You know that feeling you get after a good stretch? What about after that last exam? The first day of your vacation, when you wake up to nothing but a good book, an empty beach and a clear sky?
That’s homeschooling. That’s how I felt when I dropped off our first NOI; it’s how I feel when I see the back-to-school ads, and how I feel when I hear the rumble of the school bus on that first day of school.
I feel free.
My family is not going to be assimilated. We’re not going to be pushed into conforming to someone else’s idea of an acceptable prototype, our lifestyle isn’t cramped by some public institution’s standard and we don’t have to fit a convenient label.
If I wasn’t currently hindered by, well, my body, I’d be turning cartwheels (I did one several months back. It hurt.)
I like this freedom. My kids like this freedom, especially my daughter who’s been in public school and didn’t enjoy the tiny square box they put her in. She’s more than a box, more than a test score, more than a warm body in a cold plastic chair and she deserves this freedom.
As soon as we made the decision to homeschool, we stepped away from labels.
Labels can be useful tools; I use them sort of like street signs. They can guide me in the right direction, particularly in a new, unfamiliar area—but if I know where I’m going, what’s the point? I can sort through homeschool groups by label, know where we definitely don’t belong, sense where we might and the rest is up to us. We’re not trapped, not assigned to a homeroom or a guidance counselor.
If we run into a bully, we don’t have to navigate some systemic chain of command to get responses; we can just walk away. It’s an awesome luxury, because there are adult-sized bullies, even among homeschoolers. If you’re lucky, they’ll slip up and, through giggles, confess (heehee) how mean they were in high school. If they’re still giggling ten or twenty years later, walk away. Quickly. They haven’t changed—they’ve just been practicing. But, unlike their public school victims, we don’t have to hang around for it.
There are homeschool groups, defined by broad ideals and offering support and knowledge on a large scale. And, there are smaller, more insular communities, where friendships take root and where our children’s gifts and needs should be celebrated and nurtured, and where they should feel safe to stumble a little along the way without fear of the lifetime condemnation they might face in public school. That’s freedom—to be yourself and to grow amid love and security.
Many homeschoolers are actively seeking partial enrollment or the right to participate in public school sports. Having been in the public school system, I have no desire to compromise this freedom we've found. I chose to step away from the system; what it has to offer isn’t worth the strings attached. Others view it as their right, as a continuity of freedom and, while I understand that stance, I recently heard the exclusion of homeschoolers from public school activities compared to racial segregation.
That particular reference is so wildly inappropriate it completely and immediately diminishes the other arguments. Those who attended segregated schools and sat at the back of the bus had no choice. To compare our choice, our freedom, to the heart-breaking struggle for equality when choice and freedom were violently denied is dismissive to the spirit of those who fought for basic rights. Our denial of access to public school activities is a direct result of our decision to step away. If a group wishes to fight for partial access, they can be assured that their efforts will be made from a different platform, with more leverage and less danger than what faced real freedom fighters.
If we want to be taken seriously and want our concerns heard, we need to avoid sweeping generalizations and over-dramatic characterizations. Those are best left to the public school system, where labels and dismissive historical perspectives run amuck.
And me, I’m not going to be beating down any doors for the right to stick my toe back in—I’m going to wallow in the warmth of freedom while my daughter turns cartwheels in the grass.
Missy's homeschooling journey began when she realized that the walls surrounding her daughter's classroom were too narrow; there was no room for exploration, no space for stretching. Now, she and her three children stretch and explore the world together. My blog: caffeinatedjive