Friday, August 19, 2011

When Homeschool Support Is No Longer Support

Yesterday I was in need of some homeschool chatter so headed over to the forums at The Well Trained Mind.

A post touched me. I won't repost my reply, instead I'll just say this.

Homeschool support groups and online discussion forums are meant to be supportive. If people in real life or people in cyberspace say things to make a person feel badly, that is not support. If a family changes their homeschool method, it is no longer useful or supportive to frequent groups or sites that talk about the formerly used method if being around those people makes them feel inadequate, regretful or makes them feel inferior for their choice.

I feel that the best and smartest way to homeschool is to take advantage of the flexibility it offers and to customize the student's education to fit their goals, desires and needs.

If after thoughtful consideration, logical thinking and prayer (for religious people) certain decisions are made, the parent(s) should stick with their new plans and see how it goes. If after seeking information and listening to one's heart and gut feelings, a change is made, give it a try before deciding it was a mistake. Do not let your feelings of no longer being part of a group or stepping away from the mainstream be a reason to doubt your decision.

Remember, you are homeschooling to take advantage of freedom in education and to provide a good education for your child. The method you choose should be right for your child not just based on what your adult peer group friends or cyberfriends are doing! Homeschooling is not supposed to be about cliques between the adults and it is not about who is in or who is out of the group based on what the adults choose to do (i.e. method of instruction). Homeschooling should be about educating the child. Homeschooling is not about the mom and her adult friends and acquaintences!

Homeschooling is not about the one right way to educate, simply because with education and with homeschooling there is a wide variety of options available, there is no one right way for all children as children are unique people who have different life goals!

After a decision is made to make a change, and after investments and committments are made (i.e. enrolled in online classes or bought expensive curriculum), let it happen and give it a try instead of second guessing or fretting before the new thing even starts. Perhaps the real issue is a fear of change? If you have already made the decision to change and invested money into the decision, then let it happen and start in before doubting yourself.

It is not support if you seek counsel or hang around listening in to others praising other methods that you are no longer using. If hearing all that is hurting you in any way, ask yourself why you are doing that to yourself? Why invite self-doubt by being around people praising your discarded homeschool method as the right and best way to homeschool?

Parents of children with a learning disability often struggle in this area also. When working hard to teach a child who struggles it can be hard to just hear typical complaints that parents have about kids because their child with an LD on their best day may not do as well as that other child on their worst day. It can also be hard to be around other parents who are ignorant about the LD or who just simply do not get what the family is going through. That is why parents of LD kids sometimes both seek out special support networks as well as intentionally avoid being around certain other specific people or entire groups of people.

Support is supposed to lift you up, to encourage and to inform. If negative things are happening as a result of being around so-called support groups, that is not support, and you should consider either cutting off or greatly reducing exposure to those people. Find new circles of support that will provide positive support and encouragement.

Changing habits such as no longer checking that Yahoo Group daily or no longer chatting with some nice people whose lives are now on a different path may hurt for a little while, there is a grieving process whenever friends or cyber-friends leave our lives. However if you let them, new friends will enter your life and will fill those voids. Find new sources of support and spend time learning about the new-to-you homeschool method so your questions can be answered and so you can find encouragement from others who believe your new method is worthwhile.

Remember what the definition of support is, and if people or groups, online or in real life are no longer truly being supportive, avoid those and seek out new groups that are actually supportive to you.

In a nutshell I think the recipe for finding support and encouragment has two prongs: choosing who to be around and choosing who to actively avoid.


Kylie said...

Couldn't agree more :-)

Who we are said...

"Support is supposed to lift you up, to encourage and to inform. If negative things are happening as a result of being around so-called support groups, that is not support, and you should consider either cutting off or greatly reducing exposure to those people. Find new circles of support that will provide positive support and encouragement." Thank you so much for saying this. It really speaks to me as I am going through my own cutting out of people who are far from supportive and dealing with the guilt trips they try to play because of it. It feels good to know that I am not the only one who feels this way.

