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Monday, February 1, 2010

Homeschoolers: The Well Behaved Bunch

He was tall, but thin. Hardly more than a 110 pounds. At just over 6 feet he resembled a twig. His giant XXL t-shirt only reinforced his skeletal form. The 80 pound backpack caused him to hunch.

He was headed to class.

A larger boy with a familiar face approached him. Something was wrong. The larger boy threw his shoulder into him, causing him to stumble against the wall.


The other boy walked on. The skinny kid watched him go and wondered what his name was and why he was mad at him.

I doubt I'll ever know.


I hadn't thought of that experience in years, but it came back to me when I read Danielle's post on the difference between homeschooled and "traditionally" schooled kids. Why, she asks, do homeschooled kids behave better?

First, allow me to dispel a myth: I wasn't a little angel when homeschooled. I specifically remember dropping my sister on her face once when she made me angry. She must have forgiven me because she's never brought it up. That, or the brain damage never healed...

But even though we fought like siblings, we were pretty good kids. We worked hard. We enjoyed the Sonlight books. We poured our blood, sweat and tears--lots of tears--into our writing assignments. And while I was a little shy and awkward in groups, I never hip checked someone into a wall. That simply was not something you did to those outside your family. Your little brother when he was driving you crazy... sure, but not someone you hardly knew.

For whatever reason there is a different set of social rules in a "traditional" school. Picking on people is common. Making fun of others is socially acceptable. Physically assaulting another is just a fact of life.

Which is so very odd to those coming from the other world, the world where socialization has kicked in and constructive criticism, encouragement and mature behavior is expected of you even if you're still at the stage in life where the only recourse to your rage is throttling your punk little brother.

Second, I listened to my teachers. I played their game. I followed directions. And if I disagreed, I spun their demands back on them--completely complying without doing what they wanted.

Perhaps it was the freedom of homeschooling that opened me up to this possibility. I knew I needed to follow the rules, but that didn't mean that I needed to agree with them. And that didn't mean that I had to be silent about my disagreement. But those "in the system" don't always know that. At least for those kids--like the bully in hall--who didn't care much for school, the only offensive move was to tune out, drop out, opt out. Not so with me. The way to respond was to so perfectly adhere to the rules so as to show the insanity of them. There was always a creative solution to push back, if I only had enough energy and time to make it happen.

So are homeschoolers the well behaved bunch?

Yes and no.

There were days when I know I was an unholy terror for my mom (sorry, mom). I know for a fact I was a defiant little punk by the time I got to public school. But my defiance took a different form from that of my peers. Rather than based in an apathetic tuning out, mine was rooted in an indignation at the frivolous nature of my work or assignment. So I became more engaged. I put more effort into my work. I dug even deeper.

That may be a sign of maturity. But at the moment I think the difference is taking personal responsibility and doing what you can to overcome the obstacle.

Homeschooling taught me that I had options. It was my responsibility to learn. It was up to me to set things right. And that didn't happen when I picked on others. It happened when I took things head on.

 ~Luke Holzmann
Filmmaker, Writer, Surrogate Father


michelle said...

Interesting coming from someone who was home schooled. I can't say that my son is more well behaved than other children ~ just that maybe our standards are a little higher ~ that our norms aren't the same. When my son is acting out, I try to keep in mind that compared to other kids, he is well behaved. . . from their perspective anyways. . . but not mine!

(P.S. I am on the Crew with Danielle, and that is how I found your post)

The HoJo's said...

As a fan of home schooling who sends her kids to a (private Christian) school I think it is more the mindset of the parents than the schooling. My children aren't saints, however they know for certain what behaviour is acceptable and what isn't and they understand that other peoples standards may be higher or lower than ours. Such is life, get used to it, just stick to your guns say I. Hopefully they will continue.
In museums or on days out I am regularly asked if my children are homeschooled because they are engaged and interested. Well thanks for the compliment but I consider the school education to be in addition to the one they get at home. The one where I 'inflict' my beliefs on them and discuss the results of behaviour with them. Many things are the parents job and yet some seem to think it is ok to give up and blame teachers when it all goes wrong. I could go on but I'll spare you :o)


The Reader said...

I agree with HoJo, I think it is the parents. And then some is just the natural personality of the kid in question.

