To Homeschooling Moms Everywhere:

Today, I offer you the gift of encouragement. As a former homeschooling mom, I understand what it is like to have people question your plans, tell you you’re wrong, advise you that your children will turn out wrong, and even go behind your back to have your child tested for various problems that they assume your child has. So today, I offer you this little prize. You have my consent to share this with anyone who needs a “smackdown” or a “butt out!”

This week, my son, who was homeschooled from first grade through graduation, invited my husband and me to attend a Christmas party with some friends at the gym where he works out a few times a week. (Of course, he’s not home all the time since he is serving in the Army.) My husband and I normally go out on Saturday evening, but our son had told us that he had been nominated to receive an award at the gym for being the “Most Social” person. We agreed to go to the party since there would be food, we could dance, and we thought he might win.

The gym gave out several awards. They included the best female athlete, the best male athlete, the most improved person, the most likely to never show up, etc. We were excited that our son did earn the “Most Social” award due to his willingness to talk to people, welcome them to the gym, and generally help people to have a fun time. Of course, I knew he was going to win. He is one of the biggest social butterflies I’ve ever known.

Keep in mind that the people at this gym only really have one thing in common – they like to work out to stay healthy. Other than that, they are different in every way. While participating in conversations, I discovered that there were people there of all ages, religious beliefs, backgrounds, careers, philosophical beliefs, political leanings, gender identities, and more. It was really quite a diverse group. Yet they had overwhelmingly voted for my son to win the “Most Social” award.

Go back in time with me eighteen years ago. That’s when people were advising me that my son would not be normal because I had chosen to homeschool him. He would learn no social skills since he would not be around other children. He would not know how to behave properly in public. His poor education would be my fault since, even with my degree in education, I would not be able to teach him everything that his public school peers would learn. He would not learn to be respectful of authority since he would not have real teachers. He would be unable to ever get a real job since he would not have a real education.

Yes, every one of those things was said to me, and even worse things, at one time or another. I was warned that I was ruining my sons (I taught both of them at home). It was exacerbated when people saw that I wasn’t teaching them the same way that a public school was run. I didn’t make them sit in chairs all day. I let them go outside to play often. They came with me when I ran errands to the grocery, dry cleaners, and bank each week.

Little did people realize that I used those “recess” times outside to teach entomology, biology, meteorology, geology, astronomy, and physical education. Those errands around town taught my sons how to navigate the city, cartography, scheduling, time management, and led to many great conversations. Reading aloud in the living room, rather than quietly at a desk in a sanitary environment, formed deep memories and have given us things to share and talk about for years. For those who don’t know, both of my sons have great jobs. My “Most Social” son is in the Army, and his brother is a Marine. They are both qualified to do any number of other jobs when they leave the service.

Along the way, I managed to teach them those coveted social skills that everyone just knew they would never learn. Being around family, friends, and strangers, they learned how to speak to adults and children of all ages and were comfortable carrying on a conversation. Because I taught my sons how to eat properly at the table, they knew to chew with their mouth closed, how to use utensils appropriately, and what constitutes an appropriate dinner time conversation – and what does not. They knew to comport themselves appropriately and never once threw a fit in a grocery store, or anywhere else.

Most social, indeed. I think I win!

~Temerity Dowell

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