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#1 of 20 Old 04-06-2012, 08:59 PM - Thread Starter
 
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My eight year old tends to brag.  Maybe all eight year olds do this to a certain extent, but I would like to teach him to be more modest about his achievements.  He's a sweet child, but the bragging is just not at all becoming, and I worry that if he does this with other kids they won't like him.

 

For example, we're at the dentist.  The hygenist is cleaning his teeth and asks him what grade he's in.  He tells her he's homeschooled.  She asks what level he's at, first grade?  My son tells her that he's probably much much higher than that.  She didn't seem to mind, but he came across as slightly rude, although what he said is completely true. 

 

He seems obsessed with levels - always asking me what grade level different activities are.  He wants to know if he is ahead of the average child, and how far ahead, etc.  I try to play this stuff down, but it is definitely important to him.

 

Should I just tell him straight out that he should downplay his "level" to other people, or that it is not polite to purposely let someone know that he is smart? 

 

Do other parents deal with this issue?

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#2 of 20 Old 04-06-2012, 09:16 PM
 
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Originally Posted by dovey View Post

 

For example, we're at the dentist.  The hygenist is cleaning his teeth and asks him what grade he's in.  He tells her he's homeschooled.  She asks what level he's at, first grade?


 

I think your son needs an answer to this VERY common question that helps conversations flow.  Tell him what grade he is in. Make it something reasonable. This is just a question that adults ask kids in a social context. Anything from "2nd" to "I'd be in 2nd grade if I went to school, but I homeschool so we do things that are at my level and things I find interesting."  Both are fine.  It's just about making conversation.  And then teach him to ask questions of the person he is talking to.

 

I think that if you can't get around the levels thing, it is helpful for kids to be reminded that we all have strengths and weaknesses. Our strengths and weakness are not what determine our value or "goodness."  Being able to read longer, more difficult books than one's peers doesn't make you a better person. It just means that you currently read longer, more difficult books.

 

(I think that our real measure is how we treat others, but you might have a different take on that. )

 

Often, I think that bright children want to know what it means that academic things comes more easily to them than to some children around them. I think that's the real question.

 

 

 


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#3 of 20 Old 04-07-2012, 09:23 AM
 
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I love what Linda said about this. 

 

We're unschoolers, and my kids are pretty introverted and tend to be naturally reticent with personal information anyway, so I haven't really been through a lot of this sort of thing. But I do think that while the quick fix might be "modesty" (which I think of as hiding or de-emphasizing one's excellent attributes) the longer-term solution is something Linda alluded to: attaching less value to those attributes.

 

I think if an 8-year-old is doing algebra, you could explain to him that he should not mention it because it's bragging. Which is sort of saying "This is such a weirdly amazing feat that other people might not be able to deal with hearing about it. Let's not make them uncomfortable." It's a mixed message: This is so amazing that we need to hide it. In a way it almost lends the advanced ability more importance, not less.

 

What I've always told my kids is not to mention this sort of thing because it's not important. When you learned something says nothing about whether you are thoughtful, kind, persistent, helpful, hard-working, creative or unselfish. It's a little bit like telling people how rich you are, rather than just living your life by working hard, spending carefully and giving generously. 

 

And I've tried to give my kids plenty of connections with people that involve individually paced learning, where appreciation of each others' learning is built into the experience. For us that has been instrumental music with biweekly group classes spanning a wide range of ages and levels, within a community of fellow music students who have grown and learned together for most of their childhoods. It has also included aikido, a non-competitive form of martial arts which has been multi-age and multi-level, where it is always emphasized that teachers learn from their students and students learn from their less advanced peers. It has meant me nurturing my kids' friendships with younger, less academically capable children as well as with their intellectual peers (I drove for an hour yesterday to get my HG 9-year-old to a play-date with a lovely pre-literate 7-year-old), and facilitating co-op learning experiences with children and adults with a huge range of ages and abilities (community orchestra with 5- through 80-year-olds, gardening club with both toddlers and high-schoolers).

 

If you have a kid who always asking what level he's at, and how far ahead of his peers he is, I would tend to brush off those questions by answering with "I don't know, pretty advanced I guess, but it doesn't matter." Really make it sound like it's not important. I would also carefully examine whether anything I was saying or doing was sending the message that faster and more advanced is better than slower and more average. For instance, I would make sure I wasn't encouraging a celebratory attitude upon completing a grade level in math, and I wasn't heard to be speaking incredulously about my child's rate of progress to anyone, not even his dad. I would put all my focus on valuing his motivation, his work ethic and his goodness. 

