Thursday, April 19, 2007

We're Not All Cut Out for Homeschool

Author Note (5/3/07): If you arrived here from a homeschool site, brace yourself. The articles in this blog are authored by a freelance humor columnist whose primary objective is to sell articles to sailing magazines that poke fun at cruising, sailing, cooking in the joke of a kitchen known as a galley, families trying something out of the box, and all things related to spending absurd amounts of money on boat gear. This article should not be interpreted as an advisory for those considering the homeschool world. And whatever you do, ignore #7. And maybe #8. And just for giggles, pretend that you didn't read the one about perfectionists either.

“It’s different for every homeschool family,” Polly reassures a parent who is visiting the Seattle Homeschool Resource Center today to learn more about what it’s like to homeschool. Polly, mother of six and matron of the SHRC, knows what she’s talking about. She’s seen families flow through this program for years now. The answer to the question of, “What is it like to homeschool?” is pretty much a non-starter.

I think answering that question is a lot like trying to explain to people who have no children what it’s like to bring a baby into the world for the first time. It’s the best thing in the world! It’s the worst! It’s all that, and it’s not like that at all. What can I say? You are blind, you’re asking me to describe the difference between mauve and magenta, and I’m not even sure you know what a color is. We may have no common reference point.

I don’t feel like reassuring this homeschool-teacher-to-be. I feel like shouting, “RUN! Run away NOW! You are not the ideal candidate for homeschooling.”

Okay, but why? Naturally, the instant the prospect left the Commons, the room erupted in what Polly has both optimistically and euphemistically referred to as one of our “supportive conversations about homeschooling and parenting” but to which most of us parents refer as our “gossiping sessions.” We parents are required by law to be on the grounds of the school while our offspring participate in the Seattle School District's answer to the ever increasing numbers of children escaping public school. Rather than give up that money, they’ve created a place where they can entice us back into the “system” with art, drama, music, and advanced math classes. For this we are paid $400 a child and they are paid $8,000 by the State. Our kids expand their minds, and we chit chat and drink coffee.

Anyway, there was a surprisingly high degree of consensus that my opinion of the prospect was spot on. She’ll probably make a lousy transition to a homeschool parent. This then led to a long discussion about what makes a homeschool family unsuccessful. So much for supportive, helpful comments about homeschooling by experienced parents. So to those in the F cube (friends, family and fans) seeking recommendations and advice on the topic of homeschooling, I offer this list from the parents of SHRC:

Ten Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Homeschool

Reason 1) You believe that socializing is the most important job of public school.
Since this is always the first question “inquiring minds" want to know, I can only assume this is important. No one asks me how I’m going to teach the kids to read, conjugate verbs, or dissect frogs, so presumably they trust in my ability to convey those important skills. I would like to point out, however, that what public school socializes your children to do is spend six hours sitting in a room with twenty-nine other people the same age during which they must pee and eat at the same time as well as line up to move from room to room. If you know of any place but public school where this would be a useful skill, you let me know.

Reason 2) You send email to a complete stranger on the Internet asking which curriculum you should use.
Not to discourage the fan mail… I LOVE it! I thrill to receiving email from all of you – particularly those that I don’t know and who do not share my last name. However, I’ve received questions like: “Do you think I should use Sonlight or Abeka?” First, I have no clue. I don’t know what your kids are like. Second, I’m not a Christian. Don’t ask me to differentiate between books that teach the world is either 3,000 or 6,000 years old. It’s like asking a teetotaler to discuss the relative merits of gin versus vodka.

Reason 3) You have an obsessive need for one or more of the following: Cleanliness, peace, or privacy.
Actually, you probably shouldn’t even have had children. But if the barn door has already swung open on that one, don’t compound your initial error by bringing all that cacophony into your home 24/7.

Reason 4) You don't like your children.
See Reason 3.

Reason 5) You want to watch movies and play Sudoku all day.
Believe it or not, “Homeschool Parent” is a full time job. You may think that once you settle in with the kids at home you won’t be “working” and therefore you’ll have all the time in the world to write a novel, knit a sweater, or get a master’s degree in existential thought in the 21st century. I am here to assure you that you will have less time to yourself and your own pursuits as a homeschool teacher than you did back in your software development days when you routinely clocked 65 hours a week and synchronized your laptop in the delivery room.

Reason 6) You have impulse control problems.
The opportunities for disaster are endless.

Reason 7) You have only one child.
Okay, this isn't a reason, this is just a heads up. We onlies are an arrogant lot, bright and strong willed. We're tricky beasts. Be vawy vawy cautious when you twap one of us waskaly devils in your house.

Reason 8) The world revolves around either you or your child.
It does not pay to let anyone believe for more than a few minutes that he or she is the most important person in the world. From such lapses of reality, monomaniacal world leaders are created.

