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Aug 15

I Don’t Care Where Your Kids Go To School

Tegan is excited for another year of "Not Back To School"

Tegan is excited for another year of “Not Back To School”

 

It’s mid-August.

For lots of people, mid-August means back-to-school-shopping.  It means new clothes and new backpacks and new haircuts.  It means family traditions or special breakfasts, and fresh-faced smiling pictures in front of the fireplace, or the house, or out on the sidewalk.  It means kids excited to continue seeing their friends, and excited to see what the new year will bring.

For lots of other people, mid-August means the official start to another year of opting out.  It means another year of sleeping in.  It means another year of charting their own course, choosing a different path, and learning on their own terms.  It means kids excited to continue seeing their friends, and excited to see what the new year will bring.

For still others, it might mean something else.  Maybe they homeschool, but still utilize the public school part-time.  Maybe they’re a homeschooling family who chooses to adhere to a school’s schedule.  Maybe they’re a full-time traveling family.

All of the above are valid, acceptable, well-founded options, depending on the family.

We chose homeschooling (specifically, unschooling) for our family a long time ago.  Spencer was really just an infant at the time, so the decision was made over 17 years ago.  It’s a decision we continue to make, year after year, because it’s the right decision for us.  We’re happy with homeschooling. We’re like… completely, blissfully, disgustingly happy.  And in the grand tradition of “promoting what you love instead of bashing what you hate,”  I love to talk about it.  Write about it.  Share other articles about it.

Isn’t that what happy people do?

I love to hear happy stories and see happy pictures of my friends’ kids, no matter where they do, or do not, go to school.

Unfortunately though, not everyone is happy.  Sometimes the parents are unhappy, sometimes the child is unhappy, sometimes the family in general is unhappy.  It’s for those people especially that I think the homeschooling discussion is important.  Not necessarily because they need to choose homeschooling, but because it’s important that they realize there are options.  It’s important that people can take a step back and say, “Okay.  This isn’t working.  What can we do/change/try to fix this?”

That’s a big part of the reason I continue to write about it, and honestly sometimes it’s the only reason, because talking about homeschooling is not always fun.  I get a lot of defensiveness when I post or write about homeschooling.  A lot of it.  I once lost a dear friend (she literally just stopped being my friend) when I posted on Facebook that it was back to school time, and we were happy that we were once again opting out.  She told me that she couldn’t believe I had such “vile contempt” for people who sent their kids to school, and ended our friendship as of that day.  It didn’t appear to matter to her that I hadn’t actually said anything about people who sent their kids to school,  let alone something that conveyed “vile contempt.”

Being happy with my choices does not equal contempt for your choices.

Here’s the thing:  If you’re happy and secure in your own choices, great!  If you’re defensively yelling at me and calling me names and making big speeches, I might question how happy you really are…. but if you truly are happy, great!   If you tried homeschooling but ultimately decided that public school worked better for your children, great!  If your kids are happy and healthy and thriving and love going to school, great!  You don’t have to defend your choices to me.   My choices shouldn’t matter one wit to you.

Because (and I mean this in the nicest way possible)  I don’t care where your kids go to school.  I really, truly don’t.  I love homeschooling, and for that I make no apologies.  But I’m not on some one-woman crusade to convince the world that everyone.  must.  homeschool.  I have my own family of 6 to think about – a family that’s currently off the rails with a totaled car, an insurance mess, an upcoming surgery, and 6 short weeks to finish putting a conference together – so I promise you, I’m not taking the time to make any judgments about yours.  I wish I had the kind of time people think I spend judging others!

I fantasize about pulling down my blog often, but until/unless I do, chances are very nearly 100% that I will continue to talk about homeschooling.  It’s my life;  it’s what I love.  If reading about homeschooling makes you angry or defensive or wish something bad will happen to me and my family…. might I suggest you simply don’t read those posts?  You can stay and yell at me if it makes you feel better, but I assure you it’s not necessary.

