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Debunking myths about homeschooling while chatting

I’ve had people, usually other moms, give me a quizzical stare when they discover I’m a homeschooler. It stuns them, because I don’t fit the stereotype – white woman with a husband and multiple children. I’m an African American single (divorced) mother who homeschools an only child.

This question never fails to surface: Why don’t you want your child to be at school with other children? Never mind that it’s considered, well, not so polite, to ask strangers personal questions about family choices.

Well to answer the question, those who home-schoolers one child or, more than a dozen children, like the Duggars, understand that their children do socialize with other children via multiple venues. Most homeschooling families belong to a homeschool support group where the parents, usually the moms, get together with other like-minded home educators, and the children socialize with their peers.

Many homeschool support groups create co-ops where the children take academic classes, extracurricular activities or both. Personally, I use the community as a resource, and park district classes are fairly inexpensive. I’ve never wanted my son to only associate with other homeschooled kids. That’s way too exclusive, and it’s not a sample of what the real world is like.

When my boy was younger, I answered similar questions numerous times, usually when we were out during traditional school hours. Once the inquiring mom who wanted to know realized that my son did not sit at the kitchen table working in workbooks all days, she seemed relieved.

Let’s call the composite mom Sally B. She is Mrs. B., and her children attend a public school, so she can relate to the co-op class idea. Our conversation goes like this (post her initial shock over my son’s homeschooled status):

Sally B.: What kind of classes does your son take?

Phyllis A.: Oh, sometimes he takes academic classes, because any subject I don’t know well or can’t teach, I outsource.

Sally B.: Well, what is it that you don’t know? You must be awfully smart to homeschool your son.

Phyllis A.: Science was not my forté during my school years and higher math wasn’t either.

Sally B.: Don’t you have a degree in elementary education? Isn’t that a requirement for homeschooling?

Phyllis A.: Actually, I studied business and communications in college. And no, I don’t have an education degree.

Sally B.: Then, how do you teach your son?

Phyllis A.: An education degree isn’t required, and I teach him with books, a curriculum, a teacher’s guide, DVD’s, co-op classes and private lessons.

Sally B.: That must be expensive, right?

Phyllis A.: A lot less expensive than the average, private school.

Sally B.: Oh, I forgot, what kind of classes does he take?

Phyllis A.: All kinds. But right now, he’s taking digital photography and exploratory art.

Sally B.: That’s great! He’s so well-behaved and seems like an intelligent boy.

Phyllis A.: He is, and he’s advanced – way beyond grade level, per the achievement tests.

Sally B.: That’s awesome. Have a nice day.

Phyllis A.: You too.

Son of Phyllis A. (then age 8): That lady sure asked a lot of questions, and I stayed in the toy section, so I wouldn’t have to answer any of them.

Phyllis A.: You’re such a wise boy, but she was a nice lady. Just curious, that’s all . . .

Mind you, this conversation took place while shopping at Target during an extended homeschool lunch break. When I finished the conversation, I felt as though I had educated someone on the joys of homeschooling.

Other homeschooling moms are bombarded with questions too, regardless of their marital status or ethnic background, and some, not all, are uncomfortable with it.

I think of it as just another informal, impromptu chat about homeschooling – another opportunity to debunk some myths.