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Minding my p’s and q’s and A. and M. and E’s ABC’s….

June 17th, 2004 · 5 Comments

Tonight Ted directed my attention to Philip Greenspun who asked Do home-schooled kids have better manners?.

When I was a girl, my mother cautioned me You become like the person you marry. I think that the truth behind this observation is that people conform to the people around them. It’s not necessarily something intentional. But human beings by nature are like sponges, subconciously soaking up the influence of others.

So I think that it is only natural for children who spend more time around adults or in an environment with a lower child to adult ratio will act more like adults. If the parents are polite and well-mannered, their homeschooled children will probably also exhibit those characteristics.

However, the answer to Philip’s question depends on parenting and personality. For example, if I took advantage of the Washington state law that says my children don’t have to be in school until age 8, and I decided to let them do whatever they want to do until that time, I could let Abigail, Michaela and Elisabeth run around the house all day, burping, interrupting, yelling, jumping off the sofa, dropping crumbs on the carpet and creating general chaos.

Then again, in considering this scenario, homeschooling parents who allowed their children to do whatever they want to do, would have a hard time doing whatever they want to do and being productive and efficient. So perhaps homeschooled children have more manners because it is the evolutionary process, so to speak – only those parents and children who are well-mannered can survive schooling at home.

Families who spend the day together have an advantage over families who send their children to school. If Ted and I both worked outside the home, and if we sent our children to school/day care, we would have only a few hours a day with them, and we would probably spend that time eating a hurried dinner, doing errands and chores, and preparing for bed. We wouldn’t have energy to enforce manners, or at least not as much energy and focus as we have now when we are all at home all day, Ted working in his office attached to the dining room.

I also believe that providing education in the context of family is different than the context of an institution. School can seem like a game, with rules to play, requirements to satisfy, hoops to jump. That’s how I felt at times. Learning from your mother, father and siblings however puts a personal face on what can be an impersonal system. And this personal approach to education may encourage more relationship skills such as manners and etiquette.

Looking at the particular family Philip met, he mentioned that they called themselves “The Sardine Family” and traveled in a small RV. Those circumstances would in themselves require manners, discipline and self-control. Many families now, at least middle-class, try to afford homes with separate bedrooms and sometimes separate bathrooms for their children. Yet I think this may encourage selfishness and rudeness. Sharing space together and living like sardines would require manners and good behavior. Minding p’s and q’s would come naturally to a large family traveling in a small RV.

In response to the rest of Ted’s post, quoting Abigail’s desire to learn Spanish every day, I have to say that although some of my skills are rusty, I want to encourage the girls’ curiousity and courage. At the library the other day, the girls selected the Spanish book off the shelf, so I brought it home with me. Now I’m trying my best to read it to them, even though it’s been years since I’ve spoken the language. But if the girls want to learn, I will learn too and refresh my memory. To me, that’s what homeschooling means – I’m willing to get an education alongside them. Or find someone who can help us…I agree with Ted that we want our kids to love learning and to continue in curiousity. We want them to ask lots of questions…and to do it politely :-).

Today’s newspaper brought me this fun link to the Modern Language Association’s linguistic map of the United States. Choosing the state and language will generate a brightly-colored map of speakers in the population. I’ve always wanted to find someone around me who could speak Chinese so I could learn from them. Tonight I eagerly went to this website and searched for Chinese speakers in our county….and I discovered that Bainbridge Island isn’t even on their map of Washington State! We don’t exist, I guess. According to their stats, less than 500 people in our county speak Chinese. So the odds are low. But I bet I’d have a better chance finding someone who spoke Spanish…I’m right….by a factor of 10 or so…

And in closing this post on schooling, earlier tonight I found Andrea’s link to this homeschooling quiz:

Swiss Family Robinson If you can grow it, pick it,
preserve it, or butcher it, you own it.
Otherwise, you do without. Youd prefer to live
off-grid from the power company, since youre
nearly self-sufficient already. You enjoy unit
studies for the way they utilize all facets of
life and truly incorporate life and education
as a whole, not as separate entities. Visit my

What Type of Homeschooler Are You?
brought to you by Quizilla

Tags: homeschool

5 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Rod Kratochwill's Weblog // Jun 17, 2004 at 5:44 am

    Who am we?

    Julie is talking about home schooling and says this: “When I was a girl, my mother cautioned me You become like the person you marry .

  • 2 Katherine // Jun 17, 2004 at 11:23 am

    I’m Mr. Potato Head: You have your ideal of how things should look, but you’re flexible enough to allow for change. You are not bothered by changing methods, mid-course if necessary. You use an eclectic combination of curriculum sources.

    Except for the last sentence it sounds about right. I certainly changed methods mid-course when I started homeschooling in the middle of third grade! Funny quiz, thanks, Julie.

  • 3 pops' spouse // Jun 17, 2004 at 7:33 pm

    Hi again. Has Pops mentioned that Mr. Man will likely be homeschooled next year? Your notions about family togetherness are ones that we share, which is a big reason why we chose to have a parent at home from the moment he was born, and why he goes everywhere with us … Not that we have relatives to farm him out with anyway, but it always strikes us as sad and tragic when people make comments about their kids such as “Whoa, can’t WAIT to have the little monsters out of the house” and while ours certainly has his challenging moments, we like him and appreciate him and love being around him and have never sought to get AWAY from him!

  • 4 Nathan // Jun 17, 2004 at 11:27 pm

    I couldn’t help it — when I saw that picture, my first thought was, “Siegfried and Roy?”

    I suppose it’s better to be a member of the Swiss Family Robinson than a member of the Donner Party.

  • 5 Andrea // Jun 18, 2004 at 7:09 am

    Hey, thanks for the ping. 🙂 Nicetomeetcha.