The other day I was scrolling through Facebook and came upon a question that grabbed my attention.  The writer asked if there were other homeschool moms out there that did not subscribe to the “homeschool culture.”

My first reaction was curiosity about what others’ responses were.  As I looked through the comments I became aware that a lot of the responders echoed my second reaction:  What does “homeschool culture” mean?  What exactly is this person asking?  Of course, I started thinking…

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Anthropologically speaking, a culture is the social behaviors and norms found in a society.  This includes values, customs, and traditions of a societal group.  When I think of culture, I think of lederhosen-wearing Germans or the geisha wearing the traditional kimono.  These are symbolic of “culture” to me.  But as I was writing this, I realized that I was thinking of culture in a very broad definition as pertaining to a country or a major religion.  Culture can really be much more narrow relating to smaller communities and groups.

So, how does this idea correlate to homeschoolers?

Julie Bogart at Braverwriter wrote an interesting blog post about Changing the Homeschool Culture that I think helped clarify this idea for me a little, but I’m still not sure that there is one overlying homeschool culture.  Even from Julie’s post, it seems to me that the culture one might subscribe to is really one of various subset cultures.

Perhaps instead of the question, “Do you subscribe to the homeschool culture?” the better questions is, “Do you subscribe to the crunchy homeschool culture?”  Or “religious homeschool culture,” or “Classical conversations homeschool culture,” or “Charlotte Mason homeschool culture,” etc. etc.  Because honestly, my experience with homeschoolers is that we are all individuals.  We are as different from each other as public school families or private school families.  I’m just not seeing this one idea of who we are with the outliers that don’t fit in.

But maybe it’s just me.

I read through the responses to the post to get a feel for how other people interpretted this question.  The responses were as varied as the people themselves.  Some people viewed it from the standpoint of religious vs. secular while others considered it to be lifestyle and still others saw it as a question about their social lives.  Most people who felt they did not subscribe to the homeschool culture seemed proud that they were outliers.

But it felt kind of…. judgmental.  Comments like:

“We hate cliques.  We do not associate with coops nor the culture.”

“We definitely don’t fit into the “love having the kids home 24/7,” need no breaks, public school bad mouthing I see from some homeschoolers.”

“I often get a “look” when I mention that we homeschool “for now” and I won’t commit to homeschooling through all of high school. Or I get a different look when they say, “Homeschooling is great, you can avoid all the brainwashing from the general population and school system” and I reply with, “We do what is right for each child at that time.” 

“Yeah, I don’t make my own kombucha, do vaccinate my kids, and stopped breastfeeding long before my kids turned 3, so that makes me the odd woman out in a lot of co-op conversations.”

You get the idea…  I don’t think these moms meant to be judgmental, or maybe they did…. but whatever their intention, comments like these felt generalized to all homeschoolers, not the few.

And a lot of the comments seemed more about making friends, even when the original poster clarified her question with the comment:

“It’s open to individual interpretation on purpose, but there’s a trend with homeschoolers to look down on and demonized other types of education, to need to humble brag about their kids (more than average), and to make the kids the focus of all conversation. I’m HSing because it’s in my child’s best interest at the moment and in his specific situation, not because of ideology. Even secular homeschooling seems to take on an almost religious fervor for some people (not to pick on anyone, but lots of posts here about being devastated kids want to go to traditional schooling). I join FB groups for good ideas and tips, not because “these are my people “. Like, I HS, but I don’t feel any different than I did as a traditional school parent. It can make it difficult to plan things and makes friends when you aren’t SUPER WAY INTO THIS THING…”

Maybe the original poster needs to read my suggestions on Making Homeschool Mommy Friends.  While I’m certainly comical, there’s some truth to finding and making friends, and not judging people based on generalizations is a pretty good start.

So, here’s the thing… all of the homeschoolers I know are very different.  They homeschool for different reasons, in different ways, with different ideology.  There are some that are completely anti-“other types of education” and some that are kombucha drinking, anti-vaccinating proponents.  There are some that love and adore every precious moment with the beautiful little beings they breathed into existence.  But there are just as many that support all kinds of other educational types.  There are some that enjoy Coca-Cola and Jack Daniels, sometimes together.  There are some that recognize their kids can be assholes.  And no two of them is alike.

In many ways, doesn’t this attitude of a singular “homeschool culture” reflect a generalized view of homeschoolers at large?  We are already fighting the perception that we are all broom-skirt wearing, religious extremists holed up on our farm, sheltering our children from the evils of the world while abusing our children reciting Proverbs 13:24 “Whoever spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him.”

Do we really need more generalizations pressed upon us?

Let me give credit where is credit is due.

  • Maybe I have this expansive view of homeschoolers because I’m lucky enough to live in a pretty urban area with a huge diverse homeschool community.  We have secular homeschoolers, religious homeschoolers, multi-cultural homeschoolers, crunchy homeschoolers, unschoolers….  every type of homeschooler you could think of.
  • Maybe I feel differently because I have a lot of wonderful non-homeschooling friends as well as many, many fantastic homeschooling friends.
  • Maybe I feel differently because I have a child that went to private school and public school and was successful and had an overall good experience.
  • Maybe I feel differently because I don’t subscribe to any one specific ideology myself.  I believe that there are many different ways to approach anything in life and that one way may be right now and not later or right for me and wrong for you.

And maybe if my situation were different, I would see that a “homeschool culture” is a pejorative thing.

But for now, I guess my answer is YES.  I belong to a homeschool culture.  I am a homeschooling mom with other homeschooling friends.  We do classes and co-ops.  I’m proud of my kids.  I spend a crap-ton of time with my kids so sometimes, they’re all I have to talk about.  Maybe I am SUPER WAY INTO THIS.  I guess you’d have to ask my non-homeschooling friends.  Ask them if it’s difficult to be friends with me because “homeschooling is my life.”  Whatever their answer, they still seek me out for friendship so I guess I’m worth it.  And I guess since I do subscribe to the homeschool culture and am announcing it to the world, I can say I’m proud to be a part of a culture so ecclectic and interesting and generally wonderful.