Saturday, September 09, 2006

Don't Kids Need Structure?

The questions people ask and the way I answer them. Usually, I answer a question with another question. Sometimes, I admit I'm completely totally wrong. WHAT? Me wrong?

Homeschoolers field a lot of questions about what we do. People ask all kinds of things, like what we do for math, or if it's hard to homeschool with a baby around, or whatever. "Why did you decide to homeschool?" is the most common one, and I've whittled my answer to that one down to this: "We just don't have time for school."

There's one certain type of question about homeschooling that's really an implied criticism. "What about socialization?" or "Don't kids need structure?" are really ways of saying, "I think kids need socialization and structure in traditional school." I suggest two ways to deal with these questions -- either ask the person for clarification, endlessly, or to admit that the person is right and you're wrong.

Answer a question with a question. What do you mean by socialization, exactly? What kinds of kids should he be socializing with? What age of person is right for his socialization? What do you mean by structure? Do you think bells and lines are an important part of structure? What kind of structure would be too much structure, in your opinion? The key here is that you have to be SUPER innocent and direct and really truly ask these questions as if you want to know. Which, maybe, you even do -- always interesting to know how these things are perceived by people. Being snarky will exacerbate the problem, but being really genuinely interested in what that nosy neighbor has to say will deflate it. And you don't have to defend yourself or even give your opinion. If she brought it up, let her elaborate on it.

The other comeback is to say, "You know, you're right. He does need structure." Or, "You're totally right, socialization is really important." On some level, you do agree with the person -- even if the "structure" you're referring to is the frame of the car that keeps him from falling out of it onto the street, and the socialization is with his own mother and father. The point is, then the conversation is over, the nosy neighbor feels like she won, and you can move on with whatever you were going to do anyway. Who cares if she truly deeply understands and agrees with everything you're doing? She probably never would, even if you turned yourself inside out and let her examine your sweet, earnest homeschooling heart.

I think that arguing with people only pumps up the notion that homeschoolers are all frothing idealogues who want to bring down the system. The truth is we're not proselytizing, we're not out to expand our numbers, and we're not even sure *ourselves* what the exact right answers are. My main message about homeschooling, to people that ask me questions, is that it's fun and easy. I will let them decide if it's rotting my children for themselves.

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