How Homeschooling Encourages Effective Communication and Respect
Homeschooling, like institutional instruction, is communal learning. Students, teachers, and administrators learn with and from one another during school. Children, parents, families, instructors, and community members, likewise, learn with and from one another through homeschooling.
Having worked in both settings, I learned some unexpected lessons. I hope to apply what I have learned to all my interactions.
In my homeschooling community, I work, play, consult, and share with people representing diverse faiths, cultures, incomes, politics, ages, and education. One virtue I have enjoyed in every one of these relationships is respect.
I live in a culture that lacks consideration of others. I suggest we take a closer look at why homeschoolers are so respectful toward one another, at least, when surrounded by this specific community.
My religion and politics vary greatly from some of my fellow homeschooling parents. Shared values have brought me into communion with these terrific folks and put us on the same team. We exercise our freedom to make decisions for our children that the majority of our society feels are best made by other professionals.
How we engage our children in learning, what and when we teach, where and in whose company we give birth to our babies, when and if we vaccinate them; we are blessed to be able to make these choices. Dear family, friends, and total strangers have said to me, “I think you're crazy” for choosing unmedicated childbirth, teaching cursive to your kids, delaying vaccinations, and choosing to spend every day with your children. But in my homeschooling community, I have received only support, even from those who have chosen differently. We have all endured criticism for homeschooling, and therefore have sympathy for those making choices that flow away from the mainstream.
Gatherings of homeschoolers bring children of all ages together. When I first witnessed my then four-year-old son being welcomed to play by toddlers and teenagers alike, I learned something wonderful.
Homeschooled children spend their days with groups of people of all ages. Ten-year-olds, for instance, are not with just ten-year-olds in their learning or playing. They are in a wonderful place to share their wisdom with younger kids and learn from their elders. They may pull a noisy three-year-old onto their lap to quiet them during an introduction to a field trip excursion, or be taken under the wing of a teenager who is better with a compass or more experienced with horses.
Teenagers don't have the responsibilities of adulthood hanging over them. They are still kids. They want to play, and they have the maturity to overcome obstacles to make it happen. When a toddler is crying because he was excluded from kickball, and an eight and nine-year-old are arguing over who gets to play shortstop, the elder children find a way. They pinch run for the wee ones and make decisions about positions for their team. Younger kids have less of an issue abiding by a rule made by an unrelated teen than their own parent or sibling. Sure, there are times when adults need to step up and help manage certain situations. But we are there, watching and learning, and ready to help only if necessary.
If only my kids would be as fair with each other at home as they are in such situations. They are just as human as we parents. We all continue to make our mistakes. However, it is good to know that we are capable of treating others well.
When we come together socially, homeschooling adults revel in our grown-up conversation.
When we are home, we are helping our children, housekeeping, cooking, caring for pets and aging parents, etc. When we are doing something active with our community, i.e., coming together as a co-op or going on a field trip, we are teaching or serving in some other way.
Social gatherings allow us to stop and listen
In today's society, the chance to stop and listen is a rare blessing. Here we are, a group of diverse adults, in the middle of a weekday, and our children are occupied within close proximity.
We hear and share more than a post. Much more than a tweet.
We can come to understand one another as individuals, not members of stereotyped groups. Wow, she's Christian, but she doesn't hate minorities and homosexuals. He's politically left-wing but has strong feelings against abortion.
In the presence of children
Aside from the very occasional adult night out, when we join in fellowship with homeschoolers, our children are with us. We love to be with our community, but even more, we love to be with our families. Even when there are large groups of children and plenty of space to play, our children, from the smallest to the tallest, check in regularly, and often choose to stay, either just to listen, or to engage in the conversation. Therefore, what we say must always be appropriate for our children's ears, and the ears of other people's kids.
These points, I believe, are the keys to the respect sustained between homeschoolers. And this is my societal suggestion:
Let's search for the common ground between ourselves and those with whom we disagree. We have joined in conversation for a reason. If we stand firm on that foundation, we can work together to keep everything level, even when an occasional brick is placed askew.
Diversity in age
There is wisdom in age. There is refreshment in youth. The wisdom may simply be hard-learned lessons from mistakes that should not be repeated. The refreshment may be nothing more than an energetic joy that reminds elders of the purpose behind hard work. Together, we may discover a thoughtful, untarnished direction.
"Real" personal conversation
We need to spend more time in the presence of one another. We read, watch, and hear a great deal of misinformation, lies, assumptions, and hate disguised as truth. These plagues spread through our social media channels like wildfire, creating a cyber-mob mentality and real-world harm. Spending more time engaged in personal conversation will help shed the scales covering our screen-saturated eyes.
Finally, we should only say, post, tweet, and share what we want our children, and the children of our friends and family, to hear, read, and repeat. Some folks are okay with their own kids hearing them use language that tears people down, but in the company of other children, most people can control their words. If we confront all disagreements as if we are in the presence of these valuable, vulnerable, attentive ears, we may offer one another more respect and find peace more successfully.