Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Rock climbing, homeschooling, and experts

I just listened to a radio show where they interviewed someone about homeschooling in the real world.  And while I like hearing about how well homeschooled students are doing in college, or how well they are doing academically, or whatever... something was really bothering me. I went to workout, and the show was niggling at me the entire time.  And I think I figured out what is bugging me.

It was one more instance of two men, neither of whom are the homeschooling parent, discussing the benefits and drawbacks of homeschooling.  And while I don't deny that men -- especially homeschooling dads -- are entitled to discuss such things, and that they are entitled to their opinions on the issues, well...

I am tired of all the "experts" in homeschooling, at least from the 'who do we call to do a segment on homeschooling' standpoint, being people who aren't actually DOING the homeschooling themselves.  And that they don't acknowledge that part of it.

I think -- and maybe I'll have to ask him tonight -- that my husband, if he were being interviewed about homeschooling, would not be making statements as though he really knows what it is like 'in the trenches' of the daily homeschooling grind.  I think he would be able to talk about the positives and negatives without making it sound like his wife has a sinecure position.  (Hey, if I have to help my kid figure out sentences for SAT words, I can at least use the words in my writing, can't I?)

While it is nice to hear a media situation putting a positive spotlight on homeschooling, it just seemed so, so, so, uhhh, perfect.  You know, 'the classroom teacher can just lose track of a couple of the quieter kids, and that would never happen in a homeschool where Mom is your teacher,' and that kind of thing.

Ummm.  Okay, confession time.  Maybe I'm just an awful person, and a horribly unorganized and negligent homeschooling mama.  But I will get to the end of the day and realize that I never sat down with a particular child that day, and even though I resolve to do better tomorrow, sometimes I realize it has been three weeks since I've done a spelling lesson with a certain kid.  Middle child syndrome has been alive and well for years.  I know I didn't invent it.

Or I'll assume, since he isn't asking me for help, that my oldest is actually completing his homework for his online Latin class.  Only to discover, when the grades come out after the first big test, that he isn't.

Or it will occur to me that I really ought to be teaching my kindergartner to read.  Oops.  And when I sit down to do it, I realize he has just "caught" it and I don't have to teach it.  But it doesn't mean he shouldn't be getting one-on-one time from me in SOMETHING.

Listening to this interview depressed me.  It made me feel inadequate.  These two men are talking about all the bliss of family togetherness, and how easy it is to homeschool.  One statement in there was something about once the kids are high school age, you are just an audience.  Mom doesn't even need to know the subject herself, she merely needs to be available to listen and watch.  Uh, hello????  Is that before or after I watch the soap operas and eat bonbons?

I guess I just felt devalued.  You know, pick out the right curriculum and everything is fun and easy and my children will be brilliant.  He did, I admit, make a statement at some point about homeschooling being a lot of work, but mostly he talked about all the bliss.

Don't get me wrong.  I love what I do.  I can't imagine not homeschooling.  But there's a lot more to it than just following a curriculum.  I do think that any parent who truly wants to homeschool their children can do it.  But there is a lot of agonizing over what a particular child needs, and struggling to balance family needs (like groceries) with homeschooling wants on one income.  I know I'm not the only homeschooling mom who wonders if she is totally screwing up her kids.

Maybe part of it goes back to an article I read recently by Sarita Holzmann.  Or maybe it has to do with receiving another mailing yesterday from CHEC and being reminded of how paternalistic my state homeschool organization is and how frustrated I get whenever I hear  anything from them.  Or how many of the "big" speakers at homeschool conventions aren't the ones doing the homeschooling either.  Or maybe they are homeschooling one of their children (the teenaged boy) or one subject -- so now they definitely feel they are experts.  Rarely are they the ones teaching Algebra 2 *and* changing diapers.

I think I need to be more picky about what I listen to.  And realize that for the audience this broadcast has, this was probably an excellent show.  I should celebrate that homeschooling is getting a positive spin in some media outlets.  And I should probably stick to listening to imperfect people who don't make me feel like a failure, and who can help me find the next toehold on this homeschooling cliff.  From the perspective of someone who is climbing too, not someone who has merely watched other people do it.

And I figure I'm going to regret posting this.


Johanna said...

No need for regrets - I don't think any of us do it perfectly. We homeschool imperfectly, too. I'll let you in on a little secret, too. I used to teach "real" school...the teachers there do it imperfectly, too. They realize when it's time to do grade cards that there is a student (or ten) who have far more incomplete assignments than they thought and they haven't done what they need to about it either. They have days that they don't accomplish one thing from the lesson plan. They have days they just let the kids watch movies. They have days when they get mad at the students and say things they shouldn't. Considering all that to be equal, just think how big of a leg up your kids have that they've at least been home with a woman who loves them more than any other teacher possibly could. That, plus all 1,047 other great reasons to homeschool. You're doing great, Debra!

Cristi said...

Thank you for posting this. Thank you for being an imperfect person that I can listen to -- someone that I can relate to. (((hugs)))

Deb said...

I don't think you should regret being honest. I doubt any of your readers are going to be all "Why I declare! I just don't know WHAT she is talking about! Everything always goes SWIMMINGLY here!" whilst swishing a dusting rag and putting the final touches on dinner and receiving loving gazes from her perfect offspring.

Blech. Now to banish Stepford Homeschool Mom from my head. Am I the only one that pictured a gingham apron and perfect makeup?

Also, I see you werer referring to CHEC. Does that mean you are in Colorado? Because I am!

Debra said...

Johanna & Cristi, oh yeah, I hear you. I know I'm not alone. I'm not really sure why this bugged me so much today. But I am glad I posted. Just one too many people painting the ideal homeschool life picture. I'm tired of that. And I'm happy to be imperfect and admit it. One perfect day would be nice though...

Deb -- yep, I'm in Colorado. Near the Springs. How 'bout you? And I LOVE the Stepford Homeschool Mom image. Thanks for the smile!

Deb said...

I am in Pueblo! And can't wait for the next curriculum fair. And now my dark confession: I LOVE picking out curriculum! I love the research, the reviews, imagining the blissful future with the adoring offspring.....

I love the SHOPPING more than the TEACHING. So there you go. I am a way worse person than you.

(not that I don't love the teaching too, of course. But oooh, how I love the UPS man!)

Heather said...

Really interesting post:) Thanks for sharing. Now to go find my son who "thought there was no school today" because I did not leave a bunch of notes...hmmmm. Teenager!