“When I was a teacher, all the kids who came to me that were previously homeschooled were socially maladjusted in the classroom setting.”
I ran into a friend at Walmart last night who used this as his reasoning for being adamantly against the homeschool movement that’s growing in our area. And honestly, I don’t blame him for his opinion; I once believed the same thing. When I worked in public schools, I also labeled the previously homeschooled kids as weird and unsocialized, and in my judgment I wasn’t understanding of their desperate and confused and often failed attempts to “get with the program.” Of course, now that I have my own child in Kindergarten, happily homeschooling her, I realize how judgmental I was on those poor kids and their families. And I realized that, should something happen to me, my children might be thrown into public schools, amidst those teachers who might judge them without even getting to know them first. So, after another night of not sleeping with these stupid contractions (nope, I haven’t had the baby yet), I’ve been thinking, and writing. I hope this letter inspires teachers in classrooms to give homeschooled kids a little more grace as they adjust to their new way of life.
To My Child’s New Teacher, in the Event Something Should Happen to Me:
I was a homeschooling mom. I did it because I love my children, plain and simple. I wanted the best for them, just like any other parent. I’ve kept them out of public/private school for any number of reasons, and I guarantee you it was not to make them socially maladjusted. My end goal has always been to raise my children up in a manner in which they can be confident, capable, respectful, and level-headed adults, able to function admirably and with dignity in a world where most people aren’t and don’t. Yes, homeschooling is “different” but it’s not necessarily antisocial.
I love my kids more than anything in the world, and yes, I probably did “spoil” them with love, attention, and the knowledge that they were worth everything to me. They’re not going to be used to the fact that you have 30 other children to balance the needs of, and that you won’t love them like a mother would. That’s going to be a harsh reality for them to adjust to.
Our daily routine often began with my children recognizing that their world did, in fact, revolve around them – their schoolwork, their spiritual and emotional development, their nutrition, their enjoyment, and yes, even their social experiences. They knew that my every thought went into making sure they received a harmonious balance of activities and experiences. They will naturally find it shocking that you won’t do the same thing for them.
We had a very strong family attachment. My children loved me as much as I loved them, and we told each other all the time. We were respectful of each other, something that took years to instill even with our “protectiveness” from the more “socialized” kids and their families with which our children have been exposed. We enjoyed our time together, and we were our favorite people to be around and hang out with. My children love their siblings, no matter what the age difference is, and yes, separation for a whole day from their “best friends” who love them unconditionally will probably be emotionally traumatic at first.
My children will be reasonably outraged when they encounter peers who are disrespectful of adults and their classmates; it will add to their anxiety and confusion in their new setting. After all, we’ve taught our children that love and respect are the most important things when communicating with others. My children may seem unsocialized and “different” from their peers, but my five year-old can carry on a meaningful conversation with a 55 year-old about anything, and she can nurture and care for a 2 year-old who’s fallen and scraped their knee. She’s not used to conversations being limited to a discussion of the latest iPhone app, the most popular toys, or after-school cartoons.
Don’t be surprised that my children may seem uncomfortable, quiet and withdrawn. They probably will not be comfortable in the harshness of an institution, following prescribed routines (Huh? Bathroom breaks only at 9:30 11:15 and 1:45?) and having, for the first time, limited access to educational resources (What? Only three library books at a time? Computer lab only once a week?). Nor will they easily be able to tolerate even the hard tile floor beneath their feet. They’re used to running around in socks and pajamas until 11:00 in the morning. They’ll probably be physically exhausted too, not used to the morning rush to catch a grimy school bus at 6:30 in the morning. And they won’t be used to a 6 or 7-hour school day; we’re usually done by noon.
My children may not remember to raise their hand to speak, but they will know all the answers to your questions. My children may not understand the importance of completing homework assignments on time, but they can complete projects with an accuracy and neatness beyond what you’d expect. My children may not have memorized all their addition facts yet, but they learned to read at age three. My children may not excel in Science, but they have an insatiable desire to investigate and acquire knowledge about a subject, and a natural love for learning. My children may seem shy or withdrawn from their “socially adjusted” peers, but they embrace differences, and will stand up for injustice and not tolerate bullies.
What exactly would you expect from my kids? They’ve had it great until now.
Their lives have been blissfully ignorant of what institutionalized life is like, and other children’s school experiences have been almost like a fairy tale to them.
They probably came to you their first day in your classroom with all kinds of excitement and anticipation of what it’s like in the “real world.” Imagine their disappointment.
Now look at those other “socially maladjusted” kids who are already in your classroom – who have been in the “real world” their whole lives, yet still haven’t “gotten with the program.” Aren’t my kids doing a much better job at adjusting, considering the differences in circumstances? Imagine the strength, the dignity, the character required of someone, especially a child, to be thrust into an intimidating environment such as a public school setting. Especially a setting about which they’ve only heard exciting and hopeful things from their friends and family trying to prepare them for what’s to come. I’d be willing to bet that my children would have a lot to be personally proud of if someone recognized their adjustment period as what it truly is.
If you’re reading this letter, then there’s some reason I am unable to continue homeschooling my children. We knew when we began homeschooling that this might happen, as it does to many homeschooling families. If my homeschooled children did get thrust into your classroom, I truly hope you’d offer them some grace and dignity as they adjust. I understand your time and patience is limited, I used to be a public school teacher myself, but take a moment to really think about what they’re going through before you label them as weird and write them off as socially maladjusted. It’s not their fault, give them a chance. Label me if you have a need to judge anyone, but not them. If you don’t squelch their strengths, and if you respect and encourage them rather than frustrate and hinder them, I guarantee you they will pull through. That’s how they’ve been raised – with enough love and instilled values that even hardships and discouragement can’t break them. You simply have the power to make it easier for them.
Your New Student’s First Teacher