I’m really looking forward to getting together with a group of homeschoolers tomorrow. It will be the third time I’ll be getting together with them, the second time with our children. There aren’t many homeschoolers here in Bahrain so it’s a real treat, although I don’t know if there will be any kids my son’s age which is such a shame. He felt a bit left out last time, even though homeschooled kids are meant to be better at getting along with kids of the other gender or a different age (and I do think they are much better than schooled kids, but not perfect of course!).
I am finding it so interesting meeting more homeschoolers in person, rather than just reading about homeschoolers on the internet. First impressions are that we are very different from each other. Many of us have also come to homeschooling for quite different reasons. Although my guess is that there is one group who are quite similar to each other, in terms of the values and religion they share as well as the way they homeschool. However, this is first impressions, I might find that they aren’t so similar and maybe in fact I have more similarities with them than they do with the rest of the group I think they ‘belong’ with. This is the joy of getting to know people as individuals and not part of some perceived group.
But I can’t help wanting to see who ‘belongs’ with who; which group or tribe they belong to. Do they do ‘school at home’? Do they ‘attachment’ parent/are generally very child-oriented? If they follow/ed the attachment parenting philosophy, again, this gives me a good idea what kind of values they might have and how they would chime with mine. How child-oriented are they? If they are really child-oriented, would they sympathize/call themselves ‘radical unschoolers’? Are they Christians? What kind of Christianity do they believe in and practice? Light or heavy, is the way I think of it in my mind! I was brought up as a Christian but would not self-identify as one and anyway, the Christians I was brought up with practiced their religion in a very homogenous way so these Christian factions are new to me and I am fascinated to know how they practice their religion, let alone what they believe.
It fascinates me even more because they usually involve their religion deeply in their homeschooling, which is anathema to me, but on the other hand I am curious to learn anything and everything about homeschooling since I’m so new to it. That seems sensible to me. I don’t want to miss a good tip or trick! If they are American, and many homeschoolers are (good for Americans!), are they Republicans or Democrats or neither? I worked in the US Senate years ago, so I have a good idea what values each kind of supporter would most LIKELY have, in the same way a Conservative, Labour or Liberal Democrat supporter in the UK would LIKELY share certain values (I worked in the UK Houses of Parliament too, so again, I have a good idea based on close-up experience).
But why am I so fascinated with this? As soon as I meet other homeschoolers, are they trying to see if I fit into their tribe too? Are they wondering about my religion, my homeschooling philosophy, my whole life philosophy? Are they wondering whether we could be friends based on whether we share some fundamental outlooks on life? Are these thoughts more of an issue with potential new friends who homeschool? If so, why? I think for me, homeschooling has brought me in contact with people I would never have met otherwise, specifically Americans from the Army base in Bahrain. I’ve never met anyone from the Base before, despite living here for nearly 4 years – and it’s a tiny island. Presumably, most revolve their lives around the base and each other. After living here for 4 years, you tend to bump into so many of the same people, in the same place, time after time, that they must keep themselves to themselves! I am fascinated just to go to the base, but would need an invitation to do so!
When I meet older homeschooled kids, I am fascinated to see how they’re doing. What am I looking for? I am looking for happy, confident, warm and friendly, articulate kids who are really interested in whatever they’re learning. I am hoping for free spirits who are happy being individuals. I want to see a difference from the teenagers who give teenagers a bad name and so far, the few that I’ve met, have certainly lived up to my expectations! And I’m really interested to see if the way they’ve been homeschooled may have influenced this outcome, although I recognize that if the homeschooling parents are doing their job well, they should be tailoring their approach to their child. That’s meant to be a big part of homeschooling as I understand it. For instance, it’s hard to know if radical homeschooling resulted in this great kid or if that kid needed a radical homeschooling approach to flourish whilst a sibling might do better with a different approach? In which case, we shouldn’t put ourselves into tribes because we should be following the child’s learning needs lead rather than being the instigator of the homeschooling approach – oh no, even more worry about failing as a homeschooling parent, because I haven’t worked out what approach to use with each child! I think I have time, phew!
I liked the following, which is a comment made by a lady called Wendy Priesnitz on a very interesting post with an equally interesting rebuttal. Wendy is not keen on homeschooling group or tribe labels and certainly isn’t keen on people in those tribes excluding others or feeling superior to others, “I think it’s safe to say that labels and rules are two of the things many families are trying to move beyond by living as if school doesn’t exist. Putting names to things makes it easier to talk about them, and to find one’s tribe. But holding people to rigid definitions of those labels is not productive. While some of what you’ve written is valid, there is no norm, given the many differences in how families interpret and implement autonomous living and learning.
Families move at their own speed along the path towards trust and respect for children and young people (and for themselves, for that matter). And it’s not an easy journey, given the mainstream attitudes about children’s place in society. Each homeschooling/unschooling family is at the spot where they’re comfortable at any given time.
There are details in your post with which I could take issue, but I’ll stop there. I just hope that most folks will continue to help each other on the journey and find common ground, rather than fragment what is already a small, brave – and yes, messy – movement. It is changing the way the world views children and their place in it, and with that, it may change the world”. Thank you, Wendy. Wendy is, I would guess, a radical unschooler whilst I would describe myself as a ‘wannabe unschooler’ right now but I realize I might be journeying along a continuum, the length of which I might slide back and forth along depending on what I learn during the journey, and certainly depending on how my children react to my approach at any given time and even more certainly depending on their own desires at they get older, when they can make a legitimate case for any changes.
Maybe I’ll end up with one foot in with one tribe and another foot in with another tribe as a result of how my two children want to learn and maybe only one will really suit me personally or maybe neither!
All this does is remind me to always keep an open mind and I hope others will too. And let’s hope we can all support each other simply as homeschoolers, whatever sub-set, whatever tribe we’re most comfortable with ordinarily. I hope I practice what I preach tomorrow and each day thereafter!
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IF YOU’RE NEW TO HOMESCHOOLINGMIDDLEEAST, welcome! I highly recommend that you start reading from ‘Day 1’. The fastest way to access this is to look for ‘Archives’ on the right hand side of the home page, click on ‘February 2012’ and scroll down to the bottom of the page that opens. If you want a quick first visit, you could type a term e.g. ‘socialization’ or ‘university’, into the ‘Search’ box or of course you could just read my latest posts without doing anything!
Why I recommend starting at Day 1 is because this is an adventure into homeschooling that is not yet 3 months old and the journey has been a rollercoaster – philosophically and emotionally, catalogued daily for the first couple of months. For you to get the full intellectual and dramatic impact, it’s best to start at the beginning. You might be contemplating home educating and wonder what those early nail-biting days feel like or you might enjoy reading somebody else’s take on an experience you share with me, or you might be more generally interested in my thoughts and feelings on education and parenting. Whatever the reason you’re reading, I’m really humbled that you’re taking your valuable time to do so and I really hope I can be some kind of hope or inspiration for you. Thank you!