I was like you - I "rebelled" by doing the boring assignment exactly right, but not quite (like turning in a book report in all lower case letters, because the main character wrote her papers that way...). I did my best. I got good grades. I followed the rules and wasn't afraid to question my teachers when I didn't agree.

I was not homeschooled, and really, nor did my mom have high standards for me. It was just my personality, I guess. Firstborn, what can I say?

Danielle said...

Luke, thanks for linking from my post. I'm still thinking about my own response based on being a home school graduate myself.

Birthblessed said...

I just love how quick we are to say "It's the parents."

Because surely "those parents" who send their kids to public school are inherently evil.

My always homeschooled child who was raised memorizing Bible verses, school with Sonlight, lovingly reprimanded, given high standards and knows enough theology and Scripture to pass seminary.... is a bully. He calls everyone in the family names, and most people outside of the family. He hip-checks his siblings and others. He calls me a B**** most days and tells me to F*** giving him school assignments or instruction. Then he tells me he can't do his work because I'm not teaching him, so I try to instruct and he tells me I'm a stupid b****.

So yeah, you're right. It must be the parents.

Luke Holzmann said...

Wow! I knew when I was writing this up that this was a possible hotbed of discussion. I'm so glad you all swung through here and shared your experiences and insights. Fascinating stuff!

My wife said, "I can sum up the difference: Traditionally schooled kids are socialized by peers and homeschooled kids are socialized by parents." But I think Birthblessed has a fantastic point: Kids do their own thing. We as parents are a huge influence, but we're not ultimately sovereign.

And I wonder if you're right, Heather. It could very well be a birth order thing playing into all this as well...

I hope to see you around here in the future, Michelle! Glad you swung by .

Carolyn, I like the "inflict" beliefs bit . We as parents must not shirk our opportunities.


The Reader said...

for Birthblessed - I don't know about anyone else, but when I said "it's the parents" I did not at all mean "those parents" who send the kid to public school.

And really, I hear what you are saying, too, and agree with you - there is more to it than just parenting. 'Cause darned if those kids don't have minds of their own.

I'm sorry if any of my words hurt you or implied I think kids who misbehave have parents who don't parent well. For me, that wasn't my intent.

Danielle said...

As a home school grad who swore never to home school when I graduated, I can attest that it isn't always just the parents, much of it is the grace of God. No matter how much we do right, at the end of the day, I have to leave my children in God's hands and pray for the grace to disciple them again tomorrow.

Luke Holzmann said...

Danielle, I'm curious: Why did you not want to homeschool after being homeschooled? Mind sharing the story? Or linking me to a blog post or something? I'm very curious! <smile>


marcy muser said...

My daughter and I were talking about the same issue in the car this morning. She is 13 and has been homeschooled (mostly Sonlight) all her life. We are fortunate to have a homeschool enrichment program where she can attend with about 200 other homeschooled kids one day each week, so she has significant exposure to other homeschooled kids. She also has contact with non-homeschooled kids through church, swim team, and other activities.

Her comment to me today was, "Mom, public-schooled kids just seem to have a 'hard edge' to them." She acknowledged (when pressed) that there were a few exceptions, but she would not back down. Even at 13, she senses a difference between the schooled and homeschooled kids she knows (as a general rule, of course, and by no means in every case). Not sure if it's cynicism or helplessness or feeling trapped or bitterness or something else, but in many cases, it seems schooled teens do tend to have a hard edge.

My daughter commented, "Maybe it's being around their moms all day that seems to make a difference." My opinion is that being around either parent can help, as long as the parent is generally constructive, positive, and involved. That kind of parent can provide solid modeling and constructive discussion at the time that an issue is relevant in the child's life, as opposed to having to deal with it later, when the child has moved on to other things. School kids often end up stuck with teachers and other kids as models, and with no discussion of issues when they are needed (since the typical answer to "What happened at school today?" is "Nothing.").

By no means am I saying it's the parent's fault when kids end up bullying. But in many cases (though again, not in all), bullying (and other behaviors that show up as that "hard edge") can be nipped in the bud if a caring adult is close enough to get involved on the spot. Schooled kids rarely get that advantage, and it costs them.

Just MHO.

Luke Holzmann said...

Marcy, I agree: Homeschoolers have huge advantages <smile>. Glad your daughter was able to point one of them out. That's good stuff.



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