The Ghost of Public School Past
You know her voice. She whispers in your left ear. Her wispy form hovers on your left shoulder. Her name? Mrs. Cox. In her hand? The red pen.
“You haven’t done enough writing with your kids this year.”
“What about grammar? If you don’t teach your children how to diagram sentences, they won’t get into college.”
“Your kids are behind their public schooled peers. Better admit it: the schools are better at creating writers than you are. Give up.”
“Why haven’t you had your children write essays yet? You are so behind.”
“You still don’t know how to use a semicolon and you call yourself a home educator?”
“What about structure and assignments? What about year-end testing? You can’t get there just by freewriting every week.”
“Your children are terrible spellers. If they had a spelling program like you had as a child, they’d be better spellers.”
And of course, the worst of all:
“You aren’t good at writing. How can you possibly teach it?”
These whispers come from a memory—a teacher, a schooled lifetime. While you’ve chosen to home educate your children, you yourself (probably) were not homeschooled. So when your confidence flags, the disembodied voice of “official education” pipes up to fill the empty, lonely space of self-doubt.
Here’s what you need to do:
First, with your right hand, bring your right thumb up and over the top of your right middle finger (in a circle). Then raise it to your left shoulder. Now: Flick that ghost right off your shoulder with two flicks! Bam! She gone!
Mrs. Cox is not invited to your poetry teatime. She doesn’t get to correct your children’s freewrites. She’s not allowed to judge your daughter’s spelling while ignoring the content of your precious girl’s original writing.
She’s not allowed to judge your writing any more. Her red pen is dry. Her reach is a ghostly memory. She is no longer real.
Mrs. Cox doesn’t decide for you. You decide for you and your children. Remind the ghastly ghost that you chose to home educate because you didn’t like the rubric of public education—the very whispers she uses to trap and badger you.
The next time you hear her voice, flick the Ghost of Public School Past (Mrs. Cox) right off that shoulder, and say out loud, “School voices are not allowed in my homeschool.”
Strengthen your own voice—your core, that lives inside, making choices, and loving your children.
Feel free to adopt the following messages (or your version of them) to buoy yourself when your doubt swells:
- I have chosen to home educate my children because I believe in the values of homeschooling.
- I am a fluent English speaker, and read professionally copy edited writing every day. I know enough English to read it with comprehension, and to write it with competence. Therefore, I can lead and guide my children in the art of writing.
- My lack (in grammar or spelling or punctuation or academic format) is not insurmountable or damaging to my children. I’m an adult. I can learn alongside them. I am capable of remembering the difference between ‘affect’ and ‘effect,’ how to use a colon or em dash, how to spell ‘accommodate,’ and how to structure a five paragraph essay. If my children can learn to do it, so can I. If I can learn, so can my children.
- I choose not to use a red pen because the red pen has created untold damage in the lives of my peers (and my life). I’m happy that I never have to use one, if I don’t want to.
- My goal is to promote and support the natural growth in writing in my individual child, not to hit school scope and sequence for all children.
- I is smart, I is kind, I is important.
You chose not to listen to The Ghost of Public School Past when you chose to homeschool. When she says, “Boo!” then flick her off your shoulder! Then carry on.
Image by alamosbasement (cc text added)
My ghosts, unfortunately, are of my son’s teachers before we chose to homeschool. I still see these teachers in actuality while running errands around our small community, and we stop to say a polite hello. They ask, “How’s G. doing?” with that pitying look on their faces for my ‘poor homeschooled child’ who must be so far behind. And those ghosts come back. They make me think, “How far along in this subject would he be if he was still in public school with a REAL teacher?” And then I remember how miserable he was and how he shut down and wouldn’t work for the last teacher because he’d had enough. How we never had family time because of all the homework on nights and weekends. What a rat race life used to be, and how stressful. And then I tell them to stuff it. We’re doing fine.
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