I want to tell my friends who send their kids to school to STOP STOP STOP this is crazy. Ours will be the last generation of educated parents to send their kids to public school. How will you explain to your kids that you didn’t see that school is a waste of time? Will you say everyone else was doing it? Really? STOP STOP STOP!!!

But I don’t say that. I listen patiently when parents tell me about neglected genius math students, violent gym classes and wayward IEPS. I profess empathy even though I am so much better in lecture mode than empathy mode.

We went to music camp in Seattle with friends, a boy and a girl who are the same ages as my sons. I love the kids. The girl is so much like me:  scattered, indignant, creative, bright. She is most endearing to me when she is spacing out.

I think to myself, “She needs to get out of school.” But I love her mom. So I don’t say it.

Once I tried to tell her mom what to do, how to run her life. And her mom said, “You think you are so smart and you can save the whole world by telling them what to do, but you can’t.”

And she’s right. And I love her for saying that to me. And I love her for forgiving me.

So I keep my mouth shut about school. And I am so happy traveling with them.

Tonight I found a family that makes videos together. They made a video about sending kids to school. It’s absurd. It’s everything we talk about on this blog, especially how parents use school for babysitting, not education.

The video was so well done, so I started digging in a little, and I realized that the family makes a lot of really fun videos. I saw one about when the dad had an hour to clean up the house before his wife got home, and he made a video instead. I love this video. Watch it!

I thought to myself: this guy is so fun. My husband would like to hang out with him.

And that’s really how I get along with my friends who send their kids to school. I focus on something else. It’s hard, but I do it because the truth is that none of my close friends homeschool. And I don’t know how they stay friends with me when they read this blog.

So I focus on the good. Focusing on the good is not something I consciously teach my kids, but it’s a survival skill they have to know if you also teach your kids to go against the grain.

36 replies
  1. Karelys
    Karelys says:

    It’s good social skills. And like you’ve said many times before, it takes you farther in life.

    I’ve adopted the mantra that unless there’s harm, like abuse, being done, I should just practice listening and saying “okay. What else?”

    I focus on the significant things I can connect with the other person. And we rarely touch the topics that we dissent so much on.

  2. Nick Lush
    Nick Lush says:

    I’m 39 and only got my Asperger’s diagnosis a couple of months ago.
    I think there are double standards – people are very quick to find fault in things I do but get very offended/aggressive if I make suggestions!

    • karelys
      karelys says:

      Ouch Nick! sorry you feel like that’s a constant in your experience.

      I am wondering if it has more to do with your Asperger’s than the fact you make suggestions. Aspies can be super direct and sometimes not know how to make suggestions in such a way that doesn’t feel like a punch to the gut. That may be the reason why people feel so defensive towards your suggestions.

      And you could be surrounded by assholes that do not know how to suggest something without being mean to you.

      Remember that most of the time you have a chance to just walk away from people like that! don’t force yourself, just because, to be surrounded by people that don’t built you up.

  3. Jor
    Jor says:

    What a bunch of bull. Where’s the data. To say home schooling is categorically better than a classroom setting is dangerous and an ill service. Get the facts, don’t preach.

      • karelys
        karelys says:

        I love your name!

        I forced myself to write my real name because I wanted to be accountable for the things I say online.

        And … well…. because I wasn’t that creative at the time. But when I see an awesome internet name I wish I had a good one too!

  4. Commenter
    Commenter says:

    “Ours will be the last generation of educated parents to send their kids to public school. ”
    -P. Trunk

    No, we won’t be the last generation of educated parents to send our children to public school. Traditions continue long, long after their utility evaporates.

    “Nobody ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public.”
    -H.L. Mencken

    • jessica
      jessica says:

      I think ‘educated’, in the new sense, parents will be sending their kids to specialized private schools, if they need it. I don’t see the middle upper income/net worth generation continuing to use a public school model.

  5. Linda
    Linda says:

    The need for babysitting during the work day will continue.

    The need for education jobs will continue. Education is a jobs program.

    All manner of vested interests are at work. Just as we can not have a cure for cancer, too many jobs depend on it.

    • jessica
      jessica says:

      Entrepreneurs tend to meet other entrepreneurs, due to the schedule and how one spends their time.

      We tend to meet other unschooling families when we are out doing things during the normal school day times or in the evening when we don’t need to rush to bed. We’ve come across many at museums, parks and just recently while we were out for a late night dinner at a pseudo park/restaurant.

