homeschooling, homemaking, homesteading...home.

Monday, September 13, 2010


One of the common reactions I've encountered when I say that I homeschool my children is some comment along the lines of "Don't you need a break?" or "I don't think I could be with my kids all day!"

Let's step back for a moment and recognize the assumption at work here. That is, that homeschooling your children means being with your children every minute of every day. This scenario is possible, but not probable. There are breaks; both natural and contrived. But I'm not here to talk about the struggle for balance (although in many areas of my life, that idea weighs heavily on my mind). Rather, I want to discuss the hyperbole of this kind of comment and the matching extremes of quick-judgement it often encourages in response.

Statement: "I don't think I could spend that much time with my kids!!"
Assumption #1: You nevereverever get any time apart from the children.
Assumption #2: This is always an unpleasant situation.
Fallout: If the homeschooling mother dares to express frustration or a desire for a little break, her non-homeschooling acquaintances invariably raise an eyebrow and say--either facetiously (from sarcastic good/supportive friends) or critically (from the negatively-biased)--"Well, you could send them to school..."

Wow, really? Imagine that--an easy solution to an intolerable and permanent problem! (snark)

You know what? That's right about up there with dismissing a stressed-out stepmother with a blithe "You knew what you were getting into." It's the kind of statement that blames someone for having the nerve to complain about a situation that she entered into voluntarily; as though when you make a choice you are contractually obligated to be 100% satisfied with all of the fallout of that choice for every second of the rest of your life. And if you have a stressful moment and--OMG--admit to it, must have made an error in choosing. (And how fortunate that the self-righteous are there to point it out.)

It's that kind of thinking that makes me want to bitch-slap someone. Few people would express this sort of sentiment to a parent of traditionally-schooled children who's feeling a little overstimulated on her kids' day off.

Or would they? Oh yes...there is an equal and opposite unfair criticism-missile commonly hurled from the homeschooling side of the fence.

Scenario: A mother of traditionally-schooled children who are on break expresses a desire for the school session to begin again. (My Facebook feed is full of these sentiments every August.)
Subtext (sometimes explicitly stated): I need some space and want my kids to go away!
Assumption: Your poor children; you find them annoying and unpleasant. You are a bad parent.
Reaction: The homeschooling mothers invariably respond--whether sotto voce amongst themselves, or directly (and rudely, btw) to the speaker--"Why did you even have children, if you don't want to be with them?"

Incidentally, this is the same refrain often echoed by attachment parents when we hear the word daycare. And yes, I just said "we". I'm guilty, too. And when I hear myself say it, I stop and think. I'm thinking enough now to admit to it, and that has to be a step toward a more enlightened path, right?

What I'm getting at here is a call to rational thought, and a plea for a little live-and-let-live. I'm going to make a few very honest statements now. Ready?

Parents of homeschooled children are not ALWAYS with their children. Stop pitying the parents.

Parents of traditionally-schooled children are not NEVER with their children. Stop pitying the children.

Being with your children for most of the day, every day, can be extremely rewarding.

Being with your children for most of the day, every day, can be extremely stressful.

Both of these feelings are natural, and it should be okay to admit to either of them without fearing attack.


  1. Well you've hit the nail on the head here. Thank you.

    Mind if I go on a tangential mini-rant? I hate the "well you knew what you were getting into" response when it's given to just about anyone. Many people don't SAY it but they think it. People say this/think this if you have kids, period (yeah, you shouldn't be "allowed" in restaurants, you have kids, you knew what you were getting into, you have to make sacrifices). Right. First of all, actually No, although I researched and studied like mad I actually DIDN'T know the scope of what I was getting into (and how unsupportive many would be); secondly, people do reproduce, lots of people do, and the idea no one should help us in raising the most vulnerable members of our society, that is just shite.

    I am fortunate that even though I'm homeschooling I never these days feel that pinched "need a break" feeling. But when my kids were small (they're 6 and 8 now) I did. And yeah... I found it really crappy when people wouldn't just LISTEN and support but instead offer highly disruptive advice.

    Good post.

  2. Kelly, I mentally drafted the most eloquent "yeah!" response to you while loading the dishwasher earlier. Naturally, by the time my body reached a keyboard, my brain had forgotten most of it. *sigh*

    The gist of it was something along the lines of our screwed-up expectations in this society insofar as definitions of success and happiness, and the reality of both. Traditional marriage vows include wording like "for better or for worse" for a reason. Life is not all wonderful. Much of it is struggle. Acknowledging the struggle should NOT (IMHO) mean that you're negating the good parts. Baby-and-bathwater, kwim? Guess what? Married people fight sometimes. That alone doesn't mean that you should divorce, or that you shouldn't have wed in the first place. Just the same, parents get overwhelmed and stressed-out sometimes. That does NOT mean that they are not cut out for parenting.

    I suppose the expectation is that if you're NOT 100% happy with every moment that follows every choice in your life, you better keep your mouth shut and learn to fake it. Lest you be judged for acknowledging the reality.

    I left a once-supportive online group once after a very active and vocal member attacked me for complaining about feeling "touched out" with my nursling. She read me a pretty impressive riot act about how *obviously* I was continuing this nursing relationship for my own selfish reasons...that I was motivated by guilt (and just possibly perversion; she was also pretty anti-BF anyway) and quite possibly not cut out to be a parent at all, if I was going to get stressed out. She, naturally, presented herself as always in calm control. Always agreeable and Zen and content.

    Bullshit. People aren't built that way, and anyone who claims to be is lying. To themselves or others or both.

    Back to my original point...I'm tired of seeing mothers attacking other mothers when the latter group dares to express a little momentary dissatisfaction. To claim that you *don't* is hypocrisy, and to hold others up to that standard is deeply unfair.