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January 24, 2008

Comments

lori

"If we say that we can educate our kids at home better than they would get at school - what we really mean is that it's different."

Yeah, this is what I was thinking as I read your post. It's not that I think I can teach my kids school subjects better than a public or private school teacher can. I'm sure many of them can do science and math better than I can (which doesn't mean that I can't do them at all, though), for example. But I'm offering my kids a different kind of education (and lifestyle) altogether. It's a different environment, a different schedule, a different educational approach, a different set of expectations and relationships, etc. It's just completely different.

I do think homeschooling is better for my kids - otherwise I wouldn't be doing it. But this makes me no different from people who send their kids to private school or charter schools.

I think sometimes people interpret "this is better for me" as "I'm doing something that's better than what you're doing." If you're happy, your kids are happy, and you go to the beach on a 'school day' (flaunt your 'rule breaking') - and you openly talk about these things - then others think you're indicting them for not doing the same thing. Or they think you're gloating (arrogance). They receive the conversation as being about them as much as it is about you.

I'm not sure why, but it may be that when people make choices that are strikingly different from 'the norm,' it makes other people uncomfortable because it challenges (in their minds) their choices.

I've experienced something similar this year with a neighbor, who, since I started homeschooling this fall, can't seem to stop telling me how much her kids like school and look forward to going back every time there's a break. It's like she's compelled to justify sending her kids to school. I asked, for example, 'how were your holidays?' and she moved from the holidays themselves right into a discussion of school break and how ready her kids were to go back because they really do like school and get bored at home, etc., etc.

So honestly, I think that some of the arrogance claims are being made by people who are uncomfortable with how homeschoolers make them feel about their own choices. (I'm sure this interpretation makes me sound arrogant, too!) So they get defensive and attack the person rather than address their feelings.

And that's my short comment on the matter. ;-)

Tana

I so appreciate all the things you have to say about such real topics, Tammy. I've faced similar issues with things like breastfeeding, cloth diapering, natural birth, etc. and I never knew how to handle it. Your blog and essays like these have brought sanity to so many areas of my life, not just our decision to homeschool. And I've found that when I take the correct attitude in the first place, I get a lot less flack on my decisions. (Though we have yet to tell MIL that we're homeschooling...still, I am sure it will go better than any of the other stuff we have done differently than how she did it.)

Laura

Great article. I am a homeschooler who is new to unschooling. I have observed and mildly experienced what I thought initially was an arrogant attitude, an "overbearing pride evidenced by a superior manner toward inferiors", from experienced unschoolers who answer newbie questions in support group forums. But after careful reading I see that the veterans are mostly trying to challenge assumptions, which is a hard job! I think the concept of homeschooling, and maybe especially unschooling, presents incredible challenges to popular assumptions about education, family, home, and society. When we describe our lives, lifestyles, and choices, people react strongly one way or the other and can project their fears onto us. Paradigm shifts are scary and sometimes it's easier to blame the messenger than seriously consider the message.

KrisB

I do think that homeschoolers are often perceived as arrogant. When speaking with people who have kids in public school there seems to be an unspoken assumption that because we choose to homeschool - for whatever reason - we must feel that our choice makes us superior. I know I've felt the glare from people who seem to think I'm judging them based solely on my family's personal choice to learn at home. I have noticed a change in the past few years though. It seems that the responses in general to our home education choice have been largely more positive than they ever were ten years ago.

On Living By Learning

I never thought of myself as arrogant. Usually, I think of myself as a self-confident do-it-yourselfer who is often out of sync with others.

Thanks for the reality check! I'll try to appear more humble in the future - even if I'm always right!

Sunniemom

Some folks think we are arrogant for HSing because we live in a school district that gets 'Excellence' ratings every year. I can never seem to get them to understand that I don't home educate 'just because' of the quality (or lack thereof) of public schools. It is a purposefully chosen lifestyle for us that stems from some of our deeply held beliefs about family and life and learning.

I think it's weird that if I am excited about something we are doing at home, others' responses are often more about why they don't homeschool than about what I actually said. Get a grip, people- my being enthusiastic about our home life is not a condemnation of PS any more than someone excited about their kid being on the honor roll or making the soccer team is a condemnation of homeschooling. Sheesh.

Deb

I think that the choice to give our children a better education than the public schools can is INDEED a commentary on teachers, and the public school system in general.

Public school teachers are poorly prepared, fairly poorly paid, and the work is thankless nowadays...mainly because the majority of parents don't care about their kids' education as we homeschoolers do, and because teachers are subject to rules like NCLB. So the brighter people no longer, as a rule, go into education, and so they won't be the people educating our kids. I want people who KNOW STUFF to educate my kids.

My husband is a math professor at an engineering school, and incoming classes are increasingly poorly prepared in mathematics. It gets worse almost every year. It's so sad...young people who want to be scientists are having that door slammed in their faces because they can't do the math that they were supposed to have learned in earlier grades. So, his university is setting up a special summer math institute for high school math teachers...not to teach them *how to teach*, but to teach them the math that they need to know so that they can find a way to prepare their own students. The teachers, as a rule, can't really do math, can't answer questions about "why do I need to learn this?"

For us, yes, the homeschooling lifestyle is great, and being unbound from someone else's arbitrary constraints, and all that...but fundamentally, we're educating the kids at home because we can do it better than the public schools can (and we also live in one of those "excellent" school districts).