      I’m still friends with many that don’t unschool/homeschool and I don’t find it much of a problem; everyone is really interested in the concept. As time has gone on though, due to the nature of unschooling we’ve made more friends that are doing what we’re doing which makes the feeling of being the rebel or underdog or outsider much much less.

      I don’t think I would have just jumped into it based on someone else’s personal experience- I needed to learn for myself what was right for my family and kids and our schedule. Especially, since PS is still the norm and you wouldn’t necessarily go against the grain unless you had an educated reason to.

      Every family that we know that currently un/home schools did try private and public schooling first- so I can’t blame the parents that do send their children.

    • karelys
      karelys says:

      Many times when Penelope writes I can see that her life experience is what shapes her strong opinions and statements.

      As an immigrant I can see that there will always be the next wave of immigrants chasing some sort of security and safety. That’s not even talking about the people who have been here for generations and haven’t figured out that stability and safety.

      So no, school like we know it won’t go away any time soon because a 9-5 job will always mean some sort of safety and stability to somebody. And then, these are going to be the newly “educated” people.

      The educated people that Penelope talks about are the people who have had generations and generations of actual education and it has been refined. She often refers to her great grandpa begin a lawyer for Al Capone so he would keep expensive books trying to make a shortcut for class. Like newly rich people who have all kinds of couture label clothing and cars and mansions. They are trying really hard to send the message that they are not poor. But it’s so obvious that they are trying so hard, the reason must be is because they are newly rich. But the people that have been rich forever in generations tend to be much more demure in their appearance. Unless you’re part of their circle you can’t tell that their tag less dress is priced at $3000. That the simple t-shirt they are wearing is probably made by unicorn tears and angel hair and it costs about $1000. They don’t need to announce it because they are secure in it.

      And so, in that manner, the ones that have enjoyed education in their family have the luxury to refine and redefine it. They don’t need Ivy League degrees just as a stamp of approval. If they go to college is because they need it. But not just so they’ll be legit.

      They don’t need to be sent to school to be on top of the hill so that people can see them. Because they are so secure in it.

      That crop of “educated people” and the deviants (those who don’t conform to the norm) will be the ones to chuck school. There will always be someone buying Prada purses and seeking a 9-5 job and feeling so blessed by it.

    • redrock
      redrock says:

      no, we don’t have a cure for cancer because it is a very complex disease. And because it is not one disease with a single origin/cause, but many with multiple origins rooted deeply in the regulation of cell activity.

      • Jen
        Jen says:

        As someone who spent several years working in cancer research, thank you. This is exactly why we don’t have an overall cure. In fact, as cancer is the body’s own cells gone rogue, it is sometimes impossible to remove or ablate the cancer without killing its host. We’re not money-grubbing parasites (in fact, I never made more than $40,000/year, even with a PhD). There is no conspiracy. In fact, the jobs are already leaving because our national budget now goes to military spending.

  6. Jana Miller
    Jana Miller says:

    I’ve learned that talking about homeschooling is a lot like talking about religion-it’s best to only talk about it with people who share your same views. And that’s what I like about the internet. The people who really want to make the switch-they can get the info they need. Keep doing what you are doing girl!,

      • Erin
        Erin says:

        Jana – I clicked your link and perused your website. I love your drawing project! Would have told you there, but I didn’t see any way to comment. Are you on twitter or instagram?


    • karelys
      karelys says:

      haha yes!

      I made mistake to talk about personal choices (anything from labor, to circumcision, etc.) when I first found out this crazy amazing amount of information about it.

      I was excited!

      I thought I was doing the right thing!

      I was blinded to the fact that when you talk about your choices like it’s the right way to do things you’re essentially telling everyone they are morons who chose wrong. It didn’t sit well with people.

      I am amazed I still have friends.

      • DB
        DB says:

        Please add breastfeeding to that list. Or rather, not breastfeeding. Breastfeeding was a disaster for me with kid #1 (and yes, I had 2 lactation consultants and tried everything). It was one of the happiest days of my life when I switched over purely to formula and stopped making myself feel guilty about it.