The internet is a big, big place.  There’s room enough for all of us.


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17 comments

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  1. CrunchyConservative

    LOVE LOVE LOVE! I could have written this myself. And I think I have. : ) I have often wondered how people who have their kids in a school never post about how wonderful their kids are doing or the amazing things that they get to do. But then the moment that I post about what we do or what we believe, someone gets offended. Even though I have done nothing but say how much I love…fill in the blank. Things came off the rails when I started posting about un-schooling. Some how my embracing something means that I have automatic disdain for someone else’s choice. They accuse me of only believing in one way although they would say the same things about their political choices. I have just learned to politely discuss the issue without animus and confirm that I am not judging them. They just need for me to pat them on the head and tell them that they’re making the right choice for their child as if somehow they have given me that power over them. It makes me sad for them and they are my friends so I do it over and over again and am just thankful that I don’t need that in my life.

    1. pathlesstaken

      Thank you! I’m glad you liked it. People are just so fearful of what they don’t understand, and/or threatened by things that may step on their toes and cause them to have to actually think or re-evaluate. I think too that once you have an “audience” over a certain size (more than say, 4 people) it’s just a matter of fact that certain people are going to choose to be offended and contrary, just because.

  2. T Serenity McCloskey

    I love everything you write, but this one just became my ALL TIME personal favorite. Seriously, I couldn’t love it more if I tried. EXCELLENT.

    1. pathlesstaken

      Well thanks :)

  3. Nikki Wall

    Absolutely! I’ve always found such unpleasantness far more a symptom of the other person’s dis-ease with their own choices, rather than a true reflection of anything I’ve said (not least as one of mine is at school – his choice).

    1. pathlesstaken

      Oh absolutely. I try to remind myself when I get comments that get under my skin that it’s a reflection of THEM, not me.

  4. Sue Patterson

    It makes me sad when people think they don’t have options. Thanks for writing this, Jen.

    1. pathlesstaken

      Yes, knowing you have options (not just when it comes to education, but across life in general) is so, so important.

  5. Serenity

    I tried to talk my First grader into staying home but she is having too much fun so far. :( Maybe soon she will stop liking it and I can get her back :)

    1. pathlesstaken

      Aw, bittersweet! I’m glad she is having fun, but sorry you’re missing her!

  6. LeeAnn Johnson Moore

    Thank you, Jen. I love to read about your unschooling adventures. I love that our country offers schooling to all children. I love that we live in a place that allows us to make our own choices. I love when we can share our opinions in a thoughtful and respectful way. I love when choices are presented as just that, choices…understanding that what works for one may not work for another. I love when we can celebrate the achievements of our kids no matter how big or small they are or where they happen.

    1. pathlesstaken

      Yes!!

  7. Cecilie Conrad

    I am totally with you, Jen – I have mostly the same experiences. I write the blog speltmor.dk – in danish – about our life (without school). Four children, a meaningful life, tons of projects and stuff to do; and more important things to do, than judge other people.

    But honestly – I do care, where other peoples children go to school – because I do think, that most schools are bad for most children, and that life in school for many children is sad, restricted, unhealthy (in many ways). I understand, why people choose the schools, but I would love to see a different world, a complete revolution, evolution of modern childhood.

    1. pathlesstaken

      “I would love to see a different world, a complete revolution, evolution of modern childhood.” Oh I agree!!

  8. MuseMama

    Thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you!

    I homeschooled for years. I loved it. But with our increasing family size, me working full time, and with babies that just kept coming, I was completely overwhelmed. I actually homeschooled longer than I should have. It had become part of my identity, and I loved it so much, I didn’t want to give it up.

    When I finally sat down and admitted to myself that I wasn’t giving their education what it needed anymore, because I was literally just plain tapped out, I made the decision with them, that we would give school a go. We always knew, if it wasn’t working, coming back home was an option.

