I am too negative about homeschooling

I just got a really funny rejection letter.

An editor from a little homeschooling magazine had asked me for article pitches. The circulation was small. She wanted something basic and general. Something about what I’ve learned from homeschooling. Some challenges. Some triumphs. Something encouraging for parents who are doing this now.

I sent her a pitch. I proposed an article called “How homeschooling made me different.” It’d mostly be about how homeschooling taught me to be comfortable being myself. And it would also discuss some challenges, like how some of my relentless ambition stems from wanting to prove myself, as a homeschooler. I was not, for the record, looking forward to writing the article. But I try not to turn down homeschooling publications. I reminded myself that this is the stuff I write because it’s the right thing to do, not because it’s going to advance my career.

And then she sent me a rejection letter. The piece was not a good fit for her publication.

I was so surprised that I laughed aloud. Wait. What?

Here I was, pretty sure she would take whatever I proposed. Wondering if I should just say no, since the magazine wasn’t going to be able to help me out.

I wrote her back. I never do that. A rejection is a rejection. That’s the business. Believe me, I’ve gotten plenty of them. You don’t talk back. You move on.

I asked her what was going on.

And then she explained why she’d rejected me. I was too negative. Not encouraging enough. I was not happy enough about having been homeschooled. I was talking about challenges too much. I was not celebrating what the Lord had given me.

Suddenly the Lord was involved, and he sounded like he might be pissed at me.

He might be pissed that I wasn’t appreciative enough of the great gift I had been given.

Well, hang on. I am very appreciative! I wouldn’t have changed my childhood for anything!

Actually, I couldn’t believe that someone was accusing me of being too negative about homeschooling. That is literally the first time that has happened. Too positive is what I usually get. Too eager to defend it.

I told her that I am positive about homeschooling, and she said she’d be happy to read some other pitches from me. But it feels different now. I’m annoyed that she’s not letting her readers hear from someone who isn’t only saying that homeschooling is absolutely perfect. Isn’t it better to tell the whole story? Isn’t it better to be able to believe in the good stuff, because you’re comfortable acknowledging the not- so-good stuff, too?

I hate the idea of a dialogue about homeschooling that’s whitewashed, purified, and devoid of real experience. That’s exactly what we DON’T need to have.

So here. Here are the things about homeschooling that were negative:

1. I didn’t meet a ton of boys my own age, so I dated kind of icky ones.

2. I got really, really cocky for a few of my teenage years, and thought that I had to be the best at everything I tried to do. Which was emotionally tiring.

3. I respected my parents so much that when my friends had problems with theirs, I ALWAYS took their parents’ side. OK, I’m not sure how negative that really was, and I’m glad for the respect I had/have towards my parents. It was just kind of awkward.

4. I didn’t get to eat enough dessert because my mom is a health nut.

5. I really do feel like I need to prove myself. It’s important to me to succeed in obvious, markable, typical ways. This isn’t true for homeschoolers. It’s true for me.

6. I picked an unconventional path, which makes obvious success harder sometimes. I picked that path because I learned as a homeschooler that I didn’t have to do the same things as other people in order to have a good life.

7. I expect to have a happy life. I expect it a lot. I had a happy childhood. I wasn’t often bored. And I have high standards for my life now. Sometimes they make things harder.

8. I sometimes don’t know how I’m supposed to be as a girl, like I wrote about in the last post. Because I didn’t grow up with lots of other girls the same age. This might not be negative.

9. I can’t think of very much else. Wait. I’m still mad at my mom for not trusting me enough to stop making me do math. We have different ideas about homeschooling that cause tension. And that’s totally because I was homeschooled.

OK, I’m done. That’s it for now. The truth about homeschooling.

Now I have to decide what to write back to that editor.

36 comments to I am too negative about homeschooling

  • I’d let it go. You were offering to do them a favor, they don’t want your favor… their loss, your win. You know who you are and what you want to talk about… that’s not going to be a fit for everyone. Work with the publications who “get” you.

    And, by the way, everyone who writes seriously gets rejection letters. Harry Potter was rejected multiple times before being picked up. Just wasn’t the right fit for some publications… oh well. Good thing J.K. Rowling decided to move on.

