Life

Oh, You Homeschool. Interesting.

Christa Conklin
Written by Christa Conklin

“Hi. My name is Christa, and I’m a homeschooler.”

Whew, that felt good.

When I confess to someone that we are a homeschooling family, I often receive a look reminiscent of my expression when a conversation partner says, “Ugh, I was so sick last night.”

It’s that slow nod of the head that doesn’t quite distract from the
furrowed brow and wide eyes that scream, “Your decision to be in my presence fills me with shock and dismay.”

Akin to my irrational fear of every disease, I think a lot of folks have made some unreasonable assumptions about homeschooling. Based on that odd expression and the questions that follow, they either think we are covering up a horrifying family secret by keeping our kids out of public scrutiny, that we belong to a cult, or we hate the school system. No matter their specific suspicion, this faction has developed a checklist of questions to administer upon being faced with one of us.

Before I go any further allow me to introduce you to the **Preaching Alert!** system. You will see this when I am tempted to unload the awesome benefits of homeschooling. This is an almost uncontrollable urge, since I’ve spent an unfortunate amount of time listening to people, most of them close in relation and friendship, tell me exactly why our choice is a terrible one. Therefore, this alarm is an invitation for you to comment, to request that I delve deeper into a particular subject, which I am always happy to do.

Common Question #1: “What about socialization?” I’m asked this question so often, and it gets me every time. I actually had a woman suggest, “You know, all the homeschoolers should get together once in a while as a group.”

I used to be a very, VERY sarcastic person. At moments like this, I work hard to avoid reacting in that old, familiar way: Wow. That is an awesome idea. Have you ever met another homeschooler? Maybe we could release our children from the dungeons at the same time one day and see if they figure out how to communicate with each other.

Instead, I gently informed her about the huge homeschooling community, the classes, arts, and sports in which my kids are involved, and the fact that we live on a block with over twenty children just on our side of the street.

Socialization is actually one of the reasons we choose to homeschool. **Preaching Alert!**

Allow me to clarify that I do not assume the majority of our society to be as misinformed as some of the folks I have run into. I do have a way about me for meeting up with people who turn news headlines into blanket statements. I was once walking in town carrying my baby in a sling. A woman approached me and asked, “Is that one of those things that kills babies?”

Besides my uncanny ability to attract those devoid of filters,
statistics work against my family. Some of our choices are not
mainstream. Bad things happen to both people who follow the crowd, and to those who choose differently. When the bad thing happens to the minority community, it is newsworthy.

Cars kill many more babies than slings do, but that woman would not have reproached me if I had been buckling my baby into a car seat. The media told her slings are dangerous, even though cars trump slings as “things that kill babies.”

Yes, there are people who abuse the freedom to homeschool, but there are more bad guys sending their kids to schools, and working in schools. Since schools are a slice of the societal norm, their issues are not as newsworthy as a wacky homeschooler story. It makes the news, and our lifestyle is labeled as suspicious.

Common Question #2: “Have you received some sort of certification to do this?” Of course, my degree in Home School Education hangs beside my diploma from Parenting University.

Bad sarcasm, bad! Get back in there.

Homeschoolers are very resourceful. If our kids are struggling with our current approach, or want to delve deeply into a particular subject, we change directions and/or reach out for help. We are teaching our children, whom we love. We live in a country with freedom of choice. We explore various options until we find the right fit, from diaper cream to biology curriculum. Parents are applauded for exposing children to a variety of healthful foods to help them make good choices, and allowing them to express themselves through their wardrobe. But somewhere along the line, our society decided that one method of education fits every single child and choosing to individualize our childrens’ learning is a questionable act. It may be a little late in this paragraph, but I could go on, so here’s your belated **Preaching Alert!**

Common Question #3: “Will your kids need to take the GED?” No, they will not. Homeschool parents prescribe the course of study for their children, and therefore present the diploma upon completion.

My kids and I were once waiting for an elevator at the museum where we were attending homeschool classes. A woman waiting with us struck up a conversation, and asked about our plans for the day. I told her, and awaited the nodding and follow-up questions. I was delighted that her response was, “Oh, wonderful! I’m a university professor and my homeschoolers are my favorite students.”

I’ve heard this from other professors. It’s music to my ears. Many
community colleges allow homeschoolers to take classes beginning at the age of 15. **Preaching Alert!**

Another reason stereotypes prevail about homeschooling is our lack of a marketing campaign. However, it’s not something to be sold. We are not in the recruiting business. Families find their way to homeschooling for various personal reasons. It’s not the right choice for everyone. Likewise, I don’t think public school is either.

(Dodges rotten tomato.)

If we were to put up billboards and decorate vans, we’d advertise photos of successful homeschoolers such as: the Mt. Rushmore gang, Albert Einstein, Sandra Day O’Connor, **Preaching Alert!**

In closing, I am thankful public education is available to all. There
are plenty of folks for whom it is right. For others, private or
religious schooling is the best. And homeschooling is ideal for others.

The marketing campaign will remain on the back burner. Homeschoolers don’t want to take over the world. We just want to explore it with our families.

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About the author

Christa Conklin

Christa Conklin

Christa Conklin is the home educator of her two children. She received her Bachelor's Degree from Rutgers College and her Master's Degree from Monmouth University. She studied in France, and once took first place in a solo women's kayak river race.

Christa worked for five years in the education department of the New York Philharmonic and another five years for Young Audiences New Jersey. She brought professional artists to schools to work with students and educators, and often joined teachers and students in theaters and studios for them to experience the arts as creators and audience members.

Christa studied dance and received a degree in music performance. She keeps these passions alive through her own practice and teaching others. Always an avid reader, and having worked with artists in all genres, including writing, she feels blessed to have found her voice as an author.