Thursday, October 4, 2012

On Never Saying Never

There is a homeschool page I follow on facebook that routinely posts questions from readers so everyone can chime in and discuss the topic.  It's a great tool for reaching a lot of people.  For instance, I once asked what math curriculum people transitioned to from Right Start.  None of my local homeschool friends use Right Start, so this wasn't a topic I could discuss with anyone I know in real life. 

Yesterday, a seemingly innocuous question was posed: When would you throw in the homeschooling towel?  Seems pretty simple.  I was shocked at how many answers were posted with a very judgmental tone to them.  Everything from a basic "absolutely never" to an insistence that both parents would have to be completely mentally incapacitated or dead before the kids would go to public school.  One person listed every difficult medical situation their family has dealt with and an insinuation that if they could keep homeschooling through that, no one else could possibly have a good reason to stop.   There was a lot of language suggesting that if you send your kids to school, you just don't care enough, just didn't try hard enough, and are sending them out to a situation that will absolutely (no ifs, ands or buts about it!) corrupt them.

To be fair, there were a lot of respectful answers as well.  Quite a few were from people who said they couldn't foresee a reason THEY would stop homeschooling, but each family has to decide for themselves.

This "Oh! NEVER!" mentality is so troubling to me though.  I see this sort of thing in childbirth and breastfeeding circles as well.  I feel it's shortsighted and overestimates the control we have over life.  Unfortunately, it also often comes with a heaping helping of judgment against other mothers: "Oh, you should NEVER have an epidural"  "Home birth is NEVER safer than a hospital birth" "It's ALWAYS bad to induce labor" "I just can't believe ANYONE would EVER formula feed" "Ugh, I would NEVER breastfeed, that's just icky".  And on and on it goes. 

If there's one thing you learn when working with young families, it's that the VAST majority of moms are doing their absolute best.  I would say I could count the number I've met who weren't doing their best on one hand, but honestly, I can't think of a single one.  I've worked with rich moms, poor moms, drug addicted moms, won't take a tylenol moms, over-40 moms, 15-year-old moms, adoptive moms, birth moms, well moms, sick moms.  You name it, I've probably come across it at least once.  Is everyone's best the same?  No, of course not.  Their life situations are hugely different.  But they are doing whatever their best is. 

Because this truth is always at the forefront of my mind, I simply can't say never.  I can think of lots of reasons a family might choose to start or stop homeschooling, have an elective c-section or a home birth, breastfeed or formula feed.  I don't live in their house.  I don't walk in their shoes.  I can't know what is right for them.  I sometimes feel sad for the kids, and the family as a whole, when options are limited due to physical or mental illness, lack of economic opportunities, family history, or a host of other factors.  But that judgment that accompanies "never" has no place in supporting families.  I think we probably all think our way is the right way.  If we didn't, we wouldn't choose it.  It can be darn near impossible to avoid seeing a different way as the "wrong" way.  I try to allow myself the thought and then allow it to pass (along with repeating my mantra of "not my choices, not my choices, not my choices").  If nothing else, a large public forum where many parents have likely made the choice you're horrified by, is not the place to make your stand for "never".


Marti Kubena said...

See, this is why I love you and your blog! I don't know very many people that are as passionate as you in your own choices, but still capable of recognizing and acknowledging other routes without using a judgemental tone. I know there have been several times where my own mindset of "wow, I seem to know a lot of ignorant people" was checked by something you wrote. I very much appreciate this trait in you. You rock!

Rachel said...

Great post. I am often saddened to think of how idealistic and judmental I was in my early days as a mom. I wish I could take back a lot of things I said back then!

The Hills said...

Me too. But as they say, "when you know better, you do better." ;-) My time working at WIC really changed my outlook. I realized I had a lot of bias based on partial information. Those moms taught me a lot about looking past what the situation appears to be.

Anonymous said...

Ok old grandma here.

It bothers me alot about how our children are being raised at our schools. But the biggest problem I see is how the parents think it's the school's responsiblity to pass them along they just don't get involved as parents with the teacher's. If the kid is flunking out where were the parents during all this time?? It's easy to blame someone else or the government but really you had the kids and it's your responsiblitly to help them and I just sit back and see that so many parents are putting the blame to the school instead of helping their child they are teaching the child not to be responsible for their own actions.
I appluade anyone who home schools but I also think our school's are good but you just need to be an involved parent and make sure that you really know what is going on with you child at school. Home schooling isn't the best and our public schools are not the best but what ever choice you make you try and do the best.




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