    I think you’re doing awesome. Seeking your own path and a happy life is worth doing and you’re doing it faster than most people I know. Don’t waste your time fighting upstream when there are so many opportunities going in the right direction. Also, mixing metaphors is fun.

  • Dee

    I like the content here. I try to get my daughter to read your homeschool articles because like most 12 years olds she sometimes feel she is missing out on stuff – not like not enough dessert though because even though I don’t eat junk food I remember high school being a time when my skinny skinny self ate lots of candy on the bus ride home. It was all good so I buy her candy and let her drink soda probably too much.

  • Ok, this post cracked me up! This is a prime example of why I read blogs rather than magazines where the editors act as gatekeepers. I much prefer real, personal narrative rather than shiny, too-polished edited content. It made me laugh, too, because I’m realizing that we homeschoolers just can’t win! If we’re “real”, then we’re too negative. Too excited, and we’re idealists and unrealistic. Too organized, and we’re stifling; too relaxed, and we’re sure to miss something vital. I guess we will all have to continue muddling along as best we can.

    To you, I’d say, keep up the good work on writing, especially here on your blog. I love reading it. :)

    • I never realized before about the “gatekeeper” thing. I have read some of Kate’s blog articles where she includes things that were edited out for publications and it’s usually a few sentences that either added some of that back-stage reality or contained humor which I felt revealed some of Kate’s personality. Maybe publications don’t really want personality.

  • I think you should pitch this idea—this post you just wrote on the issue—to another homeschooling magazine. It’s great fodder.

    Also, “Suddenly the Lord was involved, and he sounded like he might be pissed at me.” Love it!

  • Every magazine has its editorial policies. Working Mother magazine probably doesn’t want an article about how having a career while raising children caused your stress-related illness. Your slant appeared too negative to the editor that particular publication. If she brought in the Lord, then He is an important part of the editorial outlook (and probably of the readership). Since homeschoolers so often face negativity along with their own self-doubts, some publications choose to focus on positive-only and solution-based articles. I’m sure there is another home for your article.

  • Julie

    Quite aside from the rejection that prompted your post I appreciate your candour in beng prepared to point out the downside. As a home educating parent I have been guilty of encouraging others by glossing over the challenges and I agree we need to face them. My youngest daughter has never been to school but has decided at 16 she does not want to be “home alone”, her two older sibling having moved on to post-school studies. She is going to attend a local school next year (planning at this stage to complete two years there.) I have told her she can come home again if she wants but I can understand that she sees some limitations in homeschooling. And I am sure she will like the advice ” I didn’t meet a ton of boys my own age, so I dated kind of icky ones.” :-)

  • “I expect to have a happy life.”

    how dare you?!? ;)

  • Sarah

    I agree, the Lord issue probably had a lot to do with it, I find that religous hs’ers want to include that in every conversation. I was out with my 10yo today and a woman asked him where he went to school, he said homeschooled and she started a genuine conversation. For the first time when someone said ‘that must be a lot of work’, I paused and said ‘yes, it is for me’. It felt good to be honest. I also said how we loved it, but the truth for me is that is IS a lot of work (we are homeschooly, more than unschooly because that is what fits my values). Honest conversation is always good.

  • Any publication concerned about what “the Lord” has or has not given is one I’ll skip over, anyway.

  • I love your list of negatives! I consider many of them positives and reasons that I want to homeschool my kids!

  • Chad

    Most people assume I homeschool because I am Christian. I find it annoying most of the time, but sometimes I get mad about it. My religion has nothing to do with why I homeschool.

    My boys would agree with point 4. Last week they told me they wanted nothing healthy for lunch! They wanted chicken nuggets. We actually had just enough for lunch for them.

    I worry about socialization a lot right now. My oldest has been asking about school and wants to be around more kids. Not at school particularly. He is in several activities, but he is really social. Of course he likes sleeping in and doesn’t want to be at school as long as his friend. He likes having random days off too.

    • kate

      Interesting! Let me know if you ever feel like writing a guest post about being Christian and homeschooling for different reasons. This is such a great topic.

