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What I Wish My Mother Had Told Her Homeschooled Kids

March 16th, 2013 | Posted by Lana Hope in Homeschool

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I am so often amazed at the similarities between homeschooliing and third culture experiences. Here’s another example!

Rachel, who blogs at Djibouti Jones, wrote a post called 15 Things I Want to Tell My Third Culture Kids. The post is a tear jerker (and so, so sweet), but this has got to be one of my all-time favorite parenting quotes.

I don’t know what it is like. I know what it is like to parent a TCK but I don’t know what it is like to be a TCK. I’ve read books and listened to talks and attended seminars but you are forging a path I have not walked. I’ve got your back and I’ve got a box full of Kleenex and an ache in my belly from our shared laughter. I do not know what your particular journey is like but I will hold your hand, fierce, until the very end.

Rachel states the obvious in a very loving way. First of all, her kids have great experiences and a great life. They have attended schools in different languages in different parts of the world, and her kids call a lot of places home.

But yet, as she says, being a third culture kid comes with its own struggle. Struggle is not necessarily bad, but a struggle is a struggle. And so Rachel tells her kids, “I don’t know what it’s like to be a third culture kid.” And she doesn’t. She does know what its like to leave her home country, but she doesn’t know what its like to be the kid whose never quite sure what her home country is (or if she has one at all).

Can I say I wish more first generation homeschool parents would say this?!!

You see, like the third culture kid, being a homeschool kid provided me with an enriching experience and adventure. I did not have to sit at a desk all day. I grew up around a unique community, and spent the majority of my time outdoors.

But might I add: my mother knew what it was like to be a homeschool parent, but she did not know what its like to be a homeschool kid. She did not know what its like to grow up in a sub-culture her peers were not apart of, nor what its like to enter that culture all her peers had grown up in.

A while back I wrote a post on Potential Drawbacks to Homeschooling. Some people misunderstood this as an attack on homeschooling in general. I have never said that homeschooling is invaluable or not enriching. Far from it, homeschooling is enriching, and I love the fact that I spent more hours of my life running free than in a desk. I said that homeschooling comes with a struggle, a struggle that is not inherently bad but exists. I have said that, like the third culture kid, many homeschoolers are suspended as the foreigner in her own land and often struggle to come to grasp with their place in mainstream culture. Time again, I have tried to convey that first generational homeschool parents don’t know what its like to be the kid in that struggle. My mother has no idea what its like to be the homeschool kid. She grew up mainstream, went to school, and had friends. Then as an adult she was sucked into a sub-culture. Yet Mom continued to have the ability to relate to mainstream culture because she grew up mainstream.

Mom and I just had this conversation tonight. She was talking about church camps she attended when she was a kid. “You guys never wanted to attend church camps,” she said, “it just wasn’t in your personality.” I have no idea whether my personality would have enjoyed camps or not (I never went to one), but I do know that by the time I was in middle school, I had no way of relating to any kids at church because I did not go to school or have any regular activities (other than church) with school kids. And so my life was an enriching adventure, but it was very different than the road others walked.

I wish my mother had been like Rachel. Her post made me cry because that’s what I always wanted my mom to say.

That’s all, really.

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16 Responses

  • Naomi says:

    So well said. I think of my sister, a second-generation homeschooler who is homeschooling her children in dramatically different ways than we were homeschooled as kids–as well as dramatically different from the ways many of her peers (first generation) are homeschooling their kids. She’s let go of the rigidity, the isolationism, the exclusivity, the hyper-spirituality that we experienced and that we now sadly see others embracing.

  • What a beautiful response to the blog post. Thank you for linking and for sharing your own story. I guess the tears are going around because now you are making me reach for the Kleenex.

  • I think the culture shock part is really important. I had an incredibly hard time relating to children raised in the mainstream (or any culture besides my narrow fundamentalist box) for years. I always thought that was because of the working in an isolated booth all day, but actually the kids at my school could relate to each other fine. It was talking to outsiders that was hard, because I had nothing in common with them, and I’d spent years hearing how they were evil sinners who would lead me astray.

    I’m interested in your thoughts on socialisation and homeschooling more generally. I’m not really a fan of homeschooling, and it’s because I think that learning in groups is very important for many reasons – particularly for learning tolerance and co-operation, for the benefits of peer learning, and for building social skills.

    • Lana says:

      We obviously we had less social opportunities than you did, but overall, I can relate to other homeschoolers well. Like you, it was everyone else I had trouble relating to. Anyway, not sure what you are asking, but I think you are correct in your last sentence. Homeschoolers don’t learn to work in groups; they have a low level of tolerance for those different (because they’ve never had to work with them, and get to gossip about them continually), and spend most of their life almost exclusively with family. I think I’ve said this before, but in the past (before government schools), a lot of people did not go to school. So if you, the student, did not go to school, you were not weird or different than everyone else. You were not stepping out into a world where everyone else couldn’t relate to your world. Today we do have schools. So if you chose to keep your kids home, you are making your kids a minority. Your kids will be going into a world where all their peers went to school. They will stick out.

      • Very interesting. So we agree so far! For me, now that schools are widespread and (where I live at least) good quality ones are freely available, that’s a dealbreaker for homeschooling. I value the social interaction and group learning too highly to advocate homeschooling where acceptable schools are available.

        I know that you are still in favour of home schooling, though, so my question is this: What are the things which outweigh the disadvantages for you?

