Beware the Farmers and Zealots


Recently, while I was on Facebook, I clicked through to a link to a blog post entitled, 18 Reasons Why Doctors and Lawyers Homeschool Their Children. A doctor, who also happens to be a mother, wrote the post and began it by saying, “I’m going public today with a secret I’ve kept for a year – my husband and I are homeschooling our children.“ With the exception of only one of her 18 reasons, I have personally experienced all of the benefits of homeschooling that she listed. The post was enthusiastic, well-written, researched (unlike any of my own blog posts) and heartfelt. I could feel this mother’s excitement and love for homeschooling.

Unfortunately for her, however, she made the newbie mistake of referring to the pioneers of modern American homeschooling as “religious extremists and farmers.” She obviously did not mean to offend anyone and the entire point of the paragraph was to say that she realized that homeschooling was not full of zealots and farmers.

Honestly, I was so busy enjoying her enthusiasm and re-living the joy of my own first year of homeschooling that I failed to be offended on behalf of the old homeschooling guard who might not appreciate being characterized as farmers’ wives and zealots. Never fear, the non-farmers’ wives and non-zealots took the time to be offended all on their own. Thank goodness — the author’s innocent blunder might have actually been taken in the spirit in which it was clearly intended! Of the 475 comments, a fair number of them were from the old guard, who duly noted their objections and took this doctor to task for slighting their pioneering efforts.

A sampling of the most eloquent comments made it apparent that some of us homeschoolers are a wee bit touchy. Some of the commenters referred to the persecutions endured by early homeschoolers, including lengthy battles with social services departments and even jail time. A few of them disparaged the blogger’s tone and accused her of being condescending. I was honestly shocked that many of the commenters were so easily offended and I was disappointed that a couple of them were downright nasty. Every few comments out of the 475 took this woman to task for her alleged condescension of the homeschooling moms who supposedly made her educational choice possible. Many implied that she was not having to endure the sacrifices her foremothers sacrificed to be able to homeschool.

It was ugly, friends.

The author posted an update to explain to her readers how she juggles homeschooling while working as an all-night pediatrician for a hospital. It apparently involves a crazy sleep schedule, juggling the teaching load with her husband, and completing housework after the kids are asleep.

With all due respect to the homeschool pioneers, I think this blogging doctor is sacrificing plenty and pioneering a homeschooling method of her own.

So y’all hush up.

In her update to the post, she thanked the “more than 200,000 people” who had read the post. That’s right. Potentially 200,000 people witnessed experienced homeschoolers turning on a newcomer. Is that really the message we want to give to new homeschoolers?

The newbie, full of joy and enthusiasm because she had discovered the many benefits of homeschooling, got called out for not being grateful enough to the founding mothers of modern American homeschooling and daring to actually poke a little fun at how those pioneers were often perceived by others. The poor doctor probably lost a little wind in her homeschooling sails. But I do hope that her joy in homeschooling was not diminished by the beating she took in the comments.

We should not be stealing a new homeschooler’s joy. Please do not misunderstand me. I am truly thankful to all the homeschooling moms who have gone before me because I can homeschool in a state with very little regulation over my children’s home education. Homeschooling’s growing numbers over the years has resulted in an amazing array of curriculum choices. And I’m most grateful to all of the experienced homeschoolers who are models of graciousness and will patiently answer my endless questions about how they chose a particular method of homeschooling, how they handle teaching multiple ages, and how they homeschooled through high school.

But the truth is, it’s about to get very crowded in our cozy homeschooling world. It’s already difficult to find decent parking at the conventions. And navigating the hallways through the vendor hall with a rolling crate is getting to be downright dangerous!

Do we really have to be so thin-skinned?
What say we promise to each other not to nip anybody’s homeschooling bloom in the bud?


Jen Headshott for Beware the Farmers and Zealots Post
The Flamingo is a homeschooling mother of two boys who sometimes wear pants to do their schoolwork. Sometimes they wear capes. After homeschooling her boys in the mornings, she might spend two hours in the afternoon being a lawyer in her home office, saving the world from ruthless creditors, one bankruptcy client at a time. She rarely wears a cape, but always wears pants. She blogs about her children’s love of explosions at Frolicking Flamingo.

