Homeschooling and The Fear of Not "Fitting In"



People make all kinds of assumptions about homeschoolers. 

As we were making the decision to homeschool I remember worrying about what people might think of us, and being hurt by offhand comments people would make about homeschoolers.

I'm ashamed to admit that I let my silly fears and worries about what others would think of us almost stop me from making the best decision of my life. 

One thing is for certain: through homeschooling I have learned that our family DEFINITELY doesn't fit in a box. If anything, we have seen that it's better to be outside of any box and make your way in this world according to what YOU believe is right.

I've been having a lot of revelations over the past few months - remember when I wrote about when being normal looks weird?  

If you homeschool and are trying to fit in the traditional homeschool "box", STOP!  Please stop. Make your own box.

If you are contemplating homeschool and are worried about the stereotypes others have about homeschoolers, please STOP. Most criticism and stereotyping is born out of misunderstanding, fear, and other people's issues. It has NOTHING to do with you.

If you don't homeschool and think all homeschoolers fit in a box - shame on you. Do you believe all families who send their children to school are alike?  Of course not.


Let's start by defining the homeschool box. This is actually very easy for me to do, because I've heard the same tired stereotypes quite a bit:

Homeschoolers Are Afraid of the "Real World"

Hmmm.... let's see. If you are speaking of the real world that means living in a building (which, by the way, looks a  lot like a prison) 9 months out of the year, seeing the SAME PEOPLE day in and day out, starting at the same 4 walls each day, and having basically no freedom, then YES - we are afraid of the real world. 

I never realized until I took my children out of school just what a stifling place most schools are. 

In the "real world" of school children are taught that conformity, "self esteem", and compartmentalizing are the norm. This, in turn, produces adults that perpetuate these thoughts, which in turn is producing a society that is devoid of THINKERS.


Homeschoolers Keep Their Children Home for Religious Reasons

We did not set out to homeschool for religious reasons. 

I know many people that have religious reasons for homeschooling, and I also know many families that homeschool for other reasons, too. 

We're just a family, seeking to give our children the best possible education - academically and spiritually - that we can.

If anything, I hate the fact that people assume we are "holier than thou" - because guess what?  We're NOT. We are simply trying to raise young people who will add VALUE to society, along with compassion and generosity. 

While I would love to see everyone in our world become a Christian, my prayer is that my children will live out their faith in such a way that demonstrates the principles Christ taught, drawing those around them to find out more about the one true God. 

One of the things that saddens me the most is the "us vs. them" mentality with homeschooling and religion. 

I don't believe Jesus would have been happy with homeschoolers excluding others based on sticky little points of theology... and acting like that certainly doesn't encourage non believers to become Christians, either.  (I'm not saying you shouldn't have convictions about religion - we most definitely do - but I believe we must have grace and love when dealing with opposing viewpoints. Learn not to waiver from your views, but do so in a graceful manner.)

Homeschool Moms Are All Stay At Home Moms Whose Entire Lives Revolves Around Their Children

The face of homeschooling is changing. I love a recent article from Penelope Trunk - You're The Type of Parent Who Chooses to Homeschool. Penelope always puts it just as she sees it, and I love that about her posts. 

"We know that most homeschool families have a parent at home, and it's usually the mom. And women who choose to stay home with kids are more educated and emotionally stable. This makes sense to me, because you don't get any gold stars for staying home with kids. So if you have a great job, and you're willing to give it up for kids, then you have a lot of internal validation that dampens your need for the external validation people get from work."

Wow. I just love this.

I had a stable job as a teacher before I had children. I had great benefits, a retirement plan, and a halfway decent salary (as far as teachers go). 

I nearly listened to the world as it said "Put your child in daycare and live for yourself! You have worked hard and having children doesn't have to get in the way of your career. You can have it ALL."

Well, that was just a lie, and looking back twelve years I can see it so clearly.

Now, however, I homeschool my children and work part time from home. I run a blog, freelance write, and am getting ready to release my own music curriculum in just two weeks. 

Yes, the biggest part of my life is my children, and that's as it should be. 