 

Kids who are craving affirmation of their worth as people often reach for shallow comparative measures of their ability like "winning" or being ahead of grade or being fastest. I have a feeling that if you put some emphasis on affirming his goodness and value as a person, he might not be so hungry for the shallower type of affirmation. My kids' needs for reassurance about their value as people has waxed and waned as they've grown and matured. Sometimes they've seemed inexplicably needy for a time. In our case the neediness has usually expressed itself as a tendency to belittle siblings (to make them feel worse in order to make oneself feel better) rather than as bragging, but the ultimate solution is the same: make them feel better about themselves without having that self-esteem depend on unfavourably comparing others to themselves.

 

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#4 of 20 Old 04-07-2012, 09:44 AM
 
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If it makes you feel better, this is a very, very common problem with young boys of any ability level.

 

Mine went through a speed stage... he didn't care about the quality of work, he just wanted to be done first and was constantly beaming about being the fastest. He wasn't so much into "levels" but he often compared himself to others and noted when he was further ahead. It did pass for the most part. He's 11 and while he can get a little puffy when he's with a group of friends (though it seems more a game with them than anything,) he doesn't embarrass me anymore lol. He also puts more value in achievements that were difficult and worked for as opposed to those that just came naturally to him like he did when he was little. Some things that helped in our case... we made a point of putting him in multi-age activities that required steady, long-term growth like Tae Kwon Do. Theatre was good for him too as while he is naturally talented, he's not right for every part and so gets as many chorus parts as leads. Piano and trumpet, also good long-term training where there really isn't a finish line.

 

I'd stop talking levels with your DS completely and home. Find an activity that will require effort and time. Give him some "small talk" skills. Strangers who ask him what grade he's in are just making conversation. It's enough for him to say "I'm 8 and I homeschool but I would be in 2nd grade."


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#5 of 20 Old 04-07-2012, 11:30 AM
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We are straight with our kids. We teach them what bragging is and that it's rude. 8 is more than old enough to get it. He's 8-- teach him to answer that he's in 2nd or 3rd grade if someone asks. 

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#6 of 20 Old 04-07-2012, 07:33 PM
 
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We've approached on two fronts. First, we've approached it on a "compassion for others" front. When you're with other kids, it's not polite to talk about how much further ahead you are because it might make them feel bad. It's not just that it's rude to brag, it's that bragging really is intended to make you feel superior and others feel inferior, and that's not kind.

 

We also talk about both things we're good at and things we're not so good at. I don't think it's good for my kids' self esteem not to acknowledge the things that they are good at and so I don't want to shut down all of that kind of talk. At the same time, nobody is good at everything, and so acknowledging our weaknesses is good too. I don't necessarily do these at the same time. So, today dd got a lecture on how she really is old enough to be able to control her tone of voice and we need to work on that. (Poor child, we made her do 45 minutes of cleaning up the living room so we could be ready for Easter. The horror!) But along with this, we also talk about how conversations about things we're good at/not good at are fine conversations to have at home, but this isn't information that we need to share outside the family. It's not a taboo subject, but it's one we restrict in time/location.

 

OP, I agree that your son needs to know what "grade" he's in -- personally I think the hygienist was a bit odd for asking if an 8 year old was in first grade. My dd is 7 and she'd be highly offended if someone assumed she was in 1st grade (she's in 2nd). Now, what will probably happen is something like what happens with my dd when she's talking to adults: "I'm in second grade and I read the whole Harry Potter series last summer!" Dd doesn't actually see that as bragging when she's talking to adults, so it is a skill we're working on.

 

 


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Originally Posted by LynnS6 View Post

 -- personally I think the hygienist was a bit odd for asking if an 8 year old was in first grade. My dd is 7 and she'd be highly offended if someone assumed she was in 1st grade (she's in 2nd). 

 

 



In our area, it's not unheard of for an 8-year-old to be in 1st grade due to heavy red-shirting practices. It's also likely she didn't know or didn't remember his exact age. Personally, I've stopped guessing ages past 5. I always seem to find those tiny older kids or giant younger ones!

 

Both mine were in 4th grade at age 8 and so people never guessed their grade correctly. No reason they would know on how they looked though especially if they didn't have kids of their own.


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#8 of 20 Old 04-08-2012, 06:56 AM
 
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If it makes you feel better, this is a very, very common problem with young boys of any ability level.

 

Actually, this is a very common problem with young *children* of any ability level. Not all girls are modest. Many are prone to bragging. A LOT of kids are. My oldest (who happens to be a boy) was always extremely modest about his abilities and made a point of not discussing his successes because he didn't want to make anyone feel badly. Still the same way.

