I’m not for it, I am it

In a recent comment on this blog, someone said that at first, they couldn’t tell if I was for homeschooling or not.

I’m not for homeschooling. I am it. I wrote a column to this effect in Home Education Magazine. It’s still one of my favorite things I’ve thought of. That sounded sort of egotistical. I’m sorry.

I love talking with education reformers and passionate homeschooling trailblazers and people who are changing the world. I like watching education documentaries and reading about education in the paper. But I am not an education reformer. I am not choosing education as my career.

Thinking differently from most people about school is just part of my identity. How could I not? I grew up without school. My reality is different.

And not so different. I like some of the same exact trashy TV and junky pizza as plenty of people who went to school.

And yet fundamentally different.

Sometimes I’m a little annoyed by how I can’t see the same things as fine or normal or good as most people.

People are always saying things like, “Well, you deal with high school. That’s the point. It’s good to learn how to deal with shitty stuff.”

And I think, “Sounds bad.”

And then people say, “It’s boring. But work is boring.”

And I think, “I don’t want work to be boring.”

And people say, “I’m glad I had to deal with some truly terrible people every day.”

And I think that sounds like being trapped. I don’t think it is weird that they’re glad, or that they’re secretly not as good of a person as they think, or something like that. I just think I don’t really understand and can’t imagine choosing that.

And people say, “These girls told me I was ugly in middle school. You know, one of those middle school things, where they just cut me out of the group randomly and then made fun of me for a year.” Laugh.

And I think, “Oh my god. That is terrible.”

They think, “That is so terrible. She had to be around her family all the time… She probably never had friends.”

They can’t imagine having the free time I had. I can’t imagine having their classes. We can’t fully picture one another’s lives.

And it’s really OK, most of the time, when the occasional hater isn’t grilling me about whether or not my parents are sadists who want to torture children or writing an angry anonymous comment under a piece I’ve published somewhere, going, “Arrogant little losers. Public school was good enough for MY kids. They think they’re so much better than everyone else and they can’t even tie their own shoes. What is WRONG with this country? This should be illegal.”

(Look at those despicable child-torturers!)

Most of the time, though, I just see the world kind of differently, by accident, reflexively, and I’m not fighting for anything. I’m not standing up waving a flag and yelling for the troops to follow me. I’m not against it. I think thinking differently about normalcy is healthy. I think challenging things that seem not to be working well is critical.

But it’s not my mission. It’s just a part of who I am.

(It also might be part of the reason I can cut all my hair off when I feel like it…)

P.S. This piece appears, slightly altered, on the Huffington Post here.

29 comments to I’m not for it, I am it

  • You know, I think homeschooling my daughter has already affected me in some of the same ways, even though I went to public and parochial schools right up through high-school graduation. Today I was reading a friend’s blog post about her son’s first day at kindergarten, and how he had a freaking-out tantrum after the first day that she eventually worked out was because he missed her. She mentioned how her neighbor had to bodily drag her daughter to the bus stop on the second day. I read that and I thought, “I’m so glad we don’t have to deal with that stuff!” Not that homeschooling kids don’t have to deal with unpleasant things from time to time, of course. But as you said, so many of the unpleasant things can be avoided through homeschooling.

  • Oooh, is your hair for real buzzed? That’s pretty darn cool.

    Ahem. As is the rest of the post. :)

  • Ines

    I, too, get tired of hearing the obvious. Like the other day, a friend wsa explaining her daughter’s 2nd grade teacher as being sarcastic with the children…but if your”in” his group , then she’ll have a great year. I wondered what my face looked liked…I just asked her if she thought that was okay? See I’ve come to conclusion that homeschooling is not only my responsibility but I know of all the positives too….& mostly it takes courage to go against the grain. So if you can’t make this decision, then the complaining of mediocrity…is only empty words to me….because there are options for change. Love your blog,btw :)

  • School started in our town today. My kids sat at the kitchen table drawing stories of dump trucks that speak with British accents. Oh yeah, they were in their jammies. I’m totally tracking with you on the idea that thinking differently is a good thing and that you don’t have to be militant about it, you just have to do it. We had a great day! One more day in a great life! Nothing wrong with the shiny new backpacks that went off to the first day of school all over town today. Nor is there anything wrong with sitting in jammies inventing stories about dump trucks with Manchester accents. My kids will eventually own a backpack, and those kids will likely imagine out a story about something. It mostly evens out, I think.