If I were to deny this, then it serves to prop up a system that is failing. We need more people to say clearly that the system is failing, and that we're voting with our feet. It's not a chocolate-vanilla choice when it comes to good education... thoughtful homeschoolers, no matter what their homeschooling philosophy are mostly superior to most teachers (and certainly to the system overall) in terms of providing a good preparation, for college and for life. Believe me, the professors at my husband's university LOVE the homeschoolers. They know that *this* isn't a group they need to worry about.

I think that the "arrogance" issue as it's treated often mistakenly conflates the *objective fact* of a homeschool education usually being superior, with a *snooty I-am-better-than-you attitude*. They're two different things.

Obviously, people shouldn't be snooty. But if others take it on themselves to decide that my kids are receiving a great education, and they then feel guilty about not providing such an education to their own kids, and they then decide that I therefore *must* be "arrogant" because I'm confident that my kids are getting a better education than they could in public schools...that's really their problem, but it's not a matter of any arrogance on my part. My providing my kids with a great education has nothing to do with them. Unfortunately, that's a subtle point that many people don't understand. But I can't just pretend to be overly meek and humble to compensate for their mistake.

In short: Cheerful and confident, yes. Snootily comparing your kids' education to theirs', no.

Marjorie

as for me, I think I seem most arrogant when I am most insecure or defensive. When I'm feeling confident and content, I like to think that I can come across more as the 'kind' professor you mentioned in your post. Also, irritability can lead to arrogance, if you think someone is spouting doctrinal gibberish and didn't actually consider the topic themselves (say, about socialization), that can lead to arrogance. OR, combatting someone else's arrogance when I'm feeling low or tired or "off." Otherwise, I can smile and ignore it and wish them well!

Silvia

This is a great article--and good timing for me personally, too. :) I recently had a conversation with an acquaintance of my mother, concerning homeschooling, whom I perceived as arrogant. She doesn't have children, is retired, and just presented all the reasons it couldn't possibly work. She asked how it could work, basically, but then didn't listen to my responses at all. In my comments to her, I was not wanting to come across as hostile or arrogant myself, but I just didn't feel it was right to agree with her or not say anything, when I really knew she was uninformed and just plain wrong. When she made a statement that was wrong, I told her I had to disagree, and why. I felt that since I live the homeschooling life, I'm more of an "expert" on the subject. So does that make me arrogant?

kate

Now here's an observation that might raise some hackles. It is based on my own observations over the years that I've paid close attention to educational issues. Most homeschoolers I know are not in the least bit arrogant with the exception of some of the fundamentalist religious homeschoolers. I find them obnoxious in the most part because their reasons for homeschooling are simply to keep their children from being exposed to societal influences.

Charley

Arrogant!

That's the charge of the postmodern mindset to anyone who proclaims truth or who holds conviction. Since the postmodern mindset holds there can be no such knowledge, anyone who says they actually do know truth is banished with the charge of "arrogant!"

I wrote a lengthy post at my own blog (www.homedisciplingdad.blogspot.com/2007/08/its-that-time-of-year.html) as I discussed what John MacArthur had to say on the subject in his book, "The Truth Wars."

Charley
www.HomeDisciplingDad.blogspot.com
www.RiseUpAndGetSerious.blogspot.com

Marjorie

I'm intrigued and slightly confused by kate's comment. If I read it correctly, she finds that homeschoolers who keep their children out of school to avoid exposure to societal influences are arrogant. Well, I'm not a fundamentalist, but that's one reason I keep my kids out of school. I don't see how it's arrogant to avoid what you don't like, especially what you don't want for your kids. Are the Amish arrogant? I never considered it.

Crimson Wife

Extremists of any flavor tend to be the most arrogant- whether it's the "holier-than-thou" superfundamentalist religious believer or the IMHO equally obnoxious "crunchier-than-thou" hippie. Both are absolutely convinced that their life choices are *THE ONE TRUE WAY* for everyone and how *DARE* you make different decisions. You aren't a vegan? Didn't exclusively breastfeed for years? Didn't want a medication-free homebirth? Don't cloth diaper or use "Elimination Communication"? You vaccinated your kids? Had your boys circumcized? Oh, the *HORROR* of it all!

Rebecca

"How are we more arrogant than someone who flies their own plane, cooks their own meals or adds an addition to their own house? By saying "we can do this", is that being arrogant? To me, being arrogant is "I can do this, and you can't, and I'm better than you because of it." And I don't see anyone in the homeschooling world saying that. In fact, the message is quite the opposite: "I can do this, and so can you."

I LOVED this point. Excellent thought.


Sandra Dodd

I've been called arrogant. Several people above used the word "confidence" and that's what I have. If I had the excitement of brand-new confidence, I think "arrogance" might not be used, but I have the calm, unshakable years-of-experience confidence, and three older kids as evidence, that make those new to homeschooling want to prove me wrong sometimes, out of habit, I think.

A lot of people like to compromise, in life and in conversations. I haven't compromised in my beliefs about the benefits of allowing children lots of choices and freedom, and I don't split the difference in a conversation with someone who's never heard of unschooling yet is ready to explain condescendingly to me why it's laziness and won't work.

Unschoolers might seem more arrogant than other homeschoolers, because we have to defend ourselves for homeschooling, and then have to defend ourselves to the rest of the homeschoolers!

bell

Well now, I was searching for blogs on fitness or health when i came across this post. Although not exactly what I was expecting I will give it ****.

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