Monday, September 28, 2009

RANT!: In Which I Challenge Jezebel & Salon Letter-Writers to a Round of Fisticuffs

In spite of our flu-ishness, I've been in an obnoxiously sunshiny mood. (I would skip everywhere if I weren't afraid of barfing.) The kids are starting to feel a little better, and we were able to sit outside today and enjoy a cool fall afternoon. Each of the kids received a letter from their French penpals, which really made their day. (Oh, cute French penpals, with your lovely curly European cursive and your adorable French phrases sprinkled throughout your newly-learned basic English! I wish I were an 8 year old French girl growing up outside of Paris who loves riding her horses. Sigh.) So we sat on our back deck and wrote our replies in English, with our newly-learned, very basic French phrases placed wherever they seemed appropriate. I'm sure the penpals are going to be delighted to find out that Allie's favorite color is pink or that Ian's birthday is in August. De rien, mes amies.

In one of the homeschool blogs I stumbled across this evening, I found a link to an article in Salon posted today and written by a homeschooling father of two. I thought it was a very basic, pretty innocuous telling of the reasons their family homeschools, the questions and reactions they face, and the answers/occasional half-truths they give. My reaction to it was that it told of many situations I could relate to (and have dealt with in a similar manner), that it would hopefully show people that homeschoolers are a diverse group of people and not just the fringes of the right & left, and, holy cow, how cool would it be to homeschool in Brooklyn.

BUT THEN. Then! I noticed with amazement that there were already almost 400 replies to the story. Admission: I have a weakness for reading responses to articles, and I know I shouldn't click there because I only get all wound up and surly, but I always do. My husband will back me up on this. At least once a day he'll hear me yell, "G! You'll never believe what this idiot said on (local news website)! Grrr!" And he will say, "Why do you always read that stuff?" And I will say, "Because I can't stop myself." And it's true. So, folks, of course I clicked. My goodness, the hate! The hate and the judgment, the name-calling and the insults! Here's a snippet of one of the stand-outs so far:

"The main reason for home schooling is not the low quality of American public schools; if parents cared about that they could volunteer to help in schools. {Yup, I tried that. I enjoyed it. It didn't solve anything for us, though.} Nor is it developing that intense, almost pedophilic contact with their children. {OH MY. Is this how your mind really works? It's kind of creeping me out a little.} It's to keep their kids away from those of darker shades and non-Evangelical Christian beliefs. Most of these parents don't have great educations to begin with {Hey! I'm SUPER SMRT!), and they want to protect their children from the Godless Communist Socialist beliefs they might encounter out there in the real world.
"Children raised in such kennels {Nice touch!} are perfect for manning the picket lines around abortion clinics and staffing the crowds at teabagging events. They don't think, they can't think, and therefore they are the perfect cannon fodder for wars against health care, or real wars for that matter. Whatever reasons you may have for locking your children in the closet {That horrible, dark, frightening closet called Brooklyn}, Mr. O'Hehir, they're not the reasons that the vast majority of loons are doing it."

(Whoa. Okay. Let's be calm and be kind. It's easy to do, honest. Mr. O'Hehir made it clear that he does not homeschool for religious reasons, and also cited the statistic that only 36% of families that homeschool do so specifically for religious/moral instruction. And that's different than sending them to a private religious school how? And how is that not the right of the parents? And finally, how are you to know that these kids are going to grow up and follow the same path as their parents? You can see the future? Lovely for you, Captain Hateful. Way to get it all out there.)

(Pause while my son, who should be in bed, plays a song on harmonica he titled "Velociraptor Jump." It's as good as it sounds! "Velociraptors jump, Velociraptors sneeze/Velociraptors run and wish they could eat cheese." Anyway, he needs to get back to bed...) (Thank you for the distraction, kid. You're the bee's knees.)

Anyway, that's one of the more extreme replies. (Although let me take a second to give a mean look to the person who called the author a dick because of what he named his kids.) There are a few letters of support, but a ton of letters calling homeschooling parents controlling, selfish, elitist (!) and stupid. Too many based their opinions on "a" (as in, one) homeschooled kid they once met. Here's what I wish I would have seen:

"Wonderful! I'm so glad you're a father who cares about your children and are able to do what you feel is best for your family. It sounds like you are providing many rewarding experiences and opportunities for them. Best wishes to you and your family." (And this is NOT to say that anyone who sends their children to public/private/parochial schools do not care for their kids. What I am saying is everyone should be supportive of families who strive to make the best lives for their children. If your kids are doing well in public school, that's fantastic! If your kids love their private school, that is also fantastic! And if your kids are homeschooling and happy, then, huzzah, fantastic hats off to you as well! We're all parents and we all want our kids to be happy and do well. End of story.)

BUT WAIT! I then decided to take a look at Jezebel. (Oh, timing.) I like Jezebel a lot. I do not, however, like this stupidly-titled article, "Why Are Homeschoolers So Annoying?" Once I got past the title, I agreed with some of the first part of the article. Mr. O'Hehir did make some unkind generalizations about public schools, and I thought those were counterproductive and unnecessary. That, however, was followed by an admission of the real reason the O'Hehirs were turning her off (other than their "snootiness.") Jealousy. That's it. Homeschoolers are annoying because they get to go to museums and learn about Hinduism and be creative and have fun. How dare they.

And don't even get me started on the reader replies to that.

Anyway, I apologize (too late) for this overly-long, poorly written rant. It's just that the overwhelming amount of misinformation, rigidity, and judgmental attitudes (from all sides) is saddening. We're just going to keep on doing what we do for as long as it works, and we'll be happy. I'm grateful that I can stay home with my kids. I'm equally grateful that there is the option to send them to public school, where there are teachers who work hard to share their knowledge and provide a good education for other people's kids. I wish the same for everyone. The end.


jdg said...

aye. next time, don't click! you're doing something special and you know it. the nasty comment people don't. keep on!

Amanda said...

I also cannot stop myself from reading online comments. I also get really, really mad. (Then I get snooty, and make fun of the spelling and grammar mistakes.)
I don't understand why some people think that a kid going to public school is somehow immune to the parents' beliefs. All parents try to instill values in their kids.

kirsten said...

why, why, did you put that link on there? now i had to read (some of) those comments and i get all huffy, too.

some people are just ignorant.

nuff said.

like the comment entitled: "i jsut dont get it"
and didn't understand why people would homeschool at all.

Um, grammar?

Lori said...

i thought his essay was a yawn and just the same old, same old comments about hs'ing with a little snark for spice.

the comments to ANY article in the media about hs'ing seem to be like these - intense, overboard, ignorant that there exist more than one kind of hs'er...

enjoying your blog! :^)