Aeron and a Friend
Aeron and a Friend
Originally uploaded by toastfloats.
Reason 9) You are a perfectionist. Your spouse is a perfectionist. Your child is a perfectionist. Your parents are perfectionists.
Inevitably, you will disappoint someone.

And, last but not least…

Reason 10) …
Never mind. We don’t have a reason ten. About two weeks into it, you’ll come up with your own reason ten.


Barbara Frank said...

For a new homeschooler, it sounds like you're figuring things out pretty quickly!

Take it from a veteran: it will be hard, it will be exhausting, it will be worth it.

Great post :)


Summer said...

Great list! LOL Though I do have to disagree with #7. I have a freind who choose to only have 1 child and homeschools her, and she's the coolest little girl I know. But then, she's most likely the exception to the rule in many ways. :)

Appletini said...

Well, I will cut you a lot of slack since you are, as you described, "a new homeschooler."

I think it's great that you've taken up the challenge of educating your own children. However, I take great exception to your #7 reason not to homeschool -- if you have an only child.

I have an only child that I've homeschooled now for 5 years. He's never been to a daycare, preschool or public school. He IS the center of my world, and he is also a well-rounded, well-behaved, very friendly little boy. I know other homeschoolers of onlies, and given the wide variances between any children in regards to personality, they are all great kids in their own right.

I think it's quite presumptuous to assert that onlies shouldn't be homeschooled. Every family is different, and yes -- some shouldn't homeschool at all -- but you would really have to know each and every family in order to make any kind of judgement on their ability to homeschool successfully.

As homeschoolers, in general, we are judged unfairly by many non-homeschoolers, for the simple decision we've made to take charge of our children's education ourselves. It is unfortunate that, even among homeschoolers, that kind of judgement continues.

I wish you the best in your homeschooling endeavors with your children. And, I will heartily continue my own endeavors with my one and only child.

Katina Mooneyham said...

Number one was right on! But I think it's a concern (to some) who start out. Then they really start thinking about it. I know that it was one of the things that held me back so long. But I was ignorant bascially because I grew up in the system of things. But I soon learned and thought about things.

My kids now are the best "socialized" they could be. They seem much more open now that they are no longer being bullied because they are different or whatever.

I know so many DIFFERENT homeschoolers and they homeschool so many DIFFERENT ways. Hopefully you find your own kick. Enjoy it, it's worth it. It's hard, yes, it makes you want to pull what little hair you have left, it makes you want to go, " What the heck was I thinking?" but it's worth every sorrow.

Pen said...

I homeschool an only child, and she's the coolest little girl I know! OK, OK, that's confirming you in your idea isn't it? : ) I guess I should send her to be socialised at school, so she can learn how unimportant she really is. Seriously, the best reason not to homeschool is because either the parent or the child doesn't really want to.

Elisheva Hannah Levin said...

I have two children, one at university and one being homeschooled. In a sense, the younger one is like an only child at this point.

I totally disagree with your #7. Children continue to believe that they are the be-all and end-all of all things after babyhood exist in quantity in schools. They are not this way because they get attention from their parents. They are this way because they have been taught a sense of entitlement. An only child can be a fine, courteous, thoughtful person or not. It depends very much on how he or she is brought up.

We teach our son to imagine that in his right pocket he carries a scroll that reads: "I am but dust and ashes." And in the left pocket a scroll that reads: "The world was created for me."

In our weaker moments, we need to remember that what we do matters. What we say to others matters. But in our stronger moments, we need to remember that we are not perfect or entitled to things beyond what all of us are given--our fragile lives.

This is the way of balance. And only children can be taught balance as well as many children. And there are plenty of children from families with more than one who do not have balance also.

Frankie said...

I read this post earlier in the day and I just couldn't respond at that point.

I am a mom of an only child. I am so hurt by your number seven. Why do people treat onlies and parents of onlies like this? WHY?

When my child was in public school, I had a teacher comment that parents ought not be allowed to have just one child. That floored me. Frankly, this stings even worse.

I am just so hurt that the homeschooling community -- your comment and the consensus of the group of which you speak -- could say such a mean-spirited thing.

For the record, we tried to have other children, but it was just not meant to be. So yeah, maybe I'm a bit touchy.

So I guess I should send poor Thomas back to school instead of keeping him at home where he has grown, learned and gained confidence that was stripped from him in public school, just because he's an only.

What a load of crap.

Frankie said...

I'm sorry for being somewhat rude, but that reason number 7 hit me like a ton of bricks.

And it's really untrue. I know many homeschoolers with only one child, and all those kids are great.

hahamommy said...

I've got an only (granted he's only been an only for just over a year, and we're still getting used to one instead of two...) AND we both happen to LOVE living as though the world revolves around the both of us. What a great way to live, the entire universe as our banquet and we are the guests of honor. It manifests well for us!

