I was homeschooled. It was pretty cool. Can we stop with the dominant narrative that it is awful?

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Last month, this post and various posts relating to it made the rounds on the internet. I don’t think I need to tell you my reaction; if you’ve been paying attention at all you’ve figured out I’m a sex-positive feminist. What happened at that girl’s prom is bullshit.

What interests me more right now is the reactions to the post. They’ve been varied, but something I’m seeing pop up now and again — and by “now and again” I mean “pretty often” — is the reaction of “It was a homeschool group, so of COURSE this makes sense — they’re all religious fundamentalist nuts.”

In fact, it seems that nowadays whenever the word “homeschooling” is even breathed online people are quick to jump all over it as the worst experience ever: religiously repressive, misogynistic, downright abusive. And when I’ve responded to that with “That is not my experience at all, nor the experience of many of the other people I know who have been homeschooled,” it’s made clear that my experience doesn’t matter — because what does matter, apparently, is that people from the South and Eastern United States will assume all those horrible things when I say homeschooling. So I should prepare myself for their responses. Even after I’ve explained that’s not the universal experience. I understand, of course, that there ARE homeschooling cultures that are like that, but it’s not everywhere.

It doesn’t matter that I explain this. The people with these reactions have already made up their minds. They have already decided that homeschooling is bad — and because they haven’t seen any evidence to the contrary (ie, people like me telling our stories), they have trouble believing it.

I can’t speak for others with positive homeschooling experiences, but for myself I haven’t done any big reveal on it because…it was a good experience. I felt no need to process past events via writing, as I often do with my trauma and abuse. It was one of the good parts of my life. So, naturally, I tend to carry the assumption that if I do mention in passing I was homeschooled, or that I plan on homeschooling my kids, the first reaction from folks won’t be to jump on me and tell me homeschooling is awful and I should reconsider doing it because it is categorically awful, no exceptions ever. This is a logical assumption on my part: before the majority of my interactions were on the internet, they were in person, on the West Coast or Hawai’i — places where people don’t have those sorts of biases against homeschooling.

Now, though, if I mention I was homeschooled I have to immediately launch into qualifications: “It’s different out west; it wasn’t religious at all; my mom is a Buddhist; it was totally secular.” And people still sideeye me like I’m the creature from the fundamentalist lagoon. Heavens forfend I mention wanting to homeschool (or unschool) my future spawn — then I’m a terrible parent who’s going to set up my children for years of therapy! Pretty impressive that I’m breaking all the Good Mom Rules, seeing as I’m not even a parent yet.

So, can we stop? Can we stop with the POV of the South and Eastern United States as being the dominant narrative? And maybe the Midwest too; those terms are sort of nebulous to me, to be honest. One thing I do know, as a resident of the West: in conversations online with United Statesians further east from this coast, on any topic, more often than not my experiences and opinions are consistently dismissed. “Well it’s not the MAJORITY,” I get told. Because “majority” apparently equals not only USian, but eastern USian.

(I see this sort of attitude directed towards west coasters in the US, too — not just Canadians. And yes, of course, not every eastern USian does this — but enough do that I’ve noticed a pattern. One that is tiring me out greatly.)

Dear people who have been homeschooled in really sucky or even abusive situations:

I am sorry. I really am. No one should ever have to go through that, and I understand you might have a kneejerk reaction to the word “homeschooling.”

But it would be really, really great if you could remember that regional (and individual!) differences play a huge role in determining how much homeschooling is going to suck or not suck — and out West, at least in my experience, homeschooling is largely seen as a positive, secular experience done by forward-thinking parents.

I’m not going to tell you your experience was positive, or your parents were forward-thinkers. I’m not going to tell you your experience.

Please stop telling me mine.

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