      Yeah, my youngest brother liked the socialization at school– that’s a big part of why he decided to go to high school. Sports definitely help, and clubs, and camp. Summer camps are great places to be around a ton of kids. Other than that, I don’t know! Maybe just having friends over a lot?

      • Chad

        The circle of friends they have is small, so inviting people hasn’t worked well. One reason is as a stay at home dad, you do not get invited to play groups. I am not exactly the social type either. Another is that there are few kids attending our church.

        Here is something odd, homeschooling isn’t understood at our church. We are the only ones. I still get a lot of puzzled looks or blank stares.

        I have to say there is a great local homeschool support group I go to occasionally when a topic interest me. Really the mom’s are all cool and make a point to thank me for coming. I would go more but being out away from the kids, they tends to drift into girl talk. My wife loves to go to it. The Mom’s there have ben really helpful in answering all my questions. Most go to one church which my wife would like to try.

    • Do you have a local homeschool group? There are several in our area. The one that we joined has park days, field trips, hiking excursions, outdoor gatherings. There seems to always be some opportunity for getting together with friends. :) The first 4 years I homeschooled, I had not found a group to join because most of them wanted you to be a certain religion which I was not. However, then I found this one, we joined and the kids have made a lot of friends and I have met a lot of nice parents. We have been part for a couple of years now and I would say it has definitely been worth it!

  • Val

    Homeschool isn’t all sunshine and kisses. It can be confusing, and life around the house gets tedious.

    Sorry for the reality.

    I was invited to write something for a publication about big families a long time ago.

    I was rejected too, and also perplexed and amused. There are a lot of weird people in the world. Thank goodness we’re not them, lol. love, Val

  • Chad, I’ve hung out with a few stay at home dads over the last 13 years. Each one of them talk about the loneliness, the cultural void of being on the only dad at home for miles around. The one who coped best ran a play group at his house every Tuesday. It was completely unstructured and open. And it worked really really well. We all became super fast friends with this dad and made him an honorary sister. Maybe you don’t want to be an honorary sister to any gaggle of homeschooling geese, but it was the best we had to offer. And it all started from his initiative. Hang in there and good luck! All the kids benefited from having time around a stay at home dad.

    Kate, some of your doubts really aren’t homeschooling doubts as much as normal developmental doubts. Which was my thought on your last post as you yearned (or not) for a social template. Nearly every kid in high school has those same feelings, feeling themselves to be the odd one out, even the most popular most “in” girls. (Really!) That’s part of the irony of adolescence, one of the things mostly unrealized, usually until sometime around your 10 year reunion. Thank you for airing doubts. It furthers honest discussion.

  • Jo

    I love this, because it’s true! People need to know that homeschooling has pros and cons. There was a time in my life that people wouldn’t admit to the cons, so I could only see the cons. Now as I see that there are so many ways to homeschool, I can accept that there are also pros. It does make you different, and I appreciate that self-sufficiency more the older I get.

  • I tend to stay FAR away from any homeschooling publications that aren’t explicitly secular/open to all (or no) religions, because I just know what I want to say wouldn’t be what they want to hear! That sounds like a really interesting article proposal. I’m a big fan of writing from a really personal and honest perspective (which is what I appreciate about your writing), and it’s a shame that magazine wants only super positive perspectives, even if that means being less than honest!

  • Ok, but now I want to hear more about this quitting math thing. My 11yo son would totally be down with that.

  • I wasn’t a Christian when I began this homeschooling journey. I also wasn’t a Christian when I named my first son Noah and my second son Jonah. Those choices always caused someone, somewhere, to comment on the “obvious Biblical” source for their names. I always explained that we had a nautical theme in mind, and that our next two boys would be Ahab and Queeg. Even though I have since become a follower of Christ, I am not always well accepted in the homeschool community. My wife works full time. I stay home and teach the kids. This just does not sit well with a great many fundamentalists. So, yeah, I laughed at “Suddenly the Lord was involved, and he sounded like he might be pissed at me.” In my homeschooling journey, the Lord is always involved, and frequently when He and I least expect it, too.

  • Bev

    Hilarious! I would love to read your truthful article.