Old Dominion Heather said...

I can certainly see how, in your situation, #7 and #8 would be of extreme importance. You live on a boat... How cool, btw. I have always wanted to do that except I get sea sick! I would guess that it does somewhat limit your social contacts.

Anonymous said...

Wow.... living on a boat! Very cool. I'm totally jealous.

BTW, great post. :-)

Although, not sure about #7. I love this blog and they're homeschooling an only child:

Anonymous said...

As a new homeschooler, you seem to have a lot figured out already. Except the part that every family is different. We're going into our 4th year of homeschooling our only child. Though I consider myself a veteran, I would never presume to tell families with multiple children why they shouldn't homeschool.

Homeschooling an only child is neither wrong nor difficult.

I wish had the time to learn html so I could more easily link to my post on homeschooling an only. I instead put the link in my name.

Anonymous said...

I'm surprised at how many people overreacted to 7 & 8.

"The lady doth protest too much, methinks."

Brian Dunbar said...

A lot of touchy parents out there with a single child.


Toast said...

Folks, I hear and obey. It was great getting the traffic, but it sucked to see folks take it so seriously and worse to see that folks had their feelings hurt. That was never my intention.

As a result, I've modified #7 to tone it way way done. My sincere apologies to those who read the original and were upset.

But pretty please remember that first and foremost Toast Floats is a humor column about cruising families. I don't really recommend throwing the kids off the beam as a good way to teach them to swim either, but it makes for a few smiles which is the sole function of this series.

Anonymous said...

Eh. Too bad; it was funnier in the original form. That said, I'm not homeschooling - but being the parent of a very-likely-to-be-only child, and a child who will be an oddball in nearly any educational setting at that, I found points 7, 8 & 9 to be both funny and ringing *very* true.

My Busy Life said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
My Busy Life said...

I added a short list on this to my blog, thanks for sharing, I did enjoy reading your post. Best wishes on your homeschool adventures.
Sorry, forgot to include my link!

Anonymous said...

Wow...lotta thin-skinned people out there.

We homeschooled the youngest of our three boys for several years. He turned out OK...or at least as well as the ones who went to the public edumakasional system the whole twelve years.

But my comment isn't really about named one of your kids after a CHAIR???! (Aeron).

ScottE said...

Oh man... What was the original text to #7? I feel like I'm missing out! (Yes we homeschool, yes we are thickheaded, no we don't really care what everyone else is doing).

phantoo said...

School life is the best one life in my whole career life whenever i memorize those moments so much missed that one much more love and want to back that career life so overall good experiance in that life

Anonymous said...

I have to say I (sort of) agree with #7. Do I know a couple of wonderful, well-adjusted, homeschooled onlies? Yes. In fact, that perfectly describes my best friend. But I also have a buddy with a 3 year old she has decided to homeschool, who only ever interacts with adults-- and it shows. Some parents of onlies go out of their way to make sure their child gets social time with other kids, and others don't seem prepared to make that leap.

Basically, it's not impossible, but parents need to realize that there are a truckload of issues there that wouldn't exist for a kid with at least one sibling.

Donna C said...

Discovered this post while looking up "Homeschooling Only One" on Google.

I definitely saw the humor in #7. (And I hs'ed my now-22 yo son from '94 to '08 and who attends college currently.)

I think some see an over-reaction if they have the "typical" more than 1 family size. They just don't realize how many times HOO'ers' questions have been ignored or trivialized away in so many homeschool groups over the years. HOO'ers can get a bit defensive because they don't get the respect or the attention because they don't fit the "mold" of homeschooling. (Viva la differance!--Thankfully every homeschool family is unique and looks quite different!)

There are a large population of those HOO'ing and I've seen very few spoiled or "adult-oriented" only children. As an only child myself, I sure saw PLENTY of spoiled kids in my time in public school--and they always remarked that I couldn't be an only child as I wasn't spoiled. (rolling eyes)

I have met quite a lot, too, as I wrote the book, Homeschooling Only One, and have had quite a few interactions with HOO'd children.

Blessing to all - keep the humor comin'! :)

~~Donna C

Melissa Cossey said...

hahahahaahah! I love this! Really really funny. I especially like #7! Following you

drunken butterfly said...

:) i have an only child that i'm homeschooling...she loves it and i love it...but i didn't take offence to #7...your article is awesome, quirky and reminds me why we do what we do...just because we can, against all odds! sure its not easy ALL the time
i have a 22 year old son who didn't like homeschool, so i only homeschooled him for 2 years then let him make the choice
the trick, i think, is to be completely honest with yourself...unless you're 110% committed, don't!
and remember, if you're not having loads of fun, you're doing it wrong :0

Anonymous said...

Come on Frankie. She is a comedian and warned you not to take it too seriously. We are sure Thomas is a great kid.