“Confessions of a Home-schooler”: Salon

28 09 2009

Cock of the snook for this to COD:

. . .Some people seem genuinely disturbed by our decision, on philosophical or political grounds, as if by keeping a couple of 5-year-olds out of kindergarten we have violated the social contract. Specifically, we have rejected the mainstream consensus that since education is a good thing, more of it — more formal, more “academic,” reaching ever deeper into early childhood and filling up more of the day and more of the year — is better for society and better for all children. This is almost an article of faith in contemporary America, but it’s also one that’s debatable at best and remains largely unsupported by research data.

In a related vein, some people suspect we have a hidden ideological or religious agenda we’re not telling them about. We may look like your standard-issue Brooklyn creative-class family — two 40-something parents, two kids, two pet rabbits and a battered Chrysler minivan — but who are we really? Home schooling has become a lot more mainstream and diverse in recent years, but familiar stereotypes endure. . .

In order to avoid one or more of these discomfort zones, we try to answer all well-meaning interlocutors with bland, diplomatic and totally unspecific generalities. Not quite lies, but well short of what you’d call the truth. This is a phenomenon known to almost all home-schoolers, from Mormon separatists to off-the-grid hippie anarchists, and a frequent discussion starter in online home-school groups. . .




17 responses

28 09 2009
Nance Confer

And those answers serve 99% of the time. Most people really don’t care. Not as much as we think they should or might about our precious kids. They are just passing the time. Being what passes for polite and asking about your children.

Every once in a while someone actually wants to know about hsing but not usually.


28 09 2009


They are just passing the time. Being what passes for polite and asking about your children.

:* (the emoticon for me blowing a kiss to Nance!)

Yes, most people ask just to be friendly and polite — though I always carry a Bitter List in my back pocket just in case.

28 09 2009

From the article:

Mrs. GSP: Do you use a curriculum?
Me: Oh, sure! Absolutely.
Real answer: Give me a break! These kids are 5 years old.

It’s possible that “Mrs. GSP” is more on-the-ball than the author. In fact, I’ve been known to ask this question of homeschoolers; it gives me instant insight into a parent’s values that perfunctory explanations don’t. Additionally, you may not give “religious training” as your number one reason for homeschooling, but if you’re using, say, Heart of Wisdom curriculum, I can surmise a lot.

I also know that newbies hyphenate, as you said, JJ. It’s a give-away, isn’t it? 🙂

28 09 2009

To make my point, when my daughter was 5, we were using Five in a Row 😉

28 09 2009

I enjoyed reading this, and the linked articles as well. This is what I call the “smile and nod” approach, which I will be using tomorrow at Epsilon’s (my two year old’s) well child appointment, and possibly posting about soon thereafter. But I am concerned… I hyphenate constantly in my posts. What am I giving away, I wonder? I’m making a conscious effort NOT to hyphenate right now! What is it saying about me that I do that so often??

28 09 2009

And even without buying curriculum — here’s my when-she-was-five-or-six. 😉

The Unschooling Guinea Pig Part One

28 09 2009

It’s only the words homeschool and homeschooling, Beta, lol — you can remember not to hyphenate THOSE! 🙂

The Salon article was funny though because not only are there hyphenated uses but also two-word spacing sprinkled around — “home schooling” and “home school” — which is either a sign that the author is clueless about how we sneer in our subculture to see it mangled, or at least that the author doesn’t know yet that it’s important enough to MAKE a point of this point with any editors and reporters. Because if he doesn’t, they will screw it up for sure. 🙂

28 09 2009

People never ask me these questions. Maybe my kids look and act too “normal.” LOL

28 09 2009

Oh but let’s imagine Beta’s first impression was right and we had a sort of dog-whistle secret code of homeschooling that you couldn’t use hyphens, the way that pod people don’t have belly buttons and androids can’t use contractions. That would be AWESOME! (wouldn’t it?)

28 09 2009

COD, I’m betting your wife does most of the grocery and clothes shopping, also doctor-dentist visits with the kids? That is where you get those questions, in my experience.

28 09 2009

Actually, I think it’s that the kids are old enough that the stay home and don’t do all those errands with us anymore! Their doc and dentist were pre-screened for HS friendliness. When we moved to Fburg we asked other HSers for referrals so we knew we were getting medical professionals that if they didn’t support HSing, at least kept their opinions to themselves about it!

