Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Pet Peeve

One of my pet peeves is people with little to no experience in something, who tell everyone else how to do it. I come across this a lot with homeschoolers. Now, I'm not talking about not actually having experience with a specific curriculum and voicing your opinion (which is based on actual research into the curriculum) of it. If all your opinion is based on is the fact that other people like or dislike it, then maybe you really should keep that opinion to yourself, though.

No, I'm talking about the person who has just decided to homeschool her 3 year old, and feels that she can tell all other homeschoolers how to homeschool their kids. Seriously? Your extensive experience comes from where? Your child has learned to count to 20, so you think that makes you qualified to tell me which Pre-Algebra program I should use for my kid? Your child isn't reading, but you're giving advice to the mother looking for help getting her reluctant, struggling 4th grader to read something more challenging than the Frog & Toad books? Who the hell do you think you are? Do you honestly think that, even though you have no experience with a child older than 3, you are more knowledgeable about educating kids than people who have been doing it for years?

This also applies to the "My kid isn't there yet, but...," moms. These are the ones who will tell you how to homeschool high school, even though their oldest is in 2nd grade. You post a question about high school lab Science, and they respond with something about how you can do all the lab work with easy to find things you already have around the house, like they do for their 7 year old. They tell you that there is no reason to buy expensive lab equipment, dangerous chemicals, dissection specimens, etc. That is all just propaganda to convince you that you need to spend more money. The simplistic baking soda & vinegar experiments they have done with their young children would be just fine for a high school lab Science. Or you post asking for suggestions for a Geometry program, and they respond that you don't need formal curriculum to teach Math. You can just use living books & real life experience, like they do with their 6 year old. You know, it's great that you have your kid try to figure out how much change you'll get back at the grocery store. Mine did that too, when they were 5. However, when we're talking high school level Math for a college-bound child, something more rigorous & formal might be in order. Maybe you'll understand that by the time your kids actually get to high school level work. Until then, why don't you go offer your "sage" advice to those just starting out with kids in pre-school & kindergarten?

This list also includes the former public school teachers who now feel it is their job to teach all homeschool parents how to teach. Not all former public school teachers fall into that category. Some aren't so presumptuous and when they offer advice, it is truly meant to be a helpful sharing of their experience. These will post stuff like "When I taught that grade, X was what seemed to cause the most trouble with my students." I'm not talking about them. I'm talking about the ones who tell everyone how they should teach, what scope & sequence they should follow, what types of materials they should use, etc., even when they haven't actually started homeschooling yet. Do they not see that, when they do this, it comes off as condescending & disrespectful, not helpful? It's not that they don't have something to offer. It's their assumption that we need their experience that bothers me. Besides, most former public school teachers, who chose to homeschool, talk a lot about how very different the two are.

Now, I'm not saying that you should have to homeschool for a set number of years before you can respond to posts or give advice. What I'm saying is that it shows a great deal of hubris to assume that you are an expert on something with which you have no experience. I can't speak for all homeschoolers, only for myself.  Personally, I figured out my educational philosophy years ago. I knew my kids learning styles when they were toddlers. I've had plenty of experience learning to choose materials that work for my kids. I know my goals for their education. I know on what things I will & won't be flexible. I know my expectations for my kids. I don't need someone else to tell what I should or should not be doing, or how to do it, especially if that person's experience with homeschooling doesn't extend beyond reading some books about it.