other side might really mean or think. Many thanks!

  3. This is one I’ve never been able to get my head around completely. If someone doesn’t want to homeschool, fine. If someone doesn’t want to enroll his or her child in a traditional school, okay. We don’t need everyone to do as we do to validate our choices. Let’s face it: we each deal with a myriad of different circumstances. Can’t we just presume, until proven otherwise, that parents attempt to make the best possible choice for their child, even if it isn’t the choice that we made?

    Great post, btw!

  4. Christine

    Nice one. I have no problem saying I have no desire to home school, although I can certainly see some potential benefits for my kids. It helps that both kids are also totally opposed to the idea. I’m even kind of dreading having my daughter home sick today. That’s how much I love working and doing my own thing without them around during the day. I know that’s selfish, but we all should know the limits of our own personalities and what feels right to us. Thanks for doing this post!

  5. Mariposa

    I like the way you answered this.

    But I feel there is nowhere to send my daughter so if I want her to be okay we need to find her teachers or do it ourselves. I feel similar to Sarah sometimes and I wish there was a place.

  6. Absolutely. And there is no good reason to look into other options if what you are doing is working. Which is kind of my response to questions about whether I’d consider sending F. back to school. This is working so I’m not even thinking about it.

    I find it harder when people are complaining about how school isn’t working and then saying “but I couldn’t homeschool because…” In those situations, you really do want to say “homeschooling IS an option”. Maybe not the option they will choose, but one they might want to consider.

    However, I think we also have to be more accepting of people’s choices, even things like not breastfeeding. And accepting of the fact that mother’s can and do take their own needs into account.

    There is a real social/cultural pressure to sacrifice women’s needs to their children but it is really about balance. And we all balance those needs differently.

  7. Great post. I feel exactly the same way. You don’t know how many times I have had to qualify my choice to homeschool by saying “But I am not married to homeschooling… I mean, it’s not like my religion. It’s just the best educational option for us right now.” Because my non-homeschooling friends feel like they have to defend their choice to not homeschool as if I am judging them. I wonder if other homeschoolers they have met gave them that feeling or it is just arising intrinsically.

  8. That was wonderful. Thank you! I found this post by way of Sally Thomas, and I am glad to have discovered your blog.

  9. Angela

    Well said. A few years ago, a mixed group of friends and I were sitting around with this very conversation (and a few bottles of wine). We came to the same end, yet one of the non-homeschooling ladies admitted that sometimes, by our mere choice and commitment, we make them feel guilty about their unwillingness to do the same.
    She compared it to how we all feel around another mom who is an aerobics instructor and perfect example of healthy eating….she’s just not someone you want to be around after gorging on that platter of nachos. We all know we could be making better choices with food, but choose not to do so.
    That has helped me not give all those helpful “sure you could” encouragments, and just know that if folks want info, they know where to find me.

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