I'm reading a book right now called Words That Hurt, Words That Heal and one chapter is devoted to careless and thoughless speech. This week, I was the recipient of such careless, thoughtless speech. And the worst part is that it came from a close friend.
We went for a walk on a beautiful day and talked about various things, including our children. My friend (we'll call her Melanie) talked about the horrors of high school - specifically the social aspect of it. She talked about how hard it is for good teens to date because there is so much casual sex going on among peers. I patiently listened for over 30 minutes and tried to empathize with her.
Finally, it was my turn to share. So, I told Melanie about Emily's resistance to attend class at church. Emily is somewhat of an introvert, until she is comfortably aquainted with the environment and the people in it. That's when Melanie asked me if I thought that was because Emily is not in school and isn't around as many people. Socialization. Why are so many people so concerned about that for homschoolers? Especially after Melanie had just shared the issues her teenager is dealing with at school. In the words of Dr. James Dobson, "not all socialization is good socialization."
Anyway, God gave me the ability to remain calm and collected through our conversation. I was able to immediately say to her that no, I do not believe that has anything to do with it. I have two children, raised in the same environment, both homeschooled. One is an introvert, the other an extravert. Katie is very social. She loves crowds of people. After telling her that, she agreed that yes, it must just be a personality thing. Emily is much like her dad - happier around fewer people than many. Besides that, Emily gets plenty of interaction with kids her age during gymnastics practices six hours a week, not to mention co-op, church, family, and neighborhood friends that she's with almost daily. So that conversation ended.
The next conversation has been a thorn in my side. Everyone is always skeptical over socialization with homeschool families. However, this next conversation is really hard for me to sweep under the rug. I'm praying for God's guidance here - either to let it go, or speak up.
Melanie and I have a mutual friend who homeschooled for many years. She enrolled them in school this fall and recently brought them back home. Melanie said that maybe the kids weren't "smart enough" for public school. To save her life, she could not imagine any other reason why their parents would bring them back home. How sad to think that a mind could be so finite, so small. That she couldn't imagine the joy a teaching parent receives when her children learn to read, write, and solve math problems - all because she taught them how to. Or the many other joys in homeschooling, like reading together, making & eating meals together, going on field trips. Or just knowing her children are safe and not being picked on for having big hair or off-brand clothes. I could go on. Then again, this same friend always looked forward to seeing the big yellow bus. So the idea of being together all day every day, is probably overwheling to her.
Melanie carelessly and thoughtlessly spoke the words that many others think. She undermined my family's choice to homeschool. And she neglected to acknowledge the countless hours I put into planning lessons and teaching them. All in saying just three words: "not smart enough." Homeschooling is time-consuming. We don't just hang out all day - we actually work! And we work hard. Does she think that my kids are stupid? Even on our worst days we learn plenty. Does she think that all homeschooled kids are not "smart enough?" And based on other comments, I know she thinks I'm not qualified to teach, especially high school.
When Melanie suggested that our mutual friend's kids weren't smart enough, I responded by saying that it's quite possible that her kids weren't being challenged. Many homeschooled kids are used to doing more work during school hours (thus no homework), so they may have been bored at school. Of course, that was not a reasonable explanation Melanie's eyes. After all, she said, if the kids were not challenged enough, then they could have been bumped up a grade or enrolled in "gifted" classes.
At that point, it wasn't worth my effort to continue the conversation. No matter what I had to say, Melanie's closed mind wasn't going to open up. And that makes me sad. I'm sad because I now know that a close Christian friend not only doesn't support our choice to homeschool, but she also believes I'm homeschooling stupid kids.
This one is really hard for me to let go and I'm praying that God helps me because my stomach literally turns just thinking about it. I'm not usually one to care much about what others think. But for some reason, this got under my skin and I can't shake it so easily.