Homeschooling in Public
Does your way of homeschooling have you straddling the chasm between homeschooling and the public-schooled community?
Likely you have one leg in your pjs and the other in your mom jeans at your kid’s sports practice smiling through the delicious daydream of throat punching the next person that asks how long you plan to homeschool.
If we choose to homeschool, but then put our kids in activities, sports, lessons or clubs run by and filled with kids, parents, coaches and supporters of the public schools in our area, we are homeschooling in public. We are participating and putting ourselves out there and boldly showing that we are not hiding from the outside world. We just like to call our own shots.
Homeschooling in Public–homeschooling on our own terms while also participating in activities largely populated and run by our public-schooled counterparts. Putting ourselves out there and boldly showing that we are not hiding from the outside world. We just like to call our own shots.
Homeschooling on a Fault Line
We bravely tossed a bridge over a fault line in attempt to homeschool and be a part of the world on our terms. But it is a difficult precipice to throw a board across and attempt to keep our balance.
The community may welcome us (and our money) to join in the activities we are just as entitled to, but it doesn’t mean they always agree with our choice to homeschool. Doing these activities puts us in a strange area between the self-willed homeschool world and the traditional school realm that largely disagrees with the latter.
This in between space can leave us feeling alienated at times.
Is it worth it? Can we find rewarding friendships and experiences while maintaining the moral character we wish to instill in our children?
Absolutely. I dare say, most of us are homeschooling between both worlds whether we always planned to homeschool or started “better late than never.” It’s what we do. We socialize!
But it isn’t always easy…
When the Outside World Doesn’t Play Nice
(An Extreme Case of Homeschool Bullying)
“What’s wrong with you? You don’t know how to count? You can’t do simple math!?” the swim coach berated my son for accidentally leading the group on the wrong time interval at practice.
“No, sir. I can…” he stammered in attempt to apologize and explain his mistake.
“Don’t give me any of your homeschool bull$%#!” the coach loudly interrupted.
His appalling remarks brought forth an odious laughter from the other teens in my son’s swim group. The group in which my son is the smallest. The group he usually leads because he’s a good swimmer with a lot of heart. The group where he works tirelessly to impress the coach.
The group he swims with practices in a public high school pool, but it is not affiliated with the school district’s UIL sports in any way, apart from the coach, who is also employed by the district. We pay buckets of money for our children to be members of the USA swim team just like every other parent there.
Still, the team is comprised of mostly public-schooled kids. The kids who were just taught that, though bullying in school is a no-no, it is perfectly acceptable to bully a homeschooled kid. The coach just said so.
Did you see me on the national news that night?
“Mom assaults swim coach after driving her suburban right into the pool. The anger-crazed momzilla emerged spitting chlorinated fire balls from her eyes and began choking the coach with his own lane ropes.”
Oh, that’s right. That part was only in my head.
My knee jerk reaction, moments after my son reluctantly told me the story, was to whip the SUV around mid-freeway and go right up the coaches nose with a taste of his own medicine.
How dare he! Not my baby! Who on God’s green earth does he think he is?
Good thing the pool was closed for the night.
I called my husband to talk me down from my rage, which sort of worked. He told me to just go home. He did not want me to go all mama-bear-nuts on the coach and get arrested. But in that moment he wasn’t sparing my feminine delicacies. He just wanted first dibs at the grown man who just publicly humiliated our son.
And then the second knee jerk reaction happened:
“Oh, he’s going to hear from me!” hubs fumed. “I’m going over him to the head coach. See how he likes that! He insulted our whole family, our intelligence, as well as our sons. I’m not putting up with this! We’re taking our boys off the team!”
Maintaining Composure While Homeschooling in Public
After a night to cool down, talk it out and discuss the situation with our boys, I am proud to announce we did not assault anyone. We did not even yell at anyone (except at each other in mutual outrage when I called him and unloaded, desperate to be talked down from homicidal-mania.)
And we certainly didn’t take our boys off the team.
They had been on the team for two years, each swimming competitively since age five. This was our P.E. for goodness sakes! Let that coach win? No way.
