Sunday, June 24, 2007

Responding to a Comment

I received a comment very recently from a working mom and felt the topic deserved more discussion. Cathy's comment was posted here. This is what she wrote:

I've read your blog, and wonder how homeschooling is an option for parents who are not well-off enough to have the mother (or father) stay home. I'm putting my husband through full-time studies, so work full-time. My son will be going to public school because we are not rich, and I can't be home.

I appreciate that you are a champion for homeschooling, but I feel hurt that people like you make the rest of us, not of sufficient means, feel lousy for doing the best we can under the circumstances.

I love my son no less than a homeschooler loves her/his children. I'm glad you have the opportunity to homeschool -- you and your kids are blessed. Don't judge those of us who have to struggle, rent apartments instead of buy houses, live on a shoestring, and love our kids dearly. I participate in my son's learning, and feel that he'll do well because of it.

Don't underestimate the power of a parent who cares. It can make up for a lot that's lacking in the world. Your kids will not be superior to mine. They are just blessed in a different way.


And this is what I responded with:

Thanks for letting me know how you feel, what you think about my post. I can understand how you might feel that homeschoolers (especially the more vocal of us) may have an attitude of doing better for our children. I'm certainly not judging you or your choices or situation. I don't think most of us are trying to make others feel bad for not homeschooling.

I recognize that most parents are doing their best for their kids. We certainly aren't "well-off" and have made lots of sacrifices in order to have me stay home with the kids. If something were to happen to my husband's wage-earning (accident, illness, death), I would probably be forced to put my kids in school, at least for a while. But lack of money isn't really the main reason to not homeschool.

I'm not trying to imply that homeschoolers love their kids more. I do think that we tend to think more about the kind of education we want for our kids and we do try to do it ourselves, so we really do have to put thought into it. We don't always succeed. Not every hs'ed kid will go to Harvard or be a Spelling Bee champ. Most won't. That's not my goal, and that's perfectly fine with me. I just want them to come out ok at the end of their time with us.

And I agree that a parent's care can make a huge difference, all the difference, in a child's life. If I said or implied my kids will be superior, that wasn't the intent. A child in public school who has a parent as their champion, to make sure they are being educated to the best of the school's ability, not being pushed aside or labeled inaccurately and/or harmfully, not only gives that child a better education, but it tells the child they are important to their parents. Schools aren't always right.

I think that one reason homeschoolers tout (or brag about) hs'ing so much is because we're in the minority--maybe just 2% of all school-aged kids are hs'ed. We've got to be vocal, and we've got to support each other. The rest of the world doesn't do things our way and that can be hard.

I don't even think homeschooling would be the right or best choice for every parent or every child. I just wish there were more educational choices out there than there are now. I hope you understand where I'm coming from, and why I post about homeschooling. It's what we do, it's important to us, and I want to support other homeschoolers, and really other parents who are looking for ways to help their children with their education. Not all learning is done in a school.

Anyway, I hope you'll visit my blog again and maybe take something positive from it.



I think there's more to be said, but that was a lot for a comment.

To expand on Cathy's first sentence, sometimes people ask the question of affording to homeschool because they really do want to know how to make it work so they can consider it, or sometimes just to assuage their feelings of guilt (and I'm not making any guess as to Cathy's reason, just generalizing here) at not looking into homeschooling more seriously. Sometimes it can be an easy excuse in their minds to just say it's not something they can afford.

In her second paragraph, my expanded response would be to say that nobody can make you feel anything you don't want to feel about yourself. Or, as Eleanor Roosevelt once said, "No one can make you feel inferior without your consent." The majority of the industrial countries' children are in some form of government school. Should I feel lousy because I'm not doing that? A lot of homeschooling parents do worry that they might not be doing the right thing by homeschooling their kids. Every parent worries about the choices they make for their children. It's just the choices that are different.

Responding to the third paragraph, I don't consider myself and my children blessed by the opportunity to homeschool. I consider us to have made the best choice we felt we could make. Nobody gave us money and said, "Go homeschool your kids." Many homeschoolers rent an apartment or house, live paycheck-to-paycheck, work extra jobs, just like other families do. There are families with kids in school who also feel it's important to them that one parent stay home, rich, poor or in the middle. Are they judged in the same way as homeschooling families?