The graphic for this post is by vorakorn and was obtained from www.freedigitalphotos.net.

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  1. The article referenced was, indeed, well written and utterly enjoyable. Unfortunately, she made the mistake of applying the lame, homeschooling stereotypes to the first generation of homeschoolers, and people called her on it. The stereotypes are vaguely annoying (and somewhat amusing) when applied to us by those who just don’t know or understand homeschooling; they are extremely disappointing when applied by one of our own. It reminds me of the nursing mom vs formula mom, working mom vs stay at home mom battles. Seriously. Let’s just be supportive of each other, shall we?

    1. Whoever is in your network in Bama do something for the public schools and tell the religious right legislature their concerns about common core is misguided. Alabama homeschoolers need to make sure their children know about Judge Frank Johnson (hint, incarnation of Atticus Finch); and Jackson Giles. The children should read Sam Hodges For the Love of Alabama.

      And all yall ought to bone up on Giberson and Stephens The Anointed.Will have you stave off these unfair associations with the farmer and bible thumper pejoratives.

  2. Bravo! I loved reading this article. I also read the doctor’s article, and I personally loved it too. I always have wondered why women, in particular, are so critical of one another and less supportive than we should be. It was the first thing I noticed of mothers when I first became a parent.

  3. I think it is wonderful that you have spoken up. Sometimes people think they can afford to be more ‘offended’ online where they don’t have to face someone as they insult them. Maybe some resentment about a doctor being a homeschool mom caused some of the backlash, but I don’t care who you are or how much you make, homeschooling is work and a higher income bracket doesn’t change that. It is sad, but many Americans still believe homeschoolers are religious fanatics, members of an anti-government cult or doomsday preppers. I don’t think there is anything wrong with acknowledging that the stereotype exists. Opinions don’t change overnight. I got a lot of negative comments when I first started homeschooling, but now people remark all the time about how smart and knowledgeable my kids are and some even ask for advice about homeschooling themselves.

  4. I’m glad you wrote this post. I read that article too, and was annoyed at the easy offense some people decided to take. I was so excited for this doctor who now homeschools. I’m also a doctor, married to a doctor, and we are starting homeschooling (classically) this coming year. I don’t think people outside the medical world know how intesly difficult doctors’ work is, both physicially, timewise, and emotionally. We sacrifice a whole lot to take care of everyone. A whole lot. So I found those offended, lecturing commentors pretty rude.

    Since my husband’s oncology work keeps him busy an average of 100 hours a week, I’ve cut back my practice to free clinic volunteer work very part time, which makes homeschooling possible for us, and gives me the opportunity to do medical missions in my community. I really admired this pediatrician who wrote that article for making such sacrifices to educate her kids well, even while still having to maintain an insane work schedule. I wanted to stand up and cheer for her. And I totally understand the hesitancy she had in telling her work collegues about their schooling choice. It is hard to buck the status quo, no matter where you are.

    Anyway, all that to say, I LOVE this post you wrote here. It makes me feel better as a newbie.

    1. Sarah,
      I’m so excited that you and your husband have arranged your lives in such a way that you can now homeschool!! It sounds like you’ve had to make difficult decisions and major life changes to make it happen and you will be so glad that you did for the “18 reason” and many many more! Find some other homeschoolers in your area to at least meet up with every now and then so that you can get all your questions answered . . . that, and you are always welcome in these online communities as well. 🙂

  5. I loved that article too and was aghast at all of the criticism. I had all of those stereotypes in my head too when I used to think of homeschooling. I was even a little afraid to go to homeschool events because I didn’t think anyone would be “normal.” I am professor and was hesitant to tell people that I homeschool for awhile. I, too, was sympathetic to her for being beaten up by so many.

