By Camille M. Cantwell
Let me repeat, all homeschoolers are not alike! I say (or scream) this because so often I hear homeschooling moms talk to each other about their experiences, likes, dislikes, reasons for homeschooling, etc. and there is always one mom (usually me) who has nothing in common with the other moms. Below are a few fallacies about homeschooling that I would like to clear up.
1. All homeschooling moms are not gardeners. Contrary to popular belief, homeschooling your children does not make you a master gardener, whether it is growing flowers, herbs, vegetables, or little green stuff on the leftovers in your refrigerator. I used to be a gardener (before my children were old enough to be formally homeschooled). It took a lot of work, insecticides, and buckets of sweat to yield my crops each year. Sure, the fresh tomatoes tasted wonderful, but most of them rotted on the vine because we couldn’t eat them fast enough. I loved the zucchini squash I planted, but those little squash bugs loved them even more than me. And, oh the sweet basil that grew in my garden. It was great once or twice, until it all went to seed. Yes, I was a so-so gardener in my day, but decided that it really didn’t save me money since I had to buy the seeds, water the garden, fertilize, buy insecticides to ward off those Japanese Beetles, and buy freezer bags to store the excess yields (unless, of course, they never grew to fruition, in which case, no one enjoyed the fruit of my labor). I quit gardening about the time I took up formally homeschooling my boys – when my oldest son turned five. How in the world can you have time to garden (that is, dig up weeds) and homeschool your children, not to mention have the energy to stand or squat in the blazing sun for two hours a day after homeschooling your children? If you know the secret, I might try my hand at gardening again.
2. All homeschoolers do not have clean houses or messy houses. There seems to be two extremes among homeschooling families – those who spend hours cleaning their houses, ridding their home of unneeded or unwanted, or unused items each year and those who leave piles of “stuff” lying all around and occasionally vacuum or dust when the dirt is too thick to cover up with common household items. Neither of these extremes is true. My home is neither immaculate nor a mess. Some rooms actually look clean and neat most of the time while others have stacks of papers and boxes that never seem to get picked up. Sometimes my floors are swept and mopped and at other times, you would swear you were standing outside because the floors are so full of dirt. Keeping your house clean should not be the priority of a homeschooling mom, but on the other hand, neither should homeschooling be an excuse for not cleaning your house! If you can afford a housekeeper, kudos to you, but most homeschooling moms are just like every other mom, a slave to the dirt and laundry that piles up each week. I neither complain nor brag about my housekeeping skills. Housekeeping is a fact of life and it has nothing to do with being a homeschooler, period!
3. All homeschoolers do not cook from scratch. While I love the smell of fresh-baked bread and muffins in the morning or the sound of measuring cups clanging against a metal bowl, all homeschoolers do not cook everything from scratch. Take, for example, biscuits. I love to make biscuits with beef stew, but what’s wrong with picking up a Jiffy mix, adding water and voila – you have biscuits in 3 minutes! Sure, measuring the ingredients, one by one, using that little pastry blender to make “pea sized” clumps is lots of fun, but it’s even more fun to sit down to a meal that took only 15 minutes to prepare (I’m assuming you know that I make my beef stew in a crock pot!). I grew up smelling freshly-baked goods and sitting down to home-cooked meals every day, so I have nothing against a nice homemade apple pie or cinnamon rolls, but homeschoolers do not have to feel guilty because they used a box mix of brownies instead of measuring each little ingredient in those little cups and spoons. Both taste great, and both meet the goal of making dinner so that every member of your family can sit at the dinner table and talk about the stimulating and enjoyable day they had at school – not!
4. All homeschoolers are not organic food “nuts.” While I like to eat food as God intended, free of herbicides and insecticides, free of antibiotics and hormone growth, that doesn’t mean that I, as a homeschooler, buy only organically grown vegetables and fruits, eat tofu, and brush my teeth with baking soda to avoid consuming unnecessary chemicals. While I hate to admit it to the world, my family drinks milk from the store, eats tomatoes grown in hot houses, and I even make white rice from a box! As a homeschooler, I should not be made to feel guilty if I don’t protect my family from those environmental evils. Those of you who love fruit and nuts (if you know what I mean), please keep your opinions to yourself. We are ALL going to die one day and I have seen those who eat only organic foods die at an early age and those who have loaded up on chemically-produced foods live a long (and happy) life. Stop making those of us who don’t follow your rules for living feel like we are not good mothers. What’s wrong with our children eating an occasional Twinkie, or TV dinner? And if it makes that chemically-derived white milk taste good, why not put a little Nestlé’s Quick into our children’s milk? (Okay -- I'll admit, I did succumb to making my family drink raw milk about a year after I wrote this, but I don't want anyone feeling guilty if they drink that chemically-altered white stuff you buy in the grocery store, also known as milk!!)
5. Finally, all homeschoolers do not raise "Lake Woebegone" (above-average) children. One would think, after listening to a group of homeschooling mothers, that all homeschooled children are above average in every subject they were ever taught. One would further think that all homeschooled children have never touched a Game boy or a PSP, watched a TV show or entertainment video, or touched a computer game (unless it is educational, of course). One would think that all homeschooled children read three levels above their grade level, think logically at all times, and play at least one or two instruments by the time they are 10! Finally, one would think that all homeschooling moms read aloud for hours on end while their children sit quietly on the couch listening to the wonderful classics, Newbery Award and Caldecott winners that mother picked out to read this week. Well, hold on because none of this is true (okay, for some of you, it might be!). If you ever hung around a homeschool moms’ meeting, you will find that most of them (that is, the moms) like to read (I’m the exception to that rule), but their children (especially boys) struggle to pick up a book. The only reason they read is because mom says they “have” to. Most children dislike piano lessons and absolutely have no self-discipline to practice an hour a day. The only motivation that really works is mom telling them, I mean threatening them, to “practice or else!” Other moms get tired of the threats and just give up! Some children are just average and some homeschooled children are even below-average, and that’s okay. That is why we homeschool. We don’t have to keep up with the “Jones’s” of the educational world. Our children are allowed to learn at their own speed and grow in their understanding at a speed that is comfortable for them and their parents. Eventually, they will grow up to be exactly what we trained them to be: homeschooled adults. Sure a few of them will grow up to be rocket scientists, brain surgeons and spelling bee champions, but most of us will raise average ordinary children, just like the rest of the world!
So, if you ever find yourself around a bunch of homeschoolers and wonder, “why don’t I fit in?,” give yourself and break and remember that all homeschoolers are not alike. Yes, you can even scream it. ALL HOMESCHOOLERS ARE NOT ALIKE!