We’ve all been there—something upsetting happens or we’re in a tough situation and well-meaning friends, acquaintances and even strangers swoop in and say the wrong thing. But it’s a big leap from “I can’t believe your kid still isn’t potty trained” and “I’d never let my kid have a cell phone” to “I can’t believe you won’t homeschool your kids.”
If I see one more tweet, Facebook post or ranting video directing parents they don’t know to “pull your kids out of public schools” or “homeschool now,” my head actually might explode. My personal favorite is “if you really love your kids, you’ll get them out of public schools.” Umm, what?
As the parental rights movement explodes across the country and frustrations with deceptive school policies and classroom content boil over, lots of (mostly) well-meaning people who already choose not to send their children to public school can’t seem to understand why everyone else isn’t following their lead. And while these unsolicited directives sometimes have a “come on in the water’s fine” flavor to them, they also imply that there is something deficient, irresponsible even, about a parent who doesn’t do what they say.
The vast majority of American parents are never going to homeschool their children no matter how many well-meaning strangers tell them it’s the only solution. The implication that anyone who doesn’t follow this advice doesn’t love their children is not only absurd but also an unfortunate example of how judgmental and insensitive the discourse has become, even between people “on the same side” of what can loosely be called the parental rights movement.
There are days I really do want to ask them, “do you even hear yourself?”
There is a tiny contingent out there who believe that homeschooling is not that hard, and anyone can do it if they really want to. And I suppose if we take the words “really want to” to mean life or death, then maybe. But the obvious truth is, the overwhelming majority of parents are never going to choose homeschooling for their family. Maybe they don’t have the financial means, maybe they don’t feel qualified or, quite simply, maybe they just don’t want to. Maybe it’s all of the above. I certainly don’t want to (and never wanted to) and I’m quite positive that I love my children. And I was a teacher for ten years!
Some moms seem like they were made to wear their sleeping babies in a wrap while they educate their older children using a purchased curriculum coupled with rich literature and outside excursions. Others just have the perfect temperament. Some dads couldn’t dream of a more fulfilling existence than being their kids’ teacher not only in life but also “in school.” But, for better or worse, this describes a very small fraction of parents.
Do these “get your kids out now no matter what” people have any kids who really love school? Or who plays sports? Or regularly perform in school plays? Or play in the marching band? Or run for the cross-country team? Or write for the school newspaper? Or compete nationally with their varsity cheerleading squad? Or win interscholastic math competitions? Or just love school? Most parents aren’t about to pull the whole rug out from under their kids because they’re upset about sexually explicit books in the school library and invasive school surveys. There are countless parents all over the country who are deeply frustrated, furious even, with some things about their school yet very satisfied with others; it’s common to hear a parent rail against a terrible policy recently passed by the school board and in the next breath, talk about how much they love and appreciate their child’s teacher or coach.
Life is complicated.
The fact of the matter is parents have and will always make different decisions about their children’s education for lots of reasons and that is a good thing. Parents who homeschool know very well what it’s like to have strangers cast aspersions on the choice they’ve made for their family; they should keep that in mind before they tell complete strangers to “just pull their kids” as if it’s as easy as pulling a kid out of a six-week session of swim lessons. These decisions are complex, and it is the height of cruelty—and ignorance—to question a parents’ love for their children because they choose not to homeschool or aren’t willing to pull the plug on public school.
Erika Sanzi is Director of Outreach for Parents Defending Education
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