  6. This is a big part of the reason I no longer homeschool. I was criticized for not creating my own curriculum but using one already created. Not putting my child in music (not interested). For working on my own college work while she worked on her. Focusing on computer skills, not wanting a Christian curriculum, not attending conventions. I was called everything from lazy to being accused of “going through the motions” to not having my child’s best interests at heart. I actually got more support from her former school teachers than homeschool parents. Why would anyone bother with a community after that? Peace out!

  7. I was homeschooled, as were my sisters. My middle sister is going through med school right now. She’s not homeschooling but I know she wishes she could! It isn’t easy to deal with her daughter’s school schedule and hers. Sometimes my niece doesn’t start school until 2 weeks after her mom does, so she ends up at my house so she won’t be alone. Not that homeschooling wouldn’t have its own sacrifices! I applaud this doctor for homeschooling, its no cake-walk no matter your situation. Yes, the stereotypes suck, but we shouldn’t hate on each other, we’re all looking for acceptance and for people who understand what we’re going through.

  8. I was actually one of those who commented to her that her remarks were degrading. It’s not that we’re overly sensitive, but fed up. In 16 years of teaching my kids at home, the amount of garbage I’ve had to endure – to my face – is ridiculous.

    So, while I’m thrilled that she has stepped into the world of home education, I’m not putting her on a pedestal just because she’s a doctor and I’m not giving her a pass on her condescending tone.

    She’s no better than the mom who works nights in the plant, or the mom who drives the school bus at 5am, so she can afford to stay home. Big deal – she’s a doctor! Do you know how many “regular” moms have written articles on homeschooling?

    Are we that enamored – STILL – with women in the workforce?

    I’m more impressed with the moms who have sacrificed luxury and extras and dining out and even health insurance, just so they can stay home and be with their kids. Those are the real heroes to me.

    So, while I hope we didn’t burst her new bubble – that she actually kept a secret for some reason (shame, maybe?), I hope she will realize that those of us who CHOSE this lifestyle long before it was socially acceptable, don’t appreciate the overdone stereotypes.

    1. I too am one of the women who wrote that some of the doctor’s comments were condescending. I am happy she has discovered homeschooling and that it works well for her family. I love homeschooling my children for the past 9 years, however I have not enjoyed the stereotypes that go along with it. Most people who homeschool are smart, kind and caring. The one thing we all have in common is that we all want what is best for our children with regards to academics. I am truly greatful for the women and families before me who helped make homeschooling legal. No matter our lot in life we should never forget them. Who knows how long homeschooling will be legal in this country.

  9. This is WONDERFUL! I so agree with the things you said. I have not read the article but plan to after leaving here. We are all ambassadors for homeschooling. We need to be a loving community who accepts all. I tell my 13 year old daughter every time we go out, “You are representing homeschooling when we go out anywhere”. I know stereotypes are wrong but if she had a lovely post why would everyone jump on one thing she said that was wrong/disagreed with/etc. All of us homeschool Moms should always stick together and be a little understanding and forgiving. Off to read.

  10. Interesting article–thanks!

    However, one might also wonder why it is considered to be an insult to suggest someone might be (horrors) a farmer!

  11. I could not disagree with you more. I’m not a pioneer, this is only our second year to homeschool, and I was one of the commenters that said she was rude and condescending. What ever happened to common courtesy? Gratefulness? Respectfulness? This lady exhibited none of those characteristics when she labeled the pioneer homeschoolers as “farmers and religious zealots,” and wearers of long skirts. You think she accidentally said those things? That she was just so caught up in her giddiness that she didn’t realize that what she was saying was rude and offensive? You don’t give her enough credit. She is a doctor, she is a smart lady. Of course she knew what she was saying. I think you need to take some of your own advice and hush up.

    1. Amy, I agree! I get the feeling this lady is being praised because she’s a doctor. I guess that gives her the right to start off her “confession” by insulting those of us whose group she is joining.

