Friday, June 1, 2012

Fun-Hating Homeschoolers?

We went camping close to the Mississippi River over Memorial Day Weekend, in eastern Iowa.

The Mississippi River Near Bellevue, Iowa

Right across from where we were camping, there were two families that were traditional homeschoolers, camping together.  We thought it was pretty neat, because although we are unschoolers, we have more in common with homeschoolers (usually) compared with people that send their children to school.  We thought our kids would enjoy each other’s company.

Another nearby family had girls that went to school; they enjoyed playing with Cecily and vice versa.  Sylvan felt a bit left out since the boys wouldn’t venture out of their camp.  So he was excited to play with the homeschooled kids, even though he was likely the oldest kid of the lot.

Well, I was wrong this time, the schooled kids had more freedom than the homeschooled kids.
One of the homeschooled families turned us off big-time.
And made me VERY happy that we unschool.

I was shocked at how much the first family told their kids no, saying “NO, NO, NO, NO, NO!!” in practically one mouthful, as if ONE “NO” wasn’t enough!?  They said it several times about simple stuff, stuff that I didn’t think was a big deal.

They were very controlling of their four children.
Trying to control. . .
Move that their kids made.

It really was hard for Sylvan, because he was the oldest kid (only by a year or two though) between our camp and the homeschoolers camp and he wanted to play a creative game with the older kids, but they just didn’t get it.

Boy and Butterfly Net

He told me later that they weren't creative and he didn’t have fun playing with them, in the short time that he did.

For homeschoolers, we were surprised they didn’t show up to the free parks program, a workshop about frogs. We had mentioned it to them the night before, and as we look back, it kind-of felt like they they were trying to avoid being around us. Most traditional homeschoolers we know would jump at the chance for free learning opportunities.

They missed out.

Sylvan and Cecily had more fun playing with a creative girl at the playground, who was probably traditionally schooled. We had decided to go to the playground because the homeschoolers' kids didn’t seem like they were allowed to play with our kids.  It made our kids feel bad. So I thought the playground would cheer them up.  That, it did.

When we got back from the playground, the last night we were there, the one dad of the more lax homeschooling family (a Christian pastor), chatted with Dan.  They seemed to get along well.

Then, one of their kids wanted to be pulled around in their wagon, so Cecily hopped in with their little girl, and Sylvan started pulling it around--since he was the biggest kid. The more controlling mom of the two families said suddenly that it was time to go to bed and she said it was their wagon, yada, yada. Maybe it was a new wagon, and she didn’t want it broken, but Sylvan was walking with it and respectful of their property, not running around crazy with it or anything. I don’t think she thought Dan and I were in hearing distance, but I was, and I thought she was quite rude to our kids.

I was just happy that we were leaving the next day, so we wouldn’t have to be around “the homeschoolers”.  A phrase, I never thought I’d say or write. Our kids barely got to play with them, and I know it was disappointing for them--probably disappointing for the homeschoolers' kids as well. They had just started playing with them and "boom" it’s bed time!? Granted, I think they had a long day, as we did. But the kids were all getting along fine and no one was crabby that I could tell--well, maybe the one mother might have been. It was around 9:40 p.m. and Sylvan couldn’t believe they were all going to bed. Especially since they weren’t leaving the next morning, like we were.

We went back to our camp, and I explained that some families go to bed earlier and some families have different rules. He moved on rather quickly and he was happy to get the camp fire going. Cecily was disappointed too, but moved on quicker than Sylvan this time. Cecily and Dashiell fell asleep a while later, and we enjoyed the company of our oldest, Sylvan, telling us about his current favorite toys, Skylanders.

Sylvan and the Campfire

I noticed later, as I was putting a couple of things in our van, that the homeschooling parents were still up around the campfire.  Maybe they just really wanted to hang out alone, since the two families didn’t see each other on a regular basis--this based on some things the pastor and his wife told us.  The kids would put a damper on that, apparently.

How sad.

It put a bad taste in my mouth, the traditional homeschooling families' behaviors--and traditional Christians, to boot.  I guess I’m happy it was us, and not some other family that doesn’t know others that homeschool,  or are Christians, otherwise they would have been turned off of the whole deal of homeschooling or Christianity altogether. Because then they would think we are all like that--fun haters, rude, anti-social. Isn’t that what camping is about--(in a traditional campground) to be in nature and meet other like-minded people? That is one of the kids’ favorite things to do when we camp--to make new friends.

I tried to think of something positive to take from it. It made me realize, how far we’ve come, and how we are so proud of our kids. Our kids handled everything really well, even if it was disappointing for them.
No crying.
No tantrums.

Thinking back, I shouldn’t have said we were unschoolers right off the bat . . . I guess. But I feel if we don’t tell people that we are unschoolers and how we do things, the word will never get out.

I want to help other families have the amazing time/life we have. The beautiful relationship we have with our children. Somehow, I think there is a stigma about unschoolers and I know there is one about Christians.

Really, all unschoolers are different in some ways. Just as all homeschoolers are different in some ways. Just as traditionally-schooled families are different in some ways. As are, Christians as well.

And although the homeschoolers put a damper on things a bit, we had a really nice time as a family.  More on that later.

Cecily in Pigtails
Learning.  Ever-learning.


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