Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Do You Like Your Teacher?

Once upon a time, when we told people we homeschooled, the question was, "Is that legal?" Some years passed, and the question became "What about socialization?" More years passed, and the common response tended toward, "Oh, I know somebody who does that!" We've been to a lot more than our fair share of doctors in the last month or so, and the doctors and nurses have been responding with something that they think is an accepting response. Instead of asking questions, or pointing out (in an "affirming" way -- LOL) that we are not the only weirdos on the planet who do this, they will ask a kid, "So, do you like your teacher?" or "Does your teacher work you really hard?" or "What do you think of your classmates?"

I know they mean no harm; they're trying to be encouraging.

When a kid looks at me helplessly, not knowing how to respond to such a query, I remind the person that our kids don't go to school. In the last year or so, I have been told many times, "Oh, yes, they do. They go to school at HOME. That's still going to school!"

It's not.

Well, in the last year, what we do is indeed looking a lot more like "going to school." But even with that, my kids don't "go to school." Not at home. Not anywhere. They learn. But even the most schoolish stuff we do bears only a little resemblance to "going to school."

Sometimes I want to correct the nurse or whomever. I want them to understand that homeschooling doesn't have to look like what happens in a classroom. I want them to understand that kids can learn in so many different ways!! I want them to understand that their preconceived notions of school & learning & education are just one tiny segment of myriads of possibilities in learning.

But sometimes I just smile and nod and let them keep their faulty ideas. When I try to explain, it is too often all in vain. So we just let them think our kids "go to school" at home.


  1. My younger children have hear the "Do you like your teacher?" question a lot. It's rude. Do they ask other children if they like their parents? Do they ask a traditionally educated child if he likes his teacher....in front of the teacher. It makes you wonder if people don't have a clue about socially acceptable behavior.

  2. I really don't think people mean any harm, a lot of times they just don't know what to say. We've found that doctors seem at a loss since their standard questions don't work. We've heard more positive comments than anything over the past 2 years, prior to that it was mostly negative questions. Even the socialization question has changed. Just a few days ago someone actually apologized before asking it, and they didn't ask because they thought our kids might be somehow damaged but because they were genuinely curious about how we had such great kids.

  3. Yes Kim, I really don't think people mean anything negative by their question. They may not be thinking - they may think they're being light-hearted or funny.

    A phrase like "going to school" is just that - a phrase. Like me saying I drove to church when I mean I came in a car. I didn't walk. I don't mean I was literally the driver.

    For myself, I have been trying to be more accurate with how I say stuff. uh - I mean with how I use words. ugh.

  4. I'm with the others. I don't think people mean any harm. Some things can just irritate you! Like the people (often medical people) who call me honey or deary. Bugs me beyond all, but I've never corrected them. Bugged me when they called Dad honey or sweetheart, too. Makes me feel over 90 years old.

  5. I agree with Kim. I think the doctors and nurses are at a loss. They have their standard small-talk topics for kids, and it doesn't work for homeschoolers. So they have to think of something else to say to try to engage the kids. When we hear these questions, it's kinda like the questioner is sharing a cool secret with the kid. I guess it's kinda like when somebody says to a tall person "How's the weather up there?" and you just smile and respond with kindness or humor instead of snipping "Do you realize how freakish that makes me feel?" or "That's only the 4392nd time I've heard that." They're just trying to be nice and chummy, and I appreciate that much more than the accusatorial questions we got a couple of decades ago. But I do wish there was a way to open people's eyes to the truth that homeschooling is unique to each family and may have very little resemblance to what the questioner thinks of as "school."

  6. Our children used to get the question "So, did you get your homework done?" They never knew how to answer that one. The term was pretty meaningless to them. Do unschoolers have homework?


  7. I hear ya, Cindy. "Homework???" Either life is ALL homework, or there is no homework. What is this thing called "getting homework done"?