Every parent is in some way choosing to be involved in their child's learning, whether they are conscious of it or not. Choosing to help them with difficult homework or letting them struggle on their own; talking to teachers and guidance counselors about their child's progress, potential difficulties, or areas of great strength and how to deal with these issues, or not doing this; recognizing their learning style and seeing it doesn't mesh with how the teacher is teaching, and doing something about it, or not; encouraging their strengths outside of school, or not. You get the idea. Whether you like it or not, you're always involved. You can choose to leave it all to the schools, or you can pay attention and put your child first, fight to get them what they need. Again, generalizations, not directed at Cathy.

As to the last paragraph, I wouldn't even know what you mean when you use the word "superior." I think just about every child has areas of great strength, realized or not. "Superior" is a competitive word, and I'm not competing. I just want my kids to have fun, learn about themselves, have a love of learning, and become independent, thoughtful, caring and responsible adults.

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9 comments:

Barbara Frank said...

I think you gave her a measured, thoughtful response.

I meet a lot of homeschooling parents when I do conventions, and one who really struck me as being dedicated is a single mom who lives in the inner city of Chicago. She's a police officer working nights. She comes home each morning to homeschool her teen son. Her goal is to keep him out of the gangs and educate him well. I admire her so much!

Anonymous said...

I think you gave her a patronizing, self-indulgent response.

I do have one question: did somebody steal your eyebrows while you were sleeping, or was that a fashion choice? Just curious...

I feel comfortable asking that since I am quite certain that I can't *make* you feel badly in doing so!

bkmarcus said...

Anonymous trolls deserve deletion.

Silvia said...

Especially when they live in Keswick and are most likely Cathy or someone in her household. Who was it that said nobody is anonymous on the internet? Someone on cvillebloggers made the point nicely.

Dan Dright said...

If anonymity is your sole criterion for deletion, then by all means, allow the comment to stay. I think it makes my point nicely. And yes, I realize it is mean-spirited. That was part of the point.

It should be noted that I chose anonymous, by the way, since we share a computer and my wife was logged in. I didn't wish to go through the mishegas of signing out and signing in, so I chose the third radio button when I realized. I am fairly sure that you will think I am making this up, but sadly, it is the quotidian, boring truth. I actually came to visit this morning, logged in, in order to identify myself.

My opinions are all my own, by the way. Let the record also show that my wife has just asked that I make it clear that she has nothing to do with my posts, (including this one), and that she considers the matter closed between the two of you.

Finally, I find it rather droll that someone who can't be upset would go to the trouble of hunting down a commenter if she weren't.

All that aside, I believe you are wrong. One can do and say things that can cause others to be upset. And, if one is at all intelligent or intellectually honest, one is well aware that one is being provocative.

I came upon your blog the other day as I was looking through Cville blogs and was at first interested, since I have kicked around the idea of homeschooling. Instead of feeling, though, as though this might be a community I would be interested in being a part of, I was taken aback. Your posts were gravid with passive-agressive vitriol, simmering discontent. You seem to constantly put others down as well as prop yourself up.

A nice case in point is the post that I read the other day linking to a list of snappy answers to people who ask questions about homeschooling. I found them utterly infuriating. They were mean-spirited. They belittled parents and children who are involved in the public school system. I was blown away that you couldn't make your point positively, and rather felt the need to denigrate others in order to feel approbation.

As to the latter, I read with bemused amazement as you rattled on about all the languages you spoke or didn't speak. Are you afraid that your readers won't think you are well-educated enough to be a teacher for your children? Do you really need our approval?

I will still peruse sites that detail the ups and downs of homeschooling, but I hope to find them to be more objective, and more focused on the positives to be gained from such an undertaking.

You seem to be hung up on defending your choice when nobody is actively haranguing you, and that renders me suspect as to your actual reasons for doing it. I see a lot of ego invested in the endeavor, as well as more than a smattering of control issues on display.

At best, you give me pause, and a certain impetus to re-examine my own desire to homeschool. I would wish to make such a decision from a place of love rather than fear. I hope that I have misread you and that I am wrong. I truly do.

Please feel free to reply to me. I fully expect it. I am a big boy and I welcome the discourse. I would like nothing better than to be shown that I am wrong about you and about my first impressions of the homeschooling community.

For what it is worth, I sincerely apologize for the ad hominem attack implying trichitillomania or poor fashion sense.

