The other day I got into a discussion with a salesman at Lowe’s. He was originally a French speaker and he taught Emily a few words in French. The discussion then turned to homeschooling and he commented on the large number of people he had encountered that were homeschooling.
“The children, they are so well-spoken and comfortable talking to adults,” he said, “They all seem so advanced for their age and many go from homeschool straight to college.” He shook his head, “If I ever have children, I would like to homeschool, but I don’t know if I would be good at it. You have to be patient and…” he shrugged then and gestured with his hands.
Homeschooling can be incredibly intimidating. Boy oh boy, do I get that.
I smiled at him, “I’m not a patient person, not at all.” I said, “We are unschoolers, which means that in many cases, the learning opportunities are child-led. Emily asks questions, and in the course of answering the questions, we follow the path to other things. You might also have heard them referred to as unit studies.”
He grinned, his eyes lighting up with excitement as I explained further. “We are listening to the Classical Kids series of CDs right now – Beethoven Lives Upstairs, Tchaikovsky Visits America and more. They are fictional stories, that include historical fact and teach classical composer and instrument recognition while entertaining kids. Emily will often hear a piece of music and recognize it as Beethoven or Tchaikovsky’s work. And this leads to a discussion perhaps on geography – where is this Vienna they speak of in the CD? Or what does Russia look like? Later we can branch into capitols and more info regarding geography – or even branch into historical events such as wars.”
He smiled at me and said, “I admire you! What you are doing, it is, it is…” He waved his arms again, saying without words his excitement at the concept of homeschooling.
“You can do this too, if you really want to.” I said to him, “Honestly, she teaches me more than I teach her. Every day I learn something new because she asks a question and I am looking to help her find an answer. She’s the inspiring one.” I continued, “And think about this. We are all lifelong learners. When you came here, did you have a teacher? Or did you learn a lot of things about your job, or how to live in this country by trial and error? You learned it, on your own. And that is what we all do. It is our natural state.”
He had customers to deal with, so that is where our conversation ended. I hope it gives him something to think about in the weeks and months to come.
As for me, I am learning more and more how to talk to a variety of people – public school teachers (one of whom was surprisingly positive about homeschooling), non-parents, even acrimonious postal workers (it’s been a couple of years, but that conversation still rankles me). I try to look for common ground. It isn’t hard to find if you keep your heart and ears open.
How do you talk to people about homeschooling? What do you say (or not say)?