        And guess what? It turns out that formula feeding does NOT have any long-term health implications per the study earlier this year that took a new approach in order to eliminate the socioeconomic bias of previous studies: http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/03/04/is-breast-feeding-really-better/?_php=true&_type=blogs&_r=0

        So, is breastfeeding probably better somehow? Probably, but the science backs me up that formula feeding is fine. The combination of the research plus maintaining my sanity means that for me, formula wins.

        Is homeschooling likely better too? Yes, mostly likely it is. The combination of my research (mostly this blog) plus my maintaining my sanity is…inconclusive so far. We’re in one of the best school districts in the country so we’re going to at least give it a try at school first when kid #1 is ready to start in a few years (currently she’s three).

        Regardless of the topic, though, I really, deeply appreciate it when people demonstrate a basic grasp of good manners by not trying to make me feel terrible about my choices.

  7. karelys
    karelys says:

    And Penelope, I am almost sure the Farmer won’t care to be friends with the video dad. The video dad seems to work really hard to seem cool and I don’t think the Farmer cares for that very much.

    When I suggest my husband who he should befriend he smiles and nods and then makes it a point to never contact that person. Then I take note of the guys he makes real friendships with and I am like “Why!?”

    He normally says “he’s funny as I’ll get out!”

    Normally my husband needs someone that can challenge him to play golf better, essentially have the mentality agility for sparring with him, and I can’t tell why else he picks his friends. But he categorizes them in nice people, interesting people for networking purposes, the guys I want to watch football/play poker/practice golf with.

    So I just stopped suggesting friends based on what I find useful/interesting. But if there’s a good networking opportunity I say “you should call them back and accept their invite to golf with them. Seriously. Do it!”

    So far he hasn’t.

    Because he’s a man and even though I make all the sense in the world he can’t be told what to do. Because he’s a man!

  8. Amy Axelson
    Amy Axelson says:

    I stopped hanging out with parents of school-aged kids a while ago (I have a lot of kidless friends now too). I like my life as a parent much better this way.

  9. Erin
    Erin says:

    Penelope – Immediately after I read this post, I thought, “This is my favorite post of hers in awhile.” Pointing out flaws is easy. Analyzing flaws and providing solutions is challenging. But understanding how to focus on the good and why it’s ok to overlook flaws, that is monumental. Sometimes we need to be pushed to be better. But sometimes we need to be encouraged to appreciate what’s right in front of us.

    And the truth is: we’re all a mixed bag of good and bad anyways.


  10. HomeschoolDad
    HomeschoolDad says:

    Increasingly our friends are homeschool families. It’s kind of hard to be friends with people when your lives are COMPLETELY different. One thing that is brutal is how all the school parents see us and instantly go into *complain about school/teachers* mode as if we should automatically be sympathetic.

  11. Ariane
    Ariane says:

    I love the IDEA of homeschooling, but just like the parents in that video I got NOTHING done this summer. I have no clue how people can concentrate working from their home office with little kids running around and interrupting them all day. I tried it this year and it was madness.

    My kids current private school has very small classes (1:7 teacher-student ratio) and uses the French national curriculum so I think that prevents many of the problems you cite through your blog. I’ve contemplated that I’m just paying for expensive babysitting, but I’m okay with that because they are BETTER BABYSITTERS than me. And when my kids come home I can love and snuggle them with full attention instead of yelling at them to be quiet so I can make phone calls all day. Also, I’m an INFJ, but both my kids are extroverts. They whined all summer about having no kids to play with and now they come home from school smiling every day.

    I agree with you that the public school system is a failure, and if my financial situation changed I would definitely figure out a way to homeschool them before I’d send them to public school. Their first school was a public charter and it was so awful I pulled them out mid-year.

    • jessica
      jessica says:

      P has a nanny, if I remember correctly.

      I don’t think anyone works and takes care of kids full-time without help.

  12. mahlia
    mahlia says:

    Hi penelope,
    I am new to your blog and stumbled across your posts about homeschool. I totally relate. I have a 17 and 20 year old, I homeschooled them for several years, my eldest also attended a Waldorf School and my youngest has attended public and is now in a parochial school (not my idea.) My experience is that none of the school settings was ideal — if I had it my way I would have homeschooled both for all 12 years. I recently wrote an essay on my view that school shouldn’t suck that you might appreciate: http://rockymountainmiamian.blogspot.com/2014/08/school-shouldnt-suck.html
    Thanks for sharing your experience.

