As parents, we worry about our choices; how they’ll affect our child, whether they’re what’s best, etc. There are unique fears that come with certain lifestyles though.
Those of us who are single parents, those of us who live in poverty, those with mental illness, or those of us who unschool may all have some concerns. They can become very real when we reach out for help or when we interact with the outside world. Yes, there are always going to be people who judge us for the way we do things or how we live. You may say, “so what, who cares what other people think?” This would show me that you’re outside my perspective.
An example happened recently that tied this all in nicely. Something so innocuous for most; a trip to the dentist for my son. It was just a routine cleaning. No big deal right? Maybe.
While B was getting his teeth cleaned, casual questions about heading to school come up. Well, my son is proud that he doesn’t go to school and beams when he says he doesn’t go. He rarely says he homeschools, because it’s not really an accurate description of what we do. I usually add that in to end the conversation. “We homeschool.”
The dentist comes in after the dental hygienist has filled her in and asks B what he does since he doesn’t go to school. He’s seven. “Play video games.” She looks at me with concern and asks, “you homeschool?” I said yes. Then she asks what curriculum I use. With my son’s shared unschool pride, I reply that we don’t use a curriculum and follow an unschooling philosophy. It’s much more flexible with my work and bringing him with me, him being very active…
She wasn’t interested in learning something new though. She was judging us. We were being judged for being poor enough to need state healthcare for his visit. We were being judged for not only homeschooling, but for not confidently rattling off some curriculum name. As though that’s the only alternative to sending your child to school, schooling them at home. I was being judged as lacking.
You may still be wondering, what’s the big deal? The deal, to me, was that I may warrant a phone call, a visit from child protective services or worse. People in the outside world, not only get to pass judgement on my parenting but they also get to act on it.
Is my house clean? Yes. Is my son well cared for? Yes. Do we have food? Yes. Beds? Yes. Is he learning? Yes. Did I still have fear? YES. Whether we like it or not, children get removed from their homes, lives get disrupted and people get hurt because of judgments.
So, I take nothing I do lightly. I make decisions for my family with as much thought, research and conviction as I can muster. Hopefully, that’s what will matter most.