My kids haven’t learned that people suck.

People suck. Well, not you. You obviously don’t suck. 

As you know, we’re unschoolers. As you also know, I was drafted into this war on normal. So I’m not going to take up a lot of time rehashing all of that—that’s what those links are for.

What those posts covered, essentially, were how we came to be unschoolers and the concerns I had coming into this lifestyle. They paint a lovely disruptive picture. But now, I have observations—anecdotal musings on how some of this is playing out that I’d rather share.

My biggest concern at the outset was the socialization. Because that’s what everyone is concerned about when you mention that you’re opting out of the established educational system. Oh you homeschool. Aren’t you worried that they won’t be like everyone else? They won’t grow up with people who were born the same year as they were! They’ll begin to speak in a strange language that only they will understand! They’ll morph into nocturnal freaks who shun the sun and raid dumpsters at night because of freakishness and unemployment!

Well, I’m here to report back they haven’t been properly socialized. Nope. Here’s what I’m seeing:

My kids haven’t learned what a clique is. I’ve taken them to parks where there are other kids. We do this fairly regularly. It is completely legal. Ian (9) and Elsa (7) will just run right up to any group of kids and talk right to their faces. They don’t see the invisible warning signs that caution against rejection and scorn. Signs that some of their schooled friends see. That’s right, my kids will sometimes go to the park with friends who attend school. This is also legal. I checked. And these schooled friends will warn Ian against approaching kids that they don’t know, “You can’t just go up to them, they might not let you play with them! They might call you names!” But more often than not, Ian will play with his new friends until shadows grow long.

Sometimes that’s not how it plays out, but that’s okay because:

My kids haven’t learned that there must be something wrong with them. Of course, there are those kids who don’t want to play with my kids. And when Ian tries to engage, sometimes they’ll shun him for whatever reason—maybe Ian’s too blond or too pushy or they don’t want to share their friends. Doesn’t matter. Sometimes it comes down to chemistry—two people just repel each other. When that happens, Ian will just shrug it off. He doesn’t dwell on it or think something’s wrong with him, or ask me “why doesn’t this new person like me?” Ian’s confident enough and comfortable enough with himself to know that he’s just fine and if this other person doesn’t dig that, then that’s fine too. There are many people on this planet and everyday we’re shufflin’. It’s the same for Elsa and Ben. It’s like there’s a kill switch and when it gets flipped, they just move along.

It’s not so easy for adults of course. We have to deal with people without the “move along” option. So it’s an asset if we can face those moments with confidence. Confidence earned in childhood is rewarded in adulthood. When my kids have to deal with people they can’t get around, they’ll be ready.

But still, I’m glad I don’t have to deal with the politics of the PTA because:

I’ve learned that there’s no power too insignificant that it can’t be exploited and abused. Holy shit. What are you all doing? What happens to groups of parents when they’re supposed to be organizing shit for their kids? Whether its on the baseball diamond or in the PTO meeting, parents seem to relish using their roles—in organizations that are supposed to be focused on the kids—as cudgels to gain slightly more power over goddamned NOTHING.

I’ve heard so many stories of parents doing whatever they can to “get in good” with this woman or that guy because of their position on some board or other. I’ve had people tell me “Yeah, he’s a total asshole, and he treats everyone like shit, but if I want my kid to [play on the travelling league/get a role in the school play/get a better lunch] I’ve got to suck up.”

So there’s a little pea-brained tyrant that must be appeased? Don’t we have enough of them? I guess when you have parents that go to bloody battle at little league games or go all WWE with folding chairs if they can’t get a good view of the stage where their darling is performing in the school play, then it makes sense that they respect someone who knows how to bend people to their will.

And isn’t that the whole point of traditional elementary education? Control? Checking boxes seems to take priority over connecting.

As a parting note, getting back to my initial concern, it’s interesting to me that people are more worried about kids being socialized then they are about kids being educated. That in itself is very telling. I haven’t heard anyone say “But aren’t you worried about your son learning sine, cosine, and tangent?” We get all sorts of reasons why homeschooling is something to avoid even when it works and every flavor of excuse about why we need to stick with conventional schooling even when it fails.

1 Comment

  1. You’re so right. My beautiful grandchildren are kind, empathetic, thoughtful and very loving. They do not hesitate to say I love you and mean it. They hold no bias nor scorn for some of the idiots they run into in our wonderful society.

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