Homeschool Moms and a Strange Public Story

12 12 2008

Never mind the Subway boycott story or the debate over who’s a real homeschooler, who’s a real customer? 🙂

What do you think of this UK tale of 13 homeschooling kids having weekly sessions in a Swedish furniture store cafe and even bringing their own food and games — real customers, real homeschoolers, really “quiet time” and really education, or more like really obnoxious? What about the young people working there, trying to learn good business practices and how to handle customers who may be taking advantage or annoying other customers? Yes, they obviously said some ignorant things about home education but did the moms win them over or educate them by the “heated” self-entitled approach they took or just get them in trouble with management, which would tend to make them even more resentful of us?

I’m wide-open to input on this one because I have many mixed feelings!

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30 responses

12 12 2008
Nance Confer

Sounds like a good deal for everyone and like some clerks didn’t approve for some reason. The families spent a little money, didn’t annoy other customers and played nicely, from what I read. Like the time I spent waiting for DD to get her book at Books-A-Million the other day. I got my coffee, did not buy a book but picked one to read and sat in the cafe while she shopped. When you have a restaurant, people are going to use it.

Nance

12 12 2008
sam

I work in restaurants, and I don’t know how I’d feel about people using up space and not contributing monetarily. Apparently the families did spend some amount of money, and it seems they were there when the restaurant was empty.

On the other hand, I have seen plenty of families with a seeming entitled approach when it comes to using other people’s space. I’ve seen children allowed too much latitude and disrespecting the space. I’ve seen parents ignoring the bad behavior of their children and leaving it to a staff not likely used to dealing with children to attempt to police the children of other people.

So I’m not sure whose side I would tend to give my pity. One thing that jumped out at me reading the article was the mom’s approach to being kicked out. She emailed her hs friends to boycott Ikea, then she emailed someone at Ikea. Why wouldn’t she first focus on the actual problem instead of starting a boycott?

Also, we don’t seem to have heard from the people who had a problem with the families, and we are left to rely on the words of the hs mother who had a problem. I don’t see how that helps us gauge anything given that so many hs parents only see the good in themselves and the bad in others as opposed to accepting that maybe people outside our little universe have valid opinions. We don’t help our cause when we attempt to force everyone to just shut up and accept us, and we do need to listen to those outside of our little universe at least once in a while.

So, given my own experience, perhaps the families were not causing a problem, but I’ll withhold final judgment until I hear from the employees that actually work in this space and have to deal with, not just hs families, but every other customer as well.

12 12 2008
Obi-Mom Kenobi

IF you take the story at face value, it doesn’t sound like the families were being obnoxious or bothersome while in the store. That said, I think it would have been a better idea for one of the moms to have talked with a store manager before setting up a weekly “games day” for their kids in a store’s cafe area. To me, that is just good manners. The places that I’ve met others at regularly have been happy to have the place look “busy” at otherwise slow times, but we’ve always taken the step to ask first, too.

12 12 2008
JJ

Sam is closest to my first thoughts. I was remembering the public park incident where police officers were called because one of the kids had a “knife” and so all the homeschoolers were kicked out. PUBLIC being the operative word. And I was thinking if these same moms and kids had wanted to book a PUBLIC space at a park or playground every week for a couple of hours or at say, the library downtown much less the school down the street — LOL, hey, what if they did the same thing to the homeschool coordinator’s offices?? Just show up every Monday for two hours and play!– I know pretty much how the policy works. There would be a security deposit and maybe a cleaning fee, and required insurance for the group to pay, and there would be a limit of once a month or once a quarter to be sure everyone had equal access.

Public libraries have had a problem with people like kids after school and homeless folks during the day when the shelters are closed, etc, basically moving in on the library for non-reading or research purposes like, let’s say, socializing, sleeping on the couches, washing and shaving in the bathrooms, smoking and playing cards in groups on the main steps for hours.

And that’s if they were local residents “entitled” to
“use” that publicly-owned and operated facility.

Not a private business indoors, offering a nice cozy amenity for its customers but not a free playground for whoever finds it and wants it.

This place wasn’t set up as a public meeting space OR a playground. It’s a cafe for the furniture store customers. I’m thinking of the way the teens and adults treated the bookstores on Harry Potter release night, leaving cups and wrappers and napkins on the shelves with the new merchandise, just milling about and not buying anything for hours, except of course the one book they were waiting for at midnight. The place was a zoo. But the store planned that event and invited the public for that specific reason. This weekly play date would make me insane, and I would not go near the store or cafe ever, with or without my kids. But then, that’s me. I hate homeschool gatherings in public places (playdates and parkdays too) and as a regular patron I’ve been known to leave restaurants if I am seated near a large group office or birthday party, etc. That’s not the experience I (so rarely) go out to eat OR shop for big ticket items for — I like grown-up attention in grown-up spaces when I am paying — and come to think of it, I stay away from the library during popular times too.