  • Val

    It does get very confusing.

    I’m not a cause either. The kids also are not.


    We’re just us. love, Val

  • The one thing that sticks out to me the most in your post is “I just think I don’t really understand and can’t imagine choosing that.”

    I didn’t have a great Middle and High School experience. But I didn’t choose that. And I don’t know if I can truly say I am glad I had to go through it. I can, however, choose to take those experiences and use them to create something positive in my life. I can learn from them, and in the end they make me the person I am, just as your experience made you the person you are.

    Or maybe I’m channeling “You Again”, which I just recently watched.

  • I had a friend post on FB how her daughter’s first week of school has been awful. The teacher yells at the students (2nd graders!) and my friend’s daughter is very upset by this. Many friends advised that she talk with the teacher or the principal, etc. But mom said she thinks it’s more about her daughter than this teacher. Her daughter just needs to learn to ‘deal with it.’ I would like to know why a teacher needs to be yelling at 2nd graders the first week of school?
    Another parent commented that her son didn’t like his 4th grade teacher and that it made the year feel longer, but ‘you do eventually get through the year.’

    I guess the majority of parents think these are character building challenges in life. I just can’t agree with that attitude of acceptance. Challenging yourself to do something difficult is one thing…putting up with the abuse of others is not.

  • kate

    See, I completely forgot about school starting. I mean, I was at Target the other day, and I remembered, but then I forgot again. And this is so interesting, hearing from you guys about how parents handle it.

    This is exactly what I’m talking about! I listen to people saying these things, and I feel like I’m seeing the issue completely differently. “Well, of course I don’t like it.” You’re saying you don’t like it! Change it! Sometimes I have to bite my tongue.

  • I’m sharing this post with my 8th grade daughter (home schooled), she needs to know about you! Thanks again for your posts…love your hair, by the way!

  • I discovered you via an interview in Home Education magazine and subscribe to this blog. I enjoy your thoughts immensely! I homeschool my daughter part-time, and she attends private school part-time, for now. I treasure the time with her, plain and simple! That is basically why we made the choice to spend at least some of our time homeschooling. I know she will learn plenty, and i hope she will always ve able to look at the world from a fresh angle. As you do! Keep up the good work Kate!

  • Julia

    I have been following your blog for a few posts now. I read about it in someone else’s blog or an article somewhere (no idea who or where though). I was homeschooled off and on throughout school, the first time being in 1st grade because the boys were beating me up every day and no one in the school system would do anything about it. They explained to my parents that I could either “get used to it or leave”. So I dropped out of school, in 1st grade. Thus began a decade of bouncing between public school and homeschooled, on roughly an every other year basis. Looking back on my overall experience both ways, I made up my mind that all of my kids would be homeschooled.

    I now have four kids, and I homeschool the oldest (7 years old). She is very gifted, currently at a 4th grade level, and loves reading and learning. When she’s not busy with her school work, she’s usually doing more reading or watching a show on the History Channel or Discovery. That’s just who she is. But I know I’ve made the right choice, and she tells me every day (even on the bad ones) how much she loves being home with me and spending the time together. My youngest is 3 1/2 and autistic, and I’m already compiling ideas for “homeschooling” him as well. As for the middle two, they’re my stepkids, and my husband is determined that we should homeschool them too, as soon as we can work out the legalities. And to think, he was 100% against homeschooling when we got together.

    Anyway, I love reading your articles and seeing how you connect all those “real world” ideas to make everything fit into being just the one world instead. It’s a good place to be.

