Our family is a creative bunch. We find ways to get our work done even during the hot summer months and freezing (for us) winter. We were avoiding the summer heat at the local mall last year, when an older woman walked up to us and asked why the kids weren’t in school. I told her, with a grin, that we homeschool, and enjoy finding new ways to get our work done while not melting in the heat.
She turned to the boys and asked if they liked homeshcooling. They responded with a resounding positive! She looked confused and said, “Oh…most kids don’t like homeschool.”
I stopped and thought for a second, and asked her how many homeschooled students she knew, fairly certain there weren’t many. Her response actually surprised me: she never knew anyone who homeschooled! This revelation led me to ask how she knew that, “most kids don’t like homeschool.” I discovered that she was making assumptions based on what she had been told by others, who had heard from their friends who told them, that their neighbor’s kids didn’t like homeschooling. Sort of like the telephone game – the original message gets completely mutilated!
After a short discussion, and an explanation of what homeschool is, and is not, I politely asked that she pass on the truth: That most kids actually do like homeschooling, and even though it doesn’t work for everyone, those for whom it does work are generally happy. I also gave her my email address, and told her I’d be happy to answer any questions she or her friends might have. I never did hear from her, but I felt that I handled the situation in the best way I could: by dispelling a myth with first-hand, factual information.
Part of the reason why these myths seem to keep rearing their heads, is that there are school teachers and administrators who have seen homeschoolers enter the school system. They often met kids for whom homeschooling did not work, and so their only experience is with people who didn’t like homeschooling. If you talk to colleges though, you hear exactly the opposite: That they are well-prepared to integrate into college life and tend towards having higher GPAs and graduation rates. So whether or not homeschooling is referred to positively depends upon the source.
With the sheer volume of information available at our fingertips, we should be more apt to look up information and less apt to depend upon gossip. Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to be the case, and the best thing we can do is teach our kids to make decisions using all of the best information we can locate from a variety of sources…by setting the example.
The incident taught me something too – while homeschooling is becoming common, it’s still misunderstood. I was again reminded that people don’t always do their research before passing judgement based on limited information. When they are confronted with the truth, they feel rather foolish and frequently lash out. I was lucky that day in the mall – but rather than responding negatively, it’s generally best to gently educate them. For good or bad, we’re all ambassadors for homeschooling – how we respond to people who don’t know any better determines how they feel about the community in general.
Homeschooling can and does work well, it also can and does fail miserably. If you’re thinking about homeschooling, get all the facts that you can. Talk to current and former homeschoolers, ask them what went well and what they would have done differently. Ask as many questions as you can, send away for sample issues of magazines and maybe pick one to which to subscribe – Learning Tangent is awesome 😉 . A fact-based opinion, formed by consulting multiple resources, both in favor of and against, will set you on the right path – whether it’s homeschooling or not.