LazyIf you’ve been a homeschooler for a nanosecond, you’ve probably encountered someone who feels the need to share their opinions about your family’s educational choices. A family member who thinks you’ve crossed over to the Dark Side. A friend who’s certain you’ve lost your mind. A stranger who thinks you must be part of some cult. That’s where I found myself yesterday… working at a booth… minding my own business… in McDonald’s.

Yes, McDonald’s is my office away from home. It’s where I go to write, edit and enjoy an incredible glass of sweet tea without my children. Each week, I have a few precious hours to get away, work on freelance jobs and contribute to our family’s bank account. Usually I pass the time well enough. Since I only have a few hours, I keep my head down and work. It’s kind of the editorial version of “drive it like you stole it.” I know that whatever I don’t get finished there must be written in between wiping noses, hineys and spills the rest of the week. So when someone interrupts this reverie, it’s a big deal.

Yesterday, a gentleman walked by and asked about Mickey D’s Internet service. I assured him it was working. He continued the conversation, asking what I was doing. I told him I write. I’m currently working on some curriculum.

“You’re a teacher?” he asked.

“Well, I’m a homeschooling mom,” I answered. “So yes, but this is for churches.”

“I’m not a big fan of the homeschooling thing,” he offered.

That’s when the whole conversation went south.

For the next 20 minutes, I was held captive as this man unloaded all his thoughts on homeschooling and those of us who choose it. According to him, homeschoolers are narrow-minded because we don’t seek out diversity. We work to keep our children close and never let them meet people who aren’t exactly like us. We’re lazy, he reasoned.

I laughed. “If there is one thing homeschoolers are not, it’s lazy.”

“Well, they take the path of least resistance,” he responded.

After a few tries to educate this man on what research has proven and what I’ve observed, I gave up. He didn’t want to hear that in addition to academically outperforming their public school peers,[1] homeschooled children are almost twice as likely to volunteer in a community service project as adults. He also didn’t care that they are also more likely to be politically and socially involved by voting, working for a political candidate and writing an editor or public official, than their non-homeschooled counterpart.[2] No, he was just stuck in his own observations of a select few.

As “Low Battery” flashed across my laptop screen, I began tidying my table and gathering my things. He continued talking right to the end. “Have a good day,” he finally said and left.

I shook my head and turned to leave. A man at a neighboring table chuckled, “I thought a conversation was supposed to be two-sided.”

“I’m surprised by how often it isn’t,” I said.

As I headed for home, back to my neighborhood of American families that are white, black, Latino, Asian and any mixture thereof (as well as others from Ethiopia, Nigeria and Eastern Europe), not to mention those who practice various religions—Evangelical, Catholic, Mormon, Greek Orthodox and secular, I thought about my upcoming week. I wondered how best to reach out to the family across the street that is struggling with substance abuse and domestic violence. I tried to figure out a good time to take a few of the neighborhood’s latch-key kids swimming before they go back to school (public school, that is), and I remembered that I still need to contact the community food outreach to ask if our family can volunteer.

Yep, it’s just another day as a lazy, narrow-minded homeschooler.

[1] Ray, Brian D., Ph.D., Homeschool Progress Report 2009.

[2] Ray, Brian D., Ph.D., Home Educated and Now Adults: Their Community and Civic Involvement, Views About Homeschooling, and Other Traits, 2009.

Photo: Lazy Dazy by H. Michael Karshis