Why don’t they go to someone’s house if they are so quiet and easy to take care of??

And btw, how could 13 kids and four moms fit at two regular tables? The answer is they can’t. They must’ve been pulling together long tables so they could be together and be with the kids (although if the kids were all at a bunch of tables, not with their mothers right on top of them, that might be worse.)

OTOH, I completely understand why corporate in Sweden would cave to them. I don’t think that makes them right, or smart, or helpful to the public image of homeschooling. Legal and recommended are two very different things!

12 12 2008
NanceConfer

That seems like a good approach, Obi-Mom.

Nance

12 12 2008
JJ

Sorry Nance, that was a rant, wasn’t it? 🙂

13 12 2008
JJ

I should probably add that we’ve traveled with a dance company for many years, in Jacksonville, Daytona Beach, Orlando and Panama City resort restaurants mostly — I always feel so sorry for the restaurant staff and the other patrons when we, um, DESCEND on a place. Usually it’s with advance arrangements and just for the one meal, one time, and we spend a lot. But still.

13 12 2008
Nance Confer

It was a little ranty. 🙂

But you obviously have had your experiences and have your perspective. My experiences of kids in bookstores — whether hsers or not — have been more positive. The Books-A-Million I mentioned is very open to all sorts of running around and game playing and other shenanigans — especially if Mom and Dad are shopping.

Cafes just seem like another advertising/marketing device to me and if it means the staff has to work when a group shows up. . . oh well.

I don’t think the library is meant to be so sacrosanct anymore either. If homeless people need a bathroom or kids’ groups need a place to hang out, I’m fine if they use the library for things other than reading.

Blurring of public and private spaces for even blurrier activities? 🙂

Nance

13 12 2008
COD

Allow me to summarize JJ’s rant in one sentence…

You kids get off my damn lawn!

13 12 2008
JJ

Oh, that would be a fun angle to come at this from!

Putting on Black Devil’s Advocate hat:

Let’s play how far can homeschool groups push their unwelcome presence in private businesses afraid to stand up to their flagrant abuse of the social contract? Car showrooms aren’t getting much buyer traffic these days and they’ve got huge sunny windows and wide expanses of shiny flooring for , hey, free homeschool skateboarding sessions every Tuesday!

At least the homeschool group spent about $36 (did that include any tip for the weary kids working there on what had been staffed as a slow afternoon?) but that was for two hours for 17 people — about a buck an hour per person? — presumably taking up four or five tabletops with endless glassware and a lot of drink spills and refills, home-supplied snack crumbs strewn around to clean up, etc. When I take my two kids to Chili’s or Applebee’s on a slow afternoon, the three of us quietly spend $36 at one table for a whole lot less trouble, at a place set up to sell exactly what we come to buy. Which seems like a more fair and mutually compensated transaction somehow, and the fact that we are “homeschoolers” is none of the staff’s concern — meaning they have no reason to know or care.

Maybe this is what cover charges are meant to “cover” then? If the cafe had a five or ten-dollar per head minimum with kids under two free and a two-hour limit, the large group’s weekly cost would have been a more reasonable (for restaurant service) $75 to $150 — and they wouldn’t come back because the deal would no longer be so skewed to their advantage. They would find another place to play and prey, probably Nance’s bookshop cafe, have fun!

Btw, what if this were a church group praying and doing bible study in the furniture store cafe, or a political protest group holding organizational sessions every week in the cafe, and other patrons were put off enough to complain or just staying away?

So if this regular homeschooler session for 17 is a good thing, the cafe as marketing device for furniture shoppers (not books) should hope to attract even more groups and activities unrelated to selling or buying furniture? Perhaps two or three different boy scout troops decide to start meeting in this shop every Wednesday and Thursday, and the Saturday morning antique car collectors will rally in the parking lot and serve hot dogs and barbeque from a cart, competing with the girl scout cookie booth and the cash-for-trash recycling club and the cheerleader carwash attracting the leers of all the old men shining up their model Ts and Corvettes. . .the public schools could bring field trips in too.

I predict the original homeschool group will soon find itself someplace quieter to camp out. 😉

And corporate will soon close the cafe, hire 24-hour security for the parking lot, or maybe just shutter the whole showroom for an Internet-only business model instead.