Tonya Pruitt said...

I totally agree with this post Christine... many of us home schooling parents have chosen different methods of creating the educational environment we want for our kids.

It is definitely our choice to make and like you said if some forum you frequent no longer serves you, then move on to one that will and allow that one be there for the people that need it.

We all need to remember that we are adults and the choices we make will affect us... sometimes not as wonderfully as we thought they would.

I love how you put it that our decisions may "hurt for a while"...

This is so very true!

Noble said...

Very nicely put! I think it's too easy for us homeschooling moms to get into the comparison trap. We DO need daily reminding of focusing on our PERSONAL reasons for homeschooling. If our teaching and goals align with that and are being accomplished, then what does it really matter what someone else is doing?

And, as you said, we need to be willing to change our own habits and associations, if needed.

Thank you for the reminders and encouragement!

Cindy said...

Amen, mama! It is unbelievable to me how quick homeschoolers (and human beings in general, but we are an opinionated bunch, aren't we?) are to judge other people's choices when what we should be doing is minding our own business. :-) Anyone who finds herself being torn down or made to feel bad over an educational choice should find some new friends, quickly.

Michelle said...

Amen. I had to do that years ago when I was in an online mommy group. They were all quite conventional parents while I was the homebirthing, breastfeeding, cloth-diapering, homeschooling sort. While I am quite accepting of others choices; the same was not afforded to me.

I was "beaten up" by this group of women nearly ever week for a month. I then left and created a group which allowed ALL moms but clearly was a forum for more natural living moms. I made friends on there that year (2003) who are still my friends today.

The point is: Don't allow yourself to be surrounded by negativity. Don't lock yourself into an environment that makes you miserable. Don't build who you are and what you do upon such a weak foundation as what others think is right. That's like building a house on sugar sand.

Noelle Mador said...

I have the same experience lately.

Tina Hollenbeck said...

Thank you for this! I, in fact, have recently been walking this road, as I made an unexpected decision to drop a certain "complete" curriculum and chose other materials I'm sure are better suited to my children. Though the need to make a change threw me for a loop (I'd thought I was "set for life" with the former materials), I'm confident it was the right decision and look forward to starting our new materials...but I've also dealt with a fair amount of fallout because I was well-known in certain circles as a "cheerleader" for the former curriculum. Most have been more than gracious with me; however, a few have been downright nasty. But I'm thankful I know what you've explained here: that "support" that is not supportive is no support at all. And so I've disentangled myself from all the potentially hurtful situations - it just took a couple of weeks to realize where that would be necessary! And it is a little odd for me now because it seems that my new curriculum choices don't have nearly as many fans - at least not vocal ones. So I feel a bit at-sea...but I also trust that God has me in this place for a reason so it's all good in the end. :^)

Xa Lynn said...

A corollary to your thoughts would be not to abandon the people who change their methods, simply because they change their methods. I've had a friend quit homeschooling (when she had another baby), and bemoan the fact that most of her former homeschooling friends don't talk to her anymore. And another friend who is thinking of quitting (health reasons) afraid that we will all think poorly of her. We can still be friends - we just don't spend so much time talking about teaching methods and curriculum - instead we talk about field trips, recipes, family, hobbies, good books... I admit it is uncomfortable until we find a balance. But I think it helped my friends' kids making the transition to public school not to lose all their homeschooling friends.

ChristineMM said...

Wow I am so glad that you are all commenting. Thanks for reading my blog and sharing your thoughts.

When I stopped unschooling I got a nasty reaction from a handful of people and was on the receiving end of very judgemental behavior from people who claimed formerly to hate being judged by others and preached tolerance and acceptance...but they couldn't give that to I know what it feels like to be pushed out and away when changing methods.

Roman said...

Yes, the wonderful thing about homeschooling is that it doesn't have to be one size fits all!