Noel Derecki
540 842-7211 (cel)

Sarabeth said...

A nice case in point is the post that I read the other day linking to a list of snappy answers to people who ask questions about homeschooling. I found them utterly infuriating. They were mean-spirited. They belittled parents and children who are involved in the public school system. I was blown away that you couldn't make your point positively, and rather felt the need to denigrate others in order to feel approbation.

I often see your blog on the C'ville aggregator and noticed the same post referenced above. I agree with Dan Dright's comment regarding that.

I know many homeschoolers (not all here) who are not denigrating to others. It is simply what they chose to do. I can imagine that the single mother, working nights, who homeschools her son is an exception, not the rule.

It is possible to utilize the public school system and give your child instruction as well. My parents did it for years. The critical thinking that arose from differing points of view is quite valuable to me.

Supporting other homeschoolers is lovely, but your blog does more than that. Frequently, you do use quotes and cartoons that are meant to demean others.

Silvia said...

Wow, who gets the first response? I haven't deleted anybody's comments, first of all. I believe you, Dan/Noel, that you decided to hit the anonymous button, but really, you could have said, and hey, I'm Cathy's husband. But that was kind of obvious.

Your wife claims on her blog that I "baited" her into an argument--how? Did I go to her website and post a comment there to make her feel bad that she works and can't homeschool her child? No, she came to my site, read it and got upset. I don't know what kind of response she was thinking she'd get from me based on her comment to my blog post, but she claims it's what she expected. I thought my replies were honest and fair. She's since written me an email that I believe is an effort to end the attacks. That was nice of her, and I appreciate it.

There is a lot on the internet and elsewhere that I disagree with, and I let it go, or discuss it with my husband or a friend. If it's something I want to work to change then I try to do something about it, but I don't just vent on someone I don't know.

"Hunting down" a commenter was purely to satisfy my curiosity that it was you or your wife making a snarky comment. I wasn't upset by it. It actually made me laugh. And people who know me will verify that I do, indeed, have eyebrows. Or maybe I don't. Who knows, who cares?

As to the link to the list of answers to people who ask about homeschooling--they're funny, and homeschool parents or their children are often questioned or told what they're doing is wrong, by family or complete strangers, so these are one person's humorous take on the situation. I wasn't trying to make a point. You must have missed the post "Actual Homeschool Conversation." Even the "responses" in the "More Homeschool Humor" poked fun at homeschoolers more than they put down non-hs'ers. Have you never seen anyone make fun of homeschoolers? If you can't poke fun at yourself, you're taking yourself too seriously. I imagine there are similar potentially-offensive satires and jokes directed at stay-at-home-moms, working moms, college students, doctors, lawyers, the poor, the rich, Democrats, Republicans, you name it. Do you comment on any of those that might offend you as well?

You're obviously an intelligent person and can see what the potential benefits of a tailor-made education would be. Just because you don't like me and the foolishness of govt schools that I bring up doesn't mean you can't still consider homeschooling. Parents of public school students and their teachers all see problems with the school system the way it is now. Homeschoolers aren't the only ones pointing out these problems. Just look at NCLB and SOLs.

Which posts are "gravid with passive-agressive vitriol, simmering discontent?"

Sorry if it seemed like bragging or bolstering my ego to write about the languages I've studied. You'll notice, perhaps, some self-deprecation there. But some people do actually share my interest in foreign languages, so perhaps I should have prefaced my post warning others to not read it. I didn't know you were out there, so I wasn't writing to make you happy.

So to answer your two questions, no, I don't care whether anonymous people, or people I know, think I'm well-educated enough to hs my kids. I certainly don't need the approval of people I don't know. It's nice to know that family and friends support me (they haven't always, some probably still don't), but if I don't know you, how could I possibly know what you think, and then care about it? And why would I?

Maybe I am defending my choice to homeschool my kids, some people defend their right to bear arms--but on the other hand, it is obviously a subject I'm interested in, so I like to comment on it when I see an article in the news or some other tidbit that might be of interest to other homeschoolers.