        • Lana says:

          Jonny, I don’t know. Perhaps I just go out of my way to praise homeschooling because I’m fearful of what other homeschoolers might say. The trick in homeschooling is there are secular homeschoolers, too. Its not as easy to criticize as the fundamentalists, who are all religious nuts.

          For me, until public schools become better, I think that the public schools can have disadvantages equal to homeschooling. So on that note, its a matter of choosing which is best for your kids, and outweighing the problems on either end. Of course, all public schools are not this way. So a lot depends on the school. I taught college English for a couple years. I had one freshman student who graduated number 1 in her graduating high school class who barely pulled a C in my class. I had to consult the department to ask if I should even pass her. Clearly, there is a lot of inequality in the schools in America. She went to school in a very rural southern area.

          At any rate, homeschooling has clear disadvantages. I think that group learning and socialization barely scratch the surface. But those too can be overcome if parents are conscientious. They will need to do more group classes and enroll their kids in clubs or sports with public school kids. They will also need to consider putting their kids in private or public school classes in high school to teach them to work in groups and make up for the academic gabs a parent cannot meet, and think about extracurricular needs the kids may have. I think that if the parent is aware of those gaps, and really cares for the direction of the child, then homeschooling can work. Homeschooling can be fun because of the freedom it allows, and if a parent can do that without hurting the child socially and academically and manage the child’s physical and other needs, then I believe homeschooling is a good situation.

          In short, I will probably put my kids in school (if I have my own), but homeschool some too, as I would like to spend a year or two exclusively traveling. I also had foster kids I was homeschooling for a couple of years. There was no school in our area that had a special ed department, so they did a couple of years of homeschooling. I think it did them good without harming their long-term social skills. Does this make sense?

    • Lisa Anderson says:

      Hi Jonny and Lana! Interrupting your conversation to say that your definition/experience of homeschooling is so very different from the reality that I’m experiencing as a homeschooler today. I don’t think this is accurate assessment at all, at least for the homeschoolers I know: “Homeschoolers don’t learn to work in groups; they have a low level of tolerance for those different (because they’ve never had to work with them, and get to gossip about them continually), and spend most of their life almost exclusively with family.”

      I’m in a suburban area of Indiana (US) and most homeschoolers here are involved in a co-op. We meet once a week for classes with 20 other families. Social interaction and group learning are a regular part of our homeschool life. Fitting in with the neighbor kids or church kids is a non-issue. Perhaps today’s homeschooling is completely different from what you experienced or fear?

  • fiddlrts says:

    Both of my parents are third culture kids – missionary kids – so I suppose that may have influenced their style. It might explain why we were never so isolated as most in the Patriarchy movement. It does puzzle me that they were drawn in at all, considering their overseas experiences. It would seem to be a too narrow cultural view to be embraced by people who taught me that American Culture and Christianity are not synonyms.

  • Pingback: Homeschooling and the Parent-Child Socialization Divide

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  • Lana says:

    Hi, Lisa, city homeschooling even in my day was very different than homeschooling in the rural area (where I grew up). Our friends in the city had opportunities for homeschool basketball, and everyother sport in the book. Our homeschool group tried it one year when I was too old but my sister was not, of course, but it only lasted a year because there simply was not enough kids. I think homeschool groups in the cities were more progressive as a whole, socializing with more people not in it just for the religion among other things.

    But I did want to say that I think group learning should be more than just homeschool coop or homeschool sports. You see, that’s just with other homeschool families, and as a whole, most come from the same class and race. The real world is learning to work with poor students and rough students, and those who completely dislike you. And just by socializing with other homeschoolers, I never learned that skill. I also never learned tolerance because I never interacted with a kid who was gay or whose parents were negelectful (If they were being neglected, its not like the kid could admit that). I never had to interact with someone who didn’t have white skin or who wasn’t a Christian (except our Mormon neighbors). So you can see, on so many levels, homeschoolers often aren’t forced outside their comfort zone. Its a cushy life.

    As to neighbor kids, I had plenty of neighbor friends, particularly in elementary school. Many homeschoolers in rural areas don’t even have neighbors, so that’s a problem for some. It is true that in my day, more people believed youth group was evil, and so we were intentionally sheltered. We also didn’t have 4H as wide spread, and so there is so much more available today. But still, parents shouldn’t brush over the socialization problem. Again, I didn’t realize that I was unsocialized until college because I was told that I was. That wasn’t very helpful.

  • Anonymous says:

    We were very fortunate 17 yrs ago to be retired when our baby natascha was born .First discussion was where will we rear this bundle of joy ,in america or germany her fathers homelan The day we brought her home we started to take her on trips europe to spend weeks with her grand parents and the Island of Turks&Caicos where we build a home , Tashi as we call her started school at Sir Anthony Ashcroft school with british history .Tashi studied 3 years and then we moved her to Westlyan Methodist school for some religious training .Habit as I attended catholic private school my whole life .After 4th year natascha was taken from structured schools and Homeschooled as we as a family decided caring for our elderly parents spending time with Oma& Opa was important for tashi .Natascha while doing her studies and excelling started her own charity provideciale childrens home when she turned 15 .Now she is 17 and understands socializing is not just having friends and hanging out it also encompasses helping others and being socially responsible for the persons you live among. Natascha was able 2 earn her own spending money as she is a talented jewelry maker ,her donations to P.C.H.&pocket money was earned by her wares she created and sold . So you can understand why I am pro homeschooling




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