By Laurette Lynn
I am an Independent Educator. What is that? Well to help you understand, the more common term is “homeschooler”. But the problem is that I don’t think the term homeschooler really exemplifies what we do. Sure, people are familiar with the term, and everyone seems to think they know exactly what that means but many don’t.
It’s been nearly a decade that we’ve been doing what we do and in my experience it has become evident that most folks really do not truly understand. Therefore, I decided that a new term was needed in order to better describe what it is our family does (you know, us strange folks that don’t send our kids to school). We tried ‘Autodidacts’ for a while, but it seemed to just cause more confusion! So, I’ve adapted the term “Independent Education” and that is what we call ourselves around here…. “Independent Educators.”
I still find myself having to use the word homeschool in many conversations but while it is the accepted term, I just don’t like it. I think it’s unfairly confusing to the typical person who has not had a chance to glance inside the world of home-schoolers. This confusion has lead to the dumbfounded stares from our family members when we first announced our intentions to educate at home, and the ‘tsk’ sounds from neighbors who appear to instantly feel sorry for our poor kids. It also generates this seemingly insatiable need that strangers have to perform ‘random’ tests on our children to ensure that they are indeed learning something (as if it’s their job to assess this).
The general lack of understanding also perpetuates the never-ending line of questioning about socialization (how will the children learn to get along with other humans if they are ‘homeschooled’), not to mention, the baffled receptionists at dance class, gymnastics and other kids activities when we write homeschool on the line where it says school on the registration forms. Oh yes, all this is due to a wide misunderstanding of exactly what it is we homeschoolers do. So maybe it’s time for a new term?
See, I’ve come to the conclusion that it is the term itself that causes the misunderstanding. It could be the word home that is confusing and causes people to automatically picture lonely, pale children learning in a make-shift classroom literally inside their house. The reality is that while some learning does indeed happen inside the house, a great deal of it takes place everywhere and that includes outside the house and among other people. The idea is that the word home means with the family, not inside the house! But most folks just don’t seem to see it that way.
Or it could be the word school that makes me uncomfortable and causes the problem. This is because what we do, is not schooling. In fact, parents such as myself have made a deliberate decision to not use school as a learning atmosphere for our kids. While it’s true we all made this decision for a vast variety of different reasons , the fact remains that we made a deliberate decision to avoid the school environment. We chose to provide a learning experience for our children that was outside of, different than, and independent of school.
What my family practices is learning. It is exploring and experiencing the world, understanding how it operates and applying what we’ve learned in order to learn more and grow and evolve… it is not something that exclusively takes place inside the house and it really has nothing to do with school at all.
So you can clearly see that what the homeschooler does is really not about schooling nor does it always take place literally at home. It’s a common term, a most-used term, but in my opinion a weak term.
The good news is, that by our very nature parents like me are indeed outside-the-lines kinds of people so we can use whatever term we like and there isn’t any board or headquarters that can make us do otherwise.
Call it what you will… in fact I encourage anyone to invent their own terms for their own individual family dynamic… around here, we call it Independent Education.
I realize that not everyone makes the same choice as I did to avoid school. So just keep in mind, just as there is a great deal to be learned outside the house….there’s lots to be learned outside of that classroom.
It’s all about learning so, go learn!