Tuesday, June 24, 2008

That Old Chestnut

We were at my ILs for dinner the other night, and some family member, who shall remain nameless (I'm tempted to call this person "resentful old bat" but I'm trying to restrain myself), brought up the old "what about socialization" remark. We were discussing this person's intent to move their own child from a Bad School to a private school, and without any comment from us we heard why they thought homeschooling was neither appropriate nor beneficial. Not just for this child. For any child. Ugh.

I hate when people say this. I've heard this old chestnut once too often, and I am getting very sick of hearing it, particularly as my kids are always in attendance when people say this. If you've ever met my kids, the terms "socially awkward" "weirdly introverted" "badly behaved" "obnoxious" "rude" "in need of intervention" just don't apply. My kids are polite. They say please and thank-you. They don't interrupt. They play well with other children. They don't whine, beg, ignore requests, or act like brats. They're nice kids. They're fun even. And I am not the sort of person to foreground what wonderful homeschoolers we are. I would rather talk about my garden don't even talk about it. So it burns me to hear people who know my kids (and me) toss off that thoughtless remark as if it's got any relevance whatsoever to my situation. Richard says that these people are just reiterating comments they've heard from other sources, and aren't thinking very carefully, but still, these people are adults. Can't they think for themselves? Shouldn't they be thinking for themselves?

Fortunately, this time I had had enough glasses of wine that I could find it mildly amusing was able to comment objectively without getting too incensed. I joked about how great their kid's school experience must be that they were ready to part with ten grand each year to change that school experience and how we were homeschooling to avoid that very aspect of, err, "socialization," but that we weren't having to part with huge quantities of money for the privilege. Then we all laughed rather immoderately, except for the resentful old bat unnamed family member, who continued to stew.

The next day I groused a bit to Richard, who was, understandably, feeling caught between a relation rock and a wife hard place. He urged me to ignore it and move on. It's not as if we even see them very often, which is true. So I did. But I get the feeling that my skin is getting thinner by the syllable. Not a great feeling, really.


Anonymous said...

I have a theory. People like this need to believe that homeschooling is awful. Because otherwise they'd have to admit that it would be good for their kids but THEY are unwilling to do it. She might be scared, or just plain selfish. But she doesn't want to believe that she is a bad mother. So she is focusing on the "good" -- she has dealt with a bad situatioin by changing the school. And because you are there she is heading off the potential "wouldn't it just be cheaper and easier to homeschool" criticism of her decision (not that you would have made it, but in her head you already did, by being there and doing that).

Angela ran into exactly this problem: http://mothercroneshomeschool.blogspot.com/2008/02/musing-when-our-choice-becomes-their.html

Angela said...

Ah, the relatives. How frustrating! Really, that sort of folk isn't worth the energy to even defend our choices, because Jove is right on target here. The irritating part is that these adults feel the right to air their views in front of your kids...a definite no-no. Ignore it once, but be prepared to call her out and put a stop to it in the future. Thanks for visiting!

sheila said...

Thanks for the link, Jove. As you can see from Angela's presence - I went and read her post. Yegads, infinitely worse than my experience, but it's these experiences that do the most damage, IMO, because they are people you'd expect better behaviour from. Of course, this same person called me a sponge last Christmas (for being a SAHP), so why should this surprise me.

You both make a good point, about the resentment welling up from a selfish font. I think it's spot on in this case.

shaun said...

That's tough when it's a relative. I've only heard it from people I don't know well. (Best one: we were at a big party with tons of kids and a woman I had just met said, "Well what do you do for socialization?" I said, "Well, she's here playing with her friends right now, isn't she?")

Sounds like you responded pretty well!

Now the "sponge" comment -- really, someone else in the family needs to take this person aside for a little schooling in polite conversation.

Heather said...

I'm left wondering how someone so obviously lacking in any social graces could question your kids' socialization. How is it that people so often don't see the total irony in what they are saying?
Anyway, what I really wanted to say was that I just read a fantastic book on this very topic. I posted about it on my blog, the title of the book is The Well-adjusted Child: The Social Benefits of Homeschooling, and while it doesn't have any witty comebacks to toss at rude rellies it does have a lot of really good information that makes a homelearning mom feel darn good about the choice to learn at home.

In the meantime, have fun thinking about all the things you could have said in response. wink wink

OK, just one more thing re the sponge comment - you can tell this subject really gets to me - what this boils down to, in my opinion, is the utter lack of regard our society has for mothering and families. Careers, money and things are accepted as being more important than children, mothers and families and people think it is acceptable to disparage mothers. Imagine calling what you are doing - a far more important job than any I can think of - sponging. Good grief, how absurd. Did you get a hold of Earth in Mind, Shelia? I find it really helpful to read books that really support my way of thinking and this is another fantastic one. That way when you have to put up with people like that it is nice to have a deep knowing inside that what you are doing is the right thing for your family and that others are on the same page(so much so that they even write fantastic books about it).

sheila said...

Shaun: I love your example. Some people are SO dense when it comes to seeing the obvious, aren't they. And yes, I felt rather (modestly) pleased with myself about my retort. It was the first time I had not felt incapacitated by my irritation and anger. I suspect that this family member is mired in a difficult menopause, too, because sometimes she's fine and other times she's really grouchy. Couple that with a needy, high-maintenance child (hers) and my HSing family and it's a recipe for Nasty Remarks At the Dinner Table.

Heather: Our library - AGAIN - doesn't have that book! Argh. But I've just checked the uni. library and they do, so I can get Richard to get it for me. Thanks for that reminder. I need it.

Andrea said...

Here's the thing, have they ever been in a school? Just a cursory walk through would reveal that there are socially awkward, weirdly introverted, badly behaved, obnoxious, and rude children in need of intervention in the school system. Who are teased and bullied and dismissed and neglected or become the bully. So, I figure the ones who homeschool (because there are some) are really lucky and have the best chance at overcoming these difficulties and finding meaningful ways to contribute to society and have the best chance to grow up to be well adjusted adults.

Why is it that homeschooling is always blamed? It is ridiculous. Like when a child who learns at home isn't reading yet, the homeschooling is blamed. But when a child who attends school can't read?

For that matter, our society seems to have many people who graduated from the public school system who are not particularly well-adjusted...