Wikipedia defines “platitude” as “a trite, meaningless, or prosaic statement that is presented as if it were significant and original” and defines “misconception” as what happens “when a person believes in a concept that is objectively false.” I like this further explanation on Wikipedia: “Many people have difficulty letting go of misconceptions because the false concepts may be deeply ingrained in the mental map of an individual. Some people also don't like to be proven wrong and will continue clinging to a misconception in the face of evidence to the contrary. This is a known psychological phenomenon and is due to the lack of will or inability to re-evaluate information.”
We homeschoolers today often have to wade through a swamp of platitudes and misconceptions about home education. Just imagine how thick that swamp was 20 years ago! I’m thankful for the “pioneers” in the home education movement who donned their rubber waders and worked diligently to clear out some of the weeds and other muck. But still, we are left with a slew of dismantling to do.
I think the word “platitude” must be accompanied by a smug look. I do not want that smug look to ever cross my face, although I must admit I sometimes feel smug. I feel smug when I hear someone smugly say, “I’m a better Mom because I send my kids to public school.” That falls into the same category as, “I’m a better Mom because I work outside the home.” I like Gwyneth Paltrow. She seems smart, or at least she did until she said this as she spoke of her decision to start making films again: “If I do one thing that makes me fulfilled, then I'm a more interesting woman for my children." Interesting? My kids think I’m interesting if I belch! My kids think it’s interesting to hear stories of my childhood traumas: dog bites, chicken pox, and wetting my pants. I don’t need to have a “job” in order to pique my children’s interest. All I need to do is tell them we have a new book to read, or, perhaps a new box of cereal. Because, guess what? I am fulfilled largely because of my children!
And so my friend Donna got hit recently with the “I’m a better mom because I send my child to public school” platitude. Now, I am sure this mom wasn’t saying that she is a better mom than Donna; what she meant was that she believes she herself is a better mom than if she kept her son at home. What she means is that, because her child is gone all day, she is more refreshed—more there for him—when he comes home. She has been able to run errands, clean, and perhaps check her email so that she can devote herself entirely to her son when he comes home from school. Thus, she is a better mom because she has seven whole hours away from her son each day.
The misconception goes hand-in-hand with the platitude. The misconception is that children, by nature and definition, drive their parents crazy; thus, parents and children need to be away from each other in order to behave civilly toward one another.
Now here’s a problem. Most of us freeze when we get hit with statements like the above. I mean, how do you respond? Do you say, “Huh?” Or offer back a similar platitude (which you don’t necessarily believe) because you don’t know what else to say: “Yes, well, if that works best for you, than that’s what you need to do.” Or do you just smile and nod your head and feel horribly compromised later? (That would be me.)
On the other hand, do you bristle and react with a sharp: “Are you saying I’m not a good mom because I’m home all day?” Or with “That’s baloney! You’ve been brainwashed by a post-modern culture which forces you to believe that your children are better off without you—and that you are better off without them!” Geez, I wish I could respond like that sometimes!
My goal isn’t necessarily to convince others that they should be homeschooling, but I do think that, as homeschoolers, we take a lot more criticism than we should. Why is it even acceptable for someone to say to Donna, knowing that she’s a homeschooling mom, “I am a better mom because I send my child to school”? Let me tell you there is no way that Donna would ever say to this same mom, “I am a better mom because I homeschool.” But why? Why is it OK for someone to say to us, “I could never homeschool my kids. They would drive me nuts.” Why don’t we say back, “I could never put my kids in public school. Even if they do drive me nuts sometimes.” I think we have convinced ourselves that it is belligerent to express ourselves back in such a way. We don’t want to be known as that grumpy, defensive homeschooling mom. But, but, but—what’s the answer?
I love that Jesus answered questions with questions. What if we just asked questions and shared a little, instead of answering abruptly or not answering at all? What if we said, “Really? Why do you think that you are a better mom? Have you ever really considered the alternative?” What if we just waited for a response and then carried on a meaningful dialogue, instead of allowing that “dig” (however unintended) to fester and become an obstacle in our relationships?
I was once in a Small Group that emphasized that we should always “be equipped” with ready answers. So what would you say to the “I’m a better mom because…” platitude, if you were fully equipped? And what are other parenting/homeschooling platitudes and misconceptions that make your hair stand on end?