Are you defending your choice to major in "Cognitive Science, concentrating in Neuroscience" or boosting your ego by blogging about "Everything you never wanted to know about the goings-on in the oh-so-happening field of neuroscience which is, by the way, short for 'neurotic scientists.' And if you believe that you are too dumb to be reading this blog so please move on." That's not condescending, is it? You make fun of Pat Robertson in your blog. You also say "I am running a blog here, and what sort of lame-ass blogger would I be if I didn't post the latest news." How is that different from my posting hs'ing news, or news on education in general? "I may not agree with what you say, but to your death I will defend your right to say it."

What control issues do you see, exactly?

Are you implying that my husband and I made the decision to homeschool from a position based in fear? We made it for many reasons, but in large part because we think it's more fun (for all of us) and better for our kids (because we love them).

I'm sure this hasn't changed your opinion of me. But my ego can handle it. And I don't believe there's anything sincere in your last three sentences. If you use some more big words, though, I might just become confused and give up.

laurie said...

You know, since we first had our children, and didn't place them in day care, and didn't put them in preschool, and then didn't put them in public school, people typically react to that by defending their choice to do those things. I don't say to them - why don't you do this. I just exist. And this provokes some people to defend their choice, to feel I'm putting down their choice, or to otherwise feel put down.

It's their problem, their issue. When people tell me I'm hurting my kids by not having them in school, I don't feel guilty, I don't feel second-guessed. I don't feel put-down. I feel that those people don't really have a clue and so their opinion is not valuable to me.

If your angry husband/wife readers really were happy about their choices, your comments wouldn't have bothered them. But, what they might be seeing is that they are putting the husband's desire for more education before the children's need for learning in freedom. And, actually, they could clearly have hubby in school, mom at work, and homeschool. Lots of people do such things. They just have to want it.

I don't care if they want it or not, but the reaction this couple gave you is like the reaction bottle feeders have to the very facts that formula is vastly inferior to breastmilk. Sorry that hurts your feelings, but a fact is a fact. And the fact is, public school is, on the whole, quite bad for kids. Period.

We're not rich either. By a long shot. In fact, the choices we've made since the births of our children have guaranteed that we won't have money to spare for some time to come. Well spent!

Dan Dright said...

I believe you, Dan/Noel, that you decided to hit the anonymous button, but really, you could have said, and hey, I'm Cathy's husband. But that was kind of obvious.

---Fair enough, good point

Your wife claims on her blog that I "baited" her into an argument--how? Did I go to her website and post a comment there to make her feel bad that she works and can't homeschool her child? No, she came to my site, read it and got upset. I don't know what kind of response she was thinking she'd get from me based on her comment to my blog post, but she claims it's what she expected. I thought my replies were honest and fair. She's since written me an email that I believe is an effort to end the attacks. That was nice of her, and I appreciate it.

There is a lot on the internet and elsewhere that I disagree with, and I let it go, or discuss it with my husband or a friend. If it's something I want to work to change then I try to do something about it, but I don't just vent on someone I don't know.


---I must admit, I find this confusing. It seems that you spend quite a bit of each day actively seeking out things that annoy you and then vent on your blog, which, because of the very nature of the Internet, is often on people you don't know. You invite people to comment, explicitly (in the sidebar to the right) and so the preceding simply doesn't pass the sniff test for me.

Anyway, I don't have the least qualm arguing about something on a blog. As I said, it is the nature of the Internet that invites such semi-anonymous discourse.

As to whether or not you baited my wife, I think you are arguing semantics. Of course nobody forced her to comment. Of course nobody made her read the post. Don't be absurd. What you are dancing around, and I am not sure why, is: that you may have written something that is meant to be diminishing of others. When somebody reacts, then you can plead innocence. That is the nature of passive-aggressive behavior.

I am just aggressive. So I say things, but I put my money where my mouth is. I also apologize when I have inadvertently hurt someone's feelings. On the flip side, I call bullshit when I see it.

"Hunting down" a commenter was purely to satisfy my curiosity that it was you or your wife making a snarky comment. I wasn't upset by it. It actually made me laugh. And people who know me will verify that I do, indeed, have eyebrows. Or maybe I don't. Who knows, who cares?

---I will take you at your word. Most people, particularly women, tend to bridle at comments directed towards their appearance. You are a rare exception. I meant to be mean. I'm sorry.

As to the link to the list of answers to people who ask about homeschooling--they're funny, and homeschool parents or their children are often questioned or told what they're doing is wrong, by family or complete strangers, so these are one person's humorous take on the situation. I wasn't trying to make a point. You must have missed the post "Actual Homeschool Conversation." Even the "responses" in the "More Homeschool Humor" poked fun at homeschoolers more than they put down non-hs'ers. Have you never seen anyone make fun of homeschoolers?

