Sunday, September 16, 2012

I Guess Respect is Just Too Much to Ask

I was recently witness to a conversation about the hours spent homeschooling. Several people in the conversation expressed pity for any child who does more than 4 hours of school a day before high school. I find this really insulting! It is incredibly judgmental to "feel sorry" for someone else's kids because their school day is longer than your kid's.

You don't know these kids (this was a blanket statement saying they would feel sorry for ANY child in this situation, not a specific child whose family they were close to & knew the parent was pushing). You don't know why their school day is the length it is. You don't know if their workload is too much, just enough, or even not enough. You don't know if the work is too hard, too easy, or just right. You don't know if the workload is a result of the parent pushing or the child's choice. You know NOTHING about this child, their education, their family life, their free time, or how they feel about their daily schedule.

In fact, you have no idea what they count as school. You don't know why their school day is that length. Maybe it is only 4 hours of actual work, and the other 4 hours are filled with games, breaks, PE, and documentaries. Maybe the day is that long because the child fights about school, regardless of level, subject, or type of work, just because they like to fight (those kids are out there). Maybe it takes so long because the child throws a 3 hour fit about having to do one lesson in the subject they hate (we've dealt with this one). Maybe it takes so long because the child daydreams. Maybe they do more subjects than you do. Maybe things you count as extra-curricular, they consider core subjects. Maybe they go more in-depth. Maybe the child has a special need you don't know about.

Even if they are doing 8 hours a day of actual work, not counting breaks, why is it your place to judge? Why do you think that your opinion of the amount of time a child, one you don't even know, should spend on school is more accurate or more important than that child's parent? Maybe the child doesn't want your sympathy. Maybe the parent actually knows their own child well enough to be able to plan their education without your snide comments and your pity. How would you like it if people said they felt sorry for your kids due to the inferior education they were getting because you only schooled for 3 hours a day? Even if you don't care about the opinions of the people saying it, having every single person who does things in a different way accuse you of something they assume you do, without any actual proof, gets seriously annoying.

Why assume the child is miserable? Why assume the parent is assigning too much work? Why assume the parent is forcing the child to work at a level that is too advanced? Why assume the parent is forcing too many subjects? Why assume the parent is just going for bragging rights? Why assume the child is struggling? Even if they use the same main curriculum as you, that doesn't mean they use it in the exact same way. Maybe they use additional materials, as well. Maybe their kids have a slower pace. Maybe you should stop being so damn condescending & judgmental and accept that not everyone is identical and it is perfectly fine for people to do things in ways different from yours. Just because they have longer school days than you, doesn't mean they are doing their child a disservice.

Yes, there are some people who intentionally accelerate their kids, regardless of the child's actual abilities and preferences. Yes, there are people who, when their child is 3 and showing no signs of being advanced, decide that they will accelerate that child, expecting them to graduate high school at 12 or 14. Yes, there are people who push their kids beyond what they can competently do, with no concern for whether or not it is good for the child. However, it is rude and disrespectful to assume that everyone who has a longer school day or whose children are accelerated are those kinds of parents.

I have actually been accused of forcing my kids to do an 'inhumane' amount of work by a person who makes those kinds of assumptions. This person didn't care that my kids asked to add on several of their courses. This person did not care that my kids are healthy & happy, and in no way suffering from the amount, or level, of schoolwork they are doing. This person does not know us well. This person just assumed that I was pushing my kids, because their kids would not have done the same workload. My kids are naturally accelerated, not pushed by me. There is a huge difference.

Now, this person obviously did things in a way quite different from mine. They expected much less of their kids, and required no actual schooling be done. When they did pick up materials for their kids' schooling, they were materials I wouldn't use. Some were ones I had looked over and decided against because they wouldn't work for us. Some were ones that I had tried at one point, only to find out that they were not for us.  I did not tell this person my issues with the materials they picked up, because I understand that just because they didn't/wouldn't work for my kids, that doesn't mean they won't/don't work for other people. I did not insult their curriculum choices. I never commented on their level of academic focus. When they suggested materials or methods, that I knew wouldn't work for us, I did not insult them. I simply said they weren't for us, which was true. I respected that this person had the right to make their own decisions regarding their kids' education. It was not the way I chose to educate my kids, but I respected that we had differing methods of homeschooling. I respected that we had differing parenting styles. I expected to get the same respect in return. I did not get it. Instead, I got someone trashing me, claiming I pushed my kids, forced them to do an inhumane amount of work, and expected way too much of them, all because my kids are more academically-minded than this person's, and their interests run toward things more worthwhile than video games. This is why we no longer speak.

I am so tired of judgmental people who think that they have the right to claim that people they don't even know, or barely know, are pushy, controlling, cruel, looking for bragging rights, etc., especially based on something as arbitrary as the amount of time they spend on school. After all, how dare some of us spend 7 or 8 hours on school? How cruel we must be. How hard it must be for our poor children to live with parents like us. I'm sure my poor daughter is miserable having parents who truly believe that she can do anything she wants, if she puts her mind to it, and are trying to help her reach her goal of attending Yale. My poor son must also be miserable having parents who support his interests and allow him to add courses to his schoolwork each year, based on his interests. We are such horrible parents for trying to support & encourage our kids. I guess we should instead be holding them back, forcing only "age-appropriate" work and only allowing the "basics" to be studied, not allowing them to work at their own pace or follow their own interests. How cruel to allow the child to do extra pages when they ask to or to add in extra materials for a deeper level of mastery/comprehension.

I could save some time, money, effort, and energy by only allowing one level of each subject per year, or by cutting out the subjects many see as 'extra' or 'unnecessary.' However, my kids move fast. I refuse to tell my kids that they need to slow down their natural pace, so we can make one level of Grammar, Math, etc., last the whole year, despite their ability to master it quickly and their need to move on. I refuse to do just a general overview of Science & History when I feel depth is important, and my kids enjoy the depth. I will not force my kids to wait until Jr High to start a foreign language, especially considering all the studies that prove it is easier to learn languages when younger. I will not skip Logic for my son who loves Logic. I may have to use materials that are a little below what he can actually do, due to the shortage of good Logic materials for kids, but as long as he enjoys it, we will continue to do it. I don't see Art & Music as extra. I see them as core subjects that the kids should have every year. How else will they find out if they have an interest or talent that may lead to a career or lifelong, fulfilling hobby, if they are never exposed to those 'extras' that so many see as unimportant? The more they are exposed to & allowed to try, the more opportunities they will have.

Each of us has our own philosophy regarding our children's education. Just because someone else has different priorities, that doesn't make them wrong. So, before you start judging other people, stop and think. Do you even have enough information to form an educated opinion? Do you know the whole situation? Do you personally know the people? Do you have any actual proof that the parents are, in fact, doing something wrong? Remember, it might be wrong for your situation, but it might be right for theirs. Not all kids are like yours. You can't expect all parents to educate their kids in the same manner, using the same materials, at the same pace, for the same reasons, or according to the same philosophy as you. Kids are different. They are individuals. They each need something different. That is why many of us homeschool. To say that all homeschoolers should do things in the exact same way, is ridiculous. Let other homeschoolers choose how to educate their kids without your judgments & pity. Stop tearing down everyone who is different than you. That kind of narrow-minded thinking is the root of pretty much every problem this world has. So many are bound & determined to fight against everything that is different. In doing so, they are missing out on so much of beauty that this world, and its diversity, have to offer.