Friday, February 16, 2007 - Uh-oh
Posted by TheMonkeyParade (IP Not Logged)
I say, “I could never put my kids in public school. Even if they do drive me nuts sometimes”, fairly regularly.
That sure explains a lot about my social life. ;)
Saturday, February 17, 2007 - I agree with you...
Posted by sharonkay (IP Not Logged)
We should be ready with an apt reply, and your reference to Christ's example is so accurate. He always had such wonderful, timely stories to illustrate the truth.
Most of the time, my responses are "polite". Although, I must say that I have never been the recipient of such a comment as the one Donna received. In that case, I may have not been so polite! My responses have followed the path of "Everyone makes their own choice".
I hope that I can embrace the publicly-expressed philosophy that we are choosing a worthwhile and blessed path. We and our children have lots to offer to our communities and world. I believe that to my very core! I am very internally passionate about it. But if my internal beliefs do not transform my outworld world, then what testimony do I have?
You bring up a wonderful point about not hiding behind trite responses, and it also applies to me in so many other areas. I have been thinking alot lately about my witness to a lost world. I want to live my love for Christ out loud!
Our challenge as always is to share our school experience and our faith with grace and truth. May God give us all the gift of the apt word!
Saturday, February 17, 2007 - I have two that stand out in my mind immediately ...
Posted by arajbrown (IP Not Logged)
but could probably come up with 10 more in as many minutes.
1) I had a professor in college ask me the following question ... "So, when are you going to go back to the classroom and start using that $40,000 degree?"
First, I just gave a short laugh and told her I was using my degree ... 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. But, I felt guilty for not being more direct and telling her what a stupid and hurtful question she'd asked. It was early on in my first year of homeschooling and I was wondering if I was doing anyone any good at home anyway ...
2) Don't you think that you are being overprotective, keeping him from experiencing the real world?" Question usually asked by someone I would consider to be a believer.
Now, I confess that there are passages in the Bible that I've not memorized ... more than I have actually .... and so I might have missed the verses that tell you to send your kids out to the wolves/world so that they can experience it fully ... BUT I DON'T THINK SO! My answer to this is that we're called to be the salt of the earth ... and my 9, then 10 and now 11 year old ... just isn't salty enough to share yet. And, if the current trend at our house is any indication of how easily influenced he is ... I'm correct in this statement.
I don't want to be a "better" mom ... I want to be the mom to my son that God called me to be ... and some days, that means being frustrated and apologizing ... impatient and asking for a second chance ... flexible and knowing that he's in the right place ... accommodating and knowing that a stranger wouldn't know how to do this! The first two show God's grace ... and on really, really good days, the last two show His character. What higher calling could there be?
Saturday, February 17, 2007 - AMEN!!!
Posted by Debbie Corley/Reluctant Blogger (IP Not Logged)
I totally agree with everything you said! I get so sick of women saying things like, "Oh, I could never homeschool!" As if it's like performing brain sugery to educate our childern! I can't imagine getting up at the crack of dawn every morning to rush around getting my sleepy children ready and out the door to spend 7 hours under the instruction a bunch of folks that probably do not share any of my values! Sometimes I want to say, "I cant believe you DON'T homeschool?"
Thanks for your eloquent post on the subject! AMEN!
Saturday, February 17, 2007 - Untitled Comment
Posted by hsmomof2 (IP Not Logged)
I don't get those comments much because it seems as though I am surrounded by homeschoolers! But when I do get them, I just say something like "It's a choice we made." That is usually enough. Very rarely does someone care to pursue it.
But people will always say things to make themselves look and feel better to others. I would not expect a famous acrtress to want to be a stay-at-home mom. But I guess even famous actresses need to make themselves feel better sometimes.
I would never dream of saying "I'm a better mom because..." but maybe that's because I'm not insecure about what I'm doing.
Monday, February 19, 2007 - Homeschool Comments
Posted by sforrester (IP Not Logged)
The one that gets me is when people say "I don't know how you do it"....."I don't have the patience to teach my children or to be around my children all day"....."I need that break from them".