  12. Honestly, I feel like the level of condescension in the article, along with the shocking number of home schooling bloggers who lauded it to ridiculous proportions more than justified the dressing down she received. New home schoolers need to be reminded of what had to be sacrificed to get to where we are now, that maintaining our freedom requires constant vigilance & that, whether they like it or not, most of that fight has been & continues to be fought by the right-wing Christian denim jumper crowd (even if most of us don’t wear jumpers). I spent too many years in university, too, but that doesn’t give me the right to condescend to the parents, regardless of education level, who fought the good fight for the freedoms we enjoy anymore than I have the right to pass judgement on the colonists — in large measure, the second sons & oddballs of Europe — who won our freedom from England.

    Also, to “sarah” above: We ALL sacrifice to home school our children. Many spouses keep insane hours so that one of us can stay home & still enjoy the lifestyle to which we are accustomed. In our case, dh traveled 50% of the time for a good while, working an average of 85hrs on his stateside weeks, AFTER leaving a CFO post for that “lower stress” position. I truly wish you all the best with your home schooling efforts, but, like the blogger in question, please resist the urge to assume that doctors are somehow making a larger sacrifice than the rest of us to educate their children properly.

  13. I find this refreshing! I didn’t read the comments on the blog this is written about, but I had read the post before. I wasn’t impressed enough to give it a second thought, because nothing in it strung a cord personally. But I can’t see someone’s view and experience should leave another so offended. It is mind boggling to me how people can read something with so much good intent and only focus on the bad. It’s a sad way to live.

  14. Two things: First the article was not all that well researched, because she assumed that because HER state allows homeschoolers to access public school services that all states do. That is simply not true. Small point, but it does affect the credibility of the author to make such a simple writing mistake. In addition, I agree with Lisa. This article was bandied about the internet as such a great representation of the homeschooling movement. I found it a lackluster piece a best and have read many better. I do believe that it was a “big thing” simply because a doctor wrote it. Somehow we are all supposed to have more credibility as homeschoolers because physicians and lawyers are joining our ranks. I did not comment on the article and wish her the best in her endeavors, but anyone who puts a bit of themselves online has to take the heat that comes with the comments.

  15. Opps! Being a radical Christian conservative myself, I made the mistake early on in my homeschool career of assuming all homeschoolers were radical Christian conservatives just like me. Then I joined a local homeschool group. Boy, did I get a wake up call. I could not have been mixed up with a more radical liberal, tree-hugging, extremely anti-Christian, vegan, humans-are-destroying-the-earth homeschool group! Needless to say, we didn’t fit in and eventually left the group; HOWEVER, I learned my lesson: homeschoolers come in all forms, but what we definitely share in common is the love and appreciation of the liberty and freedom to train up and learn with our children as we see fit. And that I can respect!

    1. And I would be a mix. I’m a Christian with conservative values, non-political, tree-hugging, green-business-owning, holistic-living homeschooler who has some vegetarian kids (and some not) who would love to homestead and live off-the-grid.

      Yes..we come in all forms. 😀

  16. I remember reading the article, and noting the slight… it was clearly a rookie mistake, and so I did not comment. I am currently in my last year of homeschooling 2 kids. We have homeschooled 10 years. I have to say that certain interactions from veterans and purists have made me kind of glad to be done.

  17. I had read the original post as well and shared it with my readers. I noticed the comment and a little piece of me cringed but I understood her intent. I didn’t read the comments. I’m rather glad of that now that I read this.

    You’re right. We were all new once upon a time. We’ve all made our own mistakes. I homeschooled when homeschooling was rare. I didn’t have a clue what I was doing until 10 years into the gig when I discovered blogs, other local homeschoolers, and homeschool groups. Truly.. it’s a learning experience. We need to share the joys and forgive the minor mistakes.