28 09 2009

Ahh, I loved the “guinea pig” link!! It makes me hope that perhaps, someday, I’ll look back at my “schoolish-ness” now, and have moved on so far that my thoughts and actions now seem laughable! Because I’m wanting to lean toward unschooling, but wondering how in the bloody hell I’m going to convince my loving, but completely INTJ-husband, that this is the right course. Let alone me besides!!

I think I can remember not to hyphenate those two terms, although it does annoy me to no end that spell-checker highlights every appearance of “homeschool” as an error! I think, perchance, newcomers are paying too much attention to their grammar and spell-checkers, trying to be p.c., rather than true to themselves and their kids. But what do I know? A year on from this comment and I might cringe from my naivete!?

28 09 2009
28 09 2009

Just to make it more complicated btw, “home education” is indeed two words with a space, except when you use it as an adjective or sometimes when used as a verb or gerund, and then it is (ta-da!) HYPHENATED!

My family homeschools
My family prefers home education. (less common, my family home-educates; we are home-educating)
My home-educated son knows better than to hyphenate homeschooling!

29 09 2009

Here’s a comment I wrote out for Beta at her blog and I want to think more about it, so let’s keep it handy here too. It’s along this same line of parents growing and changing over the years, and how home-educating the kids to think themselves into wonderful lives is predicated on home-educating ourselves to do that!

3 JJ Ross on 09.29.09 at 15:44

Wrapping one’s mind around unschooling is easier with experiences like this kept front and center, as Beta just discovered. 🙂

But it’s really, really hard to do. Dale McGowan at Meming of Life has written about “confirmation bias” in trying to enlighten ourselves about religious doctrine, where even a tough, serious and motivated mind may have embedded scripts below the level of consciousness that sabotage objective inquiry in decision-making of all kinds.

It feels so risky to stop believing the party line of either church or school, that our own minds and emotions are on the other side working against us! — to talk us out of it or if that fails, TRICK us out of it, for our own good of course, because conformity feels safer to the lizard brain.

The primitive fear is the same in either case, that if you reject either school or church teachings, you will be cast out into the darkness and damned, your life will lose all meaning and you’ll eat out your own liver for eternity. Talk about high stakes tests! 🙂

JJ’s Hypothesis: Adults determined to study and test their own embedded beliefs about either church or school, are likely to have similar personal experiences with both.

Some people get to unschooling more with their feelings, often after being so monstrously mistreated by schooling that the mind finally will accept almost anything as being safer than a return to that. Same with church. Maybe think about “church” conventions as a parallel to “school” conventions — how the culture indoctrinates us that both are some sort of universal human truth and resistance is futile. As children we receive church AND school dogma as “written on our hearts” to the point that as adults, daring to break with belief inside our own hearts and minds, can feel like falling into an abyss.

Others of us get there with our thinking more than our feelings, I guess. Like me. 🙂

But even as we think we’re being so analytical and rational, and we try consciously to challenge the cultural scripts about church (and school) all around us, they keep playing on a loop INSIDE us all during our inquiry, under the level of rationality, and it’s very hard to resist; I imagine it must be something like how addiction feels? When the mind has doubts about embedded scripts of school and church, even a well-educated and scientific mind tends to rationalize away the doubt to resolve the dissonance, and usually that means the embedded idea is not only not removed, it’s actually reinforced and harder than ever to think away the next time. This is not logical but very human.

I read and researched for years, tried several belief systems and thought I had a couple of transformative spiritual experiences even, before I could finally set aside my lizard brain scripts of church — and then I had to start all over again with school. Studied it all, tried it all, thought I believed and embraced it all, until I had my own children. ( That should be the picture in the dictionary next to the word “epiphany!”) So then I addressed my growing doubts with years of gorging on cognitive and education psychology, and that eventually became my own mind’s way of accepting that any risk in unschooling was better than the known system failures of schooling.

30 09 2009

Blogging in response to “Confessions” and already pulling 121 comments:

Confessions of a Liberal Homeschooler [in Texas!]

2 10 2009
Crimson Wife

Rod Dreher’s about as liberal as I am. His book Crunchy Cons has come the closest to describing my personal political beliefs as anything I’ve ever seen. At the time he wrote it, he was Catholic but he’s since converted to Eastern Orthodox Christianity.

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