Why We Homeschool, Revisited

A lot of times when people ask why we homeschool, I just say “Because we enjoy it.” When it was a question about why we pulled our child out of school, the question was harder to answer without a lot of care taken not to offend, but now that answer seems to cover it. It’s not a “schools suck” or a “my kid is too special” kind of thing; just “we like it.” It’s the truth, most days.

Still, sometimes the other reasons come around to beat me over the head.

As the school year ramps up, I’ve heard a lot of talk from parents with gifted kids in public schools. Across the state, a common theme has been that schools—teachers, principals, administrators—are refusing to follow state law in allowing parents to play a role in teaching their kids.

According to Minnesota state law, parents are free to object to a curriculum and substitute one of their own, provided that the family pays for it and does the teaching. The law originated with sex ed, naturally, but was written broadly to allow all kinds of flexibility. Parents of gifted kids have used the law to provide appropriate content for their kids in specific subject areas.

Yet in school after school, parents are being denied that right. Principals are stating flatly, “we don’t do that,” even upon being shown the relevant statute.

The reasoning behind that puzzles me. What does the school gain by refusing?

It’s hard on my liberal, teachers-union-loving self to look at that and not question the assumptions behind the blatant disrespect for parents (not to mention the law). While I have no fear that the government is trying to brainwash my children, I do see a clear assumption on the part of those representatives of the school system that a parent has no right to participate in the formal education of her child – even something as simple as providing a laptop and an alternative math program for 45 minutes a day – except at the discretion of the school.

Were it just one teacher, I’d be ready to accept the “bad apple” excuse. But as parent after parent chimes in with similar stories, it’s hard not to see a pattern. And it’s a pattern that reminds me of the battles I’d rather not fight. Tough as it is to get along with my volatile little snowflakes some days, that’s my job as a parent. I have a lot more invested in weathering those storms than in fighting battles with someone who doesn’t even know me, who sees his school as his own private fiefdom, where state law doesn’t apply.

And that’s just the people who work there. What about other parents?

Many of my friends were saddened by a blog post by a journalist who decided to lash out at parents who think their kids are gifted. The sad part isn’t that a minor blogger doesn’t like the word “gifted.” Rather, what came out of the discussion was how many people had someone in their lives say the same things to them directly, in person, about their own kids or parenting, and how hurtful it could be.

The blogger also reiterated one of the weirdest, but very common, anti-gifted-ed arguments: parents of gifted students seek more challenging classes for their children because they are trying to eliminate life’s challenges for their children. Chew on that logic for a while. Yet it is so common: some parents seem determined to believe that there is something elitist or nefarious about trying to put your child in a setting where she has the opportunity to learn something new. Frankly, I have even less interest in coping with those parents than I do with the school. At least I can cite statues at the school; being an ignorant jerk is still fully legal.

I can’t lie – homeschooling intense children is hard. Being a driven, impatient, introverted person makes homeschooling hard. Is it harder than dealing with that other crap? I’m not sure, and besides, dealing with that other crap isn’t an essential part of my job description as a parent. Dealing with my kids’ ups and downs is, and sending them to school wouldn’t change that. But it might just add a bunch more BS to the pile, and I’m already shoveling as fast as I can.

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6 Comments

Filed under Gifted Ed, In the News, Why Homeschool?

6 responses to “Why We Homeschool, Revisited

  1. Deb

    Hey, Sis, I hear you on this one. When I was a public school teacher, before I had any kids of my own, and when I thought homeschooling was for frightened separatists only, I remember how we would talk in the teacher’s lounge about parents who wanted anything special for their kids, even if it wasn’t because of giftedness. We were very smug and judgmental about those “uptight” parents who thought their kids were so special. And it wasn’t just young, inexperienced teachers like me; the older teachers who had kids of their own were the ones who encouraged us in the attitude. They would take us aside and say things like, “Julia’s parents think she’s so advanced, but she’s really no different than any other kid her age.” Basically they were teaching us not to take parents’ concerns seriously, because we knew better than they did.

  2. I’m not sure if I’m at the point yet to say we homeschool because we like it, but maybe one day…

    Are you hearing these stories of parents being denied, by schools, the right to substitute curricula because they are now entering your homeschool community? It seems ridiculous, all around, to say no to something that is law *and* that could potentially help a lot of kids get the challenge they deserve.

    We began the process of enrolling my oldest child in K a few years ago and it was immediately clear the school had no idea what to do, but postured like the reigning experts. I could have chosen to stick with it and advocate, thus paving the way for future students, but I didn’t want to spend all of our days fighting a system that was never really equipped for us anyway. Then having to start anew each and every year.

    This was a great post, as usual! Thanks!

  3. Jennifer

    Thank you for this thoughtful post, Red Sea Headmistress! It hits many of the reasons we homeschool as well. I’m a former special ed. teacher, and we obviously were not taught by our colleagues that kids don’t need special treatment! Sadly, we were indeed the minority.

    The blatant disrespect for parental authority comes from an elitist mindset that is endemic to public schooling (or as DH likes to call it, “government schooling”). It’s derived from the erroneous assumption by educators that they know what’s best for all kids, after all they’ve been through teacher education programs and attended all the trendiest inservices. The idea that you might know what to do with your child’s issues can be downright offensive to them.

    What makes for good education and the advancement of ideas is real freedom – freedom from political correctness, freedom to learn in different ways, freedom to think and act differently, etc. Those things do NOT fit into any public school that I’m aware of. It may seem like homeschooling is “backwards” when, in fact, it’s truly revolutionary.

  4. Renee

    Enjoyed this post and needed the encouragement to continue schooling my child at home. Went back and read your Shabby Chic post as it caught my eye…loved it!

  5. Kim B. — I’m hearing these stories from parents still in the system, in our state gifted org. School is starting and they are getting worried as vague promises are giving way to stonewalling and worse.

    I get the idea of getting in there and fighting the good fight for the good of all students, but the payoff seems so small. Give all that time and energy to reach a compromise that makes a bad fit slightly less bad?

    Both my husband and I spent countless hours and a lot of money trying to get some movement, and all we got was 1/2 day in a 2nd grade class that was reviewing what was supposed to have been learned in the 1st grade class. In short, we attended a ton of meetings, paid for lots of testing, and finally got someone to take 30 seconds to walk her down the hall twice a day to a class where she still wouldn’t be learning anything new, and she’d still be bored out of her mind.

    Every time I hear about other parents having to do the same — especially at the same time I’m hearing the anti-gifted or anti-homeschool stuff — I’m frustrated anew.

    Fool me once, &c.

  6. Great post! You’ve summed up my thoughts on this matter exactly (and better than I could have). I still find it so sad and hurtful that several people I was “friends” with at my children’s old school, and in our neighbourhood, have nothing to do with us anymore since we decided to homeschool (and, stupidly, told them the real reason why). They just don’t get it, and no matter how tactfully I have tried to explain my kids’ needs, they must just think we’re trying to lord it over them somehow. If only they knew how difficult and isolating this job can be! You obviously DO understand and it is a comfort to know that, although we may be spread out far and wide, there are others like us.

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