Homeschoolers are only human
© Beverley Paine
Homeschoolers are human too. Sounds silly doesn't it? Kind of obvious... However, I think it's good to remind ourselves, and perhaps others, of this fact from time to time.
During my first decade of homeschooling I found a tendency in magazines, newsletters and anything else published by home educators to be upbeat and positive about homeschooling. Good news stories - so lacking in the every day media - were abundant. They dominated. I rarely read anything that wrote about the 'down' days, and how hard it was to juggle housework, earning an income and educating the children at home.
I even stopped reading for a while because it seemed that every child was gifted and talented and all the mums were 'supermums'... I felt like we weren't making the grade. My confidence dived. One day I suddenly realised that I was contributing to this aura of 'success' in my attempts to support others in my writing, and that other people probably felt a lot like I did when I read these encouraging stories, very wobbly about homeschooling.
So about ten years ago I got brave and started to write about the not so happy days, the days where everything seems to be going wrong. We all have them, but there is this kind of taboo about talking about them. I could see how alienating this 'stiff upper lip' attitude was and wanted to reach out to other people like myself, help them feel 'normal' and sane, create the kind of community that would be there for them, and me, when the doubts set in.
Homeschoolers are human. And humans err. They also hurt each other. They get it wrong as often as they get it right. Like everyone they make mistakes. They have the same set of social skills as everyone else. I've never met anyone whose social skills were perfect or flawless...
There is this persistent image of homeschoolers, both in the homeschooling community and more generally, that we're somehow above being typically human. As though having withdrawn our children from a flawed education system our intention is to give them some kind of utopian educational experience that will produce amazing super-people with perfect social skills and who will excel in just about any field they choose...
Reality-check time! We're human, no different from any other group of humans with something in common that get together to support that commonality. Most of us aren't at all interested in creating a better society through educational revolution: most of us just want to do the best by our kids. Some are refugees from school, mending painful wounds; others are idealists who, like me, can see the potential for a very successful way of learning to re-emerge in human society. I see past those differences between us. I recognise that the pressures of every day life affect us the same as they do any mum or dad with children in school. I know that most of our 'issues' with everyday homeschooling life stem from the kind of problems every family faces, because like them, we're only human.
My goal since I began writing about our homeschooling life and my thoughts about it, has always been to build bridges between home educating families, to make it easier to feel okay about being human, even 'normal' mums and dads, even though what we're doing - educating our children at home - is an extraordinary task. I'll always be here to talk about what has, for us, been an extraordinary journey with our children.
For those home educators that want to be 'out there' supporting others along this journey it helps to remember that we're all human. We don't always play nicely, and we don't always have the time or energy to support the efforts of others; we have very different ideas about what constitutes support and what form it should take... We argue and fight among ourselves. We make friends and we lose friends. We're only human.
Some of us think that because we are all doing the same thing - educating our children at home - we belong to one group and need to think and act the same. That's not how it is. The nature of home education is that it reflects an amazing diversity of experience and a strong need to be and act as individuals, to honour our individual differences as families. That makes it very hard to support home education en masse. Although this may seem an unreasonable and unattainable goal it's been my goal from the beginning and sits at the core of my Homeschool Australia website. The only way I can imagine achieving that goal is to say, "Hey, we're all human, we never stop learning how to parent, education is a life-long experience, we're learners too, we'll always worry that we're not getting it 'right'; we're more alike than we are different and by sharing our stories we can help each other."
I do recognise that now my children are grown up I have less in common with home educators than I once had. The issues and problems parents opting to educate their children home now are, in many ways, different to the ones I faced when my children were young. Although some of my thoughts and insights are timeless, many are becoming obsolete, succumbing to the 'generation gap'. And that's okay. Perhaps my place will be taken by other enthusiastic writers with similar goals. My message to them is to always remember that home educators are only human.
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Together with the support of my family, my aim is to help parents educate their children in stress-free, nurturing environments. In addition to building and maintaing this website, I continue to create and manage local and national home educating networks, help to organise conferences and camps, as well as write for, edit and produce newsletters, resource directories and magazines. I am an active support of national, state, regional and local home education groups.
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We began educating our three children in 1985, when our eldest was aged five years. In truth, we had helped them learn what they need to learn as they grew and explored and discovered this amazing world since the moment they were born. I am a passionate advocate of allowing children to learn unhindered by unnecessary stress and competition, meeting developmental needs in ways that suit their individual learning styles and preferences. Ours was a homeschooling, unschooling and natural learning family! There are hundreds of articles on this site to help you build confidence as a home educating family. I hope that your home educating adventure is as satisfying as ours was!
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Beverley Paine, The Educating Parent
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