By choosing to homeschool, I choose to be in a minority. Others may spend the majority of their time with other homeschoolers and forget that they’re in a minority, but that’s just a mirage unless they happen to live in some utopian homeschooling village. When our kids were young, almost all of our social time was with other homeschoolers. I didn’t have the motivation or energy to seek out friendships with schooled kids unless they lived close by. As our kids got older and attended programs with both homeschooled and schooled children, our friendships changed as well. Now our kids have primarily schooled friends because there are not very many homeschool kids around that are in high school.
Regardless of who our friends are, our schooling choice puts us in a minority and we are highly visible when we take our kids out during the day, whether it is to the zoo, the mall, or the grocery store. I feel I have a responsibility to other homeschoolers to give the public a positive view of homeschooling. We may be the only homeschooling family that someone else meets in their entire lifetime and therefore they will base their entire opinion of homeschooling on us. Do we want them to think positively about homeschoolers or negatively?
Whether we like it or not, a big part of first impressions is appearance. How are we dressed? How are our kids dressed? Do they look happy and well cared for? Or do they look miserable and dirty? Of course we have bad days. On bad days where we’re going to the doctor and the pharmacy, I don’t tell anyone that we’re homeschoolers! We just do our thing quietly as we would if I’d kept a sick child home from school. We all have days where the kids are grumpy or we’re tired or not feeling well. Those are exceptions and we all have them whether we homeschool or not. But a large number of homeschoolers in the city where I live wear pajamas out of the house and don’t shower and don’t wear clean, proper fitting clothes. Clothes here are very cheap and kids don’t need very many outfits. There are second-hand stores, clothing swaps (very popular amongst homeschoolers!), and discount stores like H&M or Joe Fresh. It is also inexpensive to cut our child’s hair and almost free to wash it. We either buy clippers and cut our boy’s hair or go to a cheap place to have someone else do it. There is no excuse for allowing our kids to go out in public with ill-fitting, dirty clothing and dirty hair in their face.
I’ve had a lot of homeschoolers tell me that their child doesn’t like clothing tags or seams, or that they like their hair scraggly. Having long hair is fine but having unkempt hair is not. Would I trust a doctor or lawyer that has scraggly hair and dirty clothes? No way! I know many families of kids that go to private school whose kids don’t like clothing tags either but they have to wear the uniform anyway. My son had very sensitive skin so we searched a lot to find clothes that didn’t irritate him. We didn’t send him out in inside-out pajamas. No one should be able to tell that we’re a homeschooling family just because of how we are dressed. It is important for our children to understand first impressions and be confident in their appearance and how they speak to people they meet. It is one of our responsibilities as parents to teach our children how to dress, speak, and behave in public. I’ve heard of some homeschoolers that believe we should not take our children out during the day and I do not share that opinion. Our children are actively involved in their community, with their family, and in programs that keep them busy at various times during the week with a variety of people.