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Wednesday, May 2, 2007

My mother, My homeschool, My self

(Before I get started, let me make this clear: I love my mom. I do not hate her. I am not bitter (much) about the way she raised me. I know she truly thought she was doing everything right and making all the right choices, even though they are not choices I would make for myself or my own child. This is a result of our differing personalities, not because I believe she was WRONG. Sure she made some mistakes, but so have I. )

I love my mom, I really do. But I do not like her very much. It's not personal, I just don't like the kind of person she is. She is a Conformist.

Now, of course some level of conformity is good and helpful. People should all conform to traffic laws, for example, or we would have chaos on the roads. And I by no means intend to say that I myself, am above that heard instinct. I feel just as stupid as the next person when I realize I have dresses inappropriately at some event.

But my mom is a super-conformist. She would have made a good Nazi. Not that she is a mean, cruel, or heartless person. But she would have done mean, cruel, and heartless things because some authority told her to. She would have done whatever was required of her, and not asked why. She seems to have an almost pathological fear of being in any way different, of standing out from the pack.

I don't know why she is like that.

Compared to my mom, I am just about as different as they get. I strive to excel at things that are important to me. I question everything, including my reasons for questioning. I take nothing on faith, except what I choose to take. I weigh my decisions. I am suspect of authority and its hidden agendas. In any discussion, I expect people to have opinions based on facts and defensible by logical arguments. I am disgusted with people who, lemming-like, follow the crowd (which seems to be most people I meet these days.) In short, I march to my own individual drum.

I don't know why I am like that. I only know that I am extremely uncomfortable when I get out of step with my own drum and try to fall in and match my thinking with that of the crowd.

Well, you can probably guess where I am going with this. Every parenting decision I have made for my son, has been informed by the opinions of experts and veteran parents, and censored by my gut instinct. I must be doing something right. My son is turning out to be a nice, thoughtful little boy who is kind to animals, caries on involved conversations with adults, and was reading before kindergarten. He is extremely sensitive, deeply concerned with the fate of ants and worms, and moved to tears by the story of the Crucifixion. He is curious, bright, energetic, and absolutely lovable. Perfect.

But according to my mother, every decision I make for him is WRONG. Breastfeeding, vegetarian living, limiting junk food, the way I discipline . . . all of it. WRONG. I'm sometimes surprised she has not called DCFS on me. All of her objections to everything I do seem to have one of two themes. Either 1) I don't know what I am doing, or 2) I am denying my son the chance to be absolutely, stunningly average.

I expected some resistance to the idea of home schooling. Her father was, after all, a history teacher, although he retired sometime in the 1960's. She herself claims to have loved school. And of course, public school is what all the average kids do. But boy was I not prepared for all I heard.

My mom told me that I can't possibly know how to teach my own child (after I taught him to read), that unless I go to teachers' college and get a certificate I will not have the necessary knowledge to teach a child. She told me he will never be normal if I insist on keeping him locked in the house all day, that he will never have any friends, and that this foolish experiment of mine will ruin my son's life forever. He will not be able to get into college and in fact, at the end of 12 years, will probably not have an education sufficient to even get a GED. The truant officer will come get me. I will not be able to judge his progress because there will be no standardized tests. And perhaps my favorite part: Hanging around is a classroom full of 6 year olds with inadequate adult supervision and doing boring repetitive work is preferable to a customized, one-on-one education with the people who love him most.

Now, most homeschool parents know most of this is silly. Of course we are not going to stay locked up all day, for example. Of course he will go to college, if he wants. It's easy to dismiss most of the above tirade as fear and ignorance. What hurt me was her complete lack of trust in me as a parent, and as a teacher. I do have experience in the classroom, just not a certificate. I have 2 college degrees. I have taught my kid to read and do basic math already, without any help except a couple of books and websites. And yet in spite of all that, I'm not good enough, in her eyes, to teach my own kid.

Of course, she wouldn't see it that way. To her, its just that home school is so . . . different. Outside the norm. Beyond the Pale.

And that's just WRONG.

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