Okay, that’s enough Black Hat to give a Green or Yellow Hat something to talk about awhile. 😉

13 12 2008
JJ

I still think this is an awesome idea to play with:
“LOL, hey, what if they did the same thing to the homeschool coordinator’s offices?? Just show up every Monday for two hours and play”

— what if homeschoolers we know online, each got up a group to do this locally, maybe during state testing week for the schools? Would it be like a Million Homeschooler March and what would happen next, regulation-wise? Wouldn’t they be begging us to GO AWAY and leave the school district alone??

13 12 2008
JJ

Unbidden, snowmobile noise pollution in national parks springs to mind. . .

13 12 2008
NanceConfer

Or the mall? That would be more open, more space to run around, more tables. Picturing the food court at the local mall here.

Where there did seem to be some sort of meeting going on at the two big tables across from me as I waited for DD and friend to get out of the movies. (I seem to spend a lot of time driving and waiting. . . 🙂 )

I guessed (because that’s what I do — imagine what the people are doing there — don’t we all? DD says not so much. . . ) that this was a local business holding some sort of training session. They looked kind of junior sales rep-like and had earnest-looking expressions and some sort of paperwork.

Not what the food court is explicitly for — holding your trainee meeting on how to sell, let’s say, furniture — but it didn’t bother me and there was almost nobody else there so they didn’t disturb anyone.

Now, if this had been a group of kids and they had been creating a scene and a mess — is that different? Only because of the mess and scene or because they are kids? Or both? If the food court had been busy?

And, fwiw, this time I didn’t buy a thing. Just sat and read my book. And nobody fussed at me.

OTOH, this same mall has a rule against more than 5 kids/teens walking the mall in a group.

Nance

P.S. The hsing coordinator’s office here is a dingy, small place that wouldn’t really tempt anyone.

13 12 2008
NanceConfer

. . .the fact that we are “homeschoolers” is none of the staff’s concern — meaning they have no reason to know or care.

***********

This is how we go about our days and why I may be thinking of this differently. How my children are schooled is not the issue.

Nance

13 12 2008
NanceConfer

I wonder if there is any information about whether encouraging this sort of thing — placing comfy chairs around the book store, putting a coffee shop in the furniture store, offering free WiFi in the mall, etc. — pays off. The stores must feel it brings in business, right? They don’t expect that the coffee shop is going to make much, do they? They think you’re going to see their new couch and buy one. Right? Or why bother?

Nance

13 12 2008
NanceConfer

And maybe that’s why the corporate office responded so quickly and positively. Better than they might have if this had been the local biker gang looking for a hang out. No?

Nance

13 12 2008
NanceConfer

But what about JJ? She wants to look at furniture. Undisturbed by a herd of children over in the coffee shop. How can she shop when that racket is going on?

So the store must have weighed their options, right? Must have decided they would gain more customers than they would lose.

Hmmm. . . I wonder if it works.

Nance

13 12 2008
JJ

Now you’re thinking like a curious policy analyst!

😀

13 12 2008
JJ

“OTOH, this same mall has a rule against more than 5 kids/teens walking the mall in a group. ”

This policy analyst could really get her back up about THAT. Harumph!

13 12 2008
COD

//“OTOH, this same mall has a rule against more than 5 kids/teens walking the mall in a group. ”//

If that had been in effect when I was in Jr High I would not have had a social life!

As somebody who frequently does work in coffee shops (or my fave, Panera Bread) between meetings, I can tell you most of those places have a gently worded policy about camping out during busy times. At 2 PM in the afternoon, they don’t care. At lunch rush, they do.

//Determined Shoshana, who lives at Galley Hill, promptly emailed the tale to every home education group in the country, urging them to boycott Ikea.//

Even the UK HSers default to a boycott for every slight. Geesh!

14 12 2008
Nance Confer

Yes, it was the boycott that seemed unnecessary to me. No need to be a special-interest crank at every opportunity.

Nance

15 12 2008
Kristina

Have you ever been to an Ikea? They have play areas all over the store. I go there just for their Swedish meatballs. And, they have a daycare available for free to their shoppers. They even have play areas in their cafeteria. And, it is a cafateria. You’re expected to put your tray with your plates/glasses on a cart. Their food prices are amazingly low. We always have lunch when we go there. Also, their cafeterias are huge and, on a weekday, virtually empty. They do have long tables (cafeteria style–think school:), so it’s possible that these families were only taking up two tables.

