Friday, June 04, 2010

Don't You Know What Schooling Will Do To Your Children?

I realized today while responding to yet another negative response to homeschooling that I spent a big chunk of my life defending our parenting choices. For the last ten years, I've had to defend breastfeeding, extended breastfeeding, selective vaxing, baby wearing, co-sleeping, cloth diapering, and homeschooling. Initially, I entered these debates with the fervor of crusader hoping to convert the masses. As the years went the fervor turned more to an irritated defensiveness. And then today as I typed out yet another answer to why I didn't worry about my kids turning into antisocial nut cases I realized I'm kind of done with trying to explain my choices.

Most of the people I am arguing with are not really interested in hearing any kind of counter arguments. The person I was responding to today for example had ignored the article on which we were supposed to be commenting. She had totally dismissed it as bias and must have skimmed over the number of studies cited showing that homeschool kids are often better socialized for the "real world." She was too wrapped up in her own negative experience to see that it didn't have to be this way. If it's not a personal experience people are holding too, then it's a stereotype usually justified in with "I once knew a kid who was home schooled...." There is an idea that when goes against the mainstream they should be prepared to defend that choice.

But what really gets me is this: How many of these people ever asked themselves what school would do to their children? Did they ever stop for a moment to think about not schooling? I know I didn't when I sent Umberto to school. I even knew homeschoolers but it just never occurred to me that I could not send Umberto. Sending your five year old to school is what you did. I didn't stop to think about what school does to a child. I didn't worry about socialization. This coming from someone who read John Gatto with her high school kids! If I didn't stop to reflect on these things how many more conventional parents have? I did all the other research. I look into education philosophies. I read up on the options in my area. I talked to other parents about the schools in the system but I never took a moment to really ponder that school might damage my child.

However as a home schooler, I have to ponder these things every time someone challenges me on why I home school. I have perfected my argument but I still fell into the trap of doubt that comes when you have no support but only criticism. Now I feel stronger about our choice but I also feel really tired of answering total strangers questions.

Here's what I'd like to say:

Adult to my kids: "Oh my why aren't you in school?"
Kids, proudly: "We don't go to school. We're home schooled."
Adult with lips pursued, disapproval all over face: "Oh." Then to me " Why do you home school? Don't you worry about their socialization skills?"
Me: "Why do you send your kids to school? Aren't you worried about their social skills?"

Adult: "Oh you're nursing. Don't you feel weird doing that in public? When are you going to wean? Isn't it a bother" (This is always said in a disgusted voice)
Me: "Why are bottle feeding your kid formula? Don't you know the crap they put into that stuff?

Adult: "What is that you have your baby in? why don't you just use a stroller?"
Me: "Why on earth are you pushing that child in a plastic, metal contraption?'

Adult: "Don't you think it's strange to have your baby in bed with you?"
Me: "No stranger than keeping one in a cage."

Let me be clear upon ending that I don't really have any negative feelings about people's choices (okay some of them for sure) in terms of their families. I have had to use formula. I don't care if your baby is in a crib. I do use a stroller sometimes. But I do find it strange that I am constantly challenged on mine. Maybe it was how I was raised but I would never approach a stranger and demand to know why they send their kids to school, bottle feed, use a stroller, etc. I never ask them to defend their choices, to offer me up their arguments and philosophies of education. Maybe it's time I did not for the sake of judging but the sake of dialogue. Maybe having to think about what we take for granted would spark challenges to the norm.


Mom Madness on Harlem Talk Radio said...

Excellent post Ginger. I tried homeschooling when my girls were younger. I dont have the patience for homeschooling and I feel my kids are better off in school. However I applaud those who have the organization and patience it takes to homeschool.

V. said...

Great post. I do think that some kids are better off at school. Some parents use homeschooling as a way to keep their kids apart from the "masses." They're the ones that get the publicity and lead us to have to defend our choices. I once had a teacher be extremely rude to me because I homeschool. Interesting, because I have nothing against teachers or people who choose school for their kids. Maybe they're unsure of their choices and that is why they need to try to make us feel bad about ours.