We liked this coach up until this point. He was so energetic and helpful at swim competitions. We felt he liked us as much as any other family up there night after night reeking of chlorine in the name of dropping time and taking names.
But with one ignorant statement, we felt telescoping isolation in the crowd.
And the worst part about it… my son admitted that the incident had not even taken place that day. In fact, it had happened more than a week earlier. He was too embarrassed to tell us. He thought he shouldn’t back-talk the coach, that maybe he did suck at math? and he was afraid if we said anything on his behalf that the coach would be harder on him.
How We Handled the Homeschool Bully
We were not going to bow out, run home and shun all sports and activities with obviously unsocialized public-schoolers. This was entirely the wrongdoing of one small-minded person having a bad day and abusing his position by taking out his issues on a very sweet and easy target.
We wanted to be the bigger people (to be that whole salt and light thingy). But we also wanted to put him on notice that we would not tolerate bullying of any kind from an adult. We wanted him to know that we saw his statement as a direct verbal assault on our family.
My husband spoke with the head coach who was completely appalled about what had taken place. The coach apologized profusely and said he would certainly talk to the other coach. This would never happen again. He knew there were several homeschool families on the team and this was not at all how they should be treated.
Oh, and my husband mentioned that… “our son could probably spin algebraic equations around most of the kids in that pool, so kindly refrain from questioning our children’s intelligence based on the fact we homeschool.”
Some parents might demand blood, a resignation, or at least a public apology from the offending coach for all the kids to hear. Perhaps storming the next school board meeting for the rights of homeschoolers everywhere might sound appropriate.
A public apology would have further embarrassed our son. He just wanted to swim and fit in like every other middle-school kid. (Or at least only stand out for being awesome.)
Could we get back to feeling like just another swim family after such an ostracizing event? That is what worried us most.
The day our son returned to the pool no apology was given. The event was never discussed.
But…the coach that had bruised his fragile ego gave him a high-five as he headed for his swim lane. They smiled and joked about nothing important, and my son’s shoulders lifted and straightened. He was just another one of the guys showing up for swim practice, just like he wanted to be.
A quiet apology would have garnered more respect from my husband and me. And I later explained to my son that, “even adults can trip over their own ego. He may be taller, but you’re the bigger man for showing up without a chip on your shoulder. If he disrespects you or your family again, you have my permission to tell him he is wrong for that. We’ve got your back and we will take it from there.”
My son donned his goggles and dove in first to lead his lane as the coach began hooting and barking orders to everyone. The coach glanced over where I sat in the stands like a momma grizzly pretending to read a book. Later he came over and was very friendly speaking about swim stuff. He had never done that before. I think he got the message.
What my expression said: Yup, let’s pretend this never happened. That way I don’t have to eat you alive. You’d probably taste like pool chemicals.
Did we do the right thing?
Well, at least we did something.
We taught our kids to stand up for themselves and how to do it with dignity. To be proud of their homeschooling family, not ashamed. They learned that bullying by anyone, especially an adult, is not acceptable and they are not helpless to stop it.
I’m glad that we didn’t cause any undo stress on our child by making a big stink about public apologies and sensitivity training. That would have only served to make the chasm, between us as homeschoolers and the public-school crowd we sometimes hang with, even wider.
Continuing to Homeschool Between Two Worlds
We are still braving our roost over the precipice between the extremes of introverted homeschooling and full on public conformity and participation.
This weekend my twins are competing in a singing competition at a local public high school. As homeschool students, they are being sponsored by a local university’s conservatory of music, which enables them to compete in the all-region choir auditions.
They will not be riding the yellow bus to get there. They will not sit within a sea of matching school shirts. They will ride with me, sit with me and a couple of other homeschool moms, and hopefully remember that being a part of the big group will not help you win a solo competition.
I’m super excited they are getting this opportunity and so many others that we can venture into, as a family, with no strings attached to the public-school system.
We will come across the occasional homeschool bully, but some of the best homeschool lessons come out of the stickiest situations bringing us closer as a family and fortifying our reasons for homeschooling in the first place.