I have homeschooled my kids for the majority of their lives and while I have no idea whether or not I have done a good job, I do know that I have some outrageously great kids who are notorious for doing the right thing, telling the truth, and being 100% who they are. At the end of last year I put my kids in public school and immediately things started to change. When my kids told the truth, they were criticized by their peers. When they wore mismatched clothes, they were laughed at. And when my middle child wore Ninja Turtle and Spider-Man stuff, she was repeatedly teased for wearing “boy clothes”.
Last night we bought her a pair of camo pants which she said were “her life.” She was so excited to wear them this morning but when we got to school, she started to cry and asked if she could go home and change because everyone was going to make fun of her and tell her she was a boy. I reassured her that lots of awesome boys AND girls wear camo every single day in our military and she should be proud to wear camo just like them. She said, “I know! But everyone is still going to make fun of me.” She made her way to her class despite her fear and I left wondering why we throw our kids into these institutions where they are broken down, where they completely lose who they are for fear of being left out, where they’d rather change than be laughed at, where they are criticized for telling the truth (tattling, as it were), where they lose friends for doing the right thing. I came to realize that our public schools are really just perpetuating society’s bigger problems and generation after generation is taught to conform, conform, conform! It’s appalling. It’s a problem.
When I homeschooled my kids, everyone told me I was doing them more harm then good by pulling them from such a crucial social environment. I was overprotective, they said. I was sheltering them. But they were wrong. I was giving them freedom. I was letting them think for themselves, be themselves. I reinforced and rewarded telling the truth and being kind. And I created social networks for them that were peaceful and loving, that honored diversity and acceptance. And yes, I know people are reading this thinking, “But that’s not how society is and you are damaging them by not exposing them to the realities of society.” But I don’t think my kids need exposure as much as I think society needs to change. I mean, why should we just accept society’s cruel nature as some inherent truth? Society is moldable. Society CAN and WILL change according to what we put into it. We can make it better by putting better people into it; people with integrity, creativity, and good intentions. We really don’t have to accept things as they are. We don’t have to force our children to plunge, head first, into some vile, angry sea that will freeze and harden their hearts just because it’s what everyone else is doing. We don’t have to keep telling ourselves that it’s good for us. Because it’s not. It’s really not. We can do better than this. We can make the world a better, kinder place that doesn’t threaten us or our children so much. We can build a world that values kindness and truth, a world that doesn’t shut down new and interesting ideas. Because, the fact is, change doesn’t come from doing the same thing as everybody else. It’s only those that step outside the box who make a difference, who change the world. So I don’t know about you, but I’ll tell you this, we’re not going to be part of the problem. We are all about solutions up in here. So I’m getting the hell out of this stuffy, old, dilapidated box, like, NOW, and I’m taking my kids with me.