I talk with a lot of you so I know there are an inordinate number of people who homeschool their kids because their kids are training for the Olympics, or are prodigies in chess or music…. the type of kids who are extremely specialized and do their thing all day and schedule tutors after their special thing. Of course there are a lot of those people. I was one of them.
But the majority of homeschoolers started because they felt like they don’t fit in with the schools. I’m one of those as well. That’s how I started. Of course that’s the majority: If we feel like we fit in then we would not take our kids out. We would feel like school is so great and those are our people. And you can’t take your kid out of school unless the kid feels like their not a good fit. Kids who love their friends and feel at home in school won’t leave.
Leaving somewhere we don’t belong is a natural human tendency. Seeking out somewhere to belong is natural as well. And part of a homeschooling curriculum must include that: How to find a place to belong. This is a life skill. And even if we as parents have accepted that we’re bad at it doesn’t mean it’s okay to let our kids be isolated.
I have known this from the beginning. It’s why there is a category in the navigation called fitting in is good. It’s why I always took pictures of Z in a group at the end of recitals – because there are so few times when my kids were in a group and smiling. I’ve tried to do as much as I can to counter balance how many people who meet my kids think their mom is too difficult to deal with.
I make rules for myself.
1. Join things that look scary or unappealing to join. So what if you don’t want to. People have to join stuff to fit in. That’s life. It’s why humans did not go extinct.
2. Find something you love and find the people who can do it with you. Don’t decide it’s solitary. Even Georgia O’Keefe couldn’t be a great painter in a solitary life without first creating an art-world network for herself.
3. My kid is an introvert is not an excuse. Introverts are not people who don’t like people. Introverts are people who recharge alone. Everyone likes people and everyone needs to connect with people. Introverts need to recharge AFTER being with people, but they don’t need to be alone all day.
4. When a kid decides to stay home and do things alone all the time that’s quitting. That’s deciding they don’t feel like they belong and they’re quitting. But it’s quitting the world around them. It’s enticing for a parent who has already done the same thing (Hello, autism) to say great, let’s do that together. But it’s not fair to the kid.
Homeschooling is ultimately about helping a kid find out where they belong. That might sound radical, but most of the US is considering quitting their job right now because they don’t feel a strong sense of belonging. This is why people quit. This is what makes people think what they are doing doesn’t matter.
The classic picture of autism is someone who is really happy doing what they are interested in all by themselves all the time but wishes they were not so lonely. The opposite of autism is belonging.