    It was so good for us. The pressure that was taken off of me to be all things at all times, was gone. Then our last baby was born with a neural tube defect and required so many doctors visits and so on. I don’t know how I could have done it.

    I’ve gotten involved in their schools so that I’m still hands on and part of the process.

    But as a homeschooler who knows how AMAZING homeschooling can be and is, I still defend it when I see it attacked.

    So, imagine my surprise when I ended up defending my decision to send my kids to school, from some really militant homeschoolers. The kind that were like, “school is only better when the home is just too terrible an environment to learn in” and then when I tried to defend my decision, was met with “then I’m sure it was right for you” which, when combined with the previous statement, kind of sounds like “I’m sure your home is so awful, it probably IS best that your children not be in your home”.

    It was all very weird.

    I’m grateful for the choice to be able to put my kids where ever will be best for them. I’m grateful for the options. And I love it when we can look at this incredibly difficult job we do as parents, and respect that there is more than just one way to do things.

    Congratulations on another year of amazing homeschooling. Me? I’m really looking forward to deep cleaning my house, after a Summer with 8 children at home.

  9. Sadie

    We are opting out again after a year of wavering. I was a little concerned to learn that my 2nd grader was afraid of mainstream school. He has expressed a belief that “Teachers were mean” and that schools were full of bullies & he was having some fear that he wasn’t up to par. So I had nearly enrolled him just to show him that there is nothing to be afraid of & that he is up to snuff. We don’t even have TV, so I am not quite sure how he got all those ideas, certainly not from me. After much discussion though, it appears some of it came from friends who all do attend mainstream (mean teachers & bullies) and his own insecurities are personality traits he has in many areas outside of school. He is a nervous boy when having to “perform” for anyone. Anyway – I decided trying to “prove him wrong” is not a good reason to change what we do & we are happily, again, “opting out” & I am so glad we are. It is already shaping up to be more fun & going even smoother this year, despite adding a new baby in the mix as well. My 4 yr old has always loved it & excels. He is at the point that I feel I sometimes am putting the breaks on him. He would do a workbook in one setting & then go get the next one if I allowed him to. I don’t allow that simply because it is such a waste of paper & we have great electronic alternatives if he wants to spend 3 hrs doing such activities. We also have dry erase books for that as well.

    And I would never dare post that today we did no school. Instead we were supposed to go to a city about 45 mins away for me to pick something up & they had such an amazing playscape at a nearby park that we had an impromptu pit stop, with an empty park all to ourselves, in the warm rain, for about 3 hrs…lol It’s September…we wont’ get many more warm rains to relish this year, we could have snow in a month where we live.

    My initial response when they asked to go see the play scape was that we would go look, but couldn’t get out because it was raining….THEN I thought about it, as I try to, EVERY time I choose to say no. I quickly realized that restricting them to the car was completely without merit. We had no place we *had* to be, the day was 80+ degrees, the rain was nice & babies do fine in warm weather, even when wet & they can ride home in wet clothing – so I said, let’s do it. They road home wet, the baby had dry clothes in her bag & everyone was happy as clams. On the way home, my 7 yr old told me he was going to try real hard to remember this day even when he was an old man. I hope he does. I want to say yes as often as I can & that is a big part of why I choose homeschool for my family. Life is short & childhood is a blip almost.

    I want our family to enjoy as much of the time we have as possible without stressing over things that do not matter…at all. Homeschooling allows that for us. We can get done what needs to get done educationally AND still have lots of time & flexibility that other families aren’t afforded via a traditional school system. I don’t have anything against someone choosing mainstream & understand choosing it in many cases. I just hope we never have to. I hope that if our kids are ever mainstreamed, it is a happy decision made with many options available to us & deciding that mainstreaming is the best choice, not the ONLY one.

  10. amrita sharma

    It makes other people uncomfortable when unconventional route of learning is taken..they actually have doubts about themselves as they also want best for there kids…v all go through that route ultimately believing in ourselves..Way 2 go jen..I wish u best of luck…lots of love..

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