If you can't poke fun at yourself, you're taking yourself too seriously. I imagine there are similar potentially-offensive satires and jokes directed at stay-at-home-moms, working moms, college students, doctors, lawyers, the poor, the rich, Democrats, Republicans, you name it. Do you comment on any of those that might offend you as well?


---actually, yes, I do. What can I say. I don't generally object to

You're obviously an intelligent person and can see what the potential benefits of a tailor-made education would be.

I see some of the benefits, but I also have the humility, I think, to realize that there are things that others are better at teaching (some, many) things than I am. I think it also takes an intelligent person to utilize available resources in order to avail oneself (or one's children) of the best that can be offered. My way certainly isn't the best way all the time. And I don't always know best. So I am not sure it follows that homeschooling will always be the best option for us.

Just because you don't like me and the foolishness of govt schools that I bring up doesn't mean you can't still consider homeschooling. Parents of public school students and their teachers all see problems with the school system the way it is now. Homeschoolers aren't the only ones pointing out these problems. Just look at NCLB and SOLs.

Which posts are "gravid with passive-agressive vitriol, simmering discontent?"


Lots. You'll need to be somewhat self-reflective to pick them out.

Sorry if it seemed like bragging or bolstering my ego to write about the languages I've studied. You'll notice, perhaps, some self-deprecation there. But some people do actually share my interest in foreign languages, so perhaps I should have prefaced my post warning others to not read it. I didn't know you were out there, so I wasn't writing to make you happy.

---I don't believe much of this is sincere, so I won't comment except to mention that.

So to answer your two questions, no, I don't care whether anonymous people, or people I know, think I'm well-educated enough to hs my kids. I certainly don't need the approval of people I don't know. It's nice to know that family and friends support me (they haven't always, some probably still don't), but if I don't know you, how could I possibly know what you think, and then care about it? And why would I?

---You're right. You shouldn't give a rats ass what I think.

Maybe I am defending my choice to homeschool my kids, some people defend their right to bear arms--but on the other hand, it is obviously a subject I'm interested in, so I like to comment on it when I see an article in the news or some other tidbit that might be of interest to other homeschoolers.

---

Are you defending your choice to major in "Cognitive Science, concentrating in Neuroscience" or boosting your ego by blogging about "Everything you never wanted to know about the goings-on in the oh-so-happening field of neuroscience which is, by the way, short for 'neurotic scientists.' And if you believe that you are too dumb to be reading this blog so please move on." That's not condescending, is it?

---The first part is actually to let people know what it is I'm commenting on. But there is a part of it that is absolutely self-conscious. I have a long-standing fear that people don't take me seriously. It's a problem I am working on. Good catch. Maybe that's why i sense it in you.

The neurotic scientist thing is an attempt at self-depracating humor, and the third part is just silly and obnoxious, but not intended to be condescending in the least. I actually think that science is very graspable for non-scientists, if it is presented without a lot of nearly useless jargon, and I frown on folks who try to obscure knowledge with a bunch of proprietary gibberish.


You make fun of Pat Robertson in your blog.

---You bet I do. He is an absolute jackass.

You also say "I am running a blog here, and what sort of lame-ass blogger would I be if I didn't post the latest news."
How is that different from my posting hs'ing news, or news on education in general? "I may not agree with what you say, but to your death I will defend your right to say it."

What control issues do you see, exactly?


---I actually don't feel comfortable being detailed about this. I am only guessing, and I think i was out of bounds saying that in the first place. I also don't want to let you rent that much space in my head.

Are you implying that my husband and I made the decision to homeschool from a position based in fear? We made it for many reasons, but in large part because we think it's more fun (for all of us) and better for our kids (because we love them).

---See above

I'm sure this hasn't changed your opinion of me. But my ego can handle it. And I don't believe there's anything sincere in your last three sentences.

---That's funny. I *was* being sincere. I'll repeat: I am sorry. I said hurtful things to you. I wish I hadn't.

If you use some more big words, though, I might just become confused and give up.

---Yeah, OK there "pomoyemu." You don't have a leg to stand on when it comes to verbiage hon. You're no stranger to sesquipedalian excess.