Feeling like an oddball - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 9 Old 10-31-2010, 02:44 AM - Thread Starter
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Our two children are 5 and 7.5. Neither has ever been to school...not even preschool. The closest they have come to school is taking a few drop-off recreational classes through our park district, and DS1 did a week of 1/2 day camp this summer at a forest preserve. I do not have any experience with being in a school setting (for children) as an adult - meaning I've never been a teacher, teacher's aid, volunteer, etc. My only experience with school (for children) was when I went through it as a child myself....and that was a very negative experience lasting through ages 5-17, so while that was a long time ago, it really made an impression on me....but it is truly my only experience with school.

My only knowledge/understanding of school today comes from reading posts here in the LAS area, and reading books, articles, and news stories, and the newsletter that our school district sends out. Once in a while I hear the neighbors' kids talk about school. All of the friends I speak with on a regular basis are homeschooling. It is odd - we've known each other for years, before anyone had made a decision to homeschool, and it just worked out that they have also chosen to homeschool. I never planned to only have homeschooling friends, and I don't in any way avoid friendships with moms with kids in school, and our older son is involved in sports with kids in public school - it has just turned out that I don't have close contact or frequent conversations with parents of kids in school, so I don't hear about school from them.

When we are at DS1's sports activities, and the other parents start discussing things that go on at school..routines, programs, etc..I really feel like some sort of alien. A lot of what they say I don't understand because I don't have any frame of reference for it. I really have no idea what they are talking about ! I just keep quiet and pay attention to the game or practice or to DS2, but it's sort of unsettling to feel so baffled by things all the other parents discuss.

I'm not worried that my kids are missing anything they should be getting. I feel I do a pretty good job of covering all the bases, including time with other kids and being in group settings. I'm not panicked about anything that is lacking in their experience...it's not that.

I have this feeling of living by a very different frame of reference than most parents, and I guess it bothers me that I don't understand theirs. I have never had a child in school. I am ignorant of what that experience is like. I only know what my own experience as a student was like, and what my own parents might have done differently that could have improved my experience, and how the school system could have been different. I'm not sure how much things have changed...it's been over 30 years since I was in a first grade classroom, and I was six years old and terrified and anxious every day, with a mean teacher and a principal who paddled kids at the front of the cafeteria while everyone watched. (LITTLE kids. I am still furious for them. )

I don't feel superior to parents of kids in school. But I feel apart from them because of what I don't understand. I realize this goes both ways - a parent who has never homeschooled would be lost at the beginning. I have spent years reading and researching and exploring just to be able to tackle (so far) grades K, 1, and part of 2. I could sit down with a few other homeschoolers and have a conversation that wouldn't make any sense at all to someone with no exposure or experience in homeschooling. Listening to that, they would feel as lost as I do when I hear other parents discuss school. I know that parents who pull their kids out of school to homeschool feel lost at the beginning. It's all a matter of what your experience is. But I guess I feel odd because when we are doing activities in our community (like sports through local leagues or park districts), I'm pretty much a minority of one. I only know one other homeschooling parent with a child involved in these sports activities, and we knew each other already - I haven't made any new homeschooling connections in this setting.

Anyway, sorry for this long rambling after midnight post...I am just wondering if anyone else has been here. I end up feeling like I inhabit an alien planet during the day and teleport to IL at 5 pm so my ET son can play soccer. And it seems like the more time passes, brick-and-mortar school seems more and more foreign to me, and it becomes a larger element in "normal" families' lives, and I feel very "out there".....because it's not an element in our lives at all, but OMG the kitchen has turned into a combo preschool/kindy/elementary room/science lab! (On the very rare occasion any of our neighbors step into our house (which opens into the kitchen), their heads just swivel back and forth and their mouths drop open and they are speechless while they take it all in.) To me, it's normal....but I feel more and more like an eccentric oddball.... and I wonder if I will ever feel that I have anything in common with other parents ?

Is this something homeschoolers eventually get used to ?

(wait - I came back to add something - I forgot something big - before kids, - I spent four years working for an educational publisher - one that publishes some large standardized tests. I was on the phones with teachers, principals, school counselors, school psychologists, aids, and sometimes (ahem) students who were asked to help out. So I have inside knowledge of the bu$ine$$ side of education. But no real experience as a parent of a student. )

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#2 of 9 Old 10-31-2010, 03:24 AM
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i'm sorry you had such a bad school experience. i did, too, and it has definitely affected me as an adult. before i began homeschooling my daughter, i had three step-children in schools, and then two step-nieces and a little boy i was caring for in temporary foster situations, and they all went to public school. it seemed comparable to my experience in school, except they weren't ahead several grades and then knocked back after a move to a new school district - that really knocked me for a loop and i began having behavior problems as a kid.

after the homeschooling experience, sending my daughter to public school has been a huge culture-shock, even though i knew what to expect! i'd forgotten how stifling school can be. i mean, my daughter wants to do math after dinner and she excels at it, she absolutely loves her "math time." in school, she has to do it in the morning, when she's disinterested. when she gets home we simply continue her homeschooling, but i tailor it to whatever she's learning each day. *crossing fingers and hoping they'll let her advance a grade so she'll be challenged rather than doing busy work!*

all in all, over the last 22 years, i haven't seen public schools change very much. IMO you're not missing anything special. sounds like you're doing really great

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#3 of 9 Old 10-31-2010, 12:42 PM
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I understand how you feel. I think there's a common frame of reference that schooling parents have that we as homeschooling parents don't have, and sometimes it feels weird... and sometimes all you can do is smile and nod as the conversation swirls around you. My experience has been, though, that as people get used to you and your kids, it stops being as weird. A lot of the school talk is just sort of a way for people who don't know each other very well to make small talk, and once you know people better it's less weird. It might also help a lot if you ask about stuff that they bring up, too... you'll have to tread a bit carefully to not sound superior, but maybe there's a science project you'd like to hear more about, or maybe you'll remember that last week one of the mothers was excited because her daughter was going to start a pull-out math program and you could ask how that was going... just anything to break the ice. I think if they realize that you're not going to be hostile they'll try to be more inclusive..

