Summer is upon us, which means everyone with an asshole and an opinion wants to tell me what I should be doing with my family come next fall.
My 11 year old is – technically – a to-be-6th grader; although, to define her as such in homeschooling terms seems very unfair. We don’t take breaks for summer (or Christmas or Easter or even weekends for that matter), because we take a much more well-rounded and un-schooled approach to things.
If I were to actually qualify her, I’d say that my 6th-grade-11-year-old is continuing on about halfway through 6th grade math, beginning 8th grade science, testing out high school level reading and language arts, and continuing on into a whole gamut of subjects that aren’t even covered in public K-12. Like metaphysics, Latin, ethics, art history, and growing up to not be a dick.
But I don’t actually do that. I never say things like “you are a 6th grader” or “are you ready for 6th grade??!” People often regret asking me what grade she’s in, because my response is typically “it’s a little complicated” and people don’t want complicated. They want something simple and they want a label for it, which is probably part of why they want us to stop homeschooling.
What’s important is that at her age, she should be starting 6th grade. In California, that’s when middle school begins. This means that everybody is all up in my business. Now is the time to get her back into “regular” school – what a great transitioning point!
(If I hear the words “this would be a good transitioning point” just one more time, I may completely lose it.)
Ignoring for just a moment that a public school system where kids sit on the floor because they have no desks, bully each other to the point of suicide, and are lucky if the teacher even knows their name by the end of the year – ignoring for just a moment that all of these are actually considered “regular,” I usually indulge them with a smile and vaguely say “all things to consider.” Then I move on with my day and forget about the conversation altogether.
And yet, I’m tired of slapping a smile on my face and listening to people’s opinions. People I barely know; people close to me. People I talk to once a year; people I talk to every day – everyone else seems to think they know better than I do when it comes to what is best for my family. Maybe it’s that this year I’ve heard a lot more of them, because of this whole middle school thing. Or maybe it’s that as time goes on, more and more people around me believe it’s socially acceptable for them to foist their unsolicited opinions in my direction.
Whatever the case may be, I’m tired of it and am resolving to no longer stand by and smile and nod and respond “all things to consider.” Because while I don’t think that’s the sole reason for all the unsolicited advice, I do believe that is perpetrating the problem.
This makes me partially to blame, and you all know how much I don’t like being at fault.
So here are 3 things you can’t say to me and 1 thing you can, on the topic of homeschooling. Nosy nellies, be warned.
You Can’t Say You Think Our Family Needs More Socialization
I’m not sure it would be physically possible to have any more positive social interaction than this family already has. While going to a “regular” or public school would, in fact, provide more in-person time with others, that isn’t to say it would necessarily be positive or even true.
When kids go to school, they don’t spend all their time sitting there gabbing and working together. In fact, as project-based learning has decreased in the public school system, individual learning and silent testing time has taken over. The time kids have with each other as actual, social interaction is typically confined to recess and lunch. Arguably, I make up for the lack of that ten-fold in other ways.
And then there’s the whole issue of bullying.
Usually when I tell people that homeschooling affords us more positive social interactions – through extra curriculars, homeschool groups, sports, friends, and family – they retort with some idiotic response like “but they have to learn to deal with bullies eventually.” As if extra curriculars, homeschool groups, sports, friends, and family don’t have their own fair share of bullies.
The difference between homeschool and “regular” school, though, is in the ability to deal with those bullies in a more healthy, controlled, and effective way.
You Can’t Say My 11 Year Old Needs Other Girls To Go Through Puberty With
Someone actually said that to me.
When I asked for a little clarification – not that I cared, only that I was dumbfounded – she told me that there was no way I could understand what my daughter is going through in this pre-pubescent time of her life. Moreover, she could go through it all with others if she were in regular, non-homeschool school.
I may not remember every, single, literal, detail of my puberty – when I started shaving my pits and what brand maxi pads I used for the first time; but I certainly understand what is going on. And what I know more than anything is that the most terrifying thing about puberty as a little girl is that everyone goes through it at a different rate, some even at entirely different age brackets. There is really no such thing as everyone going through it together as friends. And even if there was, I see this as having absolutely nothing to do with our educational choices.
You Can’t Say I’m Going Too Far Ahead
Remember how I said that we have a much more well-rounded, less restrictive, way of doing things? The result of this has always been that we’re well beyond the expectations of any given grade we’ve homeschooled through.
I cannot even tell you how many people have said I’m going too far ahead. People that have actually said to me in all seriousness that “there is such a thing as learning too much.”
You just can’t say that. It’s so wrong on so many levels – morally, philosophically, logically – you just. CAN’T. There is no such thing as learning too much – there never has been, there never will be.
That leaves only one thing. That 1 thing you actually can say to me on the topic of homeschooling. It’ll probably come as a shock to many of you, especially those that have been nosing up in my business and telling me why you think we should stop this little experiment already.
The 1 Thing You Can Say Is That WE ARE DOING A GOOD JOB.
The only people I have ever – in all these years of homeschooling – heard say to me that we’re doing a good job with this crazy, alternative lifestyle of ours is … you’ve got it … complete strangers.
A stranger sees us studying in the morning on a weekday at our local coffee shop…stops at the table to say we’re doing a good job.
A stranger hears us talking in a museum in the middle of the afternoon on a Thursday…stops us in the exhibit to say we’re doing a good job.
A stranger is on a walk and passes us on one of our weekly scavenger hunts…says as we cross paths that we’re doing a good job.
These are the people that have said that we are doing a good job. Not the people around me – the friends and the family who think it’s their missions in life to convert us to the regularity of compulsory day school.
Support. It’s simple. It’s positive. And if you learned anything yourself in whatever education you’ve had, you know it’s the smartest thing anyone can do.
Well, that and minding your own business.