I’ve just discovered another cool homeschooling/mom blog, Blessed Among Men. (Thanks to Karen E.) And it was a bit of a strange and humbling experience to discover my own blog on her blogroll. I forget sometimes I have readers I don’t even know about. It still seems odd to me that anyone besides my mom and my sister read my blog.
Anyway, this post really spoke to me. I spent so much of my childhood worried about being uncool, worried about what other children thought of me, certain that when a group of girls was laughing and I wasn’t in on the joke, they were laughing at me.
I’m more and more certain that homeschooling is right for me. And this post points to yet another reason why I’m drawn to it. But what really grabs me is how she uses an experience in her home as a springboard for reflection and how far it takes her.
I thought a moment about how different I was at Simeon’s age. While I have many good memories of my elementary school years in the public school system, it seems I remember being fully aware of what was cool and what was not cool. I remember, also, being aware of who was cool and who was not cool. The pressure to conform to these standards of coolness only grew stronger in later years, but it was already present in the third grade and beginning to shape my thoughts and desires.
Simeon does not know anything about this pressure. He’s never learned to look down on children younger than himself (like I did) or despise the things that entertain them. Neither does he know the slang meanings of certain words (like I did) or that some people use these words to hurt others. In his world, the word gay means happy and I am happy it does. I am happy my boys have the freedom to express themselves freely and naturally. I’m happy that they do not feel pressure (like I did) to conform to standards that are not their family’s.
It is good to be in touch with one’s culture and to belong to a larger community, and I want that for my children. For now, however, I think our family, our large extended family, and very large pool of friends (both inside and outside the homeschooling crowd) is “larger community” enough for my young sons. And, unlike popular culture as it is most often found, our children really are loved and cared about by everyone in our larger community. They have every reason to feel that they will always belong and that they are unconditionally accepted here.
There will come a day when our community is no longer large enough for my children and they will need to find their way in the world. When that day comes, I hope we will have trained them well enough to know how to fit in without compromising what I hope will have become their own standards. It is with that day in mind that I will teach Simeon that gay, meaning happy, is no longer a word in common use and I will help him to find a few synonyms. Living a counter-cultural life of faith is difficult enough without adding unnecessary quirks that are bound to rub people the wrong way. I wouldn’t be doing my children any favors by completely neglecting to instruct them in a sense of style, speech, and manner that is somewhat in keeping with the larger culture to which we all belong.
So, while I readily and happily admit that we are not cool—as defined by many a third grader—I like to think that we are developing in our children a naturalness, a confidence, a sense of taste, and a more classic, more perennial style that will serve them well in any place or decade.