When We Tell Our Stories
by Darcy. Photo by Darcy, used with permission.
The other day, Homeschoolers Anonymous shared an article on their Facebook page. It was one homeschool alumna’s statement about how her experiences with being homeschooled made her unwilling to homeschool her own children.
As is to be expected, homeschool apologists came out of the woodwork with the belief that her sharing her experiences was somehow an attack against homeschooling as a pedagogical method. I want to address this phenomenon as a fellow homeschool alumna.
The thing nobody seemed to notice in the discussion that happened was that homeschooling wasn’t under attack.
The author wasn’t crying “down with homeschooling!” or “all homeschoolers are evil brainwashed minions!” She was merely telling her story and explaining how it influenced her current choices. But the No True Homeschooler brigade was right on schedule. Which was rather baffling considering that the article itself was just one person’s story and a pretty benign one at that.
Why is it when someone says “here is my story, this is why I’ve made the current choice I have”, so many people feel the need to pick their story apart, try to analyze how the story isn’t correct, then claim their choice is faulty because their story is faulty? No one is judging you for your story and your choices. They’re just telling their own. If you’re threatened by that, perhaps it’s time for some introspection and reevaluating your own story and choices instead of trying to tear down someone else’s to make yourself feel better, feel justified, feel right.
For instance, if someone tells me “I had a horrible time in public school, I’m homeschooling my own kids and we’re doing great”, I don’t try to make them understand that public school wasn’t the problem and thus their current choice to homeschool isn’t valid. I don’t jump to the defense of public school. I nod and show empathy and understanding. I acknowledge that some people had terrible experiences in school.
It’s their story. It doesn’t threaten me. It’s not even about me.
A homeschooler who says “I had a terrible experience so I’m not going to homeschool” is not about YOU, current homeschoolers. Stop trying to make this about you and thus miss the entire point.
Someone tried to tell me that the uproar was because the author said homeschooling was a cultural problem. Actually, she didn’t. Here is what she said in the article:
“But homeschooling is part of a larger cultural problem — it’s the mental equivalent of trench warfare. Instead of engaging on the battlefield, we dig in, draw our lines and refuse to budge. American society is embroiled in conversations of racism and sexism that permeate the fabric of our cultural institutions. Donald Trump, the most polarizing (and arguably sexist) Republican candidate for president is the most popular. Police are shooting and killing black men, women and children at an alarming rate. The problems need to be engaged. Yet, instead of engaging, Americans are choosing to entrench themselves further in their ideologies.”
But people weren’t arguing about this part. They were arguing about her experiences. They were saying her parents just didn’t do it right. They were trying to negate her story and prove that their stories are actually the “right” ones and hers is wrong. They were trying to find any possible hole in her story to prove that this wasn’t True Homeschooling™ and thereby dismiss her. We’ve seen this happen thousands of times as alumni. Someone posts something about their negative experience as a homeschooled child, and the apologists jump down their throats, making all kinds of excuses, and defending homeschooling while dismissing the author’s painful experience as some fluke that shouldn’t be spoken of. With their protests, they show they care more about the reputation of homeschooling than the people that were affected by it. It’s an image to be held up at all costs, even if one of those costs are throwing broken, hurting people to the curb. Honestly, it’s getting old.
By all means, let’s have a reasonable discussion about the rather interesting idea put forth in that part I quoted. About different facets of homeschoolings, the pros and the cons, how to prevent abuse, and how to make the experience better for children and parents. About the authors claim that homeschooling can easily hide abuse. Let’s discuss those things. But people need to stop with the dismissing, the invalidating of others and their stories. If they don’t, they run the risk of being the perfect example of those the author said have dug a trench to defend their ideologies to the detriment of everything else.