“Oh, homeschooling is wonderful. My neighbor’s, sister in law’s, first cousin homeschooled, and her kids went to Yale, the Air Force Academy, and the other is a doctor.”
“You know, homeschoolers score better on standardized tests!”
“I know a homeschooler who started their own business at 17 and is now a millionaire!”
“Hey, did you hear about the homeschooler who wrote a novel at 15 and it’s being made into a movie?”
I know these are well-meaning comments used by both homeschoolers, and the general public to support learning at home, but after years of hearing them, it’s getting a little old.
Perhaps it’s time to embrace an unconditional vision of homeschooling. One not dependant on test scores and college admissions.
Hyper-Competitive is now the Norm
We’ve become a society no longer concerned with keeping up with the Joneses but surpassing them. We’ve placed conditions on the meaning of success and limited our beliefs in acceptable choices.
Childhood has become an endless string of competitions with the promise (albeit a false one) that succeeding in contrived exercises will lead to success as an adult. Success is defined as a name-brand college degree (don’t mind all that debt), a “meaningful” career (doctor, lawyer, engineer, etc.) and moving straight towards these goals at 18.
Choosing a Different Path
As a homeschooler/unschooler, you’ve chosen a different path, one that most people cannot imagine. Your days are filled with what you and your children desire, not what is mandated by a teacher or school.
So why do we fall back to the same criteria of determining success?
I think the main reason is that we have been raised in a society that doesn’t know how to deal with children except in a school environment. Adults can’t even speak to a child without asking what grade they’re in, what they want to do when they grow up, or what they learned today.
We also want to prove the validity of homeschooling, and we feel the only way to do that is in terms anyone would comprehend. Every questioning family member will understand that your dear little one scored in the 90th percentile on their standardized test. They love to have that information, so when their nosy neighbor starts questioning homeschooling, they have a defense ready.
Could we all stop pretending like these measurements matter and using them to support homeschooling? Could we resist the urge “to prove” that homeschooling is valid because it turns out a better product than public school?
We’re homeschoolers; we aren’t trying to mass produce a product. We specialize in a form of hand-crafted, small batch education.
No one sees an 18-year-old reading Jane Eyre and thinks, “I bet she was a ‘late’ reader.” I don’t meet a group of moms and rank them on what I imagine them to have scored on a standardized test. At my husband’s office, it doesn’t matter that someone may have taken AP Biology.
In the end, most of these measurements of childhood success are meaningless.
Don’t Buy Into the Hype
As homeschooling has become more popular and drawn more attention, the same competitiveness has entered. We want to prove we’re doing a good job, a superior job, even to other homeschooling moms.
Moms lament that their 5-year-old isn’t reading or that their kids are lazy because they don’t want to do contrived assignments that don’t interest them. The worst is the ever-dreaded worry of being behind.
We look to our children to validate us, particularly in the eyes of others.
Proving our worth isn’t their job. They don’t owe it to us to prove our worthiness as homeschool mothers.
Society looks to them to determine the effectiveness of homeschooling. Again, this is not their job. They are not walking billboards to advertise the superiority of homeschooling.
Homeschooling is valid in its own right.
The validity of learning outside of school is not determined by noteworthy achievements and an impressive vitae. Don’t allow yourself to succumb to the pressure of making your life of learning fit within a school designed box. Learning at home is so much more expansive that what goes on within four walls.
Let’s Stop the Measuring
Could we all stop the measuring and judgments? Do they benefit our children?
I know we all want to be supportive of homeschooling and get tired of hearing the same old concerns from everyone we meet, but you don’t owe the lady at the checkout any answers about your life. It isn’t your neighbor’s concern whether your child is on “grade level.” I bet they wouldn’t be able to tell you what grade level meant. Your Great-Uncle doesn’t get a say in your child’s education.
Who does get a say? Your child.
They are a unique individual who brings to their education strengths and weaknesses. They all have different interests and motivations. No two are alike, so why is our school system a one-size-fits-all conveyor belt of predetermined, predigested information?
Rest in the fact that homeschooling your child unconditionally gives them a gift of time, love, and respect that many don’t understand.
That’s the only measurement that matters.
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