by Karen D. Koch
Over the years friends and strangers have asked about our homeschooling. I am careful about my responses because I don’t want to come across the wrong way, but I’m often shocked at some people’s comments. Once an acquaintance condescendingly asked me how I thought I was remotely qualified to teach kindergarten to my own child, who, incidentally, was reading at a third grade level at the time. Others are horrified that our children will “miss the prom” as if that somehow equates to a fulfilling academic experience (We have a homeschool formal dance each year, so I got that covered anyway). I’ve had people tell me I’m permanently damaging my children.
Mostly when I get these “helpful” comments, I just say nice things like, “It’s not for everyone,” or “This is what we decided to do with our kids.”But sometimes I want to be more blunt. I want to be appreciated for the sacrifices we’ve made to do what we feel called to do. Sometimes I just get tired of people thinking I’m weird. It can be lonely homeschooling. I’m tired of being looked at as “cheap,” when doing without things allows me to be home.
Here are a few things I’d like to respectfully say to non-homeschoolers.
- I wasn’t “lucky” (or wealthy enough) to stay home with the kids. I was resourceful and determined, and I set my career aside to stay home. We spent our first three years married completing college. Hubby and I were one month out of college with our first newborn when I quit my job to stay home. My husband’s starting salary at a golf course was nowhere near what people think golf course professionals make. We lived in a dump, had one less-than-desirable car (just one car for the first five years we were married!), and dutifully paid off his student loan. I nursed 100% so I wouldn’t have to buy formula, and was as frugal as possible in every area of our lives. I had just finished my MA, so I could have made more and put Mitchell in daycare, but I didn’t want to. Then later babies 2, 3, and 4 came, so I continued to stay home.
- Yes, I worry about my kids getting all the education they need, but I think I’d worry more if they were in an anti-Christian, worldly school 40 hours per week with negative socialization. I remember some serious wasted time in public school (my Global Studies class in high school where the wrestling coach/teacher played PBS videos all semester while he read Sports Illustrated comes to mind). I out-source music lessons, higher math, and sports endeavors. My two oldest got into college with no problem, so I guess it’s going ok.
- It’s challenging and exhausting always being the person solely responsible for all decisions with curriculum/courses, transcripts, testing, buying resources, grading, extra-curricular activities, and spiritual formation. I can’t do everything, but I’m trying hard, asking God daily for His help. I can’t just blame the public school or teachers if things don’t go well.
- I have googled “I don’t want to homeschool any more,” on my bad days. But here we are in year 16. Two kids graduated. Two to go.
- It’s tiring swimming against the current all the time. I know non-homeschoolers mainly just think we’re weird, but I wish they could appreciate the sheer will it takes at times to swim against the cultural current every day. About 3% of kids in America are currently being homeschooled, so 97/100 kids I know are not. I have explained and explained and re-explained homeschooling, often to blank stares.
- I wish you would stop asking me about socialization. My kids are very involved in activities and in their world, and are literate, thoughtful, caring people. I don’t quiz public school parents on the negative socialization their kids receive every day. Once when I was in line with my first three kids in the post office, a stranger struck up a conversation then asked me how my kids would ever learn to stand in line if they didn’t go to public school. I told him they were standing in line as he asked me that question.
- We don’t think we’re superior to you. Everyone makes choices based on their worldview, experience, priorities, life situation, and finances. This is our choice. The fact that we homeschool is not an attack on your choices. We really can be friends! I know you love your kids too.
- I really, really, really like being with my children. Yes, they sometimes drive me crazy. Yes, it was exhausting when they were little, but when they were sick it was never a crisis. They just stayed home with me as usual. Whenever any one of us needed to go anywhere, we ALL went together – for the first 14 years of kids I can remember just a few times I was in the car alone. The kids have learned flexibility, accommodation, and patience. Now that the two oldest are grown and halfway flown, I’m glad I had all that time with them.
- I love learning right along with the kids. My high school US History class was pretty lame–dates and names mainly. My kids and I love history because of all the amazing historical stories we’ve read, and I know they know a lot more history than I ever learned. My honors English class and teacher in high school were exceptional, though, and I quote him regularly in my home. The kids know him by name. (Thanks, Mr. W!) When we don’t know something, we look it up together. Miller and I took a broken toaster apart together today to try to fix it.
- My kids have the rest of their lives to do things that we “missed.” I didn’t grow up in a wealthy family so we never once went to Disneyland, to Hawaii, or skiing. I eventually did all those things as an adult, but I still wouldn’t trade my childhood for anyone else’s. My kids aren’t permanently scarred because we don’t have the money to take expensive vacations.
- I think public school teachers have an difficult job, and I admire them. My homeschooling is mainly a choice against the system, not the teachers. I wouldn’t want to manage a gaggle of kids of different abilities, challenges, and behavioral issues all day long. My four kids are a piece of cake compared to that!
Karen Koch is in her 16th year of homeschooling with kids ranging from 8-20. Her oldest finished his BA in Communications just before his 20th birthday. Her second entered college with a year of college credit, is playing college golf, and recently turned 18. The “littles” are 13 and 8. Her kids have never been to Disneyland (gasp!) but did get to LegoLand once or twice and have visited tons of cool historic sites.