Dear Christian Performers: Please Retire the Homeschooling Jokes

Dear Christian Performers: Please Retire the Homeschooling Jokes January 29, 2015

Picture the scene: Your favorite gospel singers are up on stage doing their between-song schtick. One unfortunate group member is the butt of some jokes aimed at his intelligence. All in good fun, of course. Then another member helpfully offers an explanation for his comrade’s denseness: “Oh, that’s right, so-and-so was homeschooled!” The crowd guffaws obligingly.
Before going further, I want to clarify that I’ve seen more than one example of this, so I’m not intentionally singling out any group in particular. However, to give just one instance, I’ll mention that Bill Gaither used to give guitarist Kevin Williams this punchline in his banter with Rory the soundman. Rory, as Gaither fans may recall, was famous for staring blankly into space while Kevin and the others reeled off clever one-liners at his expense.

Full disclosure: I was homeschooled all the way through high school. My mother taught me most of what I know about good writing and good literature. Suffice it to say that by the time I was doing Shakespeare, Dante and the rest in college, half of it was review. And that’s not even either of my majors.
However, I’m truthfully not the least bit hurt or offended by this particular punchline. You see, we homeschoolers have a pretty thick skin. We learned long ago not to pay too much attention to how the rest of the world might view us. Instead of getting our knickers in a knot and throwing a hissy fit, our preferred strategy is to smile winsomely and collect all the spelling bee/geography bee/moot court trophies in the country.
The real reason I’m criticizing this stock joke is that it makes talented artists whom I like and respect look silly. And out of touch. Whenever I wince at yet another homeschooling joke, believe me when I say that I’m not wincing for myself. I’m wincing for them.
A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, before homeschooling was even legal in most states, it was understandable for outsiders to regard it with some bafflement. Hippies formed one of the main demographics lobbying for it, which didn’t exactly correct the public perception that homeschooling and academic rigor were mutually exclusive. And certainly some parents abused it as an excuse to “un-school” their kids.
But people. We’re talking two generations, give or take. As the homeschooling movement has risen, gained traction, and won legal sanctioning in most of the country, the rest of the world has had literally decades to learn better. Winks and nods about how so-and-so’s momma “homeschooled” him (read: let him play in the sprinkler while other kids were learning their A-B-C’s), which might explain why he’s now a few fries short of a Happy Meal… can’t anyone hear how hopelessly outdated this is? It’s like the announcer who once introduced Fernando Ortega by saying, “Fernando Ortega… man, what a name! Makes me want to run out and buy a taco or something!” Both types of gaffes should inspire anyone who hasn’t been living under a rock for the past 30-40 years to cringe with equal feeling on the speaker’s behalf.
Ironically, while homeschoolers are sometimes accused of being “insular” and “sheltered,” it’s jokes like these that reveal a truly sheltered mindset. It doesn’t make me feel sorry for myself, it just makes me feel sorry for someone who’s obviously met so few homeschoolers!
Again, this is not about me, as a homeschooler, feeling insulted and wounded. I am neither of these things. This is me saying please, performers, for your own sake, please retire the homeschooling jokes.
Okay, now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s all sing Tim Hawkins’s homeschooling song together, shall we?
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  • MJK

    I’m not sure about the rest of the country, but here in my small part of Texas, most parents that pull their kid out of public school to “homeschool” are because their children are disciplinary problems. 100% that bring their kids back are behind academically. Again I’m speaking about North Texas area.

  • Yeah… “here in my small part of Texas” kind of sums up what I’m talking about. And it’s true that parents do sometimes pull their kids out of school because they can’t keep up, or because they’re troublemakers. But I’m talking about homeschoolers as a national demographic. And when you look at that big picture, homeschoolers consistently outperform their peers academically relative to their population proportion.
    Furthermore, many parents pull their kids out of school to teach them at home simply because the schools are so horrible, both morally and academically. We have friends with an extremely bright little girl at her wit’s end because the teacher doesn’t understand mathematics. And even when the teachers supposedly understand their own material, they’ve been trained with all kinds of silly educational fads that make learning a chore for children. These include roundabout, strange ways of teaching children the most basic operations in math, encouraging them not to worry about good spelling, and many more. So for some kids, “not being able to keep up in school” may just mean “not being able to keep up with whatever tomfool new learning fad has come down the pike.” It’s quite possible that they would learn much better and faster at home simply because they’re not being taught nonsense. And I didn’t even get into what schools are teaching kids in sex ed, the toxic atmosphere school can create through peer pressure and “clique culture,” and so on. The list of reasons to homeschool is endless.

  • CLW

    My sons are ages 19 and 17. One has graduated and the other will be graduating in a year from public high school, but if we were just starting out now I would definitely choose to home school.

  • Lydia

    I’m a little surprised by your scare quotes around the word “home school.” I’d be surprised if you actually have data showing that most parents who pull their children out of school *even in your area* are not really teaching them at home but are simply faking it or unschooling or letting their kids run around doing nothing and not learning, as implied by the scare quotes. Moreover, consider what you said about how many bring them back and find them to be behind academically. Think of how self-selected that is. If, in the anecdotal cases you are aware of and are referring to there, the parents did decide to stop home schooling and bring the child back to school, it may be _because_ they concluded that home schooling was not going well for them or was not what their child needed and decided that they would prefer to bring their children back to a bricks and mortar education. Such a sample would also be more likely to include families who really were faking home schooling, not teaching their children, and eventually were convinced or required to re-enroll their kids in public school. Obviously, the people whose children return to public schools do not constitute a random sample of the home schoolers in your area! This should be clear from the fact that, by its very nature, such a measure cannot count those who continue home schooling–hence, it is not going to be counting the majority of home schooling successes.