  18. I read the blog myself and I have to agree that her tone was condescending. As I closed the blog, after reading and NOT commenting, I found myself wondering if I’m somehow “less than” as a homeschool mom because I am not as educated as she is. HOWEVER, regardless of my own insecurities and struggles, we HS moms should not have torn this woman apart. It doesn’t really matter why she kept it a secret. It doesn’t really matter that she thinks we can be zealots and farmers. What matters is that we support each other in this endeavor of teaching and mothering. What each Christian who read that blog should have done was lay down their weapons and embrace this newbie, so we don’t prove her statement to be true. While we don’t care for the tone, what message does it send to the opposers of HS? That we turn on our own? Badly done HS moms. (And I’m referring to the moms that were nasty, not the ones who spoke their disagreeing opinions)
    Thanks for this post 🙂

  19. Thank you for writing this. I enjoyed the doctor’s article, but was not aware that she had gotten such a negative response from so many. I’m glad you have spoken out in support of her and other new homeschoolers.

  20. I read the original article and a few of the comments. I did not comment on the article, but I found her condescension insulting. I am a farm girl, and my parents are still farmers (my dad is 81 and still out there working cows!). I’m ticked that a doctor wants to look down her nose at the successful businessmen and women (that IS what farmers are) who provide her family with high quality food. And they end up sleep deprived many nights as well. I am tired of people who look down on others for their professions. Just last night, I sat beside a former lawyer turned SAHM at a scrapbooking event. After listening to about three hours of her bragging about her private schooled kids, she began interrogating me about homeschooling. In an extremely condescending way. So yeah, I agree that we should be kind to people online. That just shows decent manners and consideration. But, I don’t think we need to accept condescension and ignorance, either online or in person. This woman doesn’t get a pass just because she’s a doctor. Being a doctor does not make you more “valuable” than the next person, and I think it is sad that homeschoolers are so eager to say, oh look, DOCTORS and LAWYERS are doing this too. It is like we are looking to them to legitimatize what we do.

  21. I chose to homeschool my three kids for none of the “normal” reasons, but I enjoyed the article in the spotlight and chuckled at the “oops”. I’m so thankful that homeschooling is becoming more common place, user friendly, and diverse. I live in a small mountain town and in our support group we have as many different reasons for choosing homeschooling, for styles of gathering income, and for methods of carrying out the mission as we do families involved. I’m so thankful that we have an explosion of multitudes choosing to embrace homeschooling. Perhaps we can vow now to stay more focused on encouraging and collaborating rather than following society’s lead of wound-licking and taking up petty offenses! Great call out, Flamingo!

  22. I was delighted to see the doctor’s original post.

    The thing I took away from it is that the non-homeschoolers out there DO have a picture of homeschoolers based on a stereotype. When I started in 1999, I knew precisely 1 person who actually homeschooled–and I was surprised because she didn’t at all fit that picture I had in my head of what a (crunchy granola, denim-jumper-wearing) homeschooler looked like. I thought it made sense for her to put that into context–for some there is a lot to overcome. The perceptions of friends and families can be brutal enough, we don’t need to pounce on new homeschool families for not fitting into the mold we have for them.

  23. I read that article as well, and totally missed that part, somehow. I didn’t even read any of the comments, either. I just thought it was insightful and honest, as well as uplifting.

    I can see why it irks some people to be characterized negatively, because we’re tired of it. I am constantly disparaged by my own family members for this choice, and I don’t want to be put down by other mothers that homeschool. That said, there is no excuse for nastiness.

  24. Soooo glad you wrote this. As homeschoolers, we face so much judgment on the regular that we can be so easily offended at times! Ugh! The doctor was only sharing about how she previously held preconceived notions about what homeschooled families were like. She wasn’t trying to be condescending, she was just showing how she came to understand that those stereotypical images we have of homeschoolers can be wrong. There’s nothing wrong if you do fit the stereotype, but it’s just nice for people to see that there is diversity. Especially for people who don’t fit in that stereotypical group – it helps them see that there are homeschoolers out there like them too. I saw the post as having the potential to be really unifying. Even though the families look different, here we are finding common ground as a part of one community working for the best interest of our kids. I was disappointed that so many people saw it negatively. Just my two cents!.

  25. God bless home schooling! I was watching the news last night and was shocked to hear that home schooling is banned in Germany. We home school our twins ans are blessed that it is permitted in our country.

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