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.