  • Jacqueline

    Why I unschool:
    During a recent conversation, my 15 year old daughter said to me, “The biggest problem that most of my friends have, Mom, is that they can’t talk to their mothers the way that I can talk to you.”
    My 13 year old son says, “Can you please make bread with WHITE flour once in a while?”
    Kate, you are a wonderful writer and I find myself nodding in affirmation every time I read your work. We follow you here and in HEM and appreciate your honesty and humor.
    It’s weird enough to be a homeschooled kid. But, unschooled? Thanks for the continual encouragement.

    • kate

      My mom never made bread with white flour :-)
      She didn’t make anything with white flour! Now I catch myself eating a lot of it sometimes, and then feeling kind of guilty.
      Thanks for reading!

  • I love this post. Like one of the previous commenters, I’m a Christian but that is not my reason for wanting to homeschool my son. He’s three now, and I just pulled him out of a Christian preschool (at my own church, for goodness’ sake) because I didn’t agree with the way they do things. It was mostly because they’re too “school-y” and I don’t think that’s positive for a 3-year-old, but part of it was because they teach a great deal of religious content and I don’t think preschoolers are ready to learn about how someone was sold into slavery in the Bible or how Jesus died a horrible death on the cross for our sins. I would love to hear more from other homeschoolers who are Christians but homeschool in a secular way (or unschool).

    • Sara

      I’m a Christian unschooler! I don’t know that we homeschool in a secular way since there’s not really a part of our lives that isn’t Christian and we’d have a hard time making that distinction. It is absolutely not our motive for homeschooling, though! We homeschool to spend quality time with our kids and TO GIVE THEM A BETTER EDUCATION!

  • Anne

    I had to chuckle…I think that editor must have been from one of those journals that always had the “perfect” homeschool family, with 8 kids in matching outfits on the cover :)
    They always filled me with self-doubt an a feeling of inadequacy; I never got past the first free issue or two.
    I retired from my 22-year (home) teaching career three years ago, when my youngest (only son of 5 kids) decided he wanted to go to high school full time instead of half time as a junior because they would pay for a couple of college courses. Four out of 5 were able to fit in the top ten when they went to HS for at least their senior year. The other daughter graduated as a homeschooler and has worked for the power company as a techician and is now making 60K a year. All my kids are well-socialized, had time to develop a passion about something, all have achieved black belt level in Karate (leadership skills) and are articulate critical thinkers.
    Do I feel inadequate any more? NAH!!

  • I know this isn’t a recent post, but I hope you didn’t go back and pitch it again. My experience is that that one little “Lord” comment was the tip of the iceberg. That’s what they’re looking for.
    About the whitewashing…that’s kind of what our news media is doing these days. They have their particular agenda, and they slant everything in that direction. Fox News comes to mind. So does mainstream media’s ignoring of Ron Paul. I’m not a fan of either, but it does seem to not be in sync with the message they want to project.

    As for your list here… my dear!! You can add these onto my survey I’m hoping you fill out. I DO want to know the truth! And so do most people.

    And my kids have EXACTLY the same reaction about wheat/white bread. We only bought wheat. So when they went out to eat and “toast” was available, they KNEW it was white bread and jumped to order that! Then they’d look over at me and grin mischievously, saying “What? I just ordered toast!” Lol!

  • [...] I am too negative about homeschooling - From the blog, Skipping School, which is written by Kate Fridkis.  She was homeschooled Pre-K through 12th grade and then went on to college at Rutgers and Columbia.  Now she’s a freelance writer.  And obviously, I recommend her blog as well. [...]

  • “7. I expect to have a happy life. I expect it a lot. I had a happy childhood. I wasn’t often bored. And I have high standards for my life now. Sometimes they make things harder.”

    Haha. Oh, this is too true… I have the same problem and end up feeling personally offended if I have to go to a boring job every day or don’t get to spend all of my time working on thrilling projects.

    Love the list.

  • I think your points are fantastic. Anyone who homeschools or unschools knows that every day isn’t going to be perfect. Even going to public school everything is not going to always be perfect. Life happens. I think your list was really good though and really in my perspective not really negative.

    Your blog is great!

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