    P.S. – I’m definately going to have my daughter read your articles, somedays she seems to think she’s the only person out there who hasn’t been to public school.

    • Julia–I just discovered Temple Grandin, a high-functioning autistic who lets us “normal” people see life from her hyper-focused perspective. She’s also does a TED talk(Google “Temple Grandin+TED”). My kids are not autistic, but I admire her and am reading whatever I can find about her.

  • Nance Confer

    Thank you, Kate, for being such a sane voice in the world.


  • Great article. I love the cutting the hair off look, too. We home school my son and my daughter has chosen to go to school. (Alas.) He and we are thrilled every single day and when people say all that STUPID stuff, I just laugh to myself. I think about people who have had life-altering accidents and “lived through it” and would I EVER do that to my kid so he could “really value every day” like people give a second chance often do? Ummm, no. And, I don’t WANT my kid putting up with the crap I deal with at work all the time. I want him to “just say no” and walk away and not do it. My son is an amazing person and low-and-behold, he’s never been “made fun of” or had other bad experiences to help him deal with the world. He realizes he is an idealist and he’s happy with that at 14. He does value each and every day of home “schooling” (what else to call it? LIVING!). He thanks my husband and I all the time for doing this for him/with him. He is himself and no one else, ever. It rankles people, sure. However, we let them “rankle away.”

  • Amy

    Hi Kate, I think this is the first time I have commented on your blog although I have been reading it for a while. I am a stay at home unschooling mama. My oldest is “starting” grade 1 and has never been to school or daycare. I just wanted to tell you that I love your blog and I find such inspiration reading it. It is so nice to hear from a grown unschooler when so many of the blogs are from the parent side. Thanks for sharing your thoughts with the world. :)

  • I love what you said about not trying to recruit troops. Unschooling is the lifestyle we live, but I don’t think it’s the ONLY lifestyle worth having or the BEST lifestyle for everyone. I love that we have the freedom to choose from among the many options out there.

  • Don’t worry I went to public school, and was never able to figure out how it was ok. Or how other people can tell themselves it is good for kids.
    When I got pregnant I was terrified of one day having to send my kids to school, luckily I discovered the alternatives when DD was just 15 months old.
    A lot of people who know me and what I went through, all harass me about my decision. Even though they know I wanted to kill myself just to escape school, I don’t want my kids to ever feel that shattered.

  • Awesome post, Kate. Keep on “being it” and thanks for sharing with all of us. :)

  • Lucy522

    Loved this! I, too, am one of the few people in the world (or maybe just in my circle of friends/family/random strangers) who wants something better than public school for my children! I hadn’t even heard of homeschooling until I did a pro-con research paper on it as a Senior in high school… and then I immediately vowed to homeschool my own children (and later, I seethed with jealousy when I met my future husband and found out he was homeschooled the last few years of high school)!

    I have two girls, 3 and 5, and I was absolutely unprepared for the fact that, the day my beautiful child turned 5, every friend, family member, or complete stranger we ran into would excitedly ask my daughter “Are you looking forward to going to Kindergarten next year!?”. It was like educational propaganda… or like Santa Clause and the Tooth Fairy… this cultural message maintained by adults that school is F-U-N!!! (Until the kids hit 5th grade, and then they’re ostracized if they say that out loud!). At first my daughter didn’t even know what they were talking about. At one point, she said to me “I want to go to Kindergarten, because it sounds fun”. Which I didn’t know how to answer, because my husband and I have always said that our kids could go to school if they really wanted to. So, I started telling her all about Kindergarten, and when I got to the part about having to go to school every weekday, unless she was sick, she looked horrified! She said “I only want to go once or twice, just to see the toys. Definitely not every day! I would miss you too much!”

