It happened in a grocery store checkout line. I was caught completely off guard, but because I have been at this for over a decade and am, as my husband so affectionately puts it, “pushing 40” (I’m 36, for the record), I responded gently and pleasantly. I was pretty impressed with my response, given the, um, boldness of the man’s words…
I’ve gotten spoiled over the years. It is a rare thing indeed for me to have to defend homeschooling to others. In fact, the only people who still seem apprehensive about the idea (or at least the only ones who verbalize it to me) happen to be related. Homeschooling was a completely unknown concept to them. I can’t blame them for automatically assuming it could do nothing but harm my children. I can, however, blame anyone who still feels that way after spending a lot of time with my children over the years–home education has proven itself in their lives and their personhood. No, they are not perfect (ahem, what school kid is? oh, none? interesting…); but they are intelligent, decent human beings who enjoy learning new things.
Back to Grocery Store Man. I’ve gotten spoiled over the years, for the most part receiving support and positive comments about homeschooling and not negative junk. I think people reserve the negative stuff for “newbies”. It seems that way. Not fair, but true. After a few years a person exudes a confidence that few will try to “mow down”.
This guy, probably in his late 70s, asked why my son was not in school. My son replied that he was homeschooled. When my son left the lineup to join his father in the parking lot, the man decided to inform me that he was not a fan of the idea of homeschooling. He was fairly polite about it, trying to be as respectful as possible, and so I felt comfortable enough to reply that that was his opinion and he was entitled to it, and said, in a tongue-in-cheek fashion, that I wasn’t a fan of kids being stuck at desks for hours on end on days like today (it was GORGEOUS out). It turns out his son is the principal of our local Jr. High. This man himself had taught as well, and also once been the principal of the local high school. Teaching and a love for the school system runs in the family.
He felt that parents couldn’t do a teacher’s job as well as a teacher could. You know what? He’s right. Because teachers are trained to teach within a specific setting, within the provincial school system, and manage a classroom of many students while teaching what the province decides they have to teach. I would find that incredibly difficult.
But that’s not the same as facilitating your own children’s individual education on a daily basis. That’s not the same as exemplifying a love of learning to your own child and helping them to unlock doors in every day life that lead to the understanding of so many different subjects naturally found all around them. As life is lived. It is not the same at all.
I find it hard to believe that any human being who ever wanted to become a teacher in the first place truly believes that there is anything wrong with that. I know home educating parents that used to be teachers who freely express that their teaching experience has very little bearing on homeschooling their children. I find it hard to believe that most teachers I know wouldn’t jump at the opportunity to “teach” with complete and total freedom—spending as much or as little time exploring subjects as needed. Being able to just let go for a while if the student wasn’t getting something, without the pressure of having to answer to superiors or follow some kind of government scope and sequence. It baffles me when I hear that teachers are against homeschooling, because most teachers I know, at their core, desire the very same kind of love of learning for children that most homeschooling parents do. This stems from a love for children and a love for education in itself. I, for one, respect teachers a great deal. The structure of the system? No. But teachers? How could I not?
I don’t think that most teachers who think they are against homeschooling really are, because how can you be against something that facilitates exactly what you want children to experience and try to bring to your classroom? I think if these teachers took the time to really find out what homeschooling, unschooling, life learning was all about, they would realize that it is the embodiment of their own loving desires for children. They would realize that we are not on opposite sides of a crazy debate. We all just want kids to ALWAYS love learning!!!
So Grocery Store Man and I, sadly, had to cut it short. It was unfortunate, as I bet we could have chatted for quite a while longer. I did enjoy the chat (which I expressed to him)—it challenged me, which I like, and sharpened me a little bit. I just wish we’d had a bit more time together.
Maybe we’ll cross paths again. And maybe he’ll realize that deep down, ultimately, we both just want the same damn thing: happy, well-adjusted, thriving kids who never stop learning and love to do so.