Sunday, October 4, 2009

Not Back to School

Now that fall is here, and most kids have gone back to school, we are getting plenty of curious questions about our homeschooling adventure. Learning happens year round for us, but that's a hard concept to explain to folks with a standard view of education. It's equally hard to explain the concept that education should not be forced or boring, nor does it need to take place in a classroom or make your head hurt. While most of the questioners are friendly, I can often see a look in their eye that says despite the smile, they just can't help but think that what we are doing is a little weird. I doubt many of them will come around to my way of thinking and suddenly let their children be free during the course of a 5 minute conversation at the dentists office, but at least we are a presence, hopefully normalizing the face of homeschooling. I don't wear denim jumpers, and while I am a Christian, I am far from a religious extremist. My kids are not dressed like they are on Little House on the Prairie, and although they are smart and mostly well behaved, they are not timid, or ill adjusted and neither is a prodigy. The idea of homeschooling really isn't that strange, and neither are most of the people doing it. We're a mixed bag of all kinds of people who chose this path for different reasons and go about it different ways. So, I try to be glad to answer the questions, and to show the side of homeschooling that is out having fun, learning and enjoying life. I certainly choose my moments to mention homeschooling. If my children are running through the store being exceptionally loud and crashing the shopping cart into each other, or worse, the wine shelf, I am not about to tout what a great educational alternative we have going on. I can't convincingly pretend I don't know who they belong with, since one of them looks like a miniature version of me. Fortunately, most of the time, I think (or at least hope) we are pretty good at containing obnoxious behavior in public. So when a stranger takes the time to ask us why the kids aren't in school, or what grade they are in, we probably seem approachable and normal. And hopefully, if the strangers have never met a homeschooling family before, they will at the very least see that we are real people, and not just stereotypes. Maybe they will consider the idea of home education or life learning a little less odd, and maybe they won't. Either way, we'll still be out in the world, doing our thing, and answering questions as they come along.