    So, now when strangers ask her about Kindergarten, she tells them proudly “We’re HOMESCHOOLING!”, while the strangers shoot me a worried/pitying look, as if there MUST be something wrong with her to keep her out of school. Or else they tell me “I could NEVER homeschool… I would be too worried about socialization, or messing up my child’s future success”. Some are even honest enough to say “I would NEVER want to spend every waking moment with my child… I need a break!” And then the worried/pitying look is coming from me. Honestly, most people don’t really WANT to know WHY I am homeschooling, they just want to tell me WHY they know it’s a bad idea. Lucky for me, I’m not afraid of a little (A LOT) of criticism. :/

    This part hit me the most: “And people say, “I’m glad I had to deal with some truly terrible people every day.” And I think that sounds like being trapped.” From my own experience, I couldn’t agree more. Anyway, thanks again for this blog!

  • Exactly. And I’m not making any sort of big statement by homeschooling/torturing my kids, either. It’s just how I chose to approach the task of making sure that they are able to leave home when they grow up and make their way in the world. Also, it’s my way of avoiding having to deal with a school bureaucracy every day. I could put the kids in school tomorrow and it still wouldn’t be a statement about anything much, simply an acknowledgement that I’m burned out or I need to go work full time or it’s no longer fun torturing my children. Whatever. People really need to chill a little.

    Just discovered your blog, love it. Love that picture of your parents/incarcerators (sp?), also!

  • Jessica

    I am one of the very few people who went to public school and really enjoyed it and learned a lot. For High school I did go to a magnet school in the morning specializing in math and sciences. I always feel bad for those who had such a terrible time in school. My husband convinced me to try homeschooling and we are still going at it. I have had my freak out moments but I am beginning to not worry about my 7 year old being in between 1st and 2nd grade. My 4 1/2 year old is doing K and a little 1st grade level stuff with her sister. Since I was taught in public school I have that schedule and pattern ingrained in me and trying to use it for homeschool but also trying to let it go as well. I am lucky to have found some local Home schoolers and have an old friend from public school that is also homeschooling. Usually the only people that ask me “Why?” are other homeschoolers. The other normal response I hear is they couldn’t do it because they wouldn’t have the patience. Loved your articles I have read so far and will keep reading and sharing them. Thanks.

  • Personally, I went to public school and I hated it. I thought it was boring and a waste of my time, and am on the record for telling my mother in first grade that they should just send my work home with me on Monday and I could bring it back Friday and that way I wouldn’t have to waste my time.
    I still think that was a good plan.
    So, I homeschool, a very active child, who, I am fairly sure would find the act of sitting still in class quite torturous. And I love it. And so far he claims he never wants to go to school – based on a peek into a classroom at age 5 & I suspect some of what his friends have told him about their time in school.
    It is admittedly probably not the best solution for everyone. And I do know people who actually enjoyed attending school (although I have so far not been capable of understanding why).

  • I hated school, and yet I still have worries that I’m depriving my son of some wonderful experience by not putting him in school. Every now and then I point something out to him that he could do in school that he can’t do as a homeschooled kid, but it doesn’t deter him from knowing that he doesn’t want to go.

    For example, last spring my 9 year-old started running the 400 meter track that’s near our house. One day, he went but the track was in use by a multi-school track meet. There were about 100 kids running and doing other track-and-field events, and I expressed regret that he couldn’t do a big group activity like that.

    He told me, with no apparent desire to participate with the other kids at all, “Mom, I run when I want to. These kids are running because someone told them to. I don’t want someone to tell me to run. I just want to do it.”

    And yet, I know the next time I see a big group of bored-looking kids stomping through a museum where we’re spending the afternoon, I’ll again wonder if he’s being deprived.

  • Erin

    My older children who are graduated or chose to get their GEDs have differing views on their home school experience. They have convinced some family members that it was a horrible thing. Now my 7th grader wants to go back to homeschooling, and the relatives are yelling and screaming about how it will also ruin his life. I feel like it’s a whole referendum on my parenting, especially now some of them are grown. Why is my parenting so much of my identity and self esteem. It’s not fair to my kids.

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