I think, too, that at your kids' ages school is a bigger deal than it might be later on, because it's pretty new... I mean, it will always be a topic of conversation, but maybe it would seem like *everything* in a few years.

Our soccer league when Rain was that age put kids on teams according to school when possible, to try to make it easier for parents in terms of practices being closer to the school the kids went to and for carpooling and also in terms of time, since the schools all started and ended at slightly different times. So, the three homeschooled girls her age ended up on one team, which did help (one she already knew and one she didn't - the second homeschooled through her church and they did activities pretty exclusively with members of that same church). Maybe some other homeschoolers you know would be interested in doing soccer, if you brought it up?

I also think things are actually a lot better now than they were 10 or 12 years ago, when Rain was 5 and 7. At least people now have generally heard of homeschooling - they may not know a lot and they may have odd ideas, but I don't generally find people who think it's illegal and have no idea that people actually did it.

I also think my kid has had the same experience of feeling like an oddball, only more so, if possible. Or differently so? Most kids her age have spent the last 12 years, 8 hours a day and 180 days a year, in an environment where she's never really been. When she was little it really was more strange, because school was everything, but then on the other hand I think she didn't realize it as much, and because she probably had more homeschooled friends overall than schooled friends she didn't realize how much of a minority she was. Since then it has sort of hit her at odd times... and I wonder how live in college will be for her. I still hear stories all the time about the homeschooler who went off to college and "did fine academically but had no social skills"... <deep sigh>. Of all the things I worry about with my kid going off to college, that isn't one of them.

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#4 of 9 Old 10-31-2010, 02:49 PM
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I definitely think that it will get easier with time. Both of my kids went to a wonderful preschool, but I really don't feel that experience translates over to a public school education.

For example, I went to a party yesterday and it turned out there were a bunch of people from our neighborhood there. They all knew each other because they were "bus stop moms."

I'm like "There are bus stop moms? You stand at the bus stop? Really? When?"

I'd say just keep on doing what you are doing and work to get yourself around others who homeschool, as well. It will be definitely LESS of an alien experience when there are others who do what you do.

If you're feeling as if you want to be social with the other soccer moms? Just steer the conversation. Get them off the school talk and onto OTHER things.... movies they'd like to see, mothers in laws, holidays, Halloween candy, tantric sex....you know...the normal soccer talk

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#5 of 9 Old 10-31-2010, 03:59 PM
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Oh yeah. All the time. "Alien" is a good word for it.

When people find out just how different we are, I get these glazed-eyed, jaw-dropped, dumfounded looks.

Fortunately, I do have good friends who are able to look past differences and find things to relate to. Our best local friends send their children to the pub. elementary school, but we still manage to get along fine.
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#6 of 9 Old 10-31-2010, 04:01 PM
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Those who have their kids in school have no clue about our lives. Honestly, I have had kids in both places, so I can relate to both. Except, I cannot relate to the parents who really hate their kids school, but then just leave them enrolled, even while having huge complaints. I think I understand though, just a general inability to think outside of the box type thing.

But there will always be things in life you don't get or have not experienced. But you are not an oddball at all. You simply have made different life choices. This is an age where school choice consumes parents and the kids. Most kids in school have no life outside of school so that consumes them. They have no clue how much your life is more free and how connected you are to your children and their lives and such.

Don't stress, you are doing fine! (((hugs)))
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#7 of 9 Old 11-01-2010, 03:19 PM
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my kids are 9 & 6. they also have never been to any kind of preschool or school whatsoever. my only experience with public school is through hearing about what takes place with my sisters and friends that utilize public school for their own children. their stories are similar enough to my own memories of public school though, that i usually can relate to the conversation on that level. honestly, i think it's easier for me to relate to their experience than for them to relate to mine. so in that regard, i can sometimes feel like an alien for sure. it's difficult to freely discuss our homeschooling journey, as the conversation very rarely can move beyond them listing all of the reason why they could never do it, etc. but as for me, i usually feel comfortable hearing about their kids in school & all that they're experiencing and doing. even though my own family's journey is different, i try to relate to the emotions attached to the situation at hand...it makes it easier to relate to other parents when i try to focus on the topic that way.

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#8 of 9 Old 11-02-2010, 04:46 AM
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I have lived my entire life feeling a bit like an alien, so while I know what you mean, I also don't worry about it anymore. Much.

As a PP said, if you want to converse with people, either join in to their conversations by asking about terms you're unfamiliar with (maybe that will help them *think* about it, too), and/or steer the conversation to other territory. When DS is in hockey, the other parents and I make small talk, but I can't say school makes up much of it... and I'm a bit shy anyway, so I always bring my knitting or some other project to work on so I don't have to sit alone feeling awkward. It also creates conversation openers... "what are you knitting/cutting/gluing?"

Another perspective...

I met up with another homelearning family nearby via a request to borrow some resource. As we chatted, we realized that though we hadn't met before, we kept seeing the same people here and there. I pointed out that it was almost like there was a small subculture (within our big city) of people who are awake and aware and everyone else is sleepwalking. It's not that we're superior, it's just that they're not awake yet. Somehow that makes me feel like less of an alien, sometimes.

Lori : mum to Emily (nov94) and Calvin (jul 03), : and : married to : Wes
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#9 of 9 Old 11-03-2010, 06:20 AM - Thread Starter
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Thank you all

DS1 March 2003DS2 Sept 2005,
and 3 , in our happy secular
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