  13. Tracy
    Tracy says:

    Your friend must be an absolute saint to put up with you! It sounds like good diversity.

    Somehow this post makes me happy for you. I often wonder about the loneliness of homeschooling, particularly for you. When I switched from working for companies to freelancing the biggest thing I missed was the office – the guaranteed assembly of people with no action required from me. Always people on hand to talk to, learn from, bitch about. Now I have some equivalents, but it always takes effort from me. School is like that – the community is guaranteed to assemble by pre-arranged agreement. I imagine homeschoolers always have to put in effort to get the equivalent, which leads me to wonder how the introverts cope.

    • Commenter
      Commenter says:

      I think you might have accidentally typed “introverts” in place of “extroverts” in your last sentence, Tracy.

      It sounds like you are an extrovert suffering from the lack of perpetual company. You see the workplace and the school as a community that keeps you involved and happy.

      This isn’t the way an introvert sees things. Introverts have to put in effort to deal with being in groups of people all day long. When you are not associating with these people by choice, and have little in common with them – as is the case in a public school classroom -it is even harder. It was the most difficult part of my career, which I left just as I was being thrust into management.

      My introverted son is much, much happier homeschooling. He no longer gets exhausted by days stuck in groups of people he doesn’t like, gets to concentrate on things he wants to work on without interruption, and can spend his social energy on people he cares for.

      He sees other kids, and other homeschoolers, every day – just not _all_ day, and not ill-behaved mobs. We avoid public school groups like the plague when we’re out and about.

      We’re on vacation this week, having a great time riding our bikes around, playing on the beach, seeing shows, and eating at nice restaurants, and it just now occurred to me that my son likely won’t speak to another child all week, and probably won’t ever notice that fact, let alone miss it. That’s what it’s like to be a home-schooled introvert.

      • Jen
        Jen says:

        I would have loved homeschooling so much. I’m far over toward the introverted side of the spectrum and school was absolutely exhausting for me, both from dealing with peer politics and boring school work. Unfortunately, by the time I finally escaped each day, I was too worn out to pursue my own interests. Quite frankly, work was just as mentally/emotionally exhausting. I’m finally working out of my home as a freelancer. I spend my days by myself and my evenings with my husband and friends/family of my choosing rather than an enforced peer group (listening to my family/friends bitch about their coworkers constantly reminds me why I don’t miss the workplace) and/or pursuing pet projects. This is the happiest and least stressed I’ve been since I was 3 or 4 and at home with my mom all day (I’m 36).

  14. jessica
    jessica says:

    ..My introverted son is much, much happier homeschooling. He no longer gets exhausted by days stuck in groups of people he doesn’t like, gets to concentrate on things he wants to work on without interruption, and can spend his social energy on people he cares for…

    This sounds more like an ideal human condition, than intro vs extro.

  15. Crystal Richards
    Crystal Richards says:

    I’m sure you have even had some of these parents say something like, “Oh, your so lucky you homeschool,” as they are complaining about school issues. I know I have ant that it is the absolute hardest thing for me not to bite into and start explaining why they should also, but I refrain.

  16. Mel
    Mel says:

    I could not agree with you more about how hard it is when your closest friends don’t homeschool. That’s why a lot of us gravitate to homeschool blogs. I don’t really need the information they contain, I just want the community.

    It drives me nuts when my friends tell me they are envious that I spent a (week) day in Yellowstone with my kids. Or that we went on a three week camping trip in Utah. Take your kids out of school, and you can do it, too. (I know I am fortunate to work wherever there is Internet, but if I can set myself up for that, almost anyone can.)

    I’m ranting. It’s best to keep your mouth shut, but it’s hard!

  17. Karl Bielefeldt
    Karl Bielefeldt says:

    Explaining homeschooling is often like trying to explain the outdoors to someone who has stayed inside a windowless building their entire life. You try to explain how great the sun is, but they can’t stop thinking how it can’t possibly be that great if you can’t even turn it on and off when you want. Their experience limits their perception.

    Then there are others who live in a building with windows. They see you out there and are jealous of your experience, but don’t think they have what it takes to leave the safety of the walls, so they make up excuses to help themselves feel better about their choice.

    The first group, I just smile and nod most of the time, although occasionally it’s fun to stir the hornet’s nest. The second group, I can share more experiences with, correct misconceptions, and be encouraging.

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