Homeschooling can be a really touchy subject. Everybody seems to have an opinion and people have no qualms about being vocal about how they feel — especially on social media. But it’s rare that those same opinions are shared face-to-face. So when a grocery store clerk asked if my 4-year-old daughter was starting school soon, I didn’t pause to think about my answer.
“I’m going to homeschool her, so we’ve already started preschool and she’ll start kindergarten next year,” I answered automatically. He stopped ringing up my items and looked at me with concern. “I’m not sure that’s a good idea,” he said, shaking his head. “You know it’s important for kids to have social interaction. Otherwise they turn out …” he trailed off and glanced at my daughter like she would become some kind of pariah.
My cheeks flamed red with embarrassment and I laughed uncomfortably. “I’m going to put her in a charter school, too,” I added. “So she’ll go to regular classes and everything.” He finished ringing me up, but before I walked away he mentioned again that he just didn’t know if homeschooling was a good idea, adding that I should reconsider putting her in public school. As my embarrassment faded, frustration set in. Why was I defending my choices to this man I didn’t know from Adam?
Growing up, I was homeschooled from second grade on. I received my fair share of criticism and was often the brunt of jokes made by public school kids. I was constantly asked if I felt like I was missing out. What about sports? Dances? How did I make friends? And yet, I did all of that through my charter school, and was also able to develop an outsider’s perspective on the public school system. I realized at an early age that I was very happy being homeschooled; it allowed me to move at my own pace and provided more freedom.
While my public school friends waited for summer break, I traveled the world with my family and completed my course work in places like Spain, France, Egypt, and Israel. I graduated early and went to college at age 15. But even in college, I faced the prejudices of my peers. When they found out I was homeschooled, I received comments like, “Wow, I can’t believe you’re able to actually hold a normal conversation with me,” or “But, you’re so normal!” I finally came to accept that people’s preconceived notions about homeschooling were fabricated on opinion, not fact.
So I developed a new goal: to show others that homeschooling stereotypes are just that. When I decided to homeschool my daughter, I knew that mission would take on a whole new meaning. Not only do I want to give my daughter the same freedom I experienced, but I also want to teach her to respect other people’s choices without judgment and formulate her own opinions through research that isn’t dependent upon the thoughts of her peers.
Even now, living in a small town where homeschooling is more common, we still face misconceptions. My neighbor recently asked me, “Aren’t kids homeschooled just because they’re not smart enough to go to public school?” I don’t blame people for making these assumptions or judging our choices. That’s the world we live in, and after all, the only thing I can control is my response. I have absolutely nothing against public school and completely respect parents’ decisions to go that route.
Because at the end of the day, it’s all about what’s best for your children.
I don’t need to defend my decisions, but I can explain why I’ve made them in the hopes of alleviating some of the associated stereotypes. So, to the man who shamed my decision to homeschool, thank you. You reminded me that I don’t need to be embarrassed by my choices, but emboldened by them.
That encounter at the grocery store validated my decision even further as I work hard to abolish the typecasts and raise a child who grows up respecting other people’s choices by seeking to understand them before blindly forming an opinion.