 

My youngest, on the other hand... had no such compunction. She used to be more than happy to tell all and sundry about how well she did at this that and the other. It's taken some work, but she's learned when it's appropriate to share. Maybe because she has learned how it feels NOT to be best at something. She's learned to celebrate others' achievements, and that she doesn't need to one-up them.

 

So really... it is NOT a "boy" thing.

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#9 of 20 Old 04-08-2012, 07:38 AM
 
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Actually, this is a very common problem with young *children* of any ability level. Not all girls are modest. Many are prone to bragging. A LOT of kids are. My oldest (who happens to be a boy) was always extremely modest about his abilities and made a point of not discussing his successes because he didn't want to make anyone feel badly. Still the same way.

 

My youngest, on the other hand... had no such compunction. She used to be more than happy to tell all and sundry about how well she did at this that and the other. It's taken some work, but she's learned when it's appropriate to share. Maybe because she has learned how it feels NOT to be best at something. She's learned to celebrate others' achievements, and that she doesn't need to one-up them.

 

So really... it is NOT a "boy" thing.

 

Sigh, yes, let's go there lol. It's not exclusive to boys of course. Why would you assume I meant that? Having spent large quantities of time as a teacher and leader of a variety of groups of girls and boys (sports, scouts, theatre, school, being the house that both my DD and DS's friends seemed to live at, I find it's something very common in boys, not as common in girls. I even see it with groups of adult males as I spent many years working in male dominated fields (though it's more playful those years.) DH still sees it at work... almost entirely male. Part of it's how they are socialized early, part of it is just how they are built. My DD has never been a bragger. My DS went through his annoying little stage.

 

So let's be super PC and pretend we don't see stronger tendencies in male and female for particular traits. That's really helpful. Geesh.

 


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#10 of 20 Old 04-08-2012, 07:54 AM
 
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There are three things here, though. One is homeschooling, and not having a particular grade level. I have to register with our district with a grade level, so my kids just know what their registered homeschool grade is. That works for idle conversation like the dentist. 

 

The other is the "how advanced" issue. You can be an advanced 2nd grader, learn more/deeper stuff about the same topics, but unless you're actually skipping grades and going to graduate early or do college early, you're still a 2nd grader. 

 

The last is the modesty issue. Most people are just making conversation. They don't care, or even know, what kids "typically" do at particular ages. They're really asking "What are you learning about now?" which goes along with the adult version "What do you do for work?" or "What field are you in?" My kids just say whatever topic they're learning about at the time, usually in Science/Social Studies, but sometimes it's what book they're reading or some fascinating Math topic they just learned about. Most topics come back around every few grades anyway--Ancient Egypt, or the Solar System.

 

We know enough homeschoolers following different methods--unschooling, FIAR, Classical-- and kids at different types of schools--Waldorf, Montessori, others--that the idea that most kids would learn the same things in the same order/grades or that it would have anything to do with intelligence would baffle my kids. 


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#11 of 20 Old 04-08-2012, 11:44 AM
 
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Originally Posted by moominmamma View Post

 

I think if an 8-year-old is doing algebra, you could explain to him that he should not mention it because it's bragging. Which is sort of saying "This is such a weirdly amazing feat that other people might not be able to deal with hearing about it. Let's not make them uncomfortable." It's a mixed message: This is so amazing that we need to hide it. In a way it almost lends the advanced ability more importance, not less.

 

 

 

yes -- I think it is possible to make such a big deal of not telling others what they are up to that it turns being advanced in an area into a secret. It can get weird. There is a difference between just stating the truth and bragging. I don't think it's particularly healthy to teach children to be secretive *when they are asked a direct question* for the sake of sparing other people's feelings. One thing we've talked about is making conversations, esp. with peers, about things that are common ground. "I'm in the same grade as you but 2 grades up for math" isn't common ground.

 

I also think that the overall level of peace that a parent has about what her child is up to (and what it means and what it doesn't mean) is ultimately helpful for kids. Though my kids, like Miranda's, have gone through phases where they were more at peace with themselves than others.

 

And I think this specific issue is more complex for homeschooling families than for non-homeschooling families. (we've done both). Many homeschool moms get criticized for their choice to homeschool and feel defensive. How their children are doing is often seen as the justification for homeschooling. It's the "my neighbor's don't approve but my kid is 3 levels ahead of theirs in math so I must be doing the right thing" syndrome. 

 

I think that what to make of being "smart,"  which is highly valued in our culture, is complex for children. And the greater degree that we are able to separate their smartness from our view of how we are doing as parents, the easier it is for them.

