My wife and I have decided to homeschool our kids. It was by no means a decision we arrived at easily as we researched extensively, having attended both homeschooling seminars and preschool open houses. We weighed pros and cons. Both options have their benefits and shortcomings, to be sure, but in the end, and for a variety of reasons, homeschooling made sense…to us.
Was that the sound of the sky falling?
Just so you don’t attempt to reconcile this non sequitur by relying on the vast and fruitful tapestry of homeschooling stereotypes, here are some facts to consider: my wife and I are not “bible thumpers” (in fact, being Jewish, we’re not Torah thumpers either); my wife does not wear a really long skirt and she’s not always pregnant; I don’t wear a wide-brimmed black hat or suspenders; we’re both world travelers and university-educated; we don’t have a litter of kids and the ones we do have don’t go around in bare feet; we don’t live on a farm; and we both went to public schools (my wife having the distinct privilege of attending the very same “amazing” schools we’ve decided to forgo).
I’ve discussed homeschooling since the topic of preschool started cropping up with other parents and, most frequently, in the Den of Yentas. (Oh, don’t tell me you’ve forgotten about the “yentas”! In case you’ve never been acquainted with, or have since forgotten, my favorite group of free-speaking moms, here’s a refresher.)
The moment I first walked into the Den, the yentas were hammering me about which preschool I planned to enroll my kids. When I answered honestly (and in retrospect, mistakenly) that I was considering homeschooling, this literally launched a local war. Since revealing my dirty little secret, I’ve been yelled at, criticized and ridiculed. I became a pariah of the community. This vitriolic response continues to this day.
Why is it that parents who don’t homeschool get so off-the-chart offended when you tell them that you homeschool? Better yet, why do they believe they know what’s best for your kids as well as feel compelled and entitled to share with you that fact?
Oh, I failed to mention the supreme irony in all of this: oddly enough, most of these critics of my school choice would be staunchly supportive of me if I were a woman exercising a choice of a different matter entirely. You see, I live in a community that touts itself as very “liberal,” open-minded and accepting of different people and opinions. This privilege of acceptance, however, seems to extend exclusively to those who never leave the reservation. So long as you do everything that everyone else is doing, then you’re granted safe passage. But get out of line and, well, you get the picture.
Let me share with you some of the more “educated” criticisms I’ve heard:
Yenta #1: (Sarcastic tone) Why would you home school for preschool when all they’re doing is playing?
Steely Dad: Why would you pay $1,200 a month if they’re only playing? Can’t you play at a park for free?
Yenta #2: Your kids are too smart and show too much promise. We’re not going to let you ruin them. (The Den erupted into laughter.)
Steely Dad: (I just shook my head incredulously that supposedly “educated” people could be so stupid.)
Yenta #3: Don’t you want your kids to be socialized?
Steely Dad: Of course. It’s just that I believe my kids deserve to be socialized by people who are actually socialized. Ever read Lord of the Flies?
Yenta #4: That’s stupid.
Steely Dad: Any chance you were traditionally educated? Because, seriously, you’re exceptionally articulate.
Yenta #4: (Expletives!)
Yenta #1: I could understand homeschooling if the schools here sucked but these are some of the best schools ANYWHERE! People move to this area and pay the insultingly-high taxes just for the schools.
Steely Dad: Why are these schools so great?
Yenta #1: They have some of the highest test scores in the nation.
Steely Dad: And high test scores are a sign of a good education? Ever wonder why the test scores are so high?
Yenta #1: Huh?
Steely Dad: Never mind. If there are no further questions…
Do I labor under the illusion that homeschooling will be easy? No. But rarely in my life have I found the easy road to be the right road. All I can tell you is that we feel homeschooling is best for our kids at this particular stage in their lives. As we embark on this very exciting adventure, we will continue to monitor and evaluate and if we should decide that we need to change directions, it will be our choice to make.
So, to those parents who choose not to homeschool and think anyone who does is a moron: look, I homeschool; you don’t. However, unlike you, I could care less how you decide to educate your kids for I respect your right to choose. Why do you care how I decide to educate my kids? I realize your concern comes from a place of altruism, that you truly care about the welfare of my kids, apparently more so than I do, but please, don’t worry. We’re going to be just fine.