Well, two weeks ago I announced I’d be starting a new series – The Disgruntled Homeschooler. And in two weeks, I’ve written exactly zero blog posts.
I’d like to say it’s because I’ve accepted a position writing speeches for a certain female presidential candidate. Or maybe it’s because I’m a secret agent who’s been on assignment and just returned home after thwarting the dastardly plans of a cabal bent on world domination. Or I won the lottery and I’ve been busy sailing the Mediterranean on my private yacht.
Sadly, none of the reasons are true. Instead, I haven’t been able to write anything because I’ve basically been paralyzed by fear. I’ve been afraid to really explore publicly my quandary because of the Judgy McJudges.
You know – the types that make this face when they don’t agree with you. Even if it’s just a comment left on a blog or Facebook post, you can tell by their words they are making this type of face.
The saying is that opinions are like… well, you know… and everyone has one. That is amplified in motherhood – hello, Mommy Wars! And in an area dominated by many religious folk, there is a certain legalistic, judgmental attitude that permeates opinions among some (not all) homeschoolers.
Now, let me say that I completely understand I’m the wuss here. Here I am trying to establish myself as a blogger/writer and I’m paralyzed with fear about the reaction to what I write? Yeah. I know, good luck with this career. Maybe I should put my English degree to good use in the other career it qualifies me for: barista. This is an issue I struggle with in all areas of my life – people pleasing. It’s a terrible bully that I’m working on defeating (hello, Life Coach).
I am becoming more comfortable with expressing opinions that I know aren’t popular with my friends and family. A simple share or like on Facebook, a retweet on Twitter – I’m sure people are aware my worldview has shifted, and for the most part, I haven’t had terrible pushback or faced too many Judgy McJudges.
Until I said this on Facebook: “I have a love/hate relationship with homeschooling. I don’t want to continue doing it (seriously, don’t want too…), yet can’t imagine a traditional life. I want my personal freedom, yet enjoy this particular form of family freedom.”
Last I checked, that particular post had 40 responses. Many were encouraging, from homeschooling and non-homeschooling friends. But there were several that were not so much encouraging, but ended up being more of a lecture or mini sermon, utilizing what’s known as the classic “Jesus Juke.” I had 10 different people contact me privately to discuss the schooling issue because after reading the comments on that particular thread they were afraid to say anything in public.
I wanted my series The Disgruntled Homeschooler to really explore what I meant by wanting my personal freedom – it’s so much more than just being the average tired homeschooling mom. I wanted to talk about the many reasons OUR family homeschools currently – and folks, you need to realize that YOUR reasons for homeschooling are NOT necessarily the same as other families’ reasons. I wanted to discuss my concerns about putting my kids in more of an institutional environment – both private and public school. I wanted to discuss my concerns about continuing to homeschool. I needed to face my fears and failures and celebrate my successes and ponder my dreams.
So, why has fear gripped me so terribly? I think I can write about religion or politics or the sadly too often marriage of the two and realize that of course people might not like what I have to say. No one agrees on those topics. And when it comes down to it, those topics are peripheral in my life. Any backlash is more of an attack on idea, not me (although I’ve seen the internet turn attacks personal – but still it all revolves around an idea).
But this topic of schooling is directly related to my life and my mothering. And that’s why I think the fear of writing about it has gripped me so badly. These are very personal judgments against choices I’m making involving my children. Comments that affected other moms, too, as they read the discussion – “Is she saying that I am choosing myself over the welfare of my children by sending them to school?” was one text I received.
If anything, I’ve been thinking back to all sorts of discussions I’ve been part of over the past 4 years we’ve been homeschooling. I rethink articles I’ve shared, comments I’ve made. I always attempted to tread carefully in the schooling debate because I have friends who are teachers, friends who homeschool, friends who send their kids to Christian school, and friends who opt for public school. But I must have at one point said something offensive because I’ve lost a friendship with someone that I was once close to.
All this has been in my mind the last few weeks. Discussing our mothering decisions is one thing. But when we champion our mothering decisions – feeding methods, sleeping methods, vaccination decisions, types of schooling, even how much screen time we allow – are we tacitly casting judgment on those that have taken different paths? Social media seems to have inflamed this because we read something we like, that supports our personal decisions and we share away. We retweet with a comment, we share with personal commentary. And we do that about 357 times.
How we care for our children, the decisions we make in their best interests -are made with real thought and consideration. We mull them over, look at the benefits and drawbacks, considering how they’ll affect those sweet little souls that have been entrusted in our care. Sure, there are a few moms out that there are just selfish and don’t care, but you and I both know the Mommy Wars wouldn’t be such a real thing if the majority of us didn’t give a damn. We do care, deeply, and that’s why the judgments about our mothering decisions affect us all so deeply and cut to the core.
And that’s why this fear has gripped me and developed into a massive case of writer’s block. No matter what I say here, I’m going to get some real judgment about my motivations, my decisions… and ultimately my mothering. And that’s what cuts to the core – people insinuating, some purposefully and some unwittingly, that you are doing something that will harm your children.
So, I’m not sure how much I’m going to explore this topic. I think our decision has been made already. For various reasons, we’re more than likely going to continue homeschooling, and I’m still going to struggle to find time to pursue my interests and my desires, but we’ll find ways to make it work (or I’ll just go crazy, maybe both). Meanwhile, I’ll continue to work on this writing endeavor – growing a thicker skin and following the wise advise of Ms. Taylor Swift – “The haters gonna hate, hate, hate/Baby, I’m just going to shake, shake, shake/Shake it off, Shake it off.”
And the future? Who knows? Will we always homeschool? Maybe. Maybe not. Perhaps, we’ll do something completely crazy, like sell our house, buy a camper and travel the country roadschooling, showing our kids this beautiful land and learning and growing together along the way.