 

If we feel defensive about our choices and need our kids abilities to prove that we are doing the right thing *by being more advanced than their peers,* we are kinda setting them. On one hand, we need others to know they are doing well so that we won't feel judged and at the same time, we don't want them to brag because we see it as bad behavior.  It's a mixed message.

 

Disclaimer: none of this is directed to anyone on this thread or is meant to debate the relative merits of homeschooling. This is just a pattern I saw play out over and over in homeschooling circles IRL.


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#12 of 20 Old 04-08-2012, 12:08 PM
 
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And I think this specific issue is more complex for homeschooling families than for non-homeschooling families. (we've done both). Many homeschool moms get criticized for their choice to homeschool and feel defensive. How their children are doing is often seen as the justification for homeschooling. 

 

Agree! On the other hand, sometimes there's a competing subtext, that homeschooling is a way of hot-housing children into artificially precocious achievements, such that a child's precocity "doesn't count" because it's the result of being subjected to an unfortunate high-pressure home environment where intellectual achievement is valued over holistic / social / community values. 

 

Miranda

 

 


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#13 of 20 Old 04-08-2012, 01:59 PM
 
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FWIW, my 6yo goes around telling people she is "really good at climbing" and other such things, when she isn't. :)  She isn't bad, but she isn't anything unusual either.  I think middle-young kids have a tendancy to say things like this, and I don't personally have a problem with it as long as it isn't a competitive "I'm better than you" comment, but more of a "see what I did, I'm great!  I feel good about that" type comment.

 

I agree that for the homeschooling thing, it's time to pick a grade.  I personally do it by age, but you can do it by whatever.  It gives him an answer, and it gives the people who are making idle chit chat an answer.

 

As far as the "level" stuff goes, I guess I keep myself relatively ignorant so I don't tell my kids what level they are at, so they are incapable of telling others. :)  But they can tell others things they are learning or what they like, and I would suppose others could infer from there what level that might be.  I think if you don't want your son to talk about levels with others you can take that word out of your own vocabulary and it'll drop out of his too.  When he asks for a level, downplay the gradient of it and up-play (is that a word?-it should be :) ) the substance of what he is learning. 

 

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#14 of 20 Old 04-08-2012, 07:56 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Thanks for all the ideas.  I have told him that he's in second grade before, but he didn't remember....kind of odd seeing that he's obsessed with levels.  I thought he knew.  He might have been thrown off by the dental hygenist thinking that he was in first grade or something.  I think the idea about how to have a polite conversation with another person that we don't know is important.  We live pretty far out in the sticks and have a baby who cries in the car, so honestly, we don't get out to see new people very often.  The kids play with their friends one or two times per week and each have one lesson per week.  Other than that, we don't really go anywhere.  Maybe we can practice conversation with typical prompts right before we go somewhere like the dentist.   

 

I think the bragging thing is about his self-image.  I do try and emphasize that a person's value is not based on their academic achievements, but rather on their kindness and compassion toward others.  I also do praise him when I think he is doing excellent academic work - it's honest praise, and I value academic progress, especially when it is accompanied by hard work, but maybe I shouldn't say anything.  I really don't know.  It must be hard for him to figure out what is truly valuable in a person if I give him mixed messages in this way.... 

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#15 of 20 Old 04-09-2012, 06:11 AM
 
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Love this thread. My youngest said to me the other day, "I am the smartest kid in my class. I am a genius!" I was mortified because we have never said anything like that to him. I mentioned it to the teacher this morning and she said that she heard a similar thing and that it prompted her to have a conversation with the class about multiple intelligences and how some people are good at math and others are good at music, etc. In my son's case, I think the bragging often comes from a place of anxiety, so we will continue to try to address that root issue.

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#16 of 20 Old 04-10-2012, 05:13 AM
 
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Originally Posted by whatsnextmom View Post

 

Sigh, yes, let's go there lol. It's not exclusive to boys of course. Why would you assume I meant that? Having spent large quantities of time as a teacher and leader of a variety of groups of girls and boys (sports, scouts, theatre, school, being the house that both my DD and DS's friends seemed to live at, I find it's something very common in boys, not as common in girls. I even see it with groups of adult males as I spent many years working in male dominated fields (though it's more playful those years.) DH still sees it at work... almost entirely male. Part of it's how they are socialized early, part of it is just how they are built. My DD has never been a bragger. My DS went through his annoying little stage.

 

So let's be super PC and pretend we don't see stronger tendencies in male and female for particular traits. That's really helpful. Geesh.