But just because I homeschool my children doesn't mean I have no dreams and goals for myself, and it certainly doesn't mean I checked my brains at the door when I received my homeschooling mom card.


If You Homeschool You Must Be Conservative, Bake Your Own Bread, Have Chickens, and Not Watch Television

There's nothing wrong with any of these!

I, however, only meet one of the criteria (let's just say we're pretty conservative).  

It's funny, however, that homeschoolers have this reputation. It's certainly what I thought of homeschoolers before I became one. In fact, I wondered how I would fit in, and even went so far as to pull my bread machine out of the basement and make a few loaves.

 (To see more about homeschooling myths, watch Blimey Cow's Seven Myths about Homeschooling)

Have you seen instances of the "homeschooling box" in your own life? Specifically, people trying to place you into "the box"?  

Maybe if I share a few experiences of my own (a few painful) you can relate.

A Neighbor Tells Other Neighbors We Are "Strange" Homeschoolers

If you homeschool (or even have a little bit of common sense) you see just how warped this is. Seriously? My kids are just like any other children. I think our family is pretty typical (well, we do homeschool, though).

Maybe strange to this person means my children not being allowed to roam the neighborhood with lots of children I don't know well. Or maybe it means I'm normally outside with my children (especially my youngest), supervising their time with friends.

I don't keep my children out of the public school just to let them experience all of the school drama when the school kids get home. 

On the first day of school when there are huge cheers going up from moms in our county because their children are finally back to school, I am gearing up for another homeschool year. I'm cheering because I just got a box of curriculum! 

OK. Maybe I am strange.  {wink}

On second thought, maybe this neighbor shouldn't let her child play with my kids. (are you catching the note of sarcasm in my writing?)


Well Meaning Friends and Family are Starting to Ask "How Long" We are Going to Continue Homeschooling

I guess homeschooling makes sense to some people when your kids aren't as smart as you. But put them into the upper grades and it makes some people shudder.

My answer is always, "We will do this as long as we feel we can. You have no idea of the resources that are out there for homeschooling high school."

(My friend, Jimmie, has written a great post about homeschooling high school.)

I love to tell people about the young adults I know that have graduated college and were homeschooled the whole way through!  I even like to shock people and tell them about a homeschooled young man we know who is quite successful now in his own business and he didn't even (GASP) go to college! 

People Assume My Kids Aren't Allowed to Read Harry Potter

I guess Harry Potter and his world of sorcerery aren't allowed in the "homeschool box". 

Well, my kids LOVE Harry Potter, and so do a lot of other homeschooled kids.

We believe our children deserve to read a wide variety of literature. We loved it so much I even created a set of free notebooking pages about it. 

My children also love Tolkien, CS Lewis, L'Engle, Dahl, Alcott, Twain, and many other writers. 

I have found, though, that they really can't stand canned excerpts from textbooks. Go figure.

My Children Must Be Very Attached to Me Because We Homeschool

My children and I are quite close, but I am proud that they love to do things without me. They both have ample experience with being away from their dad and I and they always do quite well.

Just becaue I am with them for school doesn't mean they can't function without me.

(Children despserately NEED their parents. They NEED that guidance and firm hand. They cannot get it from a string of teachers. Our culture is full of people who have abdicated parenting to the government.) 

My children each have ample chances to be on their own and learn from others. I can't teach them EVERYTHING, and sometimes it's good to hear things from another qualified adult. 


Final Thoughts

I could offer many more instances, but I think you get the point.

What I have learned in the past four years about homeschooling is very true about life in general.

You CANNOT worry what others think of you. You cannot compare yourself to others, and you cannot allow others' expectations of you to determine your actions.

I have learned that I must be MYSELF. I need to be the person  God made me to be or I am going to be very unhappy in my life. 

Trying to be like "the crowd" - even if it is the "homeschooling crowd" doesn't work out so well. 

My goal in this space is to encourage all homeschoolers. 

Please share this with people you know who are contemplating homeschool, discouraged with homeschool, or who just want a little affirmation.


 What are your thoughts on the homeschool box?  Have you ever been placed in the box?  Or, have you been afraid you wouldn't fit in the box?