Living Outside the Cultural
|“Just like no one asks adults when they were toilet trained, the question of how old one was when he or she started to read doesn’t come up once a child reaches adulthood.”|
I find it helpful to use the shoe store analogy when I try to describe to someone why I chose to help my kids learn at home. When buying shoes for a child, everyone knows that not every child is going to wear the same size or style of shoe. We look for a shoe that fits the child and the family budget. Educational choices are like that – finding the best fit for a child and family. And like shoes, the education a child receives changes and grows to accommodate a child’s needs. For some people who question your decision, this may be enough. However, human nature being what it is, some people will not hear what you have just said and feel threatened and become either defensive and apologize to you for not home educating or attack you and tell you how your children are being deprived.
It is important to keep in mind that you do not have to convince anyone of the rightness of your decision to help your children learn at home. It is legal in all fifty of the United States and all the provinces and territories of Canada. Most people don’t really want a long drawn out philosophical treatise of why you are home educating, even if they have asked. It is OK to answer with just a small bit of information. “I wanted to be there as my kids learned things. I wanted the pleasure of seeing their excitement and new found understanding” is an answer I’ve used that often ends the discussion. It may also lead to more questions like “What did you do about chemistry in the high school years?” There are times when I want to answer flippantly “nothing” but most times I control that urge and respond with something along the lines of: “My children didn’t show an interest in learning more about chemistry than I was able to help them learn.”
|“The concept of children learning about the things that interest them is a concept that is difficult for most people to accept. It’s like speaking a foreign language.”|
You may have a budding scientist and have found a tutor for your child or you may be a chemist and shared your knowledge and love of this field with your children. You might then be asked about the arts. You can try to explain to someone but be prepared for confusion. The concept of children learning about the things that interest them is a concept that is difficult for most people to accept. It’s like speaking a foreign language.
And that is what places home-based learning outside the cultural norm. A home educating family begins by redefining what it means to educate children and in the process, we observe how our children learn. Families discover that each child has interests and learning styles that take place within the child’s unique time frame. One child may be reading at age five and another at age twelve. But just like no one asks adults when they were toilet trained, the question of how old one was when he or she started to read doesn’t come up once a child reaches adulthood. It is irrelevant.
The next time someone asks you why you’re home educating, you can answer:
1. briefly – “Because I want to.”
2. with a question – “How much time have you got? ”
3. with empathy – “It concerns you that my children are not going to school.”
4. or with your usual answer.
Just keep in mind that whatever you answer, it is OK not to say more than you feel comfortable saying. Remember, homeschooling is the fastest growing grass roots educational movement in North America. Although you are not part of the cultural norm, you are a part of a fair-sized group who have decided for various reasons to educate their children at home. You’re in good company.
Marty Layne is the mother of four successful young adults who never went to school. As a result, she wrote and published Learning At Home: A Mother’s Guide To Homeschooling, Revised Edition and recorded and produced a children’s music CD “Brighten the Day - songs to celebrate the seasons.” She also speaks at conferences in Canada and the US. You can read more about her at www.martylayne.com.