Another Voice on Homeschooling – Mindful Homeschooler

For my last “Another Voice on Homeschooling” post for this month, I’m sharing a post from Mindful Homeschooler, an online, self-described “primarily secular” homeschooling magazine. Mindful Homeschooler brings together posts about a variety of homeschooling subjects from a variety of authors.

In his post, “The View from Here: Wearing Socks,” stay-at-home-dad Ryan considers one of the potential social benefits of homeschooling in light of his realization that his son is completely unfazed by going out in public dressed in an unconventional manner.
“I think there is something about homeschooling in general that lends itself to kids not having to worry so much about appearances and things that feel so important to kids herded into public schools.  Isn’t some of societies [sic] perception of homeschooled kids as odd really just a reflection of a societal uneasiness with true individuality? When thinking about this, I often reflect on the quote by Albert Einstein regarding his decision not to wear socks in which he said, ‘I have reached an age when, if someone tells me to wear socks, I don’t have to.’ Ultimately, the question really is, should we make them ‘wear socks’ even when they are not old enough to make this choice?”

I found this article interesting because it addresses an attitude I’ve noticed in my own children.

My seven-year-old daughter went to church one January day with tights on but no skirt or pants. I left the house early, so I take no responsibility for this occurrence, but blame aside, when we were sitting in the pew waiting for service to begin and I pointed out that she was wearing no pants, she just shrugged.

When our babysitter cancelled at the last minute last week, my three-and-a-half-year-old proudly attended a Girl Scout meeting wearing his sister’s old Daisy tunic and her Brownie beanie.

At the same time that I love that my children don’t seem to define themselves by their appearance, I also feel a little concerned that maybe I’m not teaching them the self-awareness necessary to avoid ridicule later in life. I think, “So what? There’s no harm in being a little eccentric.” But then the little voice that’s always pointing out where I’m screwing things up pipes in with a dose of doubt: “…is there?”

In his post, Ryan echoes the ambivalence I feel about my children’s self-assuredness. His post also reminds me of a blog discussion I had with a mom who posted about her choice to let her young daughters (ages 3 and 4) cut their own hair (the original post seems not to be up any longer, but the link to my post includes a bit about the original post and a brief quote).

How much control do we exert over our children as they’re trying to discover their place and their identity in the world? How much do we try to protect them from what other people might think about them, and what does this teach them about their value as individuals?

To read Ryan’s full post, please visit Mindful Homeschooling…and please consider leaving a comment while you’re there to let him know what you think. (And after you read that one, check out this post, by Angela Wade and also on Mindful Homeschooling, about the path that led her to Unschooling.)

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4 comments

  1. Debbie · March 26, 2013

    I’m so glad you mentioned hygiene, b/c that’s exactly where I draw the line. When Owen wanted “skateboard dude hair,” part of our agreement was that he could grow it, but needed to keep it neat. We’re actually awaiting his hairstylist’s arrival right now, and he’s been fighting me on this. But I’m sticking firm to the fact that he needs to take good care of himself by keeping his hair neat in the style of his choosing, and other silly mom things, like changing your underwear everyday, brushing teeth twice a day (bad breath is not individual expression, LOL), and other things an 8- boy finds unimportant in the scheme of things.

    And then sometimes, I wish he has a classroom full of bullies to tell him to stop picking his nose in public, b/c when I tell him he doesn’t seem to care. …

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    • CJ · March 26, 2013

      Peer pressure might not be too bad if we could choose the types of behaviors it would reinforce…

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  2. Cherilyn Michener Reno · March 26, 2013

    I think there is SOME value in educating kids in societal expectations of dress (says someone who hasn’t worn make-up in 12 years) but not necessarily trying to make them conform fully.

    A week ago Sunday I had to convince my eldest (14yo son) that he couldn’t wear the green Mardi Gras necklace he had been wearing at dinner to evening youth group/CFF. “What’s wrong with showing I’m different?”

    We ended up having a long discussion in the car about ‘being different’ ‘looking effeminate’ ‘presenting as homosexual’, etc. His classmates are all 9th grade public school boys. It confirmed for me my decision to not send him to public school for high school. He says he LIKES to look/act effeminate. He may have a rough row to hoe with that, I’m hoping college is more still forgiving of differences than high school. It was 25 years ago…

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    • CJ · March 26, 2013

      It sounds like you’re advocating discussing with our children how they might be perceived by people outside our families and then letting them make the choice from there. I can see the logic in this, but I hesitate to give my children suggestions based on what people might think because I’m so frequently wrong about societal expectations. Because I’m an odd duck, I don’t feel qualified to offer guidelines for proper dress (and even, at times, proper behavior) to my children. Instead, I try to focus on helping my children to feel confident in their choices and (I hope) to develop tools to address negative comments should they arise. In my experience, people most often criticize me for things that aren’t even on my radar. I would hate to make my kids self-conscious about one thing (and perhaps judgmental of others who do that particular thing) and then have them teased for something else entirely. But then, my kids aren’t teenagers yet; I might change my tune as they get older.

      That said, I do offer guidance around and encourage reflection about issues of hygiene and consideration, like combing one’s hair before going out, or following a prescribed dress code for a recital. These things show others that you care about yourself and that you care about them. But beyond this, I try very hard to let my kids just do what feels right to them. We’ve been fortunate, so far, to be able to surround ourselves with people who embrace our uniqueness (or at least put up with it). We shall see what the future holds.

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