Writers Write

Are You A Homeschool Bully?

My uncle ordered popovers
from the restaurant’s bill of fare.
And, when they were served,
he regarded them with a penetrating stare.
Then he spoke great words of wisdom
as he sat there on that chair:
“To eat these things,” said my uncle,
“You must exercise great care.
You may swallow down what’s solid,
but you must spit out the air!”
And as you partake of the world’s bill of fare,
that’s darned good advice to follow.
Do a lot of spitting out the hot air.
And be careful what you swallow.
~Theodore Seuss Geisel (Dr. Seuss), from a commencement address.

One of the most popular reasons homeschooling parents choose to keep their children home – especially in this day and age – is to avoid the bullying and the peer pressure that inevitably comes with public schools. We don’t want our children to experience that kind of abuse, especially on a daily basis. Maybe some of us remember it ourselves and we shudder to think of our small sons and daughters being put through that type of pain and torment.

But there is another kind of bullying and peer pressure that is peculiar to homeschooling. And I’m not talking about the kids.

It’s us. The parents.

We have a tendency, don’t we, to bask in the glow that is our self-righteousness that comes unbidden with our higher calling of homeschooling. We don’t just look down our noses at our public schooling peers; we bully one another in various ways with our methods, our curricula, our doctrine, our schedule, our appearances, our marriages, our homes.

Have you ever felt bullied by a fellow homeschooling mommy? Have you ever bullied – however unintentionally – another homeschooling mommy?

I can’t speak for every homeschooling parent, but sometimes I can feel like the child spoken of in Ephesians 4:14:  I am tossed about here and there by every curricula wave and carried about by every wind of doctrinal homeschooling. This week it’s Classical Conversations because that’s what all the “real” Christian homeschoolers do. Next week it’s Unschooling because I met the neatest family at the park who do it that way. Next month it’ll be a packaged curriculum everyone at Homeschool Group is raving about and if that doesn’t float my boat, then I’ll enroll them in the Homeschool Co-Op (because all the cool kids go there).

Do we do this because we genuinely desire the best for our children and our families, or are we desperately seeking the approval of our own peers?

Homeschooling moms can be –dare I say it – competitive. Cutthroat at times. To the death. May the best denim-jumper clad mom win.

We want the homemade bread. We want the perfect school room. We want to be just like that other homeschool mom over there. You know, the one who has it all together and whose kid’s don’t have yesterday’s jam still smeared in their hair?

And we will throw one another under the homeschool bus to get there.

I think part of the curse of Eve was a propensity to gossip. Can I prove this scripturally? No, but I feel it in my bones. Girls pop out of their mother’s wombs ready to chit-chat and there’s nothing more we love to chit-chat about then hearsay and rumors.

Sometimes we disguise this under Prayer Requests. You know the ones:

Oh, before we hang up, remember to pray for Tammy. Oh, you didn’t hear? She’s just having the most difficult time homeschooling. She just can’t stay organized. I recommended that planner but I don’t know… Her daughter isn’t even reading yet. Maybe she’s just not cut out for homeschooling …

Hi, there! I just got done talking to Ruth; don’t forget to pray for her and her husband. They’re really having trouble. Well, I can’t talk details, but you know … unspoken prayer request.

I have banned myself from prayer groups. I won’t be in them, and I won’t be the subject of them. It’s so easy to twist my words and start mentioning things that I have no business speaking of, all in the guise of sanctified gossip, and all with the secret longing to make myself look smarter, holier, more confident…all to make the In-Crowd of Mommies like me more. It’s no better on the bus or on the playground than it is in my living room.

Sometimes the bullying we are a part of is quite unintentional. We don’t mean to pass judgment, but we can’t seem to help it. Oh, you don’t use the Trivium? Oh, your kids aren’t starting Greek yet? Doesn’t Abby play a musical instrument?

It’s all I can do this year – a tumultuous and trying year that seemed to last approximately fourteen years – to just concentrate on the Four Rs. I’m not interested in Latin, I’m not signing up for violin, I don’t care if my kids ever learn Spanish, science is gravy and art is frosting. If they can learn their math skills, read some great books, and print legibly than I’m having another cup of coffee and calling it a day.

Yes, your kids impress me with their knowledge of gnats or geometry or Shakespeare or the origin of the bean burrito – they truly, truly do – but I’m just not going to jump on that train right now.

I can’t speak for next year.

I heard about a new method I want to try.  All the cool homeschooling moms are doing it.

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Maybe all the bullies aren't just in public school