A key politically-correct word in our culture today is diversity. It was also the most descriptive term of the 130+ parents and kids that met at a historical settlement in our area for Home School Day. Although the public school system has all kinds of programs in effect to encourage diversity, we homeschoolers may just be a step ahead. In my small group alone, we had white, black, Hispanic and Asian children. We had some "gifted" children, some "average" children and a few that were struggling academically. Some of the parents were older than my parents and some were younger than me. Although it wasn't an issue about which we cared or discussed, some of us looked to be poor and some looked to be rich. Some families were large and others were small.
Another politically-correct term heard a lot these days is tolerance. As a product of traditional schooling, flashbacks came to me as we all met for lunch. Yeah, some kids (and parents) had on trendy clothes, but our group leader wore a plaid flannel shirt that looked like it was straight from Little House in the Big Woods. In my school days, you had to bring Kool-Aid Jammers or Capri Suns in your lunch to be "cool". The new cool today--BPA-free stainless steel water bottles--was represented by a few people. One kid brought his drink in a hospital water bottle, complete with the bendy plastic straw (definitely NOT BPA-free). Among the many other varied drink containers, I saw a few Capri Suns. No Kool-Aid Jammers, though. Red dye is definitely not cool anymore! Perhaps the best part of tolerance was that some families bowed their heads and prayed for their food and no one complained. Conversely, the pray-ers didn't complain when most of the families in the room did not bow their heads.
A few of the classic terms to generalize homeschoolers also came to my mind. Weird? Maybe: if weird means one is not a cookie cutter image of everyone else. Unsocialized? If so, all 130 of us did a good job of faking it. Academically inferior? It didn't seem like it when children were asking intelligent questions and answering math problems beyond their level in the settlement's school house. Focus only on academics? I don't think so. One mom told me her two kids were involved, respectively, in hip hop and art. Another one told me her kids took theatre near my husband's work place. As we left, one mom was headed to gymnastics and I was headed to piano lessons. One dad bragged a bit about his first and second grader that run a 7-minute mile in track and cross-country. (Homeschoolers have to go by word of mouth, since we don't have bumper stickers listing our child's achievements.)
No, none of these generalizations seemed to stick as I observed, but I did notice one thing that all of them had in common: the one thing the whole group did badly. When the staff asked them to form a single file line, they all looked around in confusion. Maybe they realize more than we adults do--children were not meant to be herded like cattle. (Does the popular term free range come to mind?)
- For more of my homeschool philosophy, see Not Your Typical School.
- For comic relief on the misconceptions and realities of homeschool life, see A Homeschool Family.
- Unstructured homeschoolers? See this organized homeschool mom's plan.
- Kids struggling with homeschooling? Check out these ideas.