Because I am a very laid-back homeschooling mom, I often find myself in the awkward position of listening to other moms agonize over their childrens’ education, wondering whether I should offer my own opinion. It’s a tricky business. I know that many times, people don’t really want advice or opinions, just someone to listen. I respect that. But then I think, maybe I’m just being a chicken for not mentioning my unconventional ideas.
It happened again this week, when two of my neighbors were discussing how to do school work with their six-year-olds over the summer. One mom wondered if she should get a tutor because she knew that her daughter graduated from kindergarten with some gaps, and she didn’t want her to get behind in first grade. My internal voice was appalled, and wanted to say: “Your daughter doesn’t need schoolwork. She needs to play!” But I sensed that she would not believe me if I said such a thing out loud, so I simply listened for awhile. The two moms exchanged ideas, frustrated that they could not even get their kids to sit for an hour a day to do schoolwork. They knew I had homeschooled my kids, so one turned to me and said the same thing I have heard a million times: “I don’t know how you do it. I could never have the patience – we would be fighting all the time!”
Unfortunately, I think it is true. Mothers say this to me ALL the time. And they are right, because their idea of homeschool is school-at-home. When kids play school, no one wants to be the student, they all want to be the teacher. It’s a power thing. Who wants to have the creative control? It’s always the teacher. In such an authoritarian situation, the only way for the student to regain creative control is to act up – be silly or uncooperative. It’s very tough to do school-at-home and still keep harmony in the family, unless the kids like that structure.
So, in this conversation with my neighbors, I replied: “Oh no, homeschooling is fun if you don’t push the schoolwork until they are 10 or 12. I’m a big believer in that better-late-than-early philosophy.” They blinked at me, as if I had just said, “I only let my children eat gruel and dandelions.” It was awkward as they struggled to find a way to politely respond.
Oh well, I like to think that I planted a seed of a notion in their thoughts about education. When they meet my apparently normal, well-adjusted teens out walking the dog, they might think about it again. Or they might just wonder if my kids know how to read, or how they do on tests. I guess I don’t blame them. You really have to have some faith or proof that the way we learned in school isn’t necessary. I found plenty of proof while researching for my book, but I don’t want to smack anyone over the head with it. So, I’ll just keep planting my seeds of a notion and see what happens.