OTOH, I think they should have found out what the problem was, spoken to a maneger, and then spoken to corporate. There was no reason for them to start a boycott without finding out the problems involved. Were they causing extra work for the employees? Were they causing problems for the other patrons? It was not their right to be there. On the other hand this was in the UK, not here. So, I’m not sure what their rights are.

As far as parks are concerned, my playgroup meets every week at a local public park. We’re a small playgroup, and it never would have occurred to me to make a reservation to meet a park, especially when there is noone else there.

And, I think the car dealership would be great. We’ve been looking for a place to hold meetings during the winter. Thanks for the idea. So, we just show up, right. 😉

15 12 2008
JJ

LOL, hi Kristina! Welcome to the revolution, right?

I got to thinking about your comment on the specific “culture” inside an Ikea. No, I haven’t ever been inside one. It matters, doesn’t it? Each type of place has a different culture and feel, so different rules and policies and expectations. And then I wondered if Ikea as a corporate culture reflects the general Swedish culture in some ways I also hadn’t thought about — your comments on the daycare etc and the subsidizing of the food costs to keep them low for families, reminded me how socialized Sweden is in terms of family support.

And how homogenous a culture it’s been until recently too. It developed as a geographically isolated and therefore genetically and behaviorally pretty “pure” population, more like a very big family.

American culture is practically the opposite! 🙂

So that corporate culture will fit Sweden like a glove and everyone will think it’s great, how smart they are. But here the same model will lead to all sorts of small and then big culture clashes and hence hard feelings both ways, and everyone will feel ill-used and resentful, when they were just being themselves within their own rights and expectations and natural doings.

I’ve known moms like this btw, who have children who naturally “fit” them and and their preferred personal rhythms and ways of living and relating, so everything seems so easy and they’re convinced they are great moms and everything they do must be “right” because look how it works! — versus moms with a child who doesn’t fit them, and so they are at their wit’s end and feel everything they do is wrong and failing.

15 12 2008
NanceConfer

Didn’t you hear? We had an election and we’re all going to be socialists now. 🙂

Nance

15 12 2008
JJ

Oh yeah, silly me!
Socialists Chicago-style (deep dish with Big Hair?) 😉

19 06 2009
Mrs. C

“I’ve known moms like this btw, who have children who naturally “fit” them and and their preferred personal rhythms and ways of living and relating, so everything seems so easy and they’re convinced they are great moms and everything they do must be “right” because look how it works! — versus moms with a child who doesn’t fit them, and so they are at their wit’s end and feel everything they do is wrong and failing.”

How true! Except I find the whole culture difficult to navigate for my autistic children. I have to balance the comfort of others to eat a peaceful meal, shop without interruption, etc. with my children’s right to a life outside their homes.

It’s hard!!! Sometimes there are no clear and easy answers.

On to the article…

Ok, bringing food for BABIES shouldn’t be an issue. Do you think the IKEA shop sells Gerber squash? :p FWIW my son also has food allergies, and I could easily see myself sneaking butter-free popcorn into the movie theatre for him. Out of politeness I would certainly purchase something for the other children from the outrageously-priced snack shop. One refillable bucket of popcorn for five kids/one parent LOL. We get our money’s worth, tell ya.

It sounds like the homeschoolers were taking advantage of some very liberal policies. Solution? Change the policies. And I do believe store managers should have discretion about when to ask customers to leave within reason.

I see this from both sides… but have to wonder if a 13-kid and four-parent PTA group meeting at the IKEA cafe during school breaks or on Tuesday nights would have the children’s method of education so prominently mentioned.

19 06 2009
JJ

Hi Mrs C, good thoughts all. 🙂

I like this particular conversation because we do naturally tend to see both sides without polarizing ourselves into opposing camps. Indeed, we see many sides, many angles and then lots of ideas come from that. Very high-level thinking.

(Now if only we can translate that into some words and thoughts for other issues!)

20 06 2009
Crimson Wife

Actually, my local IKEA *DOES* sell jarred baby food (or at least it did 3 years ago when my DS was a baby). I remember thinking at the time that someone in their purchasing department sure did his/her homework on the demographics of the store’s customers.

20 06 2009
COD

//Out of politeness I would certainly purchase something for the other children from the outrageously-priced snack shop//

I don’t feel any responsibility to prop up the cinema’s bad business model by paying $4.00 for 4 cents worth of popcorn. Back when we were young and poor we used to only frequent the dollar theater, and we still sneaked in snacks because the $2 was sometimes a stretch. What we usually do these days is go to the afternoon matinée immediately after lunch – which negates the whole overpriced snack issue as nobody is hungry.

20 06 2009
Nance Confer

NetFlix.

Nance

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