Friday, March 4, 2011

Schooling the Homeschooler

Here's the thing, I have homeschooled for over ten years. By some accounts, I am a novice. But throughout the years I have noticed things about other homeschoolers -- not all complimentary.

For instance, I know God "looketh on the heart," but can anyone tell me why homeschoolers insist on dressing like circus freaks? Mismatched knee socks, baseball caps (on women, at the orchestra)dresses that should have been earmarked for Goodwill in 1960, Birkenstocks or clogs, and anything knitted. I know having a parent at home requires forsaking the two income model of today's society, and many homeschoolers sincerely believe a woman's work is the home -- strictly mother, wife, homemaker. That's fine; I don't knock it, I envy it. However, does it literally mean a moratorium on all clothing made after 1981? No one's looking for America's Next Top Model at Renaissance Capture the Flag, but is it such a crime to be taken seriously?  Besides, do they realize they are drawing attention to what's on the outside?

Secondly, why do homeschoolers think discipline, courtesy toward others and some acquaintance with social graces, need to remain outside the parameters of home education? True, installing filters on our children does inhibit learning and development -- learning rudeness, developing arrogance, eventually learning the pain of isolation and developing a reputation as a disease. I want my children to experience the joy of others' company, as well as the gratification and acceptance of being good company. I want them to enjoy museums and theaters and parks and tours, but not as if they are the only ones present. How does screaming like a banshee, standing on theater seats, or constant interrupting create a learning environment for anyone?

For years I watched other homeschoolers and fretted that in some way I was holding my children back. Should I allow them to blurt out lengthy stories of their adventures searching for owl pellets while a patient docent tries to explain dendrochronology? Should I be sitting with the rest of the moms chatting up Charlotte Mason while my four year old streaks through the lunchroom of The Franklin Institute? Should I concern myself, and teach my children to concern themselves, with looking presentable, or do I ignore the floods, the unkempt hair, and the slippers?

I can’t. I have to go with my gut on this one. Organization and housekeeping has not stunted my growth in any way. Neither has discipline or respect for others, thwarted my children’s desire to learn or achieve. Their clothes match -- and fit them -- and they like being able to occasionally indulge some items that are current and stylish, as well as modest. I force my children to remain quiet when others are speaking and hold their questions to the end of the lecture; so far they seem normal. We try to keep whining and self-absorption to a minimum; that’s a good thing, no?

Christine and I joke that you can spot a homeschooler at a country mile. I’d like to be wrong a little more often.

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