 


Oh. I don't know. Maybe because you excluded girls from your explanation of how common this is. In boys. Didn't seem to be a huge leap. I thought it worth mentioning that girls often have this tendency, as well. No need to be so sensitive.
 

 

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#17 of 20 Old 04-11-2012, 10:46 AM
 
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I think the bragging thing is about his self-image.  I do try and emphasize that a person's value is not based on their academic achievements, but rather on their kindness and compassion toward others.  I also do praise him when I think he is doing excellent academic work - it's honest praise, and I value academic progress, especially when it is accompanied by hard work, but maybe I shouldn't say anything.  I really don't know.  It must be hard for him to figure out what is truly valuable in a person if I give him mixed messages in this way.... 



We do it a different way in our house-- we emphasize hard work, regardless of the outcome.  (Of course we want the kids to be kind and compassionate, too.) We also say it's OK to try and fail.  And we stress that the most important thing is learning, rather than the final grade or outcome.  I think that helps minimize bragging for the older kids-- they value the quality of the effort.

 

(Of course I say that a day after my kindergartener told me that she and her BFF are the smartest girls in the class and that she thinks there are smart boys, but she has no idea who they are.  :)  She's really sensitive and would never say that to anyone but me, but I did get a good laugh out of it. ) 

 

And I also don't love the pp's teacher who had a conversation about how different people are "good at" different things, like math or reading or whatever.  I would rather the class hear the message that their brain is a muscle that when used, it gets better and stronger.  Everyone has challenges, but they can all get better if they practice.  To me, the message of everyone has their own kind of gift misses the point of learning.  Not a big deal, though.

 

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#18 of 20 Old 04-11-2012, 11:06 AM
 
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And I also don't love the pp's teacher who had a conversation about how different people are "good at" different things, like math or reading or whatever.  I would rather the class hear the message that their brain is a muscle that when used, it gets better and stronger.  Everyone has challenges, but they can all get better if they practice.  To me, the message of everyone has their own kind of gift misses the point of learning. 

 

In the Suzuki (music education) world, they strike a nice balance with this. Every child can achieve excellence. For one child a particular task might require 2 repetitions to learn, for another it might require 10,000, but all can achieve excellence. All success is celebrated, on whatever terms and at whatever rate it arrives for any given child. 

 

I think too much emphasis on the work involved can leave the gifted kids feeling like cheaters or imposters in comparative environments like classrooms. They know they didn't have to work hard to end up at the top of their class, but the teacher is telling everyone that hard work is what brings success.

 

On the other hand, I think that too much emphasis on inborn talent can lead to narcissism and poor work ethics in those who have it.

 

The answer lies somewhere in between. Yes, there are differences in the ease with which different people learn different things. You might learn math easily, while your friend might have easy social grace, or the ability to excel at new sports with little training. What is important is learning to work hard and strive for excellence in both your areas of challenge and your areas of talent, while appreciating the challenges and successes of others. 

 

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#19 of 20 Old 04-12-2012, 08:12 AM
 
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He seems obsessed with levels - always asking me what grade level different activities are.  He wants to know if he is ahead of the average child, and how far ahead, etc.  I try to play this stuff down, but it is definitely important to him.

 

...

...

 

From the later post:

 

I think the bragging thing is about his self-image.  I do try and emphasize that a person's value is not based on their academic achievements, but rather on their kindness and compassion toward others.  I also do praise him when I think he is doing excellent academic work - it's honest praise, and I value academic progress, especially when it is accompanied by hard work, but maybe I shouldn't say anything.  I really don't know.  It must be hard for him to figure out what is truly valuable in a person if I give him mixed messages in this way....


Edited:  Just read your later post.

 

Have you talked to him what it might mean if he were average, or behind?  Do you what would bother him if that were the case?  What does he think could or would happen if he were not ahead? I'd find out and go from there.

 

 


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Conversations we like having pat answers for: What grade are you in? How do you like homeschool? What subject do you like best? (DS) I could never do that! What curriculum do you use? (this one usually by people who don't seem to know any curricula) How do you know what curriculum to use? And sometimes, How do you know he is learning? (me)

 

I do think there is an extra level of trickiness sometimes talking to people about homeschooling. Often it is just chit-chat. But, sometimes, the person really seems curious about what homeschooling is like, and I do need to think carefully and try to come up with short examples of what we are doing that convey what I want to convey.  Not regularly, but a few times, the person has been very persistent. Is this homeschooling? Or just common chit-chat among parents in our area? We did a year of public school, for K, and no one ever asked what DS was doing in school, but maybe second grade is different.

 

Heather

 

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