I'm usually astonished when people say this to me. I have to watch my tongue because I want to respond very harshly. Wisdom has taught me that it's not always best to do that! LOL! I usually just respond by saying I enjoy my children and I love having them around all day. Then I go on to say how much time children waste in public school....standing in lunch lines, nap time (for younger kids), recess time, and all the other "time" they are doing various things that aren't very profitable. I tell them that my children have more opportunities to explore their own interests and pursue other projects. You know, I give people the nice answers :-o)
Another thing that bothers me is when people question what I'll do when my children get older. You know, they'll say "how are you going to teach them things like geometry and algebra"? HELLO! Umm, well, I did pretty well with those subjects myself and if I don't remember something, I have the internet to look it up! You know, they also make books that we can pick up to help us! It is almost as if people don't realize you can actually look things up and figure out how to do them! There's always that question about "socialization" also. People ask if my children are able to interact with other kids. I usually tell them that homeschoolers have co-op options and sports alternatives and as far as interaction goes, they get plenty of that at church, in the grocery store, in restaurants, etc.
I'm glad you asked this question! It's a good thing to reflect on why we are homeschooling our children and what God requires of us in that area.
Monday, February 19, 2007 - One of my favorites...
Posted by partyoffive (IP Not Logged)
Comes from our favorite teacher...and not that I have anything against teachers...just when they criticize our decision to homeschool and then sit and tell me what is wrong in her classroom, with the kids and the parents who send them!
And I will say I don't quite understand "being a better mom by sending my kids to school" because I think this last year and a half of homeschooling has made me a better mom. (and I liked what arajbrown said about being the mom God wants me to be,,) I enjoy having my kids with me, isn't that why I had them in the first place?
Wednesday, February 21, 2007 - This is really great
Posted by bestsister (IP Not Logged)
and so I think I'll need to link it on my sight. Humility with confidence is an option in our responses. Being meek doesn't mean saying "you're right: I stink at being a mom" and being confident doesn't mean saying "You think I'm a bad mom, well take a look in the mirror chicky." (as if you've never thought that!) I think you are presenting that middle ground. Thanks for this. Barbara
Wednesday, February 21, 2007 - Untitled Comment
Posted by ladysown (IP Not Logged)
A new one that I"ve just heard.
But won't you be driven crazy driving him around all over the place so he can get all his socialization? (my thought was huh?) Not sure how that would be any different than parents driving their children to all these after school functions....
Thursday, February 22, 2007 - Don't have a really good response for that one
Posted by cstett (IP Not Logged)
That's one that's driven me crazy since my children were preschoolers. I'll have to work on it.
I found this entry through a Carnival of Homeschooling and definitely had a "kindred spirit" moment. I hear ya, sister! If you'll permit me the vanity, here's a link to an entry of mine that's a little bit along the same lines:
Friday, February 23, 2007 - Untitled Comment
Posted by Anonymous (IP Not Logged)
When I hear these sorts of comments, it always seems to me a bit of an apology, as if they think that I am somehow judging their choice not to homeschool. So I generally just smile and say something about how there is definitely an adjustment. Or relate some story about how crazy things were in the beginning when I thought I needed to do everything. I don't go around as an evangelist of homeschooling to anyone who isn't already looking for information or curious about the topic, but I don't want people to think that I think any less of them because they don't homeschool.
Luckily, I haven't really met too many people in person who really were against homeschooling. Or if they were, they were polite enough not to bring it up.
Saturday, July 7, 2007 - "I'm a better Mom"
Posted by eclexia.wordpress.com (126.96.36.199)
I'm a homeschooling single Mom who is in a situation where next year my children will probably have to go to public school against my preferences. I can't imagine even thinking that I'd be a better Mom for my kids if they were in public school. It feels like I need to become an even better Mom because they are in public school. I am very sad that there will no longer be as much just living life together mingled all in with doing school.
Homeschooling has been incredibly hard for me the last few years, even though I am fairly laid back about it in a lot of ways. I fought to be able to continue it last year and am glad I did. This year I don't think I am to fight for it (maybe it's peace from God to let it go. Maybe it's just too tired to fight. I don't know.)
In any case, I feel like even more will be demanded of me in parenting my children through life in public school than was parenting and teaching my children at home.
Thursday, August 23, 2007 - Untitled Comment
Posted by Michelle32 (188.8.131.52)
Some folks say I'm the better mom b/c I can stand to be with my kids all day, homeschooling them. Like I get some award for "tolerating" them. My kids don't drive me nuts and it's no sacrifice to spend time with them all day. People just don't seem to understand. Our culture has people believing children are more of a burden than a gift.