When We Tell Our Stories

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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.

8 comments

  • Thanks for sharing.

    I missed that article.

    Talking about the quote. I thinking it is funny. A huge reason I am homeschooling is that in public school I learned basically over and over again about only White American History. I learned about Europe also. But basically I colored a map of Africa and watch a movie about the pygmies, I learned China had a big wall, we bombed Japan, Mohammad started a religion that we don’t like, there was a war in Vietnam. That would about sum up what I learned of world history.

    Even in the school district in which I now live, they used to have a year of Ancient/Medieval history and a year of world history. They dropped the world history, because “It wasn’t on the test.”

    We use Sonlight curriculum. I feel like my kids learn way more about the world and cultures then other kids learn. I have some kids in ps and some out each year. I feel like when they are in public school they learn a lot of bad behaviors and little about how to world with culturally diverse people.

    • I’ve heard this sort of thing from minorities (or parents with daughters) who homeschool. That the schools spend so much time on White Male American History, and don’t talk about the other groups that were also in the US. Like I’ve run into folks who never heard that Texas was once owned by Spain. Or they heard that women were just granted the right to vote, not that women had to struggle for it for decades, and were tossed into jail so that one day their ‘granddaughters’ could vote.

      And why don’t public schools introduce a foreign language early? I joke with foreigners that if they meet an American who speaks two languages, it’s either an American whose parents were rich and sent the kid to private school, or an American with at least one foreign parent.

      Though I’ve heard from a co-worker that his grandkids are picking up Spanish. The (grown) Kid requested that the grandkid be put in bilingual education. And apparently, so long as there is space, non-Spanish speaking kids are allowed to be placed in bilingual ed.

    • Though I should add that thanks to HA, I’m also freaked out at what some homeschoolers (especially the religious ones) are teaching their kids. Or simply NOT teaching them at all. There’s one entry where a young woman was never allowed to learn science thanks to her gender. Ergh!

    • It’s cool that you found a curriculum with a wider perspective. At the private school I went to they used ABEKA which was mostly white Christian male American history. They even claimed slavery wasn’t so bad O.o!

  • I know I will no matter what choose not to home school. It isn’t because it all is bad, but because I know I will not be able to give my own children(when I have them) a good education. I know they will have them same holes in learning I do, and being blind does not help.

    • Again, it is all about perspective – the wholes in my public education is a huge reason I wanted to home school. I have learned along side of them as needed. I was not going to have my kids pushed through a system – more committed to pushing them through then to educating people for a changing world:-) You really cannot learn everything – the best thing to learn is how to learn anything you want too. My Dad taught me that through his endless reading and interests.

      • What is best for each family is best for each family. For me with my disabilities it isn’t worth it for me or whatever children I would have to fight through it when private or public will not have to.

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