I debated whether or not to post this. In the end, I decided that even though it’s been written and discussed a million times or more, I need the solidarity of knowing once more that I’m not alone in this struggle. So here goes.
I had another instance over the weekend of someone saying, “I just think public school is better than homeschool. For the social interaction.”
Usually, after four years of doing this, I am able to let comments like that roll off my back. I know what I know about homeschooling, and those people are speaking from a place of true ignorance. But this one came from a little too close to home, from someone the Littles might actually listen to. In fact, I heard Littlest say within 24 hours of the comment, “If everybody homeschooled, no one would have any friends.”
I had to bite my tongue to keep from taking it out on him. After several deep, cleansing (ragged) breaths, I was ready to respond.
“Who is Will?” I asked.
“Who is Seth?”
Sam? Anna? Caitlin? Robert? Oh, I could have listed them for a very long time. “Baby,” I said to my boy who is no longer a baby, but on the cusp of pre-pubescence, “if everyone homeschooled, they would still find ways to make friends.”
It confused him. But it confuses a lot of people. As a society we tend to think of the public school experience as the number one way to make and have friends. We forget all the other ways kids meet people. Church. The park down the street. Family gatherings. The local pool or the YMCA. Karate or gymnastics class.
Homeschool kids, though, they have even more opportunities. Co-ops are great places not only to let your child learn something you may be unable to teach but to let them interact with other kids. Within 5 minutes of us, even in this rural area, are 3 homeschooling families. We get together regularly as a group to share classes or just hang out. Our local forestry offers a weekly nature class all year except for the very coldest months. We’ve attended classes there when more than 20 families showed up. Several of the museums in the nearby city offer monthly activities for homeschool families. The regional zoos offer outings for homeschoolers. Even one of the small local theaters does a play every couple of months featuring only child actors. Every time we attend one of these functions, my Littles are interacting—not just with other kids but with other adults. They have friends. Lots of friends. Of all ages.
Here’s what my precious Littles do not have. They don’t have bullies making them scared to walk down the street or stealing their lunch money so that they’re starving every day. They don’t have to worry about which clique they fit into, so they can just grow up being themselves, without the pressure to be ‘as good as’ someone else. We are all as good as the next person. Money, smarts, athletic ability—those things do not put one of us above another, and my Littles know that. They don’t have to wait till after high school to realize it. They do not have to live through that middle school experience where suddenly 90% of your friends turn on you for some unfathomable reason. Some of my friends with public-schooled kids are suffering the agony of watching their kids go through that right now, and my heart aches for them. Whenever I hear another horror story, I just go hug my Littles and feel immense gratitude that they are not enduring that cruelty.
There is no lack of social interaction for the homeschooled child. Saying it feels like beating my head against a brick wall for the billionth time. It hurts my heart that my kids have to hear people to whom they are close assume that they live backwards, imprisoned, lonely lives just because they don’t go to public school. I mean, yeah, that’s not what was said but let’s face it, every time someone says homeschool doesn’t provide socialization that is what is implied.
I’ve been on both sides of this fence as a mother. I can’t tear out my hair every time someone makes an asinine assumption, and I can’t punch them in the face. All I can do is remind my Littles of what is good in their lives and why such comments are to be ignored or at least taken much more lightly than I was able to do this time around. And maybe use my blog as a place to vent so they don’t see me reacting in a negative way!
And you know what? I don’t hang out with anyone I went to public school with. I’ve made all my friends in other places over the years.
Have you ever had someone make assumptions about your kids’ lifestyle without really knowing anything about it? How did you handle it? Better yet, if you homeschool, list me some ways your kids make friends